It isn't often that you find a Swiss city that encompasses all areas of Swiss life; however, St. Gallen may be the answer that you are searching for. Not only does it offer a wide variety of historical attractions, it is also offers beauty beyond anything found in many European cities. It is well worth the associated travel time and can supply you with your fix of everything that Switzerland offers.
This is largely due to its gorgeous old town, which includes delicately painted oriel windows and variety of historical timber houses. This side of Switzerland is otherwise unseen and largely forgotten by thousands of tourists every year who prefer seeing the 'big ticket items' such as Lauterbrunnen, the Matterhorn and the southern Alps. If you want an authentic Swiss experience, a visit to St. Gallen is perfect.
History and Culture
St. Gallen's history extends all the way back to around 612 AD, when the Irish missionary monk Gallus founded a hermitage where the city now stands. The town is named after Gallus, who lived until the ripe age of 95. Gallus' influence explains why the area is so saturated in history; it primarily followed Benedictine Rule, which required the presence of an opulent library.
Throughout the Middle Ages, St. Gallen became a hub for culture, the arts and education and this in turn brought prosperity to the city. Surviving raids and attacks by various groups, as well as multiple fires, the famed Abbey grew and underwent radical changes throughout the centuries, especially in the 15th century. St. Gallen would go on to become famous throughout Europe for its textiles industry, which continues to fascinate today.
Abbey of St. Gallen
The prime example of this is the Abbey of St. Gallen, which was declared a world heritage site in 1983. The Cathedral offers one of the most important baroque monuments in Switzerland, with stunning paintings and ornaments overhead. Similarly, the Abbey Library of Saint Gall can provide you with a look into the oldest library collection in Switzerland. It holds 2,100 manuscripts dating back to the 8th through 15th centuries. Entry to the library is cheap and you even get to wear a pair of library booties! In all seriousness, the Library and Abbey are absolutely breathtaking.
The city also has many museums on offer, which all give you an outstanding insight into its extensive history. The development and fame of its textile industry can be studied in the Textile Museum. Similarly, the Beer Bottle Museum in the Schützengarten brewery (the oldest in Switzerland) provides an invaluable look into the history of the city's major producer of premium beers. For those interested in the arts, there are both the Art Museum and the St. Gallen Art Gallery on offer.
St. Gallen is also famous for its architecture, which won it the prestigious Wakka Prize in 1992 for the city's effort to create a unified structure and appearance in current and future construction. There are twenty-eight sites in St. Gallen that are listed as Swiss heritage sites of national significance, and all of them are available to the public. The city is also famous for its oriel windows, which were beautifully hand-crafted prior to the 21st century. The Drei Weieren (Three Ponds) form a water park which is beautiful in both summer and winter; it is a favourite spot for the youth of St. Gallen to hang out or go for a swim.
September 23, 2021