Historic Stein Am Rhein – Most Picturesque Town in Switzerland
Switzerland is famously known for its majestic alpine ranges and major cities like Geneva and Zurich. But in the north, the country is less about epic mountains and more about idyllic small-town life along the scenic river Rhine. Of the many tourist destinations that line the Rhine’s banks, one of the most endearing is the delightful medieval town of Stein am Rhein.
Located in the Schaffhausen canton of Switzerland, the story of Stein am Rhein stretches back 1000 years. As the town’s name suggests, Stein am Rhein is found on the Rhine river (Rhein in German), at the point where the Rhine flows out of Lake Konstanz along the country’s northern border.
Packed with quintessential European charm, Stein am Rhein is simply captivating and is one of the easiest day trips from Zurich. Although underrated, it may well be one of the best places to visit in Switzerland .
Where is Stein am Rhein?
The town is located in the northernmost area of Switzerland, at the border with Germany. Built where the lower end of Lake Constance becomes the river Rhine again, you can visit Stein am Rhein as a day trip from Zurich or Konstanz on the lake’s German shore. Indeed, Stein am Rhein is close to two of Switzerland’s most beautiful lakes: Lake Zurich and Lake Constance.
The Austrian border is also not far away, and you could combine a trip to Vorarlberg (where a couple of years ago I walked the charming Architecture Path in the Bregenzerwald) with an excursion to Stein am Rhein.
From fishing village to lively town – Stein am Rhein, Switzerland
Do you know which town lays at the spot where Lake Constance becomes a Rhine River again? It is Stein am Rhein in Switzerland. This charming small town hides beautiful architecture in its heart. Once you get here, your neck will start to hurt as you will be looking up during the most of your tour. Do you want to know why? Keep reading, and we will explain everything.
However, before we dive in into medieval times and Stein am Rhein’s artistic culture there are a few things you should know. The total area of this town is only 5.76 km2, which means it is best that you leave your car in a parking lot on the west edge of the old town and get around the city by walking.
Getting to Stein am Rhein is not complicated at all – you can take the train from Zurich, bus from Radolfzell, a seasonal boat if come at the right time, and you can even come by your bike from some of the closer towns, like Schaffhausen, Radolfzell or Konstanz. If you need any information about this beautiful place, you can visit the tourist office, which is located at Oberstadt 3. They will be glad to answer all of your questions.
Now, that you have all of the information you need to get here, we can talk about sightseeing and enter the Stein am Rhein trough their enchanting city gates together.
Stein am Rhein’s history
Stein is Rhein was just another small fishing village until 1007 when Emperor Henry II decided to move St. George's Abbey from its original location on the Hohentwiel in Singen to this town. Henry II gave the abbots extensive rights over Stein am Rhein and its trade. This turned out to be a great move, as they developed the town commercially and made it flourish by the 15 th century.
Monastery of St. Georgen is today one of the best-preserved Medieval monastery complexes in Europe. But what really intrigues the tourists are Stein am Rhein’s old town buildings decorated with frescoes. This is the reason why the town received the Wakker Prize for the preservation of its architectural heritage in 1972. These famous old buildings with painted facades are located on the Rathausplatz – the square of the City Hall.
The whole Old Town looks like a child drew it from its imagination. Every house is a story for itself. Architectural structures are different, colors and the tales portrayed by the murals vary, but still, this beautiful chaos manages to create the harmony. You have to admit the whole village exudes artistic atmosphere. These beautiful frescoes will be above your head, which is the main reason for consequential neck-ache.
Is there anything worth visiting beside Rathausplatz?
Without any doubt, there is. First, you should climb up the hill and visit the Hohenklingen Castle. This magnificent building has been towering above lovely Stein am Rhein since 1225. Once you get there, you will have a gorgeous view of the city. The best spot to take a few photos is from the castle’s restaurant.
If you want to take a journey back to the past and see how respected families lived in 1850, the Lindwurm Museum is the best place to do that. The exhibition depicts 19th century bourgeois and agricultural life along with their holiday and excursion destinations. This visit can be fun for the whole family.
