Swing by Switzerland’s best-preserved medieval town along the Rhine close to the biggest waterfall in Europe.


If you ever come across this town on a map and wonder if it’s worth a stop, wonder no more. Make that stop. Even for just a meal in the main square.

I wish I could use words other than charming, picturesque, or quaint to describe it, but those are exactly what Stein-am-Rhein is.

If you have a car at your disposal, I suggest working up an appetite by first going to the Rhine Falls, near the town of Schaffhausen. It’s about a 30-minute drive away from Stein am Rhein.

The Rhine Falls

This is the biggest waterfall in Europe. What’s great about it is that one can observe – and feel – the sheer power of the water from up close.

Even before we reached the observation deck, we could already hear the loud rush of the water, which got stronger and stronger as we got closer.

And once there, visitors stand on platforms that jut out and hover over the Rhine – practically in the middle of the waterfall. Absolutely breathtaking!

We were there in the spring but apparently, the waterfall is at its strongest in July. Those with very young children are advised to tread carefully. Not because it’s dangerous; rather, just to make sure the force of the waterfall doesn’t scare the little ones. There is a kids’ playground in the visitors’ centre and an interactive display about the Rhine Falls as well.

The castles of Wörth and Laufen can be reached by river boat, and daring visitors can rent canoes. But for us, the sheer pleasure of watching this amazing natural wonder was enough.

Then it was time to head over to…

Stein am Rhein

Translated literally as Stone on the Rhine, this refers to the stone that lies in the area where Lake Constanz meets the river Rhine – the stone upon which this well-preserved medieval town was built.

As we reached the Rathausplatz, the main square by the Town Hall, we were welcomed by these delightful, elaborately-painted buildings. Repainted in the 19th and 20th centuries using more modern paints that could withstand the elements, each building has a name and is painted distinctly from the rest. This was meant to identify the address of a homeowner, instead of giving a number or street name.

Created around 1007, Stein am Rhein was formerly ruled by the Lords of Hohenklingen, whose castle lies on top of the hill overlooking the town. You can tour the castle or book a guide who can explain the history of the town, but on this visit, we were happy to just walk around, take a leisurely meal al fresco in one of the restaurants, and just take in the town.

If you have lots of time, you might want to consider taking a River Cruise between Schaffhausen and Stein am Rhein (between the river Rhine and Lake Constanz). This stretch is said to be the prettiest along the Rhine, but it would require at least 4 to 5 hours, one way. I had taken a Rhine river cruise on a prior trip and on this visit, I preferred to simply walk around Old Town (Altstadt) Stein-am-Rhein instead.

But perhaps for a group of friends traveling together, sharing stories over a bottle of wine … or two … or three, this would be a tempting option?

Photo Credits:
Rheinfalls: Switzerland Tourism
Rhine River Cruise