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How to Spend 1 Day in St. Gallen, Switzerland

Last Updated on November 28, 2023 by Darla Uhl

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One day in St. Gallen, Switzerland’s eighth-largest city, will definitely be worth your time. Besides its charming old town, St. Gallen is famous for the St. Gallen Abbey Quarter – a UNESCO World Heritage Site! Founded by the Irish monk Gallus, St. Gallen lies among the rolling green hills of northeastern Switzerland, between Lake Constance and the mountainous region of Appenzell. I highly recommend that you spend one day in St. Gallen.

Image of St. Gallen by TouringSwitzerland.com

Here are four of the top tours to do in one day in St. Gallen, Switzerland to make the most of it:

St. Gallen is a charming Swiss city that offers a wealth of historical and cultural attractions. Visitors can easily spend one to two days exploring the city’s museums and landmarks. However, if you only have one day to spare, you might want to focus on the best things to see and do in St. Gallen.

Here you will find information about St. Gallen, its history, as well as things to see and do in the region.

Whether you’re looking for a 1-day itinerary or a list of things to do in St. Gallen, this article is for you. Here are a few ideas for how you can spend one day in St. Gallen, Switzerland.

St. Gallen One Day Itinerary: What can you do?

1.  Start Your Day With a Cozy Breakfast

Image of a Café in Switzerland by TouringSwitzerland.com

In case your hotel doesn’t offer a breakfast option, you can walk around St. Gallen to find a café. There are a number of cafes and restaurants that serve hot coffee with delicious pastries. Some options are the following:

  • Confiserie Roggwiller (Multergasse 17, 9000 St. Gallen) – This coffee shop and confectionery is one of the most beautiful traditional coffee shops in Switzerland.
  • g’nuss (Lämmlisbrunnenstrasse 4, 9000 St. Gallen) – The name g’nuss comes from the Swiss-German word meaning enjoyment, and this place epitomizes that. G’nuss is known for its delicious baked goods and friendly staff.
  • Barista – Specialty Coffee & Bar (Blumenbergpl. 1, 9000 St. Gallen) – With delicious roasted coffee and homemade cakes, this cozy place is highly recommended.
  • Bäckerei, Cafe und Restaurant Gschwend (Goliathgasse 7, 9000 St. Gallen) – This bakery is one of the best in St. Gallen and offers a wide selection of products. Also, it opens earlier than most other places.

After breakfast, you can walk around the Old Town before heading over to the Abbey.


2. Walk Around St. Gallen’s Old Town

St. Gallen’s Old Town is a charming and picturesque neighborhood that is perfect to start your day of exploration. With a maze of narrow streets and alleys lined with pretty buildings, ornate facades, and historic landmarks, St. Gallen’s Old Town is nice to visit. I like it most during Advent when they start hanging little stars around the Old Town and set up the Christmas Market.

Highlights of the Old Town

Image of Haus zum Schwan, St. Gallen by TouringSwitzerland.com

Exploring the Old Town of St. Gallen is a delightful way to spend your morning in St. Gallen. With its charming shops and cafes, it’s no wonder that this neighborhood is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. These are the highlights of the Old Town:

  • Gallusplatz – Surrounded by beautiful buildings is this place where you can see the city’s patron Saint Gallus
  • Haus Oceanic (St. Leonhardstrasse 20) – Artistic Belle époque building from 1904
  • Multergasse – Pedestrian road for shopping. Haus zur Waage is a beautiful building that shows people from five continents
  • Haus zum tiefen Keller (Hinterlauben 10) – Residence of the reformer, mayor, and doctor Joachim von Watt who is also known as Vadian. There is also a monument to remember him to be found in Vadianplatz.
  • Haus zum goldenen Apfel (Hinterlauben 8) – A beautiful baroque building
  • Haus zur Kugel (Kugelgasse 8) – Beautiful oriel windows featuring angels and fruits
  • Haus zum Schwan (Kugelgasse 10) – Beautiful oriel windows featuring a swan and angels
  • St. Laurenzen Church (Marktgasse 25, 9000 St. Gallen) – This reformed church is the second-most important church in the city. They offer guided tours twice a day at 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM. If you climb the 187 steps up the church, you will get a nice view of St. Gallen’s Old Town.

Shopping

Image of Spisergasse, St. Gallen by TouringSwitzerland.com

For those interested in shopping, you won’t be disappointed here. You can find plenty of shops in Marktgasse, Multergasse, and Spisergasse that sell everything from clothing to jewelry, cosmetics, and souvenirs. There is also a weekly market selling fresh produce in the market center.

The most famous brand from St. Gallen is the international fashion house Akris. You can find their shop on Felsenstrasse 40.

St. Gallen Specialties

The Old Town is not only home to a number of boutiques worth discovering, but also charming cafes and restaurants with local specialties. They are particularly proud of their specialties in St. Gallen. You might want to try out the following St. Gallen specialties:

  • Olma Sausages – white veal sausages with crispy skin
  • St. Gallen monastery cake – cake made with brown almond dough and jam spread
  • St. Gallen Biber – a brown honey biscuit with almond mass baked with a motif

After finishing your stroll, I suggest that you head over to the Abbey of St. Gallen.