Heartfelt advice from our girls
If you’ve been watching our videos carefully, you might have noticed that we eat ice cream wherever we go. So, I think it is safe to say that our girls are professional ice cream lovers and they have one bonus recommendation for you. You won’t find this information anywhere else on the internet, so make sure to remember it.
Don’t forget to try Stein am Rhein’s ice cream if you find yourself here it is surprisingly good and much more affordable than the ones we ate in other parts of Switzerland. Lower price with no actual difference in quality. So, if you have a bit of a sweet tooth like us, Stein am Rhein is a place where your taste buds and your tummy will be celebrating.
The more you explore this historic town on the Rhine River, the more amazed you will be. So, save some money, buy your ticket and come here. You can watch a short preview of the town in our YouTube tour, and check the photos on our Instagram page.
Don’t forget to subscribe to our channel, follow our page and give us a big thumbs up so that we could share more adventures with you!
Stein am Rhein from above
Picturesque vineyards adorn the hills of Stein am Rhein. It is nice to walk up there. In the middle of idyllic nature lies the quite well-preserved ruin of the medieval castle Hohenklingen at just 600 meters altitude. There is also a restaurant. The view from the castle is fantastic. Up here it becomes very clear: Stein am Rhein must have fallen straight out of a fairy tale book.
If you like my article, you might also be interested in my post about the beautiful village of Limone on Lake Garda / Italy.
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Stein am Rhein has an unemployment rate (as of 2007) of 1.74%. As of 2005, there were 61 people employed in the primary economic sector and about 14 businesses involved in this sector. 553 people are employed in the secondary sector and there are 45 businesses in this sector. 856 people are employed in the tertiary sector, with 172 businesses in this sector. 
As of 2008 the mid year average unemployment rate was 2.1%. There were 217 non-agrarian businesses in the municipality and 38.6% of the (non-agrarian) population was involved in the secondary sector of the economy while 61.4% were involved in the third. At the same time, 71.1% of the working population was employed full-time, and 28.9% was employed part-time. There were 1552 residents of the municipality who were employed in some capacity, of which females made up 44.1% of the workforce. As of 2000 there were 644 residents who worked in the municipality, while 714 residents worked outside Stein am Rhein and 625 people commuted into the municipality for work. 
As of 2008, there are 16 restaurants, and 10 hotels with 435 beds. The hospitality industry in Stein am Rhein employs 105 people. 
Details for an Amazing Day Visiting Rheinfall, Schaffhausen and Stein am Rhein
While they certainly aren’t Niagara Falls by any means, Rheinfall is the largest waterfall in Europe so they’re absolutely worth visiting.
Rheinfall has two train stations: Schlossli Worth and the larger Schloss Laufen. If arriving at the Schloss Laufen station, you’ll arrive very close to Schloss Laufen, or Laufen Castle. We chose to arrive at Schloss Laufen and start our day on the south side of the falls.
Upon arrival, take the stairs to the left of the station and follow the winding path in the direction of the falls, following the signs for Schloss Laufen.
Schloss Laufen as seen from the trail leading up from the train station
Once at the top, you’ll arrive in a open area leading to the castle.
Schloss Laufen is now a youth hostel but there is a visitor center and you can purchase your tickets for Rheinfall which include a Historama of the area, access to the Rheinfall panoramic walking trail, and viewing platforms. Note: Tickets for the boat ride need to be purchased from the boat operators.
I have yet to see a waterfall I didn’t love but Rheinfall really is beautiful and the trail and viewing platforms make it easy for children to access. There is also a glass panoramic lift if needed or preferred.
As you wander along the trail, you’ll access several different platforms, each with similar but different views of Rheinfall.
The view from a higher platform
The next platform down
Yes, those are people on that rock!
Last platform before we head to the boat dock at the bottom
We visited in July and at times it was crowded but if you are patient, you will have a chance to have an unobstructed view.
At the bottom, take the boat across the Rhine River to Schlössli Wörth, another castle. At this location you’ll also find a restaurant and souvenir shop.
Boating across the Rhine to the north side of Rheinfall
Near Schlössli Wörth, you’ll find a series of boats that can bring you closer into the falls. The boat will take you to that tall rock in the center of the fall area that we saw from the viewing platform.
