The Cantons of Appenzell and St. Gallen are in the northeast part of Switzerland. The town of Appenzell has a population of around 5,700 while larger St. Gallen has almost 500,000 residents. The old towns are nestled between Lake Constance to the north (also called Bodensee) and the Alps to the south. To the east is the Rhine Valley, and Zurich is about 50 miles west. Famous for its Baroque cathedral (the Abby precinct), ski trails, oriel windows, and dairy farming (cheese!!), they are a must-see on your visit to Switzerland. Read our interview with St. Gallen locals below to help plan your trip!
THE LOCALS: Dano, Cedric & Livio
WHY YOU SHOULD TRUST THEM: Dano, Cedric & Livio are 21 year olds from Appenzell to St. Gallen and have lived there for most of their lives. They could guide you through these towns in their sleep! They have traveled in many countries in Europe, Asia, and the U.S., but still believe that St. Gallen is one of the most beautiful places on earth.
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE VISITING APPENZELL
1. Switzerland is a very small country! You can get from the East to the West in about 4 hours (so, it’s about the size of Vermont and New Hampshire combined). The train, in our opinion, is the best way to travel, however, it’s very easy to rent a car to get from one city to the next. Either way, you’ll be driving through lots of mountains towns and beautiful landscapes.
2. In Switzerland, we speak German, Swiss German, and some French. Many people know English as well. Swiss German is spoken from central, northeast to east Switzerland. French is spoken in the west and southwest, and some Italian is spoken in the south and southeast. However, there is one city that speaks strictly Italian, called Locarno, in the canton of Ticino on the shores of Lago Maggiore. Everything about the town is Italian, including the architecture (and the warm weather!) It’s a great place to visit. The best city in the French part is Lausanne, and here they speak primarily French, as well as German and quite a bit of English. The University of Lausanne (UNIL) is based here, as is the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
3. WiFi is not always accessible like it is in other parts of Europe and in the States. Restaurants usually have access, but their networks are often closed to the public. We recommend researching data plans for your phone before you arrive.
4. You must try the chocolate! One very good chocolate factory we recommend is in Buchs Aargau, called Chocolat Frey, which is one of the oldest and most famous chocolate factories in Switzerland. Many factories require an appointment for a tour, so call or email before you visit.
5. Don’t skip Arosa! Arosa is in canton Graubuenden, about a 2 hour drive or a 3 hour train from St. Gallen. It’s a beautiful resort for skiing in the winters or hiking/mountain biking in the summers, with stunningly clear mountain lakes. It’s a lot like Vail, Colorado (but the real thing!)
TRIPADVISOR’S TOP FIVE APPENZELL ATTRACTIONS
1. Santis der Berg – Thumbs Up. This is the highest mountain in the Alpstein, at 2,502.9 metres or about 8,200 feet above sea level. You can drive or hike up, and there’s an observation deck at the top. We recommend going to the restaurant at the top, Santisgipfel, for an amazing Sunday brunch in the clouds.
3. Appenzeller Bahnen – Thumbs Down. This is a normal train, like a subway train or a metro, so there’s no need to make a special trip for this. Inevitably, you’ll use this at some point. Livio recommends getting a Travel Pass, which includes all modes of public transportation. The day pass is around CHF 70, and includes the cable cars, boats, trains, and the bus.
4. Other Outdoor Activities (Seealpsee, Hoher Kasten, Apenzeller Badi) -This is very difficult to judge, as the activities are all so different! Seealpsee is one of the most beautiful places in the Alpstein. Hoher Kasten is the second highest mountain with a cable car and a revolving restaurant at the top. And Appenzeller Badi is a typical outdoor pool in our town, but probably not worth your time (mostly for locals). Our favorite outdoor spot is Bodensee (in English, Lake Constance). Drei Weihern or “Three Lakes” offers great view, especially in the summertime.
5. Appenzeller Bier, Brauerei Locher AG – Thumbs Up. This is a brewery in town. If you aren’t into beer, go to a Cheese Factory instead. The best one is Schaukaserei in Stein. They have a tour in English, and you can buy tons of delicious cheese there.
TRIPADVISOR’S TOP FIVE APPENZELL RESTAURANTS
2. Wirtshus zum Wyberg – Thumbs Down. We believe this is actually in Zurich!
3. Gasthaus zum Gupf – Thumbs Up, but this is a VERY expensive restaurant! A meal there could cost you over CHF 500, or around $450.
4. Restaurant Truube – Thumbs Up. This is also pricey, but not as much as Gasthaus zum Gupf. They also make the menu for the First Class fliers on Swiss Airlines, so if you’re flying first class, skip it:)
5. Gasthaus zur Post – Thumbs Down. This is a normal restaurant near St. Gallen.