Middle Age Miles

2019 Trip Report – Swiss Alps & the Tour de France – A Visit to the Rheinfall

trip report switzerland france rheinfall
The Rheinfall, Switzerland


I love waterfalls.

Waterfalls are beautiful. Some, like Niagara Falls and the Rheinfall, are massive, powerful and majestic. They make great destinations for hikes or trips – you feel like you’ve accomplished something when you get there; they make the destination worth the journey. The sound of the rushing water is calming.

For these reasons, waterfall visits are staples of our trips. And the Rheinfall in particular is a personal favorite, truly one of the places I’ve enjoyed the most amongst all of our travels.

In addition to the magnificent falls themselves, the Rheinfall offers a great and unique experience. There’s a rock in the middle of the falls, towering slightly higher than the falls itself. You can take a boat ride out to the rock and climb the steps to the top for an absolutely incredible view of the falls and the surrounding area. While you’re on the rock, you’re mere feet away from the incredible power of the rushing water. The boat driver will also take you closer to the falls than you could imagine. For us, it’s a very special place.

My personal affinity for the Rheinfall is enhanced by its connection to one of our favorite tv shows, The Amazing Race, and my favorite painter, J.M.W. Turner. A visit to the Rheinfall and the contestants’ boat trip to the rock made for a fun twist as part of an interesting episode in Season 3 Leg 8 of The Amazing Race. Turner was captivated by the Rheinfall and created several magnificent pieces based on it.

Contestants in The Amazing Race Season 3 at the Rheinfall
[image courtesy CBS and clubsthatsuck.jcink.net]
Falls of the Rhine at Schaffhausen, Front View, by J.M.W. Turner
[image courtesy National Galleries Scotland]

About the Rheinfall

We’ve seen references that describe the Rheinfall as the largest waterfall in Europe by volume, Wikipedia currently says that the Rheinfall is the “most powerful” waterfall in Europe. Whatever is the correct superlative, the Rheinfall is quite impressive.

It’s located on the Rhine River, about an hour north of Zurich, in Switzerland but near its northern border with Germany. The nearby town has the unusual name Neuhausen am Rheinfall.

For more details about the Rheinfall and information about visiting it, check the Rheinfall website at this link. The home page of the Rheinfall website includes a live stream camera, where your friends could actually watch you during your visit to the falls if you let them know when to look.

Here’s a great overview picture from the Rheinfall website showing the falls and the surrounding area:

Overview of the Rheinfall and surrounding area [image courtesy rheinfall.ch]

Schlossli Worth, where the boat rides board and which has a restaurant and snack shop, is on the far right of the picture. At the top, just to the right of the bridge, is the Schloss Laufen castle, which has viewing points and places to eat (but also charges an admission fee to access certain areas and viewpoints). On the left side of the picture is part of the town of Neuhausen am Rheinfall.

This map from the Rheinfall website also helps to orient you, and it contains lines showing the routes of the various boat tours that are available:

Map of the Rheinfall area [map courtesy rheinfall.ch]

Tips for Visiting the Rheinfall

  • Take Boat #1 (the yellow line) to visit the rock in the middle of the falls. The other boat trips are less expensive, but going to the rock and climbing to the top is the truly unique & memorable experience to have here. Boats board on the far end of Schlossli Worth, which is separated from the river bank by a bridge. But you’ll need to buy your tickets at a trailer on the riverbank side, before you cross the footbridge over to Schlossli Worth.
  • Get to the Rheinfall early. Boats start running at 9:30 am. Getting on an early boat will get you out to the rock with the least crowd. There’s precious little space on top of the rock, and the stairs are narrow & steep, so it’s a huge advantage to be out there with as few people as possible.
  • To get to Rheinfall parking, put “Parking Lot Rheinfall” into Google Maps and that should take you to the correct area. There’s an hourly fee for parking.
  • If you plan to take a train to the Rheinfall, go to Neuhausen Rheinfall station, then you can descend the hill to the falls area.
  • Near Schlossli Worth is a souvenir shop, and there’s also a park/playground where kids can burn off some energy. Kids of all ages can try the underground slide if they dare.
  • If you’re able, walk all the way around to the left side of the falls (looking at the falls from the bottom). You’ll pass by the old mill and its waterwheel. After you pass the mill, there’s a route to turn sharply uphill into the town of Neuhausen am Rheinfall if you’d like to go there. If you continue along the path, there are a number of great views. Go all the way around to the train bridge and walk across it to see the falls from the top. Continue across to Schloss Laufen (Laufen Castle) where you can get ice cream and pay to visit the castle and its special viewpoints if you’d like.
  • Somewhat surprisingly, the town of Neuhausen am Rheinfall is not particularly touristy. There are plenty of restaurants in town where you can grab lunch or a snack during your visit. (There are a few places around Schlossli Worth and Schloss Laufen, too, but they’re touristy, more expensive, and crowded on busy days.)

We had a funny experience going into town for lunch. Our group was very indecisive about what we wanted to eat. We ended up stopping at a small Greek place – not a sit-down place but more diner-style where you ordered at the counter and could sit down to eat at a small handful of tables inside or out on the sidewalk. The proprietor/cook/order-taker was a gruff guy who spoke German and little to no English, so ordering was a challenge. We tried to place orders, mostly going with the classic American point-and-pay strategy. Philly was trying to order a gyro, and the fellow running the restaurant kept replying with something that we couldn’t understand. When our food came out, 3 of the 4 of us got our orders, but Philly got nothing. Replaying the scene and chatting with some locals, we finally figured out what had happened. When Philly asked for a gyro, the fellow running the restaurant thought she was asking if she could pay with Euros. He was replying, “one-to-one” – that is, you could pay with Euros on a 1 Euro-to-1 Swiss Franc basis (not a great deal for the customer, as a Euro is worth 10-12% more, but not terrible if you were only carrying Euros). So Philly watched the rest of us eat, then we took her to the local Coop grocery store a few blocks away, where she visited the self-serve salad bar and made herself a meal that was probably better than the food we got at the Greek diner anyway!

Photos from Our Visit to the Rheinfall

Here are some photos that we took during our visit to the Rheinfall. Looking back at the photos, they don’t really do complete justice to the beauty and magnificence of the scene. Motion and sound would surely help!

Approaching the Rheinfall on our boat tour
Our boat pulled up very close to the bottom of the falls!
Atop the rock in the middle of the falls, with Schloss Laufen in the background
With the Swiss flag atop the rock in the middle of the falls
Looking back from the top of the rock to Schlossli Worth
View of the mill and waterwheel, with the town of Neuhausen am Rheinfall
in the background, from atop the rock
A Rheinfall rainbow!
At this viewpoint along the stairs on the rock, you’re mere feet
from the awesome power and rush of the falls
Another falls close-up, from the dock on the rock
View from the bridge above the falls, looking back down to the rock and Schlossli Worth
The train & pedestrian bridge above the falls, with Neuhausen am Rheinfall in the background
The cool-looking Rheinfall sign in town


As we’re sure you can tell, we loved our time at the Rheinfall. To me, it’s a magical place, and I’d be delighted to return when I get the chance. In the meantime, maybe we should get a print of one of Turner’s paintings for our wall!

Have you visited the Rheinfall? How did you like it? Do you have tips to add? Please share with us and other Middle Age Miles readers in the Comments!

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