Castle history

For more than 1,100 years, Schloss Laufen at the Rhine Falls has witnessed many societal and political upheavals.It has not been unusual for the castle itself – due to its privileged location – to be at the centre of disputes. Visit the historical building and experience history.

858: First mention

The Rhine Falls – called “grosses Lauffen” back then – give the castle its name. The ancestral seat of the barons of Laufen has subsequently had many owners, including the Bishop of Constance, the Kloster Allerheiligen (All Saints abbey) Schaffhausen and the Duke of Kyburg.

1439–1450: Old Zurich War

The Fulach family purchases the ownership rights. Zurich successfully besieges the castle in 1449: the defenders escape by rope into the Rhine and swim to safety on the other shore. After it is later recaptured, the Fulachs apply for citizenship in Zurich.

1544: Zurich instead of Schaffhausen

While the City of Schaffhausen has its eye on this strategic place, Hans Wilhelm von Fulach sells the castle and barony to the City of Zurich in 1544. The welcome expansion of territory in the north with the castle and the municipalities of Uhweisen and Dachsen is solidified by Zurich with major structural changes (including the ring wall, gate tower with drawbridge) for their governor.

1789–1798: End of feudalism

The French Revolution and the subsequent invasion of Napoleon puts an abrupt end to the feudal system.The last governor, Hartmann Liechti, moves out in 1798. Laufen is transferred to the District of Benken. The first administrator and later leaseholder is Hans Georg Wipf.

1829: Tourism

Demand determines the offer. Because increasing numbers of tourist come to the Rhine Falls, the first wine tavern is opened at Schloss Laufen.

1832–1843: Bleuler family as leaseholder

The landscape painter Johann Louis Bleuler bids for and wins the lease, and then invests substantially in the necessary repairs and the renovation of the castle. According to plans drawn up by the famous Zurich architect, Ferdinand Stadler, a viewing stage is erected on the Rhine Falls as well as a farm building. The new northern tract (Neues Schloss) contains an art dealership, a camera obscura, a painting collection and various parlours and bedrooms.

From 1845: Bleuler family as owner

The tenant becomes the buyer: J. L. Bleuler purchases the castle. From now on, he has the right to close off the accesses to the Rhine and to demand admission from visitors. The Bleuler School of Painting is founded in the northern tract.

1941–1951: Renovation by the Canton of Zurich

The canton takes over the complex from Bleuler’s descendents and gradually restores it: new roofing of the gate tower roof, renovation of the old castle, refurbishment of the paths to the Rhine Falls, later renovation of the round tower and reconstruction of the later northern ring wall; then renovation of the northern tract, restoration of the Bleuler Hall and the New Gothic stairways.

1946: Youth hostel

A youth hostel has opened in the restored old castle. In October 2019, after 73 years, the youth hostel had closed its doors for good.

2009: Schloss Laufen as a tourist destination

Six companies apply for the tenancy. SV Schweiz wins the bid.

2010: Reopening

Schloss Laufen is a modern, touristic beacon in the Schaffhausen region.

2020 Schloss Laufen as a tourist destination

After issuing a public tender, the Governing Council of the Canton of Zurich has granted the right to operate the youth hostel to the tourism destination Schloss Laufen. SV Group, the catering company currently in charge of the castle’s operations, has been awarded a contract to operate the entire facility until at least 2036.