3.  Visit St. Gallen Abbey and Library

The ultimate highlight of St. Gallen is the Abbey of St. Gallen, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Abbey of Saint Gall was built on the site where the Irish monk Gallus lived. Following Gallus’ death, Charles Martel, the founder of the Carolingian dynasty, entrusted a different monk, Saint Othmar, with taking care of his relics. Saint Othmar then established the monastery.

The Abbey of Saint Gall was founded in 719 by Saint Othmar. This Abbey with its medieval library was one of the most important Carolingian monasteries in Europe.

The Abbey of Saint Gall soon became known for its arts, letters, and science. During the 9th century, the church and library were expanded. The Cathedral of St. Gallen also withstood the Reformation and the French Revolution. It would be one of the biggest cultural centers in Europe before it went into a slow decline in the late medieval ages.

Together with the Convent of St. John at Müstair and the Old Town of Bern, the Abbey of St. Gall was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list back in 1983.

Visitors are welcome to enter the cathedral daily from 7:00 AM to 6:00 PM for free. While inside, you can enjoy the Baroque architecture, with its ornate stucco work, mint green and white colors, gold leaf decorations, and intricate frescoes.

Image of the Abbey Library of St. Gallen from wikimedia

The Abbey Library (Stiftsbibliothek in German) and its archives are among the oldest, richest, and most beautiful in the world. It was founded by Saint Othmar and built between 1758 and 1767. The library houses an incredible collection of illuminated manuscripts from the early and late Middle Ages. 

Over the years, the Abbey Library has become a center for academic and religious studies thanks to its almost 160,000 volumes. For most visitors, the main attraction of the library won’t be the books themselves, but the main hall, with its beautiful, ornate Rococo style.

If you would like to learn more about the Abbey of St. Gall, you can check out Abbey of Saint Gall: UNESCO World Heritage Site in St. Gallen, Switzerland.


4.  Discover the Textile History of St. Gallen

Image of the Textile Museum, St. Gallen by TouringSwitzerland.com

St. Gallen flourished not only because of its monastery but also because of its textile heritage. The quality of St. Gallen lace and embroidery was known throughout the world. During its heyday, eastern Switzerland’s textile industry contributed up to a sixth of all Swiss exports1. They had embroidery machines and a skilled workforce available in the city. Textile manufacturing had a huge impact on the region.

St. Gallen’s textile history can be seen in buildings in Davidstrasse, old houses in Spisergasse, and opulent villas in Rosenberg.

Textile Museum of St. Gallen

If you are interested in textiles and the history of this trade in the context of St. Gallen, you can visit the Textile Museum in the heart of the city. You can walk to the Textile Museum from the Abbey Quarter.

The Textile Museum has various exhibits that detail the history of the textile industry, from traditional Swiss lace to contemporary fabrics. There are also interesting temporary exhibits such as textiles worn by powerful women, textiles in shades of white, AKRIS collections, textile raw materials, and more.

The images presented here come from the temporary exhibit Robes politiques – Women Power Fashion exhibit that ran from March 2021 to February 2022.

The museum also offers guided tours and workshops in German. Another highlight of the museum is the functional hand embroidery machine from 1890 that is put into operation on Thursdays and Fridays from 11:30 AM to 4:00 PM by Mrs. Weber.

Textile Trail St. Gallen

In case you are done with the Textile Museum but still want to learn more about textiles, you can do the Textile Trail in downtown St. Gallen. It is a 5-kilometer trail that will bring you around the most important textile buildings in downtown St. Gallen.

You can visit the website https://textilweg.ch/ for more information about the Textile Trail in St. Gallen.

Shopping

Here are some labels that you can find in St. Gallen:

  • Akris (Felsenstrasse 40 9000 St. Gallen) – a well-known, international fashion label with modern geometric and graphic design
  • aéthéréé (Bahnhofstrasse 15, 9000 St. Gallen) – a boutique located in the heart of St. Gallen that offers exclusive advice and tailored service
  • Bischoff Textil AG (Bogenstrasse 9, 9001 St. Gallen) – High-quality, exclusive embroideries that are sold worldwide for the fashion market
  • Christian Fischbacher (Mövenstrasse 18, 9015 St. Gallen) – Excellent bed linens made of classic satin and fine silk, exclusive bath rugs and towels made of Giza cotton or designed with elaborate embroidery

5. Explore St. Gallen’s Indoor and Outdoor Gems

St. Gallen offers a variety of indoor and outdoor activities that visitors can enjoy. Whether it’s hiking, biking, or discovering more museums, there is something for everyone.