Our view from the boat. Look how close the viewing platforms are to the waterfall!
- What a view!!
Visitors can debark the boat and climb the massive rock. We really enjoyed the ride into the falls and climbing the rock that we had seen earlier from all the scenic platforms earlier in the day. That said, the stairs on the rock are very steep and a little slippery so those with mobility issues or very small children may prefer to take the boat for the ride to the rock only without disembarking.
The arrival platform
- Those stairs are steep!
- Our view from the top
- Y can feel the power of Rheinfall!
Riegersburg Castle is a medieval castle situated on a dormant volcano above the town of Riegersburg. The castle is owned by the Princely Family of Liechtenstein and contains a museum with changing exhibitions.
The castle was built on a hill which had once been an ancient volcano. To be precise, it is the petrified remains of the solidified molten interior, a volcanic neck of a large stratovolcano that probably became extinct two or so million years ago, like other similar hills in north-central Europe. The peak is at 482 meters above sea level. The ancient basalt of the hill was used to build the castle.
People have been living in the area around Riegersburg for a few thousand years. A large village was founded in the 9th century BC. with 300 people living here. Later, from 15 BC. until 476 AD. the region was part of the Roman Empire. In the 3rd and 9th century Bavarians immigrated and Hungarians invaded from the East. It was the beginning of a long time of armed conflicts. The history of the castle begins in the year 1122. The first knight who is known to have lived there is Rudiger von Hohenberg. Over the centuries the castle had many different owners, but only few played an important role. Among the later owners is the family of the Walseer who had feud with the sovereign of Styria in 1415. The most important owner was the baroness Katharina Elisabeth von Wechsler, who married Galler and who was known as Gallerin. Between 1637 and 1653 she finished the castle, making it one of the biggest and strongest castles in the country.
The castle is surrounded by 2 miles of walls with 5 gates and 2 trenches and it contains 108 rooms. In the 17th century the border with the Ottoman Empire was sometimes only 20 to 25 km away from the castle and the area was troubled by conflicts with the Turks and Hungarians. The castle was a safe place for the people nearby, sometimes offering refuge inside its walls for a few thousand. Lady Gallerin married three times and had one daughter who married a Count Purgstall. The castle passed to the Purgstall family, who died out around 1800. In 1822, the castle was bought by Sovereign Johann Josef von Liechtenstein. It has belonged to the von Liechtenstein family until the present day. The castle was taken by the 10th Guards Rifle Division of Soviet forces advancing towards Graz on 8 May 1945.
The castle is owned by the Princely Family of Liechtenstein, who live down the village in a house. The castle serves as a museum, with 25 out of the 108 rooms being opened for visiting. Sixteen of the rooms show the history of Riegersburg Castle and nine deal with witches and sorcerers.
14 Small European Towns and Villages To Visit this Year
Dear independent traveler, since you decided to hit the road this year, we would like to contribute with some suggestions. Here are 14 special small European towns and villages to visit this year!
Some of these travel destinations were part of our experiences on the road, other are taken from our future “travel trajectories”. We see traveling as a homage to the past also, which is why some of the places below bear great history lessons and will take you on paths of reflection.
We hope this list will fill you up with pleasant surprises during your round-the-world exploration. Enjoy this year and travel madly!
#1. ANNECY, France
Annecy is an idyllic town in the French Alps, in southern France, near the border with Switzerland. Founded in the Middle Ages, the old town is a magnificent combination of architectural styles, as castles and cathedrals get lost between the old pastel-painted houses.
The city is named the Venice of Savoie due to the small canals and streams that surround a 14th century Chateau (which hosts a local history museum) located in the heart of the town. Lake Annecy with its turquoise colors that reflects the surrounding mountains with their snowed peaks is located nearby.
Annecy is a great place for those who want a large dosage of adventure in a single day. The Alps are just outside the town, so hiking is always an option. You can swim and sail on the lake, or go biking around it. There are also hangliding courses for those who want to try something new.
There are many buses from Geneva’s intercity bus station to Annecy and the cost for a round-trip ticket is 32 CHF (around 30 euros) the trip lasts about an hour. Lyon and Grenoble, two important French cities that have international flights, are also located close by. Here you will find all the information you need.
