Schaffhausen is one of Switzerland's 26 cantons, found in the northernmost part of the country. Germany borders the canton to the north, east, and west. The canton connects to the rest of Switzerland through its southern border, which is shared with the cantons of Zürich and Thurgau. Schaffhausen's territory is divided into three domains, separated from one another by German land. The largest of the territories—which is also home the Schaffhausen's capital (named Schaffhausen as well)—is located in the middle. From a geographical perspective, most of Schaffhausen's territory is found on a plateau dominated by the Hoher Randen at an altitude of 912 m above sea level. The southern border of the region was formed naturally by the river Rhine, at which banks the capital city is located. Beyond representing the canton's border, the Rhine is also one of the attractions of the Schaffhausen region, namely due to its Rhine Falls, which is reportedly "the most powerful waterfall in Europe." Another natural attraction within Schaffhausen's borders is the Schaffhausen Regional Nature Park, with an abundance of walking, hiking, and cycling trails.
The capital city and the namesake of the canton, Schaffhausen, is found on the banks of the Rhine river. Its town is considered among the "prettiest" in Switzerland, presumably due to the oriel windows and painted facades of local historic buildings. Several historical houses date back to Gothic and Baroque times when they served as guild houses or merchant's houses. Additionally, Schaffhausen's Old Town is reportedly a popular shopping venue. Among several historical landmarks in the city belongs the High Gothic St. Johann church and the Munot fortress, a ring-shaped stronghold built between 1564 and 1589. Munot used to serve as a watch out, and to this day, panoramic views of the surrounding city and nature can be enjoyed from the stronghold. Apart from the historical center, there are other aspects to the city of Schaffhausen, for example, the hilly region of Randen in the northern part of the town, known for its wine and viticulture. The vine-clad slopes offer walking and cycling opportunities. Furthermore, there is an educational Trasadingen Wine Trail and the Museum of Viticulture in Hallau. On the other hand, the southern part of the city stands on the shores of the Rhine, with a riverside landscape also available for cycling, walking, or boating. One of the local boat cruises is the Untersee Lake-Rhine boat trip, allowing a visit to the medieval town of Stein am Rhein, known for its frescos and painted houses.
Beyond the capital city, a considerable part of the Schaffhausen central territory is represented by the Schaffhausen Regional Nature Park, found to the west of the canton's capital. It is a cross-border natural park that includes the regions of Randen, Südranden, Hochrhein, Klettgau, and Reiat. Several landscapes contribute to the nature park, namely the Randen hills, vineyards and agricultural areas, forests, authentic villages, and the Rhine river. The Schaffhausen Regional Nature Park also offers several hiking, walking, cycling, and inline skating routes, for tourists to enjoy the outdoors and local nature. Moreover, wine cellars and vineyards offer wine tastings and educational tours.
Another nature-related attraction is the Rhine Falls, found at the border between Schaffhausen and Zürich cantons. With a width of 150 meters and a height of 23 meters, Rhine Falls is reported to be the most powerful waterfall in Europe. Tourists tend to enjoy the views of the falls from the platforms found on each bank of the Rhine. Boat tours to the Rhine Falls are available as well. Additionally, in the adjacent area of the Rhine waterfalls can be found two castles, the Wörth Castle and the Laufen Castle, which also offer views of the Rhine Falls.
The canton of Schaffhausen is the northernmost canton in Switzerland, lying almost entirely on the northern bank of the Rhine, surrounded by Germany on three sides. Schaffhausen's territory is divided into three non-contiguous areas, separated by German territory. The largest of the three areas is Schaffhausen's central part, where the capital city (also called Schaffhausen) is located. The second, smaller exclave, is called Rüdlingen-Buchberg, situated to the southwest, while the third, containing Ramsen and Stein am Rhein, is found to the east. In terms of topography, most of Schaffhausen's land is located on the plateau dominated by the Hoher Randen, with an altitude of 912 m above sea level. The predominant river is the Rhine, located at the border of the Schaffhausen and Zürich cantons.
About 50% of Schaffhausen's landscape of rolling hills is covered by forests, while approximately 45% was cleared to use for agricultural purposes. Mountains, lakes, or rivers cover over 1% of the canton's territory. In terms of animal and plant species, the prevailing tree species found in the canton's territory are maple, oak, and tilia. Some of the flowers growing within Schaffhausen's borders include butterfly bush, cornflower, common spotted orchid, sweet woodruff, and anemone. To name several animal species as well, there are mammals such as western roe deer, brown hare, northern chamois, European fallow deer, red fox, Eurasian pine marten, and Eurasian red squirrel. Additionally, species such as Eurasian beaver and Eurasian otter can be seen in Schaffhausen's rivers and lakes, along with numerous species of fish.
Concerning the temperatures in Schaffhausen canton's capital, the warmest month is July, with an average daily temperature of 25°C. January is the coldest month, with a typical average of 4°C. February tends to be the driest month in Schaffhausen due to having 60 mm of rainfall on average. The most precipitation falls during June, which generally receives about 130 mm.
The Swiss Plateau, which is now part of the Schaffhausen canton, has been inhabited since the Neolithic period. Settlements from that time were mainly formed around the local lakes and rivers. Consequently, Celtic tribes arrived in the area in the third century BCE and constructed extensive, fortified settlements called "oppida," dating to the Iron Age. The first stone houses within Schaffhausen borders were built during the era of the Roman Empire, as the Swiss Plateau came under Roman rule in 15 BCE and remained that way until the third century C.E.
Schaffhausen was a city-state during the Middle Ages, trucking its own coins since 1045. The city was then known as "Villa Scafhusun." A Benedictine monastery was founded in the city around 1049 by Count Eberhard von Nellenburg, which supported the development of the local community. Since 1190, the community of Schaffhausen has been independent. However, the city lost its independence and lands to the Habsburgs in 1330. After approximately a century, Habsburg Duke Frederick IV of Austria was banned by Emperor Sigismund, leading to the duke's need for money. Thus, Schaffhausen could buy its independence back from the Habsburgs in 1418. Later, Schaffhausen allied with six of the Swiss confederates in 1454 and eventually became a full member of the Old Swiss Confederation in 1501.
In the city of Schaffhausen, the Reformation was adopted entirely by 1529. Later, during the Thirty Years' War, the town was extensively damaged by Swedish and Bavarian troops, as one of the significant bridges was burnt down. Only in the 19th century did the city start to prosper again, with the first railroad reaching Schaffhausen following its construction in 1857. Nevertheless, due to being surrounded by Germany on three sides, Schaffhausen suffered a bombing raid directed at Germany in 1944, by the U.S., with a total of 40 civilians dying as a result. U.S. President Roosevelt then sent Schaffhausen's mayor a personal apology letter and money for reparations.
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