From History to Nature – Must-Visit Places in Northern Switzerland

By Karen Bianchi, May 8, 2023

If you want to discover something different during your next vacation in Switzerland, you have to visit the eastern part of the country! This off the beaten path destination will arouse your curiosity and you will be amazed by the vivid culture and natural diversity of the region.

Stein am Rhein

A magic place that will transport you back in time is Kartause Ittingen. A long tradition of monasteries has kept the traditions alive. Kartause Ittingen is one of the largest farms in the Canton and it has also become a cultural center. Within the monastery’s well-preserved walls, you will find two museums, a restaurant, a rich garden, viticulture, butchery, cheese dairy, a wood-oven bakery and even stylish hotel rooms. During your visit you can do a wine tasting, attend a concert, or rent an e-bike and discover the region on two wheels – there are plenty of things to do in this farm state to keep you entertained! The best part, the Kartause Ittingen is located about one hour away from Zurich downtown.

Kartause Ittingen

If you would like to venture out further, we have various suggestions for you:

A cruise on the Rhine River is something we highly recommend. You can take this cruise from Steckborn down the river to Stein am Rhein – a medieval gem that preserves its authenticity. It is famous for its old town featuring beautifully painted facades and half-timbered houses. In less than 20 minutes, you can hike up to the Hohenklingen Castle (built on top of the village in 1225) for fantastic views of the Rhine River and a unique culinary experience. If you want to rent a bike, you can bring it with you on the boat!

Stein am Rhein, summer

You might also continue by boat or bike to Schaffhausen, a town bordered by the Black Forest, close to Lake Constance and surrounded by vineyards, which makes it a good hub for all kinds of excursions. During the boat ride you’ll pass under a wooden, historic bridge in Diessenhofen, just high enough for the excursion boats to cross underneath. Depending on the water level, you might even have to duck your head!

Diessenhofen Bridge in Schaffhausen

Schaffhausen is considered one of the prettiest towns in Switzerland due to its many oriel windows and lavishly painted facades from the Renaissance and Classical periods of its buildings, the lively old town. The Vordergasse is one of the most typical streets with houses decorated with stucco. This is also where you will find the High Gothic St. Johann church with its remarkable acoustics. Every year in August the festival „Stars in Town“ takes place on an old town square, presenting a remarkable line-up.

Schaffhausen, Stucco Walls

The lower town of Schaffhausen is dominated by the remains of the ramparts crowned by the Munot, Schaffhausen’s landmark, built in the 16th century. The Munot keeper lives in a flat in the tower and rings the famous Munot bell by hand at 9 p.m. every evening for 5 minutes – the same way it has been done since 1589.

Schaffhausen Munot

When I visited Schaffhausen for the first time, I booked a FoodTrail discovery tour. That’s a self-guided, culinary scavenger hunt through which you get to know the city and its typical specialties. At each culinary stop, we had the chance to sample some tasty food from local producers or restaurants.

Food Trail Tour Schaffhausen

And now on to the last stop, the Rhine Falls: the most powerful waterfalls in Europe! The falls are formed by the Rhine River, which flows from the Swiss Alps to Lake Constance. At this point, the Rhine is 150 m wide and falls from a height of 21 m, splitting into several channels and cascades over a series of rocks, creating a magnificent display of waterfalls and rapids. The spectacle is absolutely worth a look, especially in July, during the high waters. There are viewpoints on both banks and various excursion boats that you can hop on to get even closer. Above the waterfalls stands the Schloss Laufen castle, with a visitor center and a restaurant that includes a nice terrace – a perfect spot to enjoy this natural marvel!

The Rhine Falls