We have since moved back to Texas from Switzerland. I first drafted this post before we left.
One of our favorite places to visit in Switzerland is the tiny medieval town of Stein am Rhein. We can take a train (the S29) from the tiny depot near our flat in Oberwinterthur to Stein am Rhein in about 30 minutes. The s29 is a Thurbo, which is a commuter train with very tall windows, and each car has a bike area that easily holds the stroller. The views on the train ride through the rolling country side are lovely, full of farms and vineyards. To get to the altstadt from the train station, follow the signs heading northeast from the station. Go over the bridge over the Rhine, and you’re there in about a 10 minute walk.
Stein am Rhein is located close to the German border, and is at the point where the Rhine River connects with Lake Konstanz. It first was put on the map in 1007 AD when Emperor Henry the II of the Holy Roman Empire (which included Germany at the time) moved the Abbey of Saint George to this strategic location (a side note – all of the man-hole covers in Stein am Rhein are graced with Saint George lancing the dragon). Most of the town has hardly changed since the 15th century, and is full of gorgeous painted buildings and the loveliest altstadt (old town) area in Switzerland (at least in our opinion). It has remained a very small village and the most recent historical note was the accidental bombing by Allied forces in February of 1945 (they got the wrong town).
Most of the exteriors of old buildings in Stein am Rhein have been fully restored, and the town’s main walk is easily explored in an hour or less. On the other side of the altstadt, there are paths running along the river alongside parks and restaurants. You can even catch a boat up river to Schaffhausen or along the lake to Konstanz. For children, there’s a really big fun playground on the river front, nearly entirely all in the shade – just take the river path northwest from the town.
Points of interest include the church and abbey of Saint George, and a museum in the altstadt that had a collection of children’s toys of the past (I’m not sure if that was a temporary exhibit or what).
Our favorite place to eat in Stein am Rhein is La P’tite Crêperie about half-way down the main drag. Yes, French food in a German area of Switzerland, but it is divine. And it is a small place, with cooks working as fast as possible, so don’t be surprised if not everyone in your party gets their crepes at the same time. The crepes are enormous, and if you want a dessert crepe, you might want to share your savory crepe with a friend. The menu is in English and German, and usually there is a waitress there that speaks a bit of English, too. My favorite was a ham and herbed butter crepe and a nutella and banana crepe (with a flask of apple wine).
Like many Swiss towns, there is a small Schweizer Heimatwerk shop, containing gorgeous handmade goods from local artisans. There’s also two tourist shops full of every bauble you can think of. But I like to head nearly to the far western wall of the altstadt to the Schoggibox!
The Swiss-German slang for chocolate is “schoggi” so the shop loosely translates to “Chocolate Box.” Inside this very tiny shop are over 300 different kinds of Swiss chocolate from the big names such as Lindt and Cailler all the way down to expensive hand-crafted varieties. There are chocolates filled with kirsch (a popular Swiss cherry liquor), and you can get a Toblerone the size of your arm. I love it because it has every single type of Cailler chocolate bar that they produce, and Cailler is by far my favorite Swiss chocolate.
Above the town is the castle of Hohenklingen.
You can walk there, but it is quite a steep hike, so we recommend going by car or bus. The castle is used mainly for special events, and has very few historical items to view inside, but there is a wonderful little cafe that offers a fantastic view of the town, and that is completely worth stopping in for. We accidentally ran into a wedding reception while we were there, but the cafe was filled with regular patrons. This picture was taken with my cell phone, and doesn’t even remotely do the view justice:
The only place that we didn’t get to explore, and really wanted to was a tiny monastery in the middle of the river that we always saw from a distance. I can’t find the name of it at the moment, but there was a long footbridge you could get to it from the south side of the river. Maybe next time!
The best time to visit is April to September. Anytime outside of that, and a lot of shops and museums have limited open hours (as we discovered the first time we visited on a chilly Saturday in November). We love to take visitors there because it is easy to get to, and makes for a short, but fun and relaxed day. Even if you just go to have dinner at one of the restaurants facing the river, you won’t be disappointed.
As always, I have tons more pictures than what I can fit in a blog, and this is especially true with Stein am Rhein, because we visited it so many times. To page through them, click here.