Welcome back to Ask a Local, a series of posts in which I interview locals all over the world about what to see, where to go, what to eat, and how to fit in in their city or town.
Today, the lovely Denise Hirt is here to tell us about Schaffhausen—a well-loved town in northern Switzerland.
First, tell us about you.
I grew up in a small town called Oberhallau, which is close to the German border but still part of Canton Schaffhausen. It’s a farming town (sheep and cows mostly) and a lot of people have vineyards. When I was 19, I moved to Schaffhausen itself and, except for traveling, I have never lived in another city.
For work, I was an apprentice for a transport company, then trained apprentices (which I loved), and now work at the Swiss Post. In my free time, I like to cook, read books, do some artsy stuff (like crafting my own Christmas cards or painting furniture), spend time with family and friends, and, since I live next to the Rhine, take a swim or a boat up the river.
So, what should first-time visitors to Schaffhausen do and see?
The two must-sees in Schaffhausen are the Munot Fortress (which is famous and offers a nice view from the top) and the Rhine Falls. You can walk to the falls from downtown (you can also take a bus, but the walk is short and nice, so I recommend skipping the bus).
Old town Schaffhausen is also pretty nice for some shopping (not big brands but nice little shops) and just walking around taking photos of the bay windows and façades.
What are some of the more hidden gems of the town and area?
There is a cute flea market on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Mosergarten on the edges of the city. Every Tuesday and Saturday morning, there is a farmer’s market next to the St. Johann church. And just this summer a crepe food truck opened right beside the Rhine. Their crepes are delicious but only available in the summer on good-weather days.
Keeping things on a sweet note, the best homemade ice cream in town is at El-Bertin (at Unterstadt 13), which is open from March to September and always has a long line of locals.
Finally, I recommend a visit to Schaaren—a meadow between the wood directly at the Rhine where we locals arrive by boat (the flat-bottomed one called weidling) for a swim and a BBQ.
Let’s talk about day trips. What are some nearby must-see places?
I like Stein am Rhein, which is a city on the Rhine. There is a ship that goes there in the summer and their old town is worth visiting. Another gem is the Bodensee region. And it’s always fun to take a train to Zürich (45 minutes away) or Winterthur (30 minutes). I personally like Winterthur better than Zürich, as it’s a bit more alternative and has a lot of nice bars and restaurants.
What are some of the nicest hikes or walks in the area?
There is a TV tower in Feuerthalen with a nice view of Schaff-hausen, Germany, and the Rhine. It takes about 1.5 hours to get there from the city center.
Another good option is Randen, which is a nice hill with lots of hiking and biking trails. And there are two Randen towers, which are pretty cool to visit.
Finally, I love the walks around my hometown—Klettgau—which are best in autumn (though summer is a close second) when the vineyards are full of people harvesting grapes to make good wine.
What are some of the region’s best dishes? What should we eat and drink while in town?
In addition to our beloved Swiss classics, you should try the spätzle (local egg noodles). They’re best at Restaurant Schäfli (on Unterstadt). For sweets, try schaffhauser zungen (a special type of sandwich cookie) and schaffhauser rickli (a pretzel-like cookie). And, of course, you have to try some local wine.
For good local drinks, head to Schäferei Bar (at Schäferei Webergasse 16) and order a mexikaner (shot). Then head to Cuba Club (at Safrangasse 2) for a Moscow Mule (vodka, Gin-ger Ale, cucumber, and a few other things served in a copper cup). Finally, make your way to TapTab (at Baumgartenstrasse 19) for a Dr. GO with vodka.
What are your favorite restaurants and bars?
My favorite club is TapTab (mentioned above), which has concerts of all sorts. As for bars, I like Dolder 2 (at Zürcherstrasse 26 in Feuerthalen) and Cardinal (at Bahnhofstrasse 102 in Schaffhausen), which has the best veggie burgers in town.
For restaurants, I’d pick Kammgarn Beiz (at Baumgartenstrasse 19), with its always-changing menu, local veggies, good food, outdoor seating, and good concerts, Devi (at Repfergasse 26) for vegan and vegetarian options, and Cafe Vordergasse (at Vordergasse 79) for lovely atmosphere and good breakfasts, sandwiches, hot cheese tartlets, salads, hot chocolate, etc.
Do you have any budget travel tips for us?
There is a take-away soup bar called Suppenglück (at Webergasse 46), which offers tasty soups and an always-changing daily menu. Then there’s an Italian restaurant called Romana (at Unterstadt 18) where you can get take-away pizzas for 10 francs. Beer usually costs about six francs and hard drinks run up to 14 francs.
You can also save money on transportation. The town is small and all the obvious attractions are easily reached on foot.
What’s the best way to meet locals and make friends?
Meet up with a local via couchsurfing.org for a drink, dancing, or a walk on the Rhine.
What’s the best place to take a photo?
The Rhine Falls at night or the riverside on a sunny day.
Love this? Get the full interview and 99 more in my new guide: Switzerland: 100 Locals Tell You Where to Go, What to Hike, & How to Fit In.