Capital of the northernmost Swiss canton of the same name, Schaffhausen can boast one of the most captivating medieval town centres in the whole of Switzerland as well as, just 4km downriver, the mighty Rhine falls – and yet it remains uncelebrated, as if too far north to be of concern to most visitors.
During World War II, Schaffhausen was the only Swiss town to be bombed by Allied aircraft: about 100 civilians were killed by American bombers on April 1, 1944. The US claimed that pilots had mistakenly identified Schaffhausen – the only sizeable chunk of Swiss territory on the north bank of the Rhine – as a German target. They apologized profusely and paid out compensation only to make the same mistake again on February 22, 1945, this time killing sixteen in Schaffhausen and nine in Stein-am-Rhein. Records that could throw light onto the allegation that the bombings were in fact a deliberate Allied response to Schaffhausen's munitions industries supplying arms to the Nazis in breach of Swiss neutrality are, as yet, still classified. In recent years, Schaffhausen has capitalized on its position to act as a commercial and cultural bridge between Germany and Switzerland, and has absorbed a high number of Sri Lankan immigrants and asylum seekers, leading to an unusually broad ethnic mix on the streets.