The Wonder of St. Gallen in Switzerland
Nestled in a valley in northeastern Switzerland, between beautiful Lake Constance and the majestic Appenzell Alps, the city of St. Gallen is surrounded by pristine natural beauty. While being a truly modern city, a stroll down the traffic-free streets of the medieval Old Town of St. Gallen is like taking a step back in time, and visiting the many places of interest provides fascinating insight into the city’s long history, which goes right back to the first century.
Legend has it that St. Gallen was founded in 612 AD by a monk, St. Gallus. While making his way through the valley, he fell into a briar patch, which he took to be a sign from God. The legend continues that he enlisted the help of a bear and proceeded to build a hermitage on the site of his mishap. The bear features prominently on the city’s standard today, while St. Gallen has grown to be the seventh largest city in Switzerland.
One of the main tourist attractions in St. Gallen is the Abbey of St. Gall, also known as the St. Gallen Cathedral. This magnificent richly decorated baroque building, together with the Abbey Library has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. The library contains one of the most comprehensive medieval libraries in the world, being home to more than 160,000 books, of which around 2,100 are handwritten. More than half of the handwritten books are believed to be over 1,000 years old. The Abbey Library is open to the public and hosts exhibitions, concerts and other events from time to time.
Built in 1569-1570, Karlstor (Karl’s Gate), located in the east of the Abbey District, is the only remaining gate of the eleven that once stood guard around the city. On the northern side of St. Gallen’s Old Town is the Marktplatz (Market Square), surrounded by houses dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Many of these well-preserved old houses have attractive oriel windows, typical of the architecture found in St. Gallen and throughout Switzerland. Restaurants and side-walk cafés in the Marktplatz offer delicious traditional Swiss fare.
Other places of interest to visit in and around St. Gallen include the New Art Gallery, the Textile Museum and the leisure and water park, Abtwil Santispark. A cableway from nearby Schwagalp takes visitors to a lookout point on Mount Santis at a height of 2502 meters, offering views of the Alpenkranz (crown of Alps) as well of neighboring countries. St. Gallen is also incorporated into a number of walking, cycling and railway trails designed to explore the breath-taking surroundings, while making the most of the history and culture of this charming city in Switzerland.