History of the Town
Rheinfelden was officially given the status of a town by Duke Konrad von Zähringen in about 1130. That makes Rheinfelden the oldest Zähringer town in Switzerland. The class structure of mediaeval society can still be seen in the town's buildings today: the well-to-do merchants lived in Marktgasse, the eastern part of the town was mainly given over to agriculture, as evidenced by the many barns, and at the top, looking down on the merchants and the farmers, were the church, the canons' houses and the residences of the nobility.
In 1218, the Zähringen family died out and in 1225 Rheinfelden became a free Imperial City. In 1330, King Ludwig of Bavaria pledged it to the Habsburgs. This meant that Rheinfelden became an Austrian town and so it remained for nearly 500 years.
The town went through difficult times during the Thirty Years' War due to the fighting between the Habsburgs and the French. After the Thirty Years' War, the Austrians built an artillery fortress on the island, because, since the loss of Alsace, Rheinfelden had become an Austrian stronghold against France. During the wars fought by Louis XIV and the Wars of Succession in the 18th century, Rheinfelden was made painfully aware of this fact: in 1678 Marshal Créqui bombarded the town, and in 1744 the French occupied it and blew up the artillery fortress.
Things began to look up for Rheinfelden in 1844. Two saltworks were established, one in Rheinfelden which is no longer in operation, and the Riburg saltworks. At the same time as the salt began being extracted, the unique natural brine water began to be used for bathing. Soon hotels were setting themselves up as brine spas, with the first being the "Schützen" in 1846. The two breweries also contributed to the upturn in the town's fortunes: the "Salmen-Bräu" and "Feldschlösschen". The latter has since become Switzerland's biggest brewery. Nowadays, with its hotels - first and foremost among them the "Schützen" and "EDEN" -, the Rheinfelden rehabilitation centre, the Schützen Hospital for Psychosomatic Medicine and Medical Psychotherapy, and the spa centre – including Switzerland's biggest brine bath – Rheinfelden is a modern centre for health and wellness, as well as for seminars, group excursions and day trips.