Rip-roaring, fiery, and never-ending, Rhine Falls is one of the most magnificent wonders I’ve ever seen. Packing my bags and heading out to Rhine Falls from Zurich on a sunny morning, I didn’t think my morning trip was so spectacular that it woke up all of my senses.
Dubbed as the largest waterfall in Europe and the 22nd largest in the world, Rhine Falls is a world on its own, reaching 150 meters wide and 23 meters high.
On any given sunny day, the warm sunlight bounces off the cascading water. When summer is around the corner, the falls come alive at their best with 600,000 liters of water reduced per second. And therefore, summer is the best time to visit Rhine Falls. Listening to the screams of the falls blended with the smell of the surrounding forest and the dance of sunlight injected my visit with a gorgeous charm.
Now read on to collect my insightful tips from my last trip to Rhine Falls including how to get there, cruise trip, walking around, organized tour, and more.
Getting to Rhine Falls from Zurich by Car and Train
Rest your worries! I’ll be walking you through each step to help you get to Rhine Falls in no time.
The magnificent Rhine Falls is set along the border separating Schaffhausen and Zurich north of Switzerland. Rhine Falls can be reached via 2 different sides:
- Northern bank (Schlössli Wörth)
- Southern bank (Schloss Laufen – Laufen Castle)
If you are coming to the Rhine Falls by car, park your vehicle at one of the lots on both sides of the river banks. Northern Bank parking lots are available at an hourly rate while the Southern side is free for parking. The car ride is only 40 minutes.
Both Northern and Southern Banks are connected by the Swiss Railway. Therefore, you can get on the train from anywhere as long as it traverses along the Swiss Railway directly to the waterfall. Each side of the fall requires a different drop-off station. The train ride between Zurich and Rhine Falls is an hour.
- To the Northern bank: Depart from Zurich HB (central) station to Neuhausen Rheinfall station. Take an exit, turn right, and keep walking until you see an elevator taking you down to a long promenade along the river.
- To the Southern bank: Depart from Zurich HB (central) station to Schloss Laufen am Rheinfall Station. Get out of the station and keep walking until you see a long queue of people waiting for the elevators. There is an electronic ticket counter here where you can get the tickets for the observation deck. Alternatively, you can also get the tickets right at the entrance gate outside of the observation deck after you take the elevator.
Getting around Rhine Falls on a Cruise Trip
Save the last for the best, taking the cruise is hands down the best way to enjoy Rhine Falls at its finest. This is my favorite way to recommend any first-timers to Rhine Falls. There are 5 different routes you can choose from.
- No. 1: Also known as the rock tour, this option is the most adventurous call for those with a decent fitness level. It will bring you to Rheinfallfelsen, the rock in the center of the Rhine falls. From there, you’ll climb up the rock which ends up opening out to a scenic, gorgeous view over the falls.
- No. 2: This option is the shortest ride to traverse back and forth from one side of the river to another which is the main harbor where the other tours leave.
- No. 3: This Rhine River cruise lasts for half an hour, taking you up and down the Rhine River until you reach Germany. The boat ride is long enough to cover both rough and calm sections of the Rhine River. Option no. 3 gives you 2 options to choose from. The second option is a tad longer than the first option I mentioned above but this one drives you around the surroundings of the falls on a bigger cruise. This cruise will bring you to Rheingau where the boat stops and you can visit the Abbey afterward for a while.
- No. 4: This 15-minute boat ride goes straight up to the waterfalls. Given such a short amount of time, you’ll experience the strong current of the falls right away with lots of bouncing up and down.
- No. 5: This cruise also lasts for 30 minutes with an audio guide in various languages. The only downside to this option is that it’s only available in summer from June to August.
Is Rhine Falls Wheelchair-Friendly?
Yes, people in wheelchairs are able to visit the observation deck after parking at the Northern bank. There’s a parking lot next to the basin that’s connected to a wheelchair elevator and a ramp that takes you to the docking boat.
