After arriving in Zurich and realising that it is a lot smaller than I was expecting, I had about half a day to fill in so opted for a Rhine Falls and Stein Am Rhein half day tour.
Rhine Falls and Stein Am Rhein Half Day Trip
Half day was enough to see the falls and the cute town then head back to Zurich.
After taking a tour all around Switzerland and having a spare day before heading back to Australia, our tour director recommended a visit to the Rhine Falls. I’d looked it up online before going to Europe and thought it looked a bit underwhelming so didn’t pre-book a tour. Well after the tour guide recommended it I ended up booking one and… was pleasantly surprised.
They’re no Niagara Falls but are spectacular in their own way – very wide, there are viewing platforms where you’re right next to the water gushing past as well as viewing platforms where you can look down on the falls. You can take a boat to the island in the middle or walk across the bridge and see it from the other side. The basin where the falls flow into is also massive – a lot bigger than it looks in pictures online. Overall, I was glad I ended up visiting.
To get to the the viewpoint where the above photo was taken, you’ll need to walk through the castle tower entrance
And then take the lift down to the path which leads to various viewing platforms which offer different views
If you’re lucky you may time a train going past
Around the back of the castle (i.e. go back out through the main entrance) there is a path that leads to a bridge that will take you to the other side.
Stein Am Rhein
Stein Am Rhein is on the Swizteralnd – Germany border. It wasn’t somewhere I specifically wanted to go, it happened to be included in the half day tour I booked. While the visit was rushed, the town was very cute. It may look like many other German / cute European towns but (probably because I live in Australia), visiting towns like these never gets old!
Tip: I’ve seen some great photos of this town from the other side of the river so if you have time – walk across the bridge!
Review of the Viator tour
I took a tour booked through Viator. I can’t link it here as they no longer offer it. Perhaps other people complained as the tour itinerary appears to have changed. Regardless I’m still posting this review. The falls and the town themselves were worth a visit, but I do NOT recommend the tour company I used (Best of Switzerland Tours).
- The bus should not stop at Zurich airport to pick up passengers. It means the people who were picked up in town waste half an hour or more going to and from the airport rather than directly to the falls. Airport pickup was after the city pickup location and these people were dropped off first.
- The tour is advertised as ‘optional airport pickup and drop-off available… Depart central Zurich or Zurich airport.’ I found it misleading that this meant everyone from both pickup locations would be on the same tour.. I.e. you’d think they run a separate tour for airport pickup and dropoff. If time is going to be wasted going to and from the airport, the duration of the tour should be updated to reflect this or people being picked up from the airport should have to pay more. it was even more frustrating as we went to the airport to pickup only 2 people
- People were late. It is clearly stated on the booking confirmation ticket that the tour leaves at 1:15pm and to be there at least 15 minutes prior. Some rude people on the tour didn’t arrive until 1:15 and 1:20. The tour company made the entire bus wait. This meant that we had less time at Stein am Rhein. The tour advertises that you get 1 hr 10 min. The tour director told us normally we’d get 1 hour but since people were late it was a rushed 45 minutes instead. So after rushing to get back to the bus on time… we proceeded to wait another 15 minutes while the same people who were late getting to the bus in the first place were late again. Everyone else on the bus shouldn’t have to wait. Make them find their own way back to Zurich, it’s not fair to everyone else.
- When I arrived at the bus departure location, there was only 1 ticket counter open yet there was a 2nd lady who wasn’t doing anything, just directing people to the queue rather than actually serving people – very inefficient
- There were no clear instructions as to how to get around the falls. The inexperienced tour director (she was reading off palm cards the entire trip), said you could only view the falls from one side but we could see people on the other side. If we had known that we could access the other side we would’ve gone looking for the path to get over there (which we eventually found) much sooner. We ran out of time so didn’t get to see it properly from the other side. As soon as we got to the falls, the tour director just told us vague directions ‘go the right’ and then walked off with the people doing the boat tour (I assume because they charged a bit extra on top of the normal boat ticket price). The tour director should’ve given clearer directions.
- The tour director was reading off a piece of paper on a clipboard on the bus with notes about what the things were (I could see the clipboard with notes’ reflection on the wind screen and she spoke in the most monotonous voice reading direct off the piece of paper). She said she was from Zurich and was born in Switzerland. Since she was a local guide (and for any tour guide), I’d expect them to be able to do the very small (was only about 15 minute total narration) without reading off a script.
- She also had palm cards for the ‘guided tour’ of Stein Am Rhein which was 10 minutes. Couldn’t hear a thing because we weren’t given radio ear pieces.
- Overall, the way the tour was run was very disappointing and I wouldn’t recommend. The tour was a rip off for what you got. The tour is advertised as 5 hours but if you take out going to the airport and back (for only 2 people), plus waiting for rude people who were late, then the tour was only 4 hours. If you are going to charge that price then the optional boat tour should be included in the price. I also note that the advertised price for the boat tour online seems to be 5 CHF but they were charging people on the tour 10 CHF. People should pay a surcharge for airport pickup or don’t pick up from the airport at all
- The tour cost 56.50 Euro per person. Given that some websites say the entrance fee to the falls is free and others seem to say it’s only 5 CHF. Add to that the money the tour company needs to pay to park the coach (based on the Rhine Falls website it’d be max 50 CHF / 45 Euro for the whole tour bus), this tour was a rip off
- I recommend the Rhine Falls, but take the train instead of a bus tour
- Riding first class on Switzerland’s Glacier Express train to Zermatt
- Guide to visiting Zermatt, Switzerland
- 30 Photos that will make you want to visit Switzerland