#2. TOLEDO, Spain
Toledo is a remarkable medieval city located on a mountaintop in central Spain, 70 km south of Madrid. Called “the City of the Three Cultures”, Toledo was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its architectural heritage, the majestic result of a historical co-existence of Christians, Muslims and Jews.
Built as a fortress-city in the Middle Ages, the mighty Toledo contains many historical monuments, including the Alcázar Cathedral (the primate church of Spain), the Alcantara Bridge built by the Romans, mosques and small churches, palaces, museums (such as the El Greco Museum) and medieval gates.
Try to see Toledo in colder months, in the morning or during summer nights, because the temperatures in high summer season are usually unbearable.
#3. CARCASSONNE, France
Carcassonne is a perfectly conserved medieval citadel situated in southern France, in the Languedoc region. It is known for the Cité de Carcassonne with its 53 watchtowers and double-walled fortifications that assemble one of the biggest town-fortresses in the world.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site and a rare sample of the medieval times, Carcassonne has great profits from tourism, as more than three million visitors come here every year to enjoy a day in the fortress.
Undoubtedly, Carcassonne is a perfect representation of the adventurous episodes we had in mind during school history lessons, as well as an inspiration for many movies and storybooks. Visit the amazing Basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus built in a Romanesque-Gothic style, notable for its Gothic transept and vivid rose windows.
The best time to visit Carcassonne is during Spring or Autumn, if possible during the evening and night when the old city brings forward its medieval spirit the most. The local tourist office organizes daily guided walking tours of the old city in English, French and Spanish, as well as captivating after-dark tours. The prices are 6€ per adult and 5€ per child.
#4. MARVÃO, Portugal
Marvão is a beautiful mountaintop village within a medieval castle, located in Alentejo Region, Portugal, just 15 km away from the Spanish border. Perched on a granite hill in Serra de Sao Mamede, the castle offers a 360-degree panorama of the surroundings and features numerous characteristics of a crusader-era castle.
The original fortress was used as a power base when a 9th century Muladi duke (educated within the Islamic culture) established an independent small state. This happened during the Emirate of Cordoba, when the Moors were ruling in the lower part of the Iberic Peninsula.
The village itself is an attraction, with its medieval atmosphere kept within narrow streets, traditional whitewashed houses and defensive walls. A 13th century church with a museum of archaeological finds and local artifacts is also located here.
On the way to the entrance of the castle, there is a beautiful small garden where you can enjoy the sunset. If you are a classical music enthusiast, Marvão International Music Festival greets guests every year. The 4th edition is scheduled this summer from 22nd to 31st July 2016.
For adventurers, there are lots of things to discover in the mountains of São Mamede, a natural park with Neolithic and Roman remains, wildlife, and Europe’s largest colony of bats. Marvão can be reached from Castelo de Vide (10 km away) by bus service, personal car or taxi.
#5. SIGHIŞOARA, Romania
Sighișoara is a medieval citadel hidden in Transylvania, Romania. Built by the Saxons during the 12th century, Sighișoara still stands as one of the most beautiful and best-preserved medieval towns in Europe. It is often compared with the historic areas of Prague or Vienna through its old cobbled alleys, steep stairways, secluded squares, impressive towers and turrets. The main point of interest in the walled city is the Clock Tower, a 64 meters high tower built in the 13th century that was turned into museum of history.
Other places to visit are the Church on the Hill with its 500-year-old frescoes, the 13th century Venetian House and the Church of the Dominican Monastery, known for its Transylvanian renaissance carved altarpiece, baroque pulpit, Oriental carpets and 17th century pipe organ.
If you arrive in Sighișoara in late July, prepare for the week-long Medieval Festival of the Arts, a colorful and stirred event that brings together people from all the parts of the world in a historical odyssey.
#6. MOSTAR, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Mostar is considered one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the country. Developed in the 15th and 16th centuries as an Ottoman frontier town, it still keeps the influences of the old Turkish houses.
Mostar is famous for its unique Ottoman-style bridge called Stari Most (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), which unites the two sides of the historic center over Neretva River. The Old Bridge was reconstructed in 2004 with some of the original pieces recovered from the river, many years after its destruction during the war.
