There are many places famous around Europe for stunning waterfalls. From the splendour of Iceland to the beauty of Norway we are truly blessed with these magnificent creations of nature. Yet have you ever considered which is the biggest waterfall in Europe?
On a recent visit to Switzerland I thought that we’d come across the answer. Going by the name of Rheinfall or Rhein Falls (Rhine Falls in English) you can find this amazing wonder by a gorgeous Swiss town called Schaffhausen, not far from Zurich.
All about the biggest waterfall in Europe
Well if truth be told the Schaffheusen Rheinfall is actually located a little south of Schaffhausen in a place called Neuhausen.
The whole area in which the Rhine Falls are located is stunning and the experience can really take your breath away.
We arrived by bus from Schaffhausen and alighted at a stop labelled Zentrum. Then we took around a 10-15 minute walk down the hill, following clearly marked street signs towards a pathway.
Almost instantly we could savour the sight of this thunderous and dramatic formation. Water poured over the top of the rock formation being split in the middle by a rock to give an effect of two falls for the price of one.
An observatory deck was present to the right of our view, across the Rhine river at Schloss Laufen where you will find a castle.
To the other side of the falls, at Schlosschen Worth you could have a free viewing error in almost touching distance of the falls itself.
Our objective was different though. We were determined to go to the very heart of the Rheinfall in Schaffhausen. Yes we would take the boat across and walk up the steps to the top of the rock in the middle of the falls.
A range of boat trips ran from the Schaffhausen side which included guided tours. We did arrive near to closing time so paid the 8 CHF fare each to take the shortest boat ride. This was to the dock at the middle of the Swiss Rhine Falls themselves.
I was quite surprised that in spite of this impressive water feature we hardly got wet at all from all the spray.
On the boat dock I was relieved to see that this mini island was not overcrowded with people. There was a very steep and admittedly tight stairway to the top of this mini mountain. It is not advised for infirm or disabled people to attempt these stairs.
Once we’d ascended the top it was quite a magical view, although admittedly it was rather tight for space. People were squeezing arms and elbows as they clamored for those magical pictures and a selfie or two.
With less crowds around we savoured the moment and tried to speak over the sounds of the crushing waves.
On descending we were blessed with another fabulous sight of nature. We saw fish, I suspect salmon, trying to jump back up river. There is no way they would ever get back up these high falls but it was a lot of fun watching. There was also a duck feeding who seemed completely oblivious to the waves.
On arriving back at the main shore we had time to take in the main tourist board displays to learn more about the Rhine Falls.
Rhine Fall facts
Height of the falls – 23 metres
Width – 150 metres
Age – estimated at least 15,000 years
Average water flow – in the summer c 600,000 litres a second! (13,066 cfs)
I don’t know about you but I find that water flow figure to be astounding.
It would seem that based on that water flow the Schaffhausen Rheinefall has been labelled as the largest waterfall in Europe.
Yet at only 23 metres high it was hardly the tallest. So I did some research and this is what I found:-
The best waterfalls in Europe:-
Tallest waterfall in Europe is Vinnufallet in Norway at 2,837ft / 865m high, beating Skorga in Norway by just 1 metre!
The widest waterfall in Europe is Selfoss in Iceland at 1,270ft / 387m.
The largest waterfall in Europe is claimed to be Dettifoss of Iceland with a water volume of 14,100 cfs as against 13,066 cfs for Rheinfall of Switzerland. It would appear that the debate over the largest waterfall in Europe centres around whether Iceland is part of Europe or not. I’ve certainly always viewed it as such yet it would seem Rhine Falls seeks to claim otherwise. Maybe the fact that Iceland withdrew its bid to become part of the EU in early 2015 is an influence? Some also claim that Iceland is more part of the North American continent than the European one.
I suppose when you talk about mainland Europe it is fair to say that the Rhinefalls in Switzerland is the biggest waterfall in Europe. To find out what else we learnt from our trip to Switzerland click here.
To be honest I’m not too bothered on these facts as to which is the largest or grandest. What I do know is that Rhein Falls was like the town of Schaffhausen, absolutely stunning and well worth the visit. It might not be Niagara Falls but it is breathtaking just the same.
We visited Schaffhausen and the Rheinfall on a day trip from Zurich. Trains run twice an hour from Zurich Hauptbahnhof to Schaffhausen. In June 2015 a day return ticket cost us 46 CHF each and the journey took between 30-40 minutes (depending on the number of stops the train made). We then took the no. 1 bus from the Schaffhausen bahnhof to Zentrum (6 CHF return ticket). There are also options if you would like to book a tour from Zurich.
If you are planning a visit it is worth noting that the falls are illuminated at night with the exceptions of the month of June, 2 weeks in winter and a weekend in October (although I couldn’t find out which one!)
There is an opportunity to canoe on the Rhine river at the base of the Falls or you can enjoy a stroll along the pathway around the basin of the waterfall. There is also an Adventure Park with zip lines open between April and October.
If you are making a visit to Zurich then I’d highly recommend a day trip the Rheinefall of Schaffhausen.