How Much Time Do You Need at The Rhine Falls?
The maximum amount of time I recommend is up to 3 hours. On average, people will spend about 2 hours here. It also varies depending on the duration of your cruise.
Day Tour from Zurich to Rhine Falls
If you want to eliminate all the hassle of self-traveling, I highly recommend a day trip to Rhine Falls which includes pick-up and drop-off. Depending on which tour you sign up for, they will pick you up at your hotel or inform you of a meeting point somewhere downtown where all tourists gather in the morning before departing.
Taking an organized tour also comes in handy if you come with kids or seniors. Imagine how tiring it is to keep catching and switching trains and buses along the way. In this case, opt for a straightforward option to save you tons of time from navigating around, especially if you visit Rhine Falls for the very first time. Plus, a local guide will show you everything inside out with lots of lesser-known details and facts that give your trip a lot more fun and insights.
Is Rhine Falls Included in the Swiss Travel Pass?
The Swiss Travel Pass doesn’t offer a discount or free entry to the observation deck and cruise trip around the falls. However, it gives you a free ride on the train to Rhine Falls from Zurich.
What to See and Do at Rhine Falls?
As I had to visit other parts of Switzerland on the same day in the afternoon, I decided to visit the Southern bank of the river and soak up the majestic view at the Schloss Lauren castle observation deck.
Compared to the Northern and Southern sides of the falls, the Southern side of Schloss Laufen is much more attractive and fiery. This is where you can embrace the full force of the Rhine Falls as it’s a lot closer to the falls. Plus, it’s surrounded by a range of terraces and viewing platforms looking out to different sides and angles of the falls.
After purchasing the tickets at the observation deck outside of the elevator, I decided to linger around the “Laufen Castle” for a while. This is also the observation deck itself with a scenic cliff-top restaurant. The castle itself has been around for over a thousand years and is located next to the Belvedere path which leads to the imposing waterfall.
The castle itself also offers some decadent and stellar meals to recharge after a long trip of walking and hiking. They have 3 different restaurants including a self-service restaurant, a children-friendly restaurant, and an à la carte restaurant.
If you don’t want to stop by for a meal, then head back to the entrance of the observation deck, swipe the tickets, and enter. Keep in mind that Rhine Falls is a heavily visited destination in Switzerland. It’s flooded with tour groups every summer. The stairs leading to the observation deck are also very narrow, which means you may end up elbowing out with other guests if it’s crowded.
After entering the viewing platform, you can admire the waterfall at the first observation tower. The view from the vantage point is such a magnificent experience, especially with the zigzag trail. Right below the upper deck is the lower deck which is a lot closer to the cascading current. Watch your steps when you meander down the stairs as it can be rough with lots of people passing through.
When the sun is up, the entire scenery becomes a gorgeous canvas, dotted with ancient European castles popping up from the lush forests. From afar, an extensive straight-up bridge connecting two sides of the river over the upper level of the falls. Be prepared to admire such a dream-like, amusing scene splashed by the mashup of blue, white, turquoise, brown, and green.
At the end of the walk is where the cruise docks, waiting for the passengers to come aboard. If you have time, you can also take the cruise ship to the Northern bank of the Rhine Falls directly at the boat station.
Capping the morning trip to the Rhine Falls, I was left amazed, happy, and amused at the same time. I’ve always wondered if there’s actually a place to spend a few nights somewhere up in the old castles opening out to the screaming waterfall day and night. That would be a beautiful place to stay, just gazing out of the window with a rum and a book in my hand.
Once the trip was over, I moved on to visit Schaffhausen further to the colorful Stein am Rhein medieval towns later in the day. You can also enjoy the same route as I did on a scenic trail ride that only takes 7 minutes.
I hope you enjoy Rhine Falls as much as I did. This is such a cool experience that I’m dying to visit time and again. The boisterous falls are always able to cleanse my mind, flushing away all the stresses and doubts. Make sure to visit Rhine Falls in summer for the best experience.