You can easily get to Mostar from Western Europe via Croatia. There are trains and buses connected with Zagreb (3,5 hours) or Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia (2,5 hours). However, the most recommended and cheapest way to get there is by train the ride offers stunning landscape, passing through viaducts, tunnels and rugged terrain.
#7. ROTHENBURG OB DER TAUBER, Germany
Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of the top destinations in the region of Bavaria, Germany. Part of the Romantic Road through southern Germany, situated between Frankfurt and Munich, Rothenburg is a well-preserved medieval old town.
Inside the undamaged 14th century town wall lies the medieval center (Altstadt) with its Bavarian houses. You have to visit the 13th century Town Hall Tower placed in the Market Square (Marktplatz), the center of urban life. See also the Church of St. Jacob (Klostergasse 15), north of the Market Square, with its masterpieces sculptured in the 15th century.
If you want to explore the old center with a guide and take great photography, there are daily walking tours in English (cost €6), starting from Market Square.
#8. MORCOTE, Switzerland
Morcote is a picturesque village built on a steep hill on the shore of Lake Lugano, a glacier lake in Switzerland. The village is known for its small alleys with old Patrician homes, remarkable architectural monuments and the lakefront position.
During its approximately one thousand years history, Morcote was a very important settlement in the region because, due to its location on the border between southern Switzerland and northern Italy. In the 19th century, tourism started to grow into a major industry in Morcote, and the locals started to be interested in wine production and handicrafts.
Visit is the church of Santa Maria del Sasso (13th century), completely rebuilt in 1462 in the style of the Renaissance, the church tower from the Middle Ages with its several valuable frescoes from the 16th and 17th centuries, as well as the sacramental chapel that contains an illusionistic architecture painting from the 18th century.
The city of Lugano is only 10 km away from Morcote, so it is easy to get here by car, bus or with a rented boat. There are also many boat operators that have daily trips on the lake, and Morcote is always one of the stops.
#9. SINTRA, Portugal
Sintra is a fascinating town with a mystical past, one of the most famous and visited places in Portugal. Once you descend the train that connects Sintra with Lisbon, you will step into an exotic and peaceful natural environment.
Due to its pure air and coller climate, Sintra has attracted many personalities and aristocrats from Portugal along the last two centuries. Their fascination for Sintra can now be admired in many 19th-century Romantic architectural monuments, decorative gardens, unique palaces or impressive residences.
Being designated as an UNESCO World Heritage Site, Sintra is a treasure of the Portugal culture. It is also known for its natural beauty, as it is situated in the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park full of exotic trees and rare species of birds. There are many monuments to visit: Sintra’s National Palace, the medieval Castelo dos Mouros, the Pena National Palace, Quinta da Regaleira (a 20th century Gothic palace with many masonic symbols on the facade), the grand Palacio de Monserrate and the austere Convento dos Capuchos.
Sintra is considered a perfect day trip for travelers that are coming from Lisbon, only 50 km away. To visit Sintra you can take the train from Rossio train station in the center of Lisbon, a trip that will last around 45 minutes and cost you 5 euros per round-trip ticket.
#10. Korčula, Croatia
Korčula is a historic fortified town located on the east coast of the island of Korčula, in the Adriatic Sea, Croatia. Constructed on a small peninsula, it is protected by impressive walls and the streets are built in a special pattern that allows free circulation of air. In Korčula, all the streets are narrow, except for the Street of Thoughts that runs alongside the southeastern wall.
There are many sites to visit in Korčula, including the central Romanesque-Gothic Cathedral of St Mark, the 15th-century Franciscan monastery with a beautiful Venetian Gothic cloister, the civic council chambers, the palace of the former Venetian governors or the palaces of the local merchant nobles.
For travelers looking for new music festivals, Korčula hosts an annual international event called The Korkyra Baroque Festival, held in September.
#11. BARDEJOV, Slovakia
Bardejov is a small town known for its eclectic architecture and multiculturalism. It was founded on the hills of the Beskyd Mountains, near the Topľa River in the North-Eastern Slovakia.
