The impressive Rhein Falls are the “largest” waterfalls in Europe, in terms of volume, not height. It’s a thrill to stand on the viewing platforms hanging over the falls. You’ll walk down a lot of stairs admiring the falls, close but behind kid-safe barriers. Then a short boat ride on the river (no life preservers) to a restaurant and playground overlooking the falls, with an optional stop in the middle of the falls. This is ideal for visitors, assuming they are willing and able to do some stairs. I recommend combining it with a visit to Stein am Rhein, an adorable old town, about 15 mins drive up the river.
|Address:||Rheinfallstrasse, 8447 Laufen-Uhwiesen CH
GPS: 47°40’31.1″N 8°36’54.7″E
|Car:||40 mins from Zurich|
|Train:||45 mins from Zurich, CHF 17.20 Adult Return with Half-fare
Train stop: Schloss Laufen am Rheinfall
|Trail:||short path along falls|
|Condition:||paved and dirt, lots of stairs, no strollers|
|Cost 2017:||North shore free, South shore promenade CHF 5
Boat trip CHF 10, Children half-price
There are various ways to enjoy the falls. On the cliffs on southeast side of the river, there is a castle (Schloss Laufen), museum, and with stairs leading viewing platforms overlooking the falls. This side requires an entrance fee to see the falls. On the northwest side of the river, there is nice promenade along the river, with a few restaurants, benches, and a playground. There is no entrance fee on this side, but the falls are much farther away. You can catch the boat from either side, taking you to the center of the falls or simply across the river.
Here’s a view from the south side cliffs across the falls to the north side.
I recommend starting on the southeast side of the falls, with the stairs and viewing platforms close to the falls. This is the best view and most fun.
By car, take the A4 north towards Schaffhausen, then take exit Uhwiesen toward Rheinfall/Dachsen and follow signs to the Rheinfall and Schloss. There’s a huge free parking lot by the castle littered with various snack and trinket vendors.
By train, take the S33 to the Schloss Laufen am Rheinfall stop, which is just below the castle. You can buy tickets at the bottom of the stairs and walk up to the viewing platforms.
If you prefer the northwest side, drive to Rheinfallquai, 8212 Neuhausen am Rheinfall. There is a metered parking lot near the river. This side is not easily accessible by public transportation.
On the Schloss Laufen side, buy your entrance tickets near the parking lot. In 2016, tickets cost 5 CHF/adult, 3.50 CHF/children 6 and up. Leave your strollers behind, there are lots of stairs. Walk into the castle gates to access the falls. There are some gift shops, a gallery and museum in the complex above the falls. We always bypass that and go straight to the main event. There is a playground on this side as well, but in 2016, it is under construction.
After getting your first view of falls (above), you will continue down lots and lots of steps to the bottom of the falls (no strollers here!).
There are several lookouts along the way, where you can get very close to the roaring water.
It’s fun and scary to stand on this overhang watching the water rush under you.
Once you reach the river at the bottom of the stairs, you can pay to take a boat across the river to a restaurant, big playground and nice waterfront walk. Here can admire the falls from a far and kids can safely run around and play on the playground. When my kids were very little, Grandma waited over here, while the rest of the group took the boat into the middle.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can take a boat into the center of the falls and climb up a big rock with wet, slippery stairs so you are standing right in the middle of the action. It’s fantastic, but maybe not for very little kids as the stairs are super slippery and difficult to manage with all the people crowded up and down.
You can see the boat in the picture below and me and Grandma, looking a little nervous. The boat rocks around a lot and you get a little wet. But it’s a short ride.