Great Places to Visit Near Zurich: Switzerland's Stein am Rhein and Rhine Falls by Car

Great Places to Visit Near Zurich: Archway in Stein am Rhein Switzerland
I'm always looking for great places to visit near Zurich. I visit Switzerland at least once a year on business and particularly enjoy taking day trips from Zurich when I have some free time. On my most recent trip to Zurich in June 2017, a friend who lives in town planned a half-day itinerary for us. We'd take his car and drive from Zurich to Stein am Rhein and Rhine Falls. Read on to find out how I discovered that Stein am Rhein and Rhine Falls make a great day trip from Zurich by car. 

A Day Trip from Zurich in the Swiss Countryside

Great Places to Visit Near Zurich: Farm just outside of Zurich Switzerland
This self-drive day trip was my first road trip experience in Switzerland. Yes, train travel from Zurich is fantastic and I've done it many times (see my post on spending a half-day in Liechtenstein by taking the train from Zurich). However, on the train, the Swiss Countryside passes by quickly and there is no way to stop and really appreciate it. Since we were driving, I could ask my friend to stop so I could admire the rolling fields and take pictures wherever I wanted. 

Visiting Stein am Rhein from Zurich

Great Places to Visit Near Zurich: Half-timbered house in Stein am Rhein
Stein am Rhein is a historic Swiss town with an amazingly well-preserved Medieval core. The atmospheric Old Town of Stein am Rhein is what makes the town an ideal side trip from Zurich especially if you have access to a car.
Great Places to Visit Near Zurich: Swan storefront in Stein am Rhein
We parked outside of town and walked toward the center of Stein am Rhein. Half-timbered buildings and charming pubs greeted us.
Church spire in Stein am Rhein, a town easily accessible by car from Zurich for a day trip
A tall and severe church tower reached for the sky.
Day trip in Stein am Rhein: Medieval buildings along the Rhine River
Stein am Rhein (as the name implies) is situated along the Rhine River. Medieval buildings lean forward and look as if they might tumble into the river at any moment.
Painted facade in Stein am Rhein Switzerland, a popular day trip destination from Zurich by car
The facades on Stein am Rhein's main square are intricately decorated.
Stein am Rhein Switzerland main square
As with many towns in Switzerland, we found colorful fountains where you can even drink the water.
Soldier statue atop a fountain in Stein am Rhein on a day trip from Zurich
Fountain and main square in Stein am Rhein near Zurich
At the far end of town (it's less than a 5 minute walk from end-to-end in Stein am Rhein), we spotted a charming clock tower.
Clock tower in Stein am Rhein Switzerland
I could have photographed Stein am Rhein's colorful shutters all day. 
Colorful shutters on a day trip to Stein am Rhein Switzerland
How long does it take to get from Zurich to Stein am Rhein by car? About 45 minutes from Zurich city center.

Take a Drive then Walk Along Rhine Falls

Rhine Falls and Swiss Flag on a day trip from Zurich
Rhine Falls (Rheinfall in German) is about a 30 minute drive from Stein am Rhein and is the perfect addition to a half-day self-drive itinerary from Zurich. We parked the car and took a walk along the park next to the raging water. The flow of water over the falls is so high that fish cannot swim upstream. According to Wikipedia, only some eels can slither their way over the rocks.

Great places to visit near Zurich: water wheel at Rhine Falls
A historic waterwheel sits on a side channel to take advantage of the free source of hydroelectric power. It blows my mind that the Waterwheel House has been here since the 12th century and was used as a hammer mill
Great places to visit near Zurich for the day by car: sluice gate at Rheinfall
We climbed further up the trail and admired the cascades falling over the rocks in various channels.
Great places to visit near Zurich: Rhine Falls
It's so easy to see how powerful Rheinfall is simply by watching the water churn.
Churning water at Rheinfall, just outside of Zurich
Rhine Falls has carved a channel through the rocks. Two large isolated boulders sit in the middle of the channel. If you take a boat cruise (we didn't have time to do this on our half-day tour to Rhine Falls from Zuirch), you can clamber out onto one of the rocks and view Rhine Falls head on.
Rhine Falls with mist and rocks
Scanning the waterfall, I even spotted a hole punched into the rock with water circling around like a drain. I've never seen anything like it.
Water swirling down a hole at Rhine Falls on a day trip from Zurich
We had driven to the Neuhausen am Rheinfall side of the waterfall from Stein am Rhein. On the opposite bank, we could see Schloss Laufen high on a hill. I felt like we'd taken a step back in time and could also hear the clank of the hammer forge in my mind making important tools for the castle.
Great Places to Visit Near Zurich by car: Schloss Laufen above Rhine Falls
How long does it take to get from Rhine Falls to Zurich? Less than an hour.

As you can see, if you have a weekend to spare in Zurich, carving out a half-day for a drive to Stein am Rhein and Rhine Falls is well worth it. I am always on the lookout for places to visit near Zurich and this particular Swiss day trip itinerary did not disappoint. Check it out!

For more day trip and weekend excursion ideas in and around Zurich see:

Half-Day Driving Trip from Zurich to Stein am Rhein and Rhine Falls Map



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Great Places to Visit Near Zurich: Switzerland's Stein am Rhein and Rhine Falls by Car

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: Great Places to Visit Near Zurich: Switzerland's Stein am Rhein and Rhine Falls by Car
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