Schaffhausen (German), French Schaffhouse, capital of Schaffhausen canton, northern Switzerland, on the right bank of the Rhine, west of Lake Constance (Bodensee). The site was first mentioned in 1045 as Villa Scafhusun. About 1049 Count Eberhard III of Nellenburg founded there the Benedictine monastery of All Saints, around which the community developed. The town became a free imperial city between 1190 and 1218 but fell under Habsburg domination from 1330, until it bought its independence in 1415. It allied with the Swiss Confederation against the Habsburgs in 1454 and was admitted as a full member in 1501.
The Protestant Münster, or cathedral (consecrated 1103), formerly the church of the All Saints monastery, has a bell (cast in 1486) inscribed “vivos voco, mortuos plango, fulgura frango” (“I call the living, I toll the dead, I break lightning bolts”), which is said to have inspired Friedrich Schiller’s famous poem “Das Lied von der Glocke” (“The Lay of the Bell”). The former monastery now houses the municipal museum. Other notable landmarks are the round, massive Munot Fort (1564–85), the parish church (1460–1517), the old (1382–1412) and new (1617) town halls, and the Haus zum Ritter, or the Knight’s House (1485), with frescoes by Tobias Stimmer.
A busy rail junction and tourist centre, it manufactures metal products, textiles, and watches. Important hydroelectric plants are nearby on the Rhine, there noted for its magnificent Rhine Falls, 2 mi (3 km) southwest. There is an aluminum plant in the industrial suburb of Neuhausen am Rheinfall. The population is German speaking and largely Protestant.
Over the mediaeval Old Town of Schaffhausen looms the imposing Munot fortress. The houses of the Old Town are richly decorated with oriel windows and lavishly painted facades. The town, located on the Upper Rhine between the Black Forest and Lake Constance, and surrounded by vineyards, is a popular destination for holidays and day-trips.
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).
How to get there
Public Transport: Schaffhausen is easily and comfortably reached by rail. It is located on the internationally important Stuttgart – Schaffhausen – Zürich – Milan route. This intersects in Schaffhausen with the Basel – Schaffhausen – Lindau line of the German Rail, guaranteeing ideal accessibility from all directions. Rail pass, schedule of the Swiss Federal Railroad; schedule of the German Federal Railroad.
By car: Schaffhausen is well connected to both the German and the Swiss Autobahn networks. It is situated on the direct Stuttgart – Zürich axis.
Other/Air: Coming from Zürich Airport, where direct flights from almost every international metropolis arrive and depart, you can reach Schaffhausen in 30 minutes by car. You will reach Schaffhausen in less than one hour by public transportation.