In case you have finished discovering the Abbey Quarter, Old Town, and Textile Museum, here are other interesting places in St. Gallen that you might want to enjoy:

  1. OLMA Messen (Splügenstrasse 12, 9008 St. Gallen) – The biggest public fair in Switzerland is a colorful folk festival with more than 800,000 visitors. Usually held in October, the fair takes place every year. The pig race in their arena is legendary.
  2. Natural History Museum (Rorschacher Str. 263, 9016 St. Gallen) – Explore the wonders of nature through a diverse collection of exhibits and specimens at the Natural History Museum in St. Gallen. There is also a large 3D relief of Eastern Switzerland on display.
  3. Drei Weieren (Bitzistrasse 65, 9011 St. Gallen) – Enjoy the tranquility of three picturesque ponds nestled in the St. Georgen District above the city center, offering scenic beauty and recreational activities for visitors. From here, you can view the city and on a clear day even all the way up to Lake Constance. It is considered one of the most beautiful natural bathing areas in Switzerland.
  4. Wildpark Peter und Paul (Kirchlistrasse 92, 9010 St. Gallen) – Encounter local wildlife up close and personal at Wildpark Peter und Paul, a stunning nature reserve featuring various species of animals such as deer, marmots, and alpine ibex. It has short, but beautiful walking trails and is accessible for free daily.
  5. Lokremise Cultural Center (Grünbergstrasse 7, 9000 St. Gallen) – Immerse yourself in art, theater, music, and more at the Lokremise Cultural Center. This vibrant hub for creative expression and cultural events also has a French restaurant called Brasserie Lok.
  6. Open Art Museum (Davidstrasse 44, 9000 St. Gallen) – Previously known as Museum im Lagerhaus, the Open Art Museum has contemporary art exhibitions. It is housed in a historic warehouse building.
  7. Botanic Garden (Stephanshornstrasse 4, 9016 St. Gallen) – Discover 8,000 plants from Europe, Asia, America, and the Alpine region in its greenhouses and gardens.

Hotels in St. Gallen

Should you need some assistance choosing a hotel in St. Gallen, here are some suggestions:

  • Einstein St. Gallen (4-star) – This luxury hotel enjoys a peaceful location at the edge of the pedestrian zone, but is still close to the center of St. Gallen. There is an excellent restaurant on site that serves creative cuisine. The hotel offers a gym, indoor pool, massages, and body treatments.
  • Hotel Walhalla (4-star) – Centrally located opposite St. Gallen Train Station, this lovely hotel features modern rooms, a 24-hour reception, private on-site parking, and an excellent breakfast buffet. A convenient location, combined with a very reasonable price, makes it a great choice.
  • Sorell Hotel City Weissenstein – Boutique Hotel (4-star) – Close to the old town and main railway station, this hotel has individually decorated rooms, an artistic lounge, and is within walking distance to shops and restaurants.
  • Hotel Säntispark (4-star) – Despite not being exactly in St. Gallen, this hotel is only a 10-minute drive away by car. An attractive feature of the hotel is its extensive public swimming pool and spa area with a children’s adventure world, a wave pool, an indoor area and an outdoor area, a hot tub, and a variety of saunas and steam baths. Sports such as badminton, squash, tennis, bowling, and table tennis can also be played for an additional fee. The bus leaves every 10 minutes and takes about 20 minutes to reach St. Gallen.

How to Get to St. Gallen, Switzerland

Image of St. Gallen Train Station by TouringSwitzelrand.com

St. Gallen is a beautiful city located in the eastern part of Switzerland. The city is well-connected to major cities in Switzerland and other European countries, making it easy to reach by different modes of transportation. The nearest airport is Zurich Airport.

St. Gallen is well-connected to major cities in Switzerland by train. Visitors can take a train from Switzerland’s major cities. The train station in St. Gallen is located in the city center, making it easy for visitors to reach their destination.

Here are some of the estimated travel times from other Swiss cities to St. Gallen:

Train RouteEstimated Time
Zurich – St. Gallen1 hour
Lucerne – St. Gallen1 hour 53 minutes
Bern – St. Gallen2 hours
Basel – St. Gallen2 hours 16 minutes
Geneva – St. Gallen3 hours 47 minutes

Summary: 1 Day in St. Gallen, Switzerland

Image of St. Gallen by TouringSwitzerland.com

Before ending your day in St. Gallen, you have several choices for a sumptuous dinner. Restaurants like Hotel Einstein, Genuss Manufaktur Neubad, Restaurant Alte Post, Restaurant am Gallusplatz, Gaststuben zum Schlössli, and Restaurant Corso are just some of the highly-rated choices for you.

My favorite places in this region are the St. Gallen Cathedral (one of Switzerland’s most beautiful cathedrals) and the Textile Museum(because I love fashion). 

As you can see, you will not run out of options on what to do in St. Gallen in one day. In fact, you can stretch the St. Gallen One Day Itinerary offered here easily to another 1 or 2 more days or discover the nearby places in Eastern Switzerland such as Appenzell.

What I would personally recommend after exploring St. Gallen is also visiting Appenzell. I highly recommend spending at least a day, if not a week in Eastern Switzerland. We live near St. Gallen and have been here, as well as many places in Eastern Switzerland several times, and yet we still haven’t seen everything. Enjoy your stay!

Resource

  • Kritzmöller, Monika. Auf textiler Entdeckungstour. 612 #LOVESTGALLEN, St. Gallen-Bodensee Tourismus. June 2019.
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Darla Uhl is the owner of TouringSwitzerland.com. 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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