Most visitors to Switzerland don’t know about or pay much attention to St. Gallen. Unlike Zurich, Lucerne, and Geneva, St. Gallen is often overlooked. It’s true that a lot of people ignore St. Gallen, but there’s always plenty to do in this gorgeous city.
It’s not very common to go to St. Gallen in Switzerland. Since those who want to visit a big Swiss city are likely to pick Zurich, Geneva, Bern, or Lausanne. Mountain-lovers will head for Valais, Graubünden, or the Bernese Oberland. Appenzell is perhaps the first region that comes to mind when thinking of visiting a charming region in northeastern Switzerland.
St. Gallen, though, exudes an old-world atmosphere, so those who love old cities should go. It’s a pretty city with 75,000 residents, most of whom speak Swiss-German. In the heart of northeastern Switzerland, St. Gallen is just a few kilometers south of Lake Constance.
This article is gonna help you discover the best places to go in St. Gallen and provide you with some travel tips and reasons why it is worth a visit.
1. Charming Old Historic Town
Within the historic center, you’ll find pretty streets and shops. In no time, you’ll be at the Cathedral of Saint Gall (also known as the Abbey of Saint Gall). This was one of Europe’s foremost Benedictine monasteries. Among other things, it also has the University of St. Gallen (HSG), a rich textile history, and the UNESCO Abbey quarter around the Baroque cathedral.
St. Gallen is home to 28 Swiss heritage sites of national significance, including the following:
- The Abbey of St. Gallen
- The Abbey Library of St. Gallen
- The Dominican Abbey of St. Katharina
- The Textile Museum
- The St. Gallen State Archive
2. St. Gallen Abbey Quarter – A UNESCO World Heritage Site
Cathedral of Saint Gall
The Cathedral of Saint Gall is a Catholic church from the Carolingian era that’s been here since 719. In 1983, UNESCO declared the Abbey Cathedral a World Heritage Site. It is a must-see if you’re in town. It’s one of the oldest and most beautiful monasteries in the world.
Here is a library that’s worth visiting as well, though it doesn’t open as often as the Cathedral. There are also a lot of well-preserved buildings with carved bay windows. In this city of just 75,000, there are also museums, concert halls, a university, and many other cultural attractions.
Abbey Library of St. Gallen
St. Gallen is known for the Abbey of St. Gallen, a thousand-year-old World Heritage Site. Within this religious complex is the Abbey Library as well.
The Abbey Library in St. Gallen, built around the same time as the Abbey Cathedral, has the oldest book collection in Switzerland, and one of the oldest and richest in the world.
The Abbey Library in St. Gallen holds a lot of books from the early Middle Ages. Some 170,000 documents are in it, some of them handwritten and older than a thousand years.
The library has the most beautiful rococo room in Switzerland; it’s in a magnificent Baroque building.
If you would like to learn more about the Abbey of Saint Gall, check out our article Abbey of Saint Gall: UNESCO World Heritage Site in St. Gallen, Switzerland.
3. Textile Museum St. Gallen
The Textile Museum St. Gallen (Textilmuseum St. Gallen) is also worth checking out in St. Gallen.
St.Gallen, the Embroidery City, is renowned for its exquisite fabrics. A textile excellence cluster that started with the monks weaving linen in the late Middle Ages. Each look in this collection holds an embroidery item. With it I want to celebrate the spirit of St.Gallen, this unique city, that defines Akris.Albert Kriemler, Akris
During the 19th and 20th centuries, St. Gallen’s textile industry played an important role in Switzerland. Textiles were big in St Gallen once; the embroidery was particularly valuable. Unfortunately, to cut costs, Bischoff in St. Gallen has moved its embroidery production to Thailand and Sri Lanka.
The Textile Museum has some amazing exhibits, including clothes worn by Empress Elisabeth of Austria, Margaret Thatcher, and Queen Victoria. The museum displays cotton, lace, and other textiles. Beautiful handmade fabrics are on display. This is a great museum if you like fashion and style.
4. Water Fun – Lakes and Säntispark
If you want to have a bit of fun in the water, then Säntispark in Abtwil, St. Gallen is perfect. You can go to this indoor and outdoor recreation area in eastern Switzerland, especially when it’s raining. There’s a wave pool, water slides, a warm bath, and a kids’ pool area. With its water jets and great views of Säntis mountain, the warm outdoor pool is also a treat.
If you want to be one with nature, Lake Constance (Bodensee) is 24 km from St. Gallen and perfect for a day trip or cycling trip. St. Gallen has a lot to offer, but just enjoying the city is enough.
If you would like to explore beautiful places near Lake Constance, you can check out our article: Wonderful Towns To Visit on Lake Constance.
5. Beyond St. Gallen – Appenzell Region and Bodensee
The St. Gallen region has many shops, delicacies (such as Olma sausage), craft shops, and hikes. There are many things to do here, from cultural events to walks in the Swiss mountains and unique discoveries.
- The nearby village of Appenzell is a great option for travelers looking to escape urban culture.
- For those who love the mountains, the Alpstein region is ideal. Although not as high as its counterparts in Graubünden, Valais, and Bern, the Appenzell mountain range is no less beautiful. The highest mountain peak in the region is Säntis.
- The cliff restaurant in Aescher Ebenalp even graced the cover of National Geographic magazine.
- Lichtensteig is a pretty village in Toggenburg with a historic village center and museums.
Travelling around St. Gallen
If you are passing through St. Gallen and its surroundings, then I recommend the following train ticket purchase:
- An OSTWIND ticket if you have the half-fare card
- The Swiss Travel Pass if you do not have the half-fare card
If you do have the half-fare card and will stick to the eastern region of Switzerland, the OSTWIND might work out cheaper. Especially if you leave past 9 o’clock and use the 9 o’clock OSTWIND ticket, it will only cost you CHF 20 per day.
The OSTWIND fare network association will integrate 31 public transportation companies in the cantons of St. Gallen, Thurgau, Appenzell AR, Appenzell IR, Glarus, Schaffhausen, March District in the canton of Schwyz and the Principality of Liechtenstein.
In all of OSTWIND’s network areas, there is the same simple fare system. With public transport tickets, you may also get at least 10% off or added value for many leisure activities in the region.
Both tickets will give you unlimited access to SBB trains and public buses, as well as discounted mountain travel in nearby Appenzell.
Train Travel to St. Gallen
St. Gallen is easy to reach, especially by train. You can even reach St. Gallen by train from as far away as Geneva. St. Gallen and Zurich are connected by two trains every hour, with a journey time of 1 hour, 10 minutes.
As you walk through the old town, explore centuries-old cathedrals, explore museums, and admire the charm of this charming city, St. Gallen is definitely worth visiting on your trip to Switzerland.
Considering there are so many beautiful places to visit in Switzerland, I wouldn’t stay in St. Gallen for too long. In any case, I think you can see and should see St. Gallen in a day or two.
St. Gallen is definitely a place I recommend visiting.