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Northern Delight
A Schaffhausen Travel Guide

Although Schaffhausen has so much to offer, visitors often overlook this charming city with its supurb examples of Renaissance architecture and head directly to the Rhine Falls. What a pity!

Schaffhausen, the picturesque city in Northeastern Switzerland

It's well-preserved and traffic-free historic old town, the beautiful location on the Rhine, and the Munot fortress with its vineyard looming above the city are visually pleasing. Meandering through the narrow lanes, admiring the architecture, the frescoed houses, and the beautiful squares with its foutnains - Schaffhausen will transport you back in time.

The Rhine has been an important river highway since shipping became possible, and cargo was ferried all the way from the North Sea to Schaffhausen. The origins of Schaffhausen date back to around 1000, and the town became quickly a cargo depot. The river fright to Lake Constance was interrupted here due to the powerful rapids of the Rhine Falls.

Lovely lanes, cobbled streets and beautiful painted houses in Schaffhausen

The town became a city when Emperor Heinrich the III awarded Count of Nellenburg, founder of the Abbey Schaffhausen, the right to mint coins in 1045. The town's history was dominated by war and the constant alternation of rulers until Schaffhausen became a member of the Swiss Confederation in the 1501.

The historic heart of Schaffhausen

Trading and the revenue from custom duties made the city and its merchants rich. Today, Schaffhausen is one of the best preserved Swiss cities dating back to the Middle Ages, even though the US Army dropped accidentally 400 bombs on the city on April 1, 1944.

One of the richly decorated Renaissance houses in Schaffhausen, the 'House of the large cage' The house "Zum grossen Käfig" - the house of the Large Cage

Many of the town houses have richly painted facades. Wealthy merchants competed in adorning their houses with bay windows, then considered a status symbol - and an ideal place from which one could observe the life in the streets in privacy. Over 170 of these oriel windows are still intact and adorn the houses built in the Renaissance period.

More than 170 oriel windows adorn Schaffhausen's houses Different shapes and sizes of typical Oriel Windows.

During that time, houses were given names rather than numbers, for example "Zum Süssen Winkel" (Sweet Corner), "Zur Oberen Zufriedenheit" (Higher Satisfaction"), "Haus zum grossen Käfig" (House of the Large Cage ), or "Haus zum Paradiesvogel" (Bird of Paradise House).

Schaffhausen's fountains

Like everywhere in Switzerland, you can drink the water from the numerous fountains throughout the city. Each of the larger fountains is dedicated to a different historical figure or an event that happened in the past. Although Schaffhausen cannot compete with the historic fountains in Bern, they are not less exquisite. The richly decorated fountains are all found on squares while smaller and less decorative fountains are pushed back into lanes.

Haus zum Ritter

The most intricate fresco, praising the civil virtues, is the one on the "Haus zum Ritter". Originally it was done by Tobias Stimmer, a Swiss Artist born in Schaffhausen in 1539. To preserve his work, the frescoes were taken off the façade and can now be seen in the "Museum zu Allerheiligen" (Klosterstrasse 16). The Artist Carl Roesch of nearby Diessenhofen recreated them masterfully on the "Haus zum Ritter" (House of the Knight - Vordergasse 65).

Haus zum Ritter in Schaffhausen - one of the best frescoes North of the Alps

Haus zum Goldenen Ochsen

This is a history rich house and one of the grandest in Schaffhausen. It was one of the earliest inns in town. The largest mural just above the bay window depicts the Golden Ox, the symbol of the house. Between the windows are figures from Babylon and ancient Greece. The entrance to the left and the oriel window are richly decorated with sculptures.

Haus zum Ochsen in Schaffhausen - the oriel is particularly richly decorated with scultures.

Fronwagplatz

The main shopping lanes end at this intimate square in the middle of the old town, and it is a favorite meeting place for locals. Fronwag square is a popular venue for events too, such as the speech for National Day on August 1st - or like here, Advent celebrations with a large Christmas tree.

Here are two of Schaffhausen's most beautiful fountains; at one end the Landsknechtbrunnen, the Mercenary fountain with four big spouts, and at the other end the Mohrenbrunnen - dedicated to the youngest of the three Magi. However, locals affectionately call this fountain "Joggel", referring to one of the wealthiest city merchants.

The Fronwag tower (behind the carousel) features an astronomical clock by Joachim Habrecht, dated 1564. On top of the tower you can see the small bell of the "Burg Balm", a reconstruction of the original bell which was destroyed during a dispute between the inhabitants of Schaffhausen and the Austrians in 1449.

Munot Fortress

Undoubtedly, the 16th century Munot Fortress catches the visitors' eye. The city's landmark with its characteristic round shape was mostly built by Schaffhausen citizens in feudal labour. It took them 25 years. The Munot fortress lost its military importance at the beginning of the 19th century and fell in despair, in fact, it became a querry. Thankfully, Jakob Beck, an art teacher, founded the Munot Association which was responsible for the restoration. The Association also takes care of the vineyard and the deer in the moat around the tower.

