Schaffhausen, the Ideal Day Trip from Zurich
Last weekend my dad and I decided to go somewhere new close to Zurich. We wanted to go somewhere on the train, but not too far away, and not too expensive. Switzerland is notorious for being outrageously expensive and their trains are no exception. A one-hour ride can cost you upwards of 30 Swiss Franks each way. After a few days of thinking my dad had a brilliant idea for our weekend day-trip, Schaffhausen!
Schaffhausen is a small city located about 45 minutes by train from Zurich. It’s most known for being home to Europe’s largest waterfall, Rhine falls. Also, not to be overlooked is the remarkable downtown city filled with Renaissance era architecture and buildings dating back hundreds and hundreds of years, still standing in mint condition. There are numerous stunning churches with massive clock towers peering over the city, as well as the famous preserved cannon fortress, Munot.
We started off our day leaving the flat in Zurich at 9:30AM. We took the tram down to Zurich Hauptbahnhof, better known as Zurich HB-the main train station in Zurich, and also the largest train station in Switzerland. This station can be a day attraction in itself, but that’s a whole-nother story.
From Zurich HB we bought tickets to Schaffhausen, an all zone ticket: it should be about 30 Swiss Franks each way, per person. You can buy a round trip ticket if you’d like.
Train: We departed from Zurich HB at 10:05 and got to Schaffhausen at 10:45. Once you get off the train you walk out straight from the train station and you’ll see people walking towards the downtown. Follow the crowd and you really can’t miss it.
Saturday is the perfect day to go to Schaffhausen because of they host a small farmer’s market in the middle of the city. They sell fresh flowers, fresh food and it’s a great place to walk around and enjoy the buildings and streets in the town.
Breakfast: We decided it was the perfect time for a little bite and coffee before we got our day started, so we headed to the first packed café we saw, Café Vordergasse. There really isn’t any order to the seating; you just grab any place you see open. There’s a good chance if it’s the weekend you may have to wait a couple of minutes for a seat. There was no English menu so we kind of just winged it. I ordered a latte and my dad ordered a cappuccino. After that we told the waiter we didn’t know what we wanted and he brought us to the counter and my dad returned with three croissants!
One chocolate chip croissant, YUM, one salted pretzel-type deal with butter inside, and then an oat croissant. Everything tasted delicious. Just as we took a bite into our food a huge glass vase of bright pink muesli with fresh fruit passed, immediately we flagged down our waiter to order one of those. We simply pointed to it across the room and said “One muesli please.” He understood. It was amazzzing.
After the light but filling meal, we were perfectly full, but not stuffed.
We were feeling great to head out on our 4 mile round trip walk to the falls. After tipping ten percent 😉 (Yes, that’s appropriate in Switzerland if you’re please with your service) we were off!
The Walk: Most people don’t walk ALL the way to the falls from the downtown area, but it’s really not that far at all. We had comfortable shoes on, dressed warmly enough, and I couldn’t recommend it more. It was about 6km round trip in total. We left at the foot of the town, just below the Munot fortress and started on the path right next to the Rhine, the river.
From there it’s a straight shot. You walk for about 30-45 minutes right alone the river until you get to the falls. The walk itself is gorgeous! You pass cottages and houses lining the river with wild tulips and daffodils.
The water is a sea green and dark emerald color, lighter on the edges and so clear you can see the bottom in the many places. As you walk on this path you start to appreciate the cleanliness and pureness Switzerland offers this world, it’s so pristine it’s magical.
The Falls: Once you reach the falls you have a few options. We walked around the falls snapping photos with all the other tourists for a short while.
Then walked to the base of the falls and decided it was time for a Swiss beer. You have two options, you can grab lunch at the ultra swanky restaurant at the base of the falls where the seating is indoors with perfect views of the falls, or you can get a bite or a beer at the common café right next door. We weren’t dressed very nice so we just went to the grab-and-go and got ourselves two Swiss beers. We sat outside and enjoyed the falls and our beers.
The Boat Ride: We made the decision that the boat ride was a bit anti-climactic, and I didn’t really want to get wet. No, we didn’t do it so I’m making a judgment out of nowhere…however; it just seemed like something I could pass on. It is however, surprisingly inexpensive in Switzerland terms! So if you’re traveling with young kids or if this is the only time in your life you’ll be here and want to take the boat ride to the base, rest-assured, it will cost you somewhere between 6-10 Franks, what a steal J
The Falls Continued: After the beers we walked a little further down the river to the next bridge. You can see it from the main falls viewing area. We walked along the river for about 10-15 minutes, crossed the bridge, and then walked back up on the other side. We would stay on this side of the river the whole time until we were back in the city of Schaffhausen.
Castle Viewing Area: Once you get back to the falls you will come up to an old castle-turned hotel. From the top you will see an old preserved church, lots of fake cows to take photos with and a couple of little cafes. Inside the main café building you can buy a viewing ticket for 5 Franks. This allows you to view the falls from a very-close proximity. You walk through the castle and you’ll see people walking down, you scan your ticket there and walk through the metal spinning-thing.
The 5 Franks is worth it! I also really enjoyed taking photos with the fake cows, maybe even a little too much.
The Walk Back: After the castle viewing area it was time to head back. By this time it was 3pm and we were hungry! We walked along the right side of the river back to Schaffhausen for twenty minutes before we started to enter the residential area.
This part was truly a treat. You walk through these perfectly manicured and perfectly preserved neighborhoods right along the river. The houses are so nice, the streets are so clean and the architecture and landscaping is so perfect but natural, it seems almost not real. I found myself in awe, as I usually do when I walk through so many Swiss neighborhoods, it just looks too good to be true.
Munot Fortress: Once you start to get closer to town you can’t help but notice the large castle/fortress that stands out. It’s very cool. You can find the stairs up to the fortress kind of right at the base of it, to the bottom-right of the long-tunnel looking thing. There’s a small sign that says, “Munot” try to find it, if you can’t just ask someone how to get up to the fortress.
You walk up a couple flights of stairs and then you’re at the top!
The park to the right is beautiful, with lush green grass and a patch of preserved daffodils.
The inside of the fortress was so fun. It’s very dark with patches of light vaguely coming through the windows.
You can walk up the spiral stone staircase to the top and have an impeccable view of the city and all of the old preserved buildings and homes.
Late Lunch: After Munot we decided to get a late lunch/early dinner before heading back on the 45 minutes train ride to Zurich. We stumbled upon this family-run, very homey Italian joint, Ristorante Pizzeria Musikhof;which ended up being rated the number one restaurant in Shaffhausen, and for a good reason. Let me tell you, the food was fantastic, the service and atmosphere was perfect, and the prices very reasonable. We started with the antipasti and then I had the Bolognese and my dad had the arrabiata, everything, was spot on.
Once we finished our delicious italian meals at Pizzeria Musikhof it was time to head back to Zurich. We got to the train station around 530PM and the train was just departing for Zurich HB. After a forty minute train ride passing rolling green hills and perfectly manicured neighborhoods and towns, we were home.