The town of Schaffhausen is in the northernmost corner of Switzerland, in the “knee” of the Rhine in Eastern Switzerland on the border with Germany. It owes its origins to the Rheinfall waterfall: the settlement arose where shippers needed somewhere to unload and stack their goods when avoiding the rapids that were impassable for ships.
The traffic-free Old Town of Schaffhausen is considered one of the prettiest in Switzerland, on account of its many oriel windows and lavishly painted facades. Many of the fine guildhouses and merchant’s houses date from Gothic and Baroque times. The lively Old Town is very good for shopping. The town began with the street market in what is now the Vordergasse. This is also where you will find the High Gothic St. Johann church with its remarkable acoustics.
The emblem of the town, the Munot fortress, can be seen for miles. The ring-shaped stronghold was built between 1564 and 1589 to a design by Albrecht Dürer. You can see far and wide from the battlements. Every evening at 9 p.m., the Munot guard who lives in the tower rings the Munot bell, which used to be a sign that the town gates and inns should close.
In the area to the north of Schaffhausen, in the hilly region of the Randen, and on the vine-clad slopes of the Klettgau, there are lovely walks and cycle rides and you can enjoy a tasty drop of Pinot Noir. Learn about how the wine is made during a one-hour walk along the Trasadingen Wine Trail or in the Museum of Viticulture in Hallau.
The riverside landscape along the Rhine is a lovely area for cycling, walking and boating. The popular Untersee Lake-Rhine boat trip from Schaffhausen to Kreuzlingen is nearly 50 km long. The section of river between Schaffhausen and the well-preserved little mediaeval town of Stein am Rhein, with its frescos and painted houses, is particularly charming. The Benedictine monastery of St. Georgen now houses the monastery museum. Over the town towers the castle of Hohenklingen.
- Old Town – one of the most delightful Old Towns in Switzerland, with wonderful Baroque houses and 170 oriel windows, which were a status symbol on the houses of rich merchants.
- Rheinfall at Schaffhausen – Europe’s largest and most powerful waterfall, where the water crashes down 21 metres, across a width of 150 metres. The natural spectacle is at its best in July when water levels are highest.
- Boat trip on the Rhine from Schaffhausen to Stein am Rhein and on across the Untersee to Konstanz and Kreuzlingen – one of the finest river trips in Europe.
- Former Benedictine abbey of Allerheiligen – the monastery church with its 11th century cloisters is an important Romanesque historic building, with a herb garden and museum about the town’s history and industry.
- Modern Art Gallery - a former textile factory houses large installations by internationally renowned artists.
- International Bach Festival – Music by J. S. Bach is played to the highest standard throughout Schaffhausen (May every three years, 2009 etc.).
- Schaffhausen Jazz Festival – most important showcase for Swiss jazz, current work in jazz and improvised music in the “Kammgarn” cultural centre (May).
- Grape Blossom Festival in Schaffhausen - the grape blossom festival is celebrated in all 20 wine-growing districts of the region, with cellar visits and tasting sessions (June).
- Museum night at Hegau-Schaffhausen – many museums in the region are open until late evening (September).
- Trottenfeste in Pinot Noir country – various autumn festivals in the wine-growing areas around Schaffhausen (September).
- Chlaus- und Kunsthandwerkermarkt – Christmas craft market in the historic “Lower Town”, decorated for the festive season. Procession with cow bells etc. (December).
Our high school marching band had the privilege of visiting this beautiful city, along with a few others in Switzerland and Germany. This was by far my favorite. A fellow band member and I stayed within walking distance to Munot Fortress. We also visited the Rheinfall on our short visit. This is by far the most picturesque city that I have ever visited. The people of Schaffhausen were very warm and friendly toward us, explaining some of the history of this city.
Having lived in western Switzerland, nestled in the Alps, several years ago, we were uncertain that a return visit to Switzerland would yield as gorgeous a view in the eastern part of Switzerland. We were wrong! Schaffhausen and Stein am Rhein have their own charm, with well-preserved millenia-old buildings that are both stunning and habitable (a plus is that some of the bed and breakfasts here are over 600 years old).