Nowadays, the Munot serves as urban venue and cultural center. The Association organizes also summer Saturday night dances with live music.

The Munot fortress, Schaffhausen's Landmark On the op the Munot tower lives the watchman.

Boss of the Munot since 1377 is the watchman. He ensured the communication and was responsible for the reporting station until 1926. Nowadays, the Munot Watchmen cares for its upkeep and attends to the tourists. And each night at exactly nine o'clock he's ringing the Munot bell which bears the date 1589. For the first time, the position of the Munotwachtman will be held by a woman, starting in May 2017.

Every 5 years the Munot opens its door over a weekend, including the historic Armoury and the Roman tower.

The Munot rose garden is bordered off from the pathways by low-growing box hedges. Approx. 170 species grow here, and the pergola makes a fitting completion to the scene.

Abbey and Museum Allerheiligen

The Benedictine Abbey complex with its impressive basilica and "Museum zu Allerheiligen" is a lively centre of art, cultural and natural history, archeology including a permanent exhibition of early advanced civilizations.

The cloister of the Benedictine Abbey Allerheiligen in Schaffhausen

The cloister - partly Romanesque and partly Gothic - the romantic cemetery where high ranking magistrates have been buried between 1582 and 1874, the idyllic Herb Garden and the atrium with the Schiller Bell invite you to linger.

The medieval herb garen of the Benedictine Abbey Allerheiligen in Schaffhausen

Schaffhausen Travel Guide Tips

Good to Know

Where in Switzerland is Schaffhausen?

Schaffhausen is Switzerland's northern most city and lies at the River Rhine on the border to Germany.

Schaffhausen lies at the Northern tip of Switzerland

How to reach Schaffhausen?

Getting there by train

  • from Zürich about 1 hour via Winterthur or 38 minutes by direct train;
  • from Lucerne 1 hour 40 minutes via Zürich;
  • from Bern 1 hour and 40 minutes via Zürich;
  • from St. Gallen between 1 hour 13 or 51 minutes, depending on the connection;
  • from Basel 1 hour and 16 minutes.

Getting there by car:

  • from Zürich 52 km via A1/A4;
  • from Lucerne just over 100 km via A4/A14;
  • from Bern 171 km via A1/A4;
  • from St. Gallen 83 km via A1/A4;
  • from Basel 100 km via A3 and route 7.

Schaffhausen Travel Guide Tips: Not to be missed

  • A stroll through the traffic free old town. You can pick up a printed city map at the Tourist Office: Herrenacker 15;
  • Walk up to the Munot Fortress: There's a path across the boat landing - partly with steps - leading through the Munot vineyard up to the Fortress;
  • Abbey and Museum Allerheiligen: Klosterstrasse 16;
  • Hallen für Neue Kunst (Modern Art): Representative works of conceptual and minimal art including "arte povera" between the 1960s and 1980s: Baumgartenstrasse 23;
  • Tip your toes into the Rhine in the "Rhybadi", one of the most beautiful outdoor pools in Switzerland. The wooden structure was built in 1870 directly into the Rhine, and it is the largest surviving river bathhouse in Switzerland if not in Europe: Open May through September - Rheinuferstrasse 1;
  • Hitchhiking (sort of) on the Rhine: Want to take a boat ride on a "Weidling", a traditional wooden boat? Look for the red bench marked "Boot-Stopp" at the "Lindli", sit down and wait until a boat approaches, then stick up your thumb. The boatmen invite visitors for a short excursion on the Rhine. It's a fabulous way to connect with a local and above all - it's FREE! They do it because they love it: Rheinhaldenstrasse 50;
  • Or book a guided tour where you will learn first hand about Schaffhausen's history, architecture and it's frescoed houses, visit the Munot Tower and the Abbey Allerheiligen.

For watch lovers

  • IWC Internaitonal Watch Company - museum and production experience. The manufacture's first machines were driven by hydroelectric power taken directly from the Rhine. The main factory building is still identical with the one originally built in 1875: Baumgartenstrasse 15.

For wine connoisseurs

  • Want to try a local wine? Schaffhausen is known for its Blauburgunder, and you can sample them in the Vinorama: Herrenacker 15
  • If you are seriously interested in wine growing, check out the winegrowers website (German only). You find a downloadable list of local winegrowers "Degustation und Kellerei-Besichtigung" to the right, and you can contact them for a visit.

Markets

  • Weekly markets: Tuesday and Saturday mornings - spring to fall;
  • Farmers Market (Bure Markt): Tuesday, Friday and Saturday mornings - spring to fall;
  • Martini Market: second week in November (Wednesday and Thursday);
  • Christmas Market: beginning of December.

Events

  • Day of the Open Wine Cellars end of April;
  • Streetfood Days end of April;
  • International Bach Fest in May every two years;
  • Schaffhauser Jazz Festival during four days every year in May;
  • Traditional Munot Ball - between June and August;
  • Stars in Town - first week in August;
  • Carnival Schaffhausen

These are just a few of the largest events. For all dates check out the Schaffhausen Tourism Website.

