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Laufenburg, Switzerland: One Town, Two Countries

Last Updated on April 25, 2024 by Darla

Laufenburg is a romantic, fairytale town located on the Rhine River. Mettauertal is in the northeast, Gansingen in the east, Mönthal in the southeast, Elfingen and Hornussen in the south, and Kaisten in the west. The rest of the town is, as mentioned, surrounded by the Rhine River. Across the Rhine River lies Laufenburg, Germany. Nonetheless, both towns still share a history.  

In Laufenburg, you’ll find a mild, southerly climate. There are beautiful alleyways, fountains, and towers in this medieval town. Laufenburg is also fairly easy to reach if you are coming from Zurich.

It is unfortunate that the rapids, which were once a town landmark, have disappeared. In 1914, it had to make way for Europe’s largest hydroelectric power station. In the course of building the Laufenburg power plant, large amounts of rock were removed. The Laufen rapids disappeared after the river was dammed ten meters high.

Laufenburg: One Town, Two Countries

View of Laufenburg, Germany from Laufenburg, Switzerland by

There was once only one town on both sides of the Rhine – Laufenburg. A few centuries ago, Laufenburg was ruled by the Habsburgs and even part of Austria. After Bonaparte had defeated the Austrian army and the Treaty of Lunéville had been signed, Napoleon split Laufenburg in two in 1801. North of the Rhine River was part of Germany, and south of the Rhine River was Switzerland.

However, despite their political divisions, these two sister cities share many similarities. One example of this is the famous Alemannic carnival, which is a large cross-border celebration.

Both parts of the Rhine are connected by two bridges – the Hochrhein Bridge (Hochrheinbrücke) and the Laufen Bridge (Laufenbrücke).

Laufenburg’s Old Town and New Districts

Image of Laufenburg Town by

Laufenburg, located 318 meters above sea level, has an old town located near the Rhine bend. Schlossberg is a tiny hill only a few hundred meters to the south.

Preservation orders have been granted to the old town. For its development and preservation of its architectural heritage, it received the Wakker Prize in 1985 from the Swiss Heritage Society.

The Swiss heritage sites in Laufenburg include the following:
* Courthouse at Gerichtsgasse 86
* Power Plant of Laufenburg
* Ruins of Laufenburg Castle
* Ruins of the Roman Rhine fortifications.

Beyond the hill are the new districts of Laufenburg, only a kilometer southwest. The total area of the municipality is 1,447 hectares, of which 678 hectares are forested. At a height of 722 meters, Schinberg is the highest point in Laufenburg municipality. The lowest is located directly on the Rhine at 300 meters above sea level.

Laufenburg in Aargau Jura Park

Image of Frick Valley by

Laufenburg lies in the Fricktal valley, a scenic landscape dominated by the contrast of mountains and rivers of the Jura. The valley offers a wealth of excursions in a naturally beautiful setting. From Laufenburg, you can go by bus to Jura Park.

Laufenburg is part of the Aargau Jura Park, a “Regional Nature Park of National Importance.”

The Fricktaler High-level trail (Fricktaler Höhenweg) is a blue-marked hiking trail that covers a total distance of 60 kilometers through the gentle Jura mountains. This area was formerly part of Fricktal canton. There is also a hike called Chriesiwäg that is particularly beautiful during the spring when cherry trees are blooming. 

If you want to read more about the Cherry Trail, you can check out our experience at Cherry Trail in Frick, Switzerland.

Saint John the Baptist Church, Laufenburg

Image of Laufenburg’s Church by

TheSaint John the Baptist Church Laufenburg lies on a precipice of the castle hill in the old town of Laufenburg. The castle hill offers panoramic views of Laufenburg, both in Switzerland and Germany, and the Rhine. It is also the Roman Catholic parish church of Laufenburg, under the patronage of John the Baptist. The current building was probably constructed between 1439 and 1510.

This entire structure was built in the Gothic style and is largely intact. Later, the nave windows were redesigned in Baroque style. However, the spire is no longer original. Because the building site is on a hill, the entire structure has an irregular, oblique-angled floor plan.

Laufenburg Carnival

Symbol Image by Couleur from Pixabay

Laufenburg’s carnival as part of the Swabian-Alemannic carnival dates back to 1386 when the Narro-Alt fishing guild was founded. The unique location of the two sister cities on opposite sides of the Rhine creates a unique carnival experience that attracts thousands of visitors each year.

Städlefasnacht Laufenburg is made up of four carnival organizations each from Laufenburg Switzerland and Laufenburg Baden. The Laufenburg City Carnival is organized with passion, making it a spectacular and cross-border celebration.

More Laufenburg Highlights

View from the Hill in Laufenburg, Switzerland overlooking the Rhine River by
  • Guided tours – You can go on a walking tour accompanied by Count Hans IV or a night tour with spine-chilling stories and sagas.
  • Erwin Rehmann Sculpture Museum – The Erwin Rehmann Museum, along with its garden, displays the works of Erwin Rehmann. A renowned sculptor, Erwin Rehmann focuses on contemporary sculptures and graphics.
  • Museum Schiff Laufenburg – Museum Schiff features local exhibits and annual changing exhibitions. A number of the collection’s paintings and engravings portray the Rhine in its original form with running rapids. Fishing, rafting, and shipping are other focal points of the collection.
  • Fishing – It is possible to fish in the Rhine. Fishing permits are available for the Rhine at the Town Hall for a month. Some of the fishes that can be found in the waters are carp, egli, trout, and pike.
  • Swimming – In Laufenburg, there’s a 50-meter swimming pool. Besides the big pool, there’s also a smaller pool for kids and a diving board. Additionally, they have a children’s playground, table tennis, and a volleyball court. The ticket price ranges from Fr. 3.00 to Fr. 5.00 per entry. Those interested in visiting thermal baths can visit the nearby thermal bath in Bad Zurzach, around 23 kilometers away from Laufenburg.
  • Cruise on the Rhein: Public round-trip cruises are available as well as private charters for special events.

Final Thoughts

The town of Laufenburg in Switzerland is worth a visit if you are in Basel or Zurich, or if you are on your way there. This fairytale town on the Rhine River is a delightful place to stroll. With its relatively mild weather, preserved old town, museums, and preserved areas, it is worth a visit. 

You can also visit the nearby Frick Valley, where you can take beautiful hikes. In spring, when the cherry blossoms are out, the views are spectacular. The walks are also relatively easy since the terrain is relatively gentle.

If you happen to be visiting during the Carnival season, then you are in luck. Though Laufenburg is divided between two countries (Switzerland and Germany), the residents still organize a wonderful carnival celebration. 

A visit to Laufenburg, Switzerland is a must when you’re nearby. When you are there, you should cross the Rhine River on foot and visit the German counterpart as well. The two places are truly charming. Once you are done, you can move on to your next destination – whether it is Basel, Zurich, or another Swiss mountain. 

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Darla is the owner of Her home is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Having lived almost 20 years in Switzerland, she's traveled extensively all over the country. Darla's favorite regions to visit in Switzerland include Engadin, Lake Geneva, Bernese Oberland, Ticino, and Valais. She loves spending time with her family, hiking, visiting museums, and reading books.

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