In the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, Bardejov was considered one of the most important centers of trade in the Central Europe due to the large number of craftsmen and guilds, as well as its strategic position between the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea.
The historic town center is encircled by the fortification system which was, at the time of its construction, one of the most advanced in Central Europe. Today, the old town exhibits perfectly conserved cultural monuments, majestic town walls and a Jewish Suburbia.
Bardejov is dominated by the extraordinary Church of St. Aegidius, a three nave basilica with Gothic winged altars and 15th century paintings. The market square is another landmark, surrounded by intact Gothic and Renaissance burghers’ houses. Probably the most interesting building to visit is the town hall with its lower part built in the Gothic style and the upper part finished in the Renaissance style.
Bardejov is about an hour away by bus or local train from Presov, the main city in the region. It is more a day trip destination, so you better include it in your journey along Slovakia.
#12. BROEK IN WATERLAND, The Netherlands
Photo credits: Roeland Koning
Broek in Waterland is a charming little town built on canals in the province of North Holland, in the Netherlands, 8 km northeast of Amsterdam. During the centuries it was one of the main vacation villages for sea captains, seafarers and merchants from Amsterdam.
A simple walk along its small streets and canals will reveal the typical old-Dutch atmosphere and small wooden houses painted in soft colors. Being a well-preserved piece of history, the village was classified as a Protected Cityscape. Around 80 traditional houses from Broek in Waterland are on the list of National Monuments.
If you want to visit Broek in Waterland, the best way is to rent a bike in Amsterdam and cycle till you get to the village. The ride will last about 45 minutes from Amsterdam city center. The village can be explored in a hour by foot or you can relax on a boat along the canals and discover the countryside.
#13. STEIN AM RHEIN, Switzerland
Stein am Rhein is a story town that lies on the riverbanks of the Rhine River in the canton of Schaffhausen, in Switzerland. It has an amazing medieval center that kept its original street plan and architecture along the centuries.
Stein am Rhein has a number of unique old buildings that are listed as Swiss heritage sites of national significance. As part of the touristic strategy, the local hall decided to pedestrianize the entire medieval part of town. So a walk through the small streets will be a real delight for those who like to discover the charm of the medieval buildings, some painted with beautiful frescoes.
You should see the former monastery church of St. Georg, the former Benedictine monastery church of St. Georgen and the Castle Church, Burg Hohenklingen (older late-Roman castle) that guards the town and the city walls.
The best way to get to Stein am Rhein is by taking the train S-Bahn S7 from Zurich. There are also bike paths on both sides of the Rhine that connect the town with numerous cities such as Schaffhausen, Radolfzell or Konstanzon. If you would like to get to know the natural environment around, hop on one of the seasonal boat trips between Lake Constance and Schaffhausen that stop in Stein am Rhine.
#14. REINE, Norway
Reine, the pearl of the Lofoten Archipelago in Northern Norway, is considered by many travel blogers as one of the most beautiful travel destinations in the world. It is placed on the island of Moskenesøya in the Barents Sea and the access is made by a suspended highway. It consists of red and white fishermen huts surrounded by the dramatic granite peaks of the Reinefjorden.
Despite its remote location, above the Arctic Pole, thousands of people visit Reine annually. It is a haven for photographers, mountain lovers and for those who are curious to see the Northern Lights (or Aurora Borealis).
Once arrived there, challenge your body and soul with a tough hike to Reinebringen, a panoramic viewpoint that will reveal the incredible scenery of the islands. If your main goal is to see the Aurora Borealis, the best time to visit Reine in Lofoten is between September and April.
Hd Live Cam View of Rhine Waterfalls
This charming town lies on the River Rhine in the Canton of Schaffhausen.
It is situated in the countryside where the Lake Constance flows into the River Rhine. The town is rife with culture and beauty.
This town has a lot to offer and truly appears to be a fairytale town that you only read about in books. There are museums, festivals and other events that make this charming town fun to explore.
Population: Just a little over 3000 people
Main Attractions: Old Town, Convent of St. George, specialty shops and gift stores, restaurants, cafes, Rathausplatz town square, Klostermuseum St Georgen and more.