St. Gallen – A Lovely Swiss Town
The capital of the canton with the same name, St. Gallen is a lovely little town in Switzerland, whose origins go back into the 7th century, when a dedicated Irish monk called Gall (hence the name of the town) established a hermitage in this area. Initially a modest place of living for Christian recluses, it has evolved into a large urban agglomeration with a service-based economy and excellent transport links with important destinations inside and outside the country.
The town is situated approximately 9 miles southwest of Lake Constance, and it represents the gate to the Appenzell Alps. Many interesting museums, medieval churches and old buildings can be admired during a relaxed stroll around St. Gallen. The Marktplatz in the northern part of the old town, for instance, holds beautiful burghers’ houses from the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as a statue of burgomaster Joachim von Watt that dates back to the 16th century.
The most important attraction of the town, however, remains the Benedictine Abbey, an impressive religious complex from the 8th century, built on the same place where St. Gall founded his hermitage around 612 AD. The Carolingian-era abbey was reportedly founded by St. Othmar, and in the 13th century it evolved into an independent principality. UNESCO added it to the famous list of World Heritage Sites in 1983 together with its amazing library.
Also founded by St. Othmar, the Abbey Library of St. Gall is a sight that no tourist can afford to miss. It is not only the oldest library in the country, but also one of the earliest and richest libraries in the whole world. It holds an impressive total of 160,000 volumes, including some 2,100 manuscripts from the 8th through to the 15th century, and about 1,650 incunabula (books printed before 1501).
The books are available for public use today, but those printed before 1900 can only be read in the special Reading Room. In order to make the old manuscripts more accessible, many have been made available in digital format. Even if you don’t have time to sit and read anything during your visit to St. Gallen, a visit to this magnificent place is a must. They say that the library hall is one of the most perfect library rooms in the world and also the most beautiful non-sacred Rococo room in the country.
Even though there are many remarkable old buildings in the town, tourists should not expect to only see historical architecture everywhere they turn. Take for instance the imposing Municipal Theater. Situated in the cultural heart of the city (Stadtpark), near some very interesting museums, this building is an excellent example of Brutalism, an architectural style of the 1960s and 1970s characterized by the extensive use of exposed concrete, for the exterior and the interior as well.
And finally, when your tour has ended, take a few more hours for one last rewarding stop. The Botanical Garden with its 8,000 species of plants awaits its guests, inviting them to unwind and enjoy the wonderful Mother Nature. This is one invitation you should never refuse!
- Once every three years a special festival is held on St. Gregory’s Day. Called Kinderfest, it is dedicated to the little ones and it pays tribute to Pope Gregory I with bright colors, various stalls, street entertainment and a grand parade.
- Luxe accommodations can be enjoyed at Einstein St Gallen Hotel, Säntispark Hotel, and Radisson Blu Hotel.