If you are wondering about the best things to do in St. Gallen, then this post will help you find out about the best attractions, as well as provide you with some travel tips.
Switzerland is known for its stunning scenery – but it is also home to some gorgeous cities, towns, and villages. One of these cities is St. Gallen – a city south of Lake Constance (Bodensee), in northeastern Switzerland. It is one of the places that often gets neglected because of cities like Zurich, Lucerne, and Geneva or stunning outdoor areas like Interlaken or St. Moritz.
However, St.Gallen is well worth visiting! It is charming. It is pretty! It is authentic! It is lively! It is not a typical Swiss tourist destination. St. Gallen is mostly known for the stunning Abbey of St. Gall, a monastery housing “one of the most beautiful libraries in the world.“
And if you have seen images of the library, you might be intrigued enough to visit! And you should visit. But make sure to also add a few other places to your list. Which ones? I will tell you.
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ST.GALLEN TRAVEL TIPS
Here are some quick tips for your trip.
- Getting around St.Gallen is quite easy. You can walk to most of the attractions. No car needed! Just bring comfortable shoes because of the cobbled-stoned streets.
- Most activities mentioned here are free to do. That is one great way to save money.
- Bring a water bottle and just refill it at some of the several fountains throughout the city. Yes, it is drinkable (unless it specifically states, it is not).
A Swiss Travel Pass will give you free access to the main attraction plus the museum, I mention at the end. What is a Swiss Travel Pass?
- A Swiss Travel Pass allows you to use trains and buses without any extra costs (the reservation fee for some panorama trains is not included).
- You can also do most boat cruises without additional costs – since there are no cruises in St.Gallen this does not apply (but for other cities).
- It also gives you a 50% discount on most mountain rides (you can get up via cable car/funicular for half of the price, and if you follow my tips, you will need it twice).
- Some museums, including the famous St. Abbey, are free to visit with the Swiss Travel Pass.
- The initial prices for a Swiss Travel Pass are quite high – but it pays for itself if you get around via public transportation and are active in Switzerland for more than three or four days. So, check out prices for boats and trains and then calculate if it is a good option for you.
- For me, it usually makes sense as I am very active and use public transportation/mountain rides often (even if I road trip Switzerland).
- Check out prices for a Swiss Travel Pass here.
THINGS TO DO IN ST.GALLEN – BEST PLACES TO VISIT AND MORE
Let´s start with the top places to visit in St.Gallen for your itinerary.
Abbey of St. Gall
Yes, there is more to St. Gallen than this famous abbey complex – however, let’s start with this sight. The Abbey of Saint Gall is a dissolved abbey, and from the 8th century to its secularization in 1805, one of the most important cultural centers in Europe.
The convent includes several highlights: Its cathedral, library, and monastery archives were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1983. The magnificent Baroque cathedral with its two prominent towers was built in the middle of the 18th century. You will find some important baroque artwork inside the church.
- It is free to visit
- Opening hours: From Monday to Wednesday: from 6 am to 6:30 pm (7 pm in summer), Thursdays to Sundays: from 7 am to 6:30 pm, and Sundays from 7:30 am to 8:30 pm. No tours/visits on Sunday mid-morning or during services.
The highlight is probably the famous Abbey Library, which is housed in a gorgeous baroque hall and is considered one of the most beautiful in the world.
For more than 1,000 years, manuscripts have been preserved at their place of origin. The library now contains 170,000 books – 50,000 of them are housed in the baroque hall, where you will also find the 2,700-year-old Egyptian mummy, Shepenese.
It is absolutely forbidden to take any pictures inside the library – but Switzerland would not be Switzerland if they did not come up with a PR idea about how to still promote pictures of it. Outside the library is a photo stop – you can just take a picture of that picture. Et Voila – you have your library photo.
Without question, the library is really… beautiful! But it is quite small and the fact that you cannot take pictures or touch anything makes this experience a little less fun.
- The entrance fee is 18 CHF for adults. Free with a Swiss Travel Pass.
St. Lawrence Church
The St. Lawrence Church is another main attraction in St. Gallen. It is located next to the abbey and is the main church after the cathedral.
You can visit the church, which dates back to the 13th century – though it became a reformist church in the 15th century. It was entirely reconstructed in the 19th century and now is a basilica in neo-Gothic style. The interior of the church is interesting and beautiful, though the highlight is probably the panorama from the tower.
Because you can go to the top of it! After climbing 300 steps, you have some great views of St.Gallen.
- If you plan to get up, you should plan accordingly because the tower tours are only twice a day (at 10 am and at 3 pm).
- It is closed in the winter months.
Then make sure to explore the old town of St. Gallen. There are a few things/places to pay special attention to.
Do we not all love oriel bay windows? You will find this beautiful feature quite often in St. Gallen. Actually, St. Gallen is second only to Schaffhausen in terms of oriel bay windows. Thus, keep looking up and admiring these unique houses and windows.
One of the main squares in St. Gallen is Gallus Square. It is a lively square (at least in the warm months) with beautiful half-timbered buildings dating back to the 16th century all around.
One of the things that makes St. Gallen very lively and fun for tourists and locals alike is the number of cafes.
Whether you are looking to sit in or outdoors, there are quite a large number of cafes and restaurants to choose from. So, do as the locals and enjoy some coffee time.
This art installation from 2005 is a public space dotted with several lounges, ginkgo trees, and suspended lights. This red square is a rather unusual place that I have not seen before in Switzerland.
It is cool to stroll for a short while, but it was not my favorite place. I prefer the more authentic and older areas in the city. It is just outside the old town and near the train station, so having a quick peek definitely is a good idea. And if you like it, you can always stay longer.
- Free to visit
- Open 24/7
If you enjoy museums, check out the Textile Museum. It is dedicated to the eventful history of the textile industry in Eastern Switzerland, which began in the Middle Ages with changing exhibitions. The collection includes everything from Coptic fabrics to contemporary creations, but also pattern books with around two million textile samples.
- Open from Monday to Sunday from 10 am to 5 pm
- Entree is 12 CHF for adults, free with a Swiss Travel Pass
CONCLUSION: BEST ST.GALLEN ATTRACTIONS AND SIGHTS
St.Gallen is a beautiful place to visit in Switzerland. Given the tremendous amount of stunning places in the country, I would not spend several days in St.Gallen. However, I think 1 day in St.Gallen is a good amount to see its pretty sights and attraction. It is pretty, unique, and lively. Enjoy!