St. Gallen, in Swiss German „Sanggalle“(en.: St. Gallen) is the capitol city of the canton of St. Gallen. Due to its location in the Lake Constance four-country region (Switzerland, Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein), the city is a good basis for exploring nearby Appenzell with the famous mountain Säntis as well as the Lake Constance region. St. Gallen itself is also worth visiting for its many interesting sights. The town is rather small with a population of 80’000 of which many are non-Swiss. St. Gallen is the economic and cultural centre of Eastern Switzerland and is a lively industrial and university town.
Old St. Gallen
The history of St. Gallen most likely began in the seventh century when the holy Irish wandering monk and missionary, Gallus, is said to have established a hermitage after receiving a sign from God. Many legends surround the holy man who gave the city its name. „Hundert Johr“ (en.: hundred years) later, Saint Otmar founded a monastery in St. Gallen and, in 1180, the city was declared to be an imperial town. St. Gallen was an important and rich city during the Middle Ages; many glorious houses in the old town bear witness to days gone by.
The most famous landmark in St. Gallen is the former Benedictine abbey with its splendid cathedral and world renown monastic library; today, the abbey is the bishop’s seat. The cathedral, which was originally St. Gallus’ and Otmar’s abbey church, was built between 1766 and 1805 and is known to be one of the last large churches built during the later baroque period. „Ihri Ursprüng“ (en.: their origins), however, reach back into the Middle Ages. Saint Gallus (together with a relic: a piece of his skull) and Saint Otmar are both buried In the 9th century crypt as well as later bishops of St. Gallen.
The monastery library is the oldest library in Switzerland and also one of the oldest and largest monastic libraries in the world. The library contains over 2000 manuscripts, 1650 incunabula and approximately 160’000 books. Part of the library is accessible to the public and features breathtakingly beautiful adornments and paintings. The monastic library also houses a special treasure: Schepenese, an Egyptian mummy, „ä Meitschi“ (en.: a girl) that is over 1000 years old and still youthful.
If you meander through the winding streets of St. Gallen’s old town, you cannot miss the beautifully embellished alcoves and balconies of the 16th to 18th century town houses. Some of these buildings are more than one storey and all are decorated with ornate carvings and painted in many different colours. Further sights are the Karlstor, the old Waaghaus and St. Laurent Church which features a watch tower. However, St. Gallen isn’t just about architectural treasures; there are many interesting museums such as the Historical and Ethnological Museum, the Museum of Natural History, the Textile Museum and the Art Museum. The St. Gallen Art Gallery is also very famous and exhibits both national and international art.
Shopping and entertainment in St. Gallen
„Ei Lade an dr andr“ (en.: one Shop after another) can be found around Neugasse, Marktgasse, Spisergasse and Multergasse, which comprise the pedestrian zone of the old town. Whether you are after fashion, antiques, art or junk, this is where you’ll strike lucky. If that isn’t enough, the biggest shopping centre in Eastern Switzerland, the Shopping Arena St. Gallen, is just outside the city.
You might be in need of some refreshments after your extensive tour of the city; St. Gallen has many restaurants where you can stop for a bite to eat. Swiss “Chuchi” (en.: kitchen) is known for its delicious hearty food. In St. Gallen as well as in neighbouring Appenzell, Rösti is a popular side dish; this is a patty made out of grated boiled potatoes and fried in butter.
Other culinary delights that St. Gallen is known for are Schüblig, a type of smoked knockwurst, round loaves of St. Galler bread and „Biber“, a type of Lebkuchen that is often sold as a souvenir. Locals also enjoy eating „Ribel“, a maize porridge that can be either sweet or savoury, although you are not likely to find this in a restaurant.
In nearby Flawil, chocolate is king; in „Schoggiland“ (en.: chocolate land), you don’t just learn all there is to learn about chocolate, you get the opportunity to try your hand at making some. Of course, you can eat and buy all you want as well!
Green St. Gallen and the surrounding countryside
St. Gallen lies in a picturesque valley between two hills, the Rosenberg and the Freudenberg and is surrounded by vast forested areas. The wild river Steinach rushes through the idyllic Mülenen Gorge just south of the city. It’s also very easy to get to the nearby recreational area Drei Weiher; just take the cable railway, Mühleggbahn, from the old town and enjoy yourself in the pool and/or ice skating rink. There’s a gorgeous view over Lake Constance from up there as well. Back in the city itself, the botanical gardens and the animal park are definitely worth a visit.
Venturing a little further afield into Appenzell, but still just a „Chatzesprung“ (en.: short distance) away, you can visit the Säntis, the highest „Bärg“ (en.:mountain) of Eastern Switzerland. You can hike up to it’s peak (but be aware that the mountain is over 2500 metres high) or take the cable car up from Schwägalp and marvel, weather permitting, at the view over six European countries.
Combine this trip with learning Swiss German
We wouldn’t be Learn-Swiss-German.ch if we didn’t connect this article about St. Gallen to learning Swiss German. Visiting St. Gallen is a pleasure on its own, but why not take the opportunity to mix with locals and learn about the culture of the place? We’ve written about that here. Furthermore, we’ve added some words in Swiss German to the text; you can look them up in the vocabulary list to see if you have understood them.
We hope you have lot’s of fun studying! Our online course incorporates a number of videos that should help you enjoy your lessons. Check them out at www.learn-swiss-german.ch
Sanggalle – St. Gallen
Hundert Johr – a hundred years
Ihri Ursprüng – their origins
Ä Meitschi – a girl
Ei Lade an dr andr – one shop after another
Chuchi – kitchen
Chatzesprung – short distance (literally: cat’s jump)
Bärg – mountain