Where to eat

Restaurant and Café Abaco in Schaffhausen A lovey atmosphere in the Abaco

There are lovely street cafés throughout the city where you can get a bite to eat. A myriad of restaurants cater to all tastes and preferences. I only recommend what I have tried myself, so here is a list with my favorite ones:

  • Café Vordergasse - Vordergasse 79

    Decadent desserts in a romantic and nostalgic ambiance? This tearoom serves breakfast, light lunches, smoothies/lassies, and the proverbal Birchermüesli. And of course, a variety of teas, coffees and hot chocolates. Pedestrian zone. Outdoor seating. Open every day.
    www.vordergasse.ch
  • ABACO - Safrangasse 2

    A coffee or hot chocolate, Thai food or just some ice cream and delicious in-house made chocolate in a lovely atmosphere - inside and outside seating. Closed Sunday.
    www.abaco.ch
  • Wii am Rii - Fischerhäuserstrasse 57

    Small cosy bistro - the name implies "Wine on the Rhine" - uniquely decorated by the two owners who have a great passion for genuine hospitality. One main dish, small extra menu. Freshly prepared with only the best ingredients. Some call it the "loveliest Beizli" in the world (smallest of the smallest restaurants). Call for reservations. Slow food. Bring time. And you get seconds! Cash only. Closed Sunday, Monday, Tuesday.
    www.wiiamrii.ch
  • Sommerlust - Rheinhaldenstrasse 8

    Fancy a fabulous meal in a pretty Villa on the Rhine? Have something special to celebrate? The Sommerlust offers business lunches and gourmet dinners in a stylish restaurant and in the beautiful orangerie. Make reservations. Closed Monday.
    www.sommerlust.ch
  • Wirtschaft zum Frieden - Herrenacker 11

    The oldest restaurant in Schaffhausen in the heart of the city - cosy Swiss-style wood panelled dining rooms, and private garden setting weather permitting. Hearty Swiss dishes. Exclusive wine list. A favorite among locals. Closed Sunday and Monday.
    www.wirtschaft-frieden.ch
  • Carcajou 18 - Stadthausgasse 18

    A fancy take-out. No ordinary fast food here, instead freshly prepared take-away meals such as tarte flambée, sandwiches, pasta, salads, ice teas, juices and coffee. Closed Sunday.

    The Carcajou also has a summer residence directly on the Rhine - Gründenstrasse 31 - about 10 minutes' walk from the city center via Rhine Bridge. The food truck serves delicious small meals in a garden setting close to the "Flurlingen Badi", a small sandbeach on the Rhine - bring your bathing suit.
  • Güterhof - Freier Platz 10

    I will mention this restaurant because it sits pretty directly on the Rhine near the boat landing. Nice to people watch. Unfortunately, my experience was not the best, and more than once I have to say. Slow, relatively unfriendly and on the expensive side. They do have a sushi bar. Open every day.
    www.gueterhof.ch

Where to stay

Hotel Best Western, Schaffhausen

Best Western ****

Bahnhofstrasse 46
Compare rates: Best Western Schaffhausen

Directly across the train station and on a busy street. Amenities as expected in a 4* hotel: free wifi, laundry service, hair salon, fitness room and above all, quite reasonably priced. Friendly staff.

Sorell Hotel Rueden, Schaffhausen

Sorell Hotel - Hotel Rüden ***

Oberstadt 20
Compare rates: Sorell Hotel / Hotel Rüden

Just steps away from the train station and the old town. Spacious rooms with a special touch in a historic building. Amazing breakfast included.

Hotel Promenade, Schaffhausen

Hotel Promenade ***

Fasenstaubstrasse 43
Compare rates: Hotel Promenade

Simple, clean rooms. Good value. 10 minutes' walk (a bit uphill) from the train station on the opposite side of the old town. 200 m to the nearest bus station. Free wifi. Breakfast buffet, lovely lush green garden, friendly staff.

Hotel ZAK and Backpackers in Schaffhausen

ZAK Hotel & Backpackers **

Webergasse 47
Compare rates: ZAK Hotel & Backpackers

A short walk from the train station. Single and double rooms, shared dormitory as well as studios. Free wifi. Coffee shop.

Youth Hostel Schaffhausen, Switzerland

Schaffhausen Youth Hostel

Randenstrasse 65
Compare rates: Schaffhausen Youth Hotel

Approx. 1km from the train station on the oposite side of the old town. Bus every 20 minutes. Clean simple shared dormitories, and twin rooms with shared bathrooms. Villa in a nice parklike setting. Buffet style breakfast.

Nearby attractions definitely worth your time

  • Rhine Falls in Neuhausen;
  • The fairy tale city of "Stein am Rhein";
  • A Rhine river cruise to Lake Constance - approx. 50 km;
  • Great biking along the Rhine through vineyards and orchards from Schaffhausen to Lake Constance (and beyond).

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