Bucket List on a Budget
Switzerland Travel Guide for St. Gallen
As you plan your bucket list on a budget trip to Switzerland, don’t overlook St. Gallen! It’s a gem quietly tucked into most Switzerland travel guide books. If you’re craving the countryside or desiring to escape the big city, St. Gallen is perfect for your Swiss travel itinerary. Just a 1.5 hour train ride from the Zurich Flughafen (airport) or 3 hours from Basel/Mullhouse. (These are both easy relaxing rides, so don’t panic). Even if jet lag has hit, this train ride is pretty doable. St. Gallen is so near the borders of Germany and Austria; and Liechtenstein is just up the road, so it’s a great place to start your Swiss Alps trip!
A Brief History of St. Gallen
Wikipedia offers an in-depth look at St. Gallen’s history (it’s long, but it’s free), but here is an interesting new Switzerland travel guide book on the region. I always find it helpful to know at least a little about the region I’m visiting. Very helpful if you strike up a conversation with a local! If you want a bit lighter reading (or for the kids) how about Heidi? It’s a classic story about the life and culture of the alpine people set in the neighbouring region of Appenzell.
Our friends live just a few minutes outside St. Gallen, so this was our home base. It was the perfect place to get a feel for the countryside, enjoy some hiking and experience a small, but bustling town center.
Where to stay in the Swiss Alps?
St. Gallen’s fresh alpine air and morning walks, coupled with fresh bread and hot coffee! Stamp my passport, I’m ready to go!
- There are loads of hostels in Switzerland. The one in St. Gallen has a fabulous view!
- Airbnb has quite a few great choices near the university & the train station. The prices are probably variable based on the season, so book early if you can!
- Places like Bed and Breakfast EU or B&B Switzerland are great options if you fancy a B&B.
Apps you’re gonna need.
This might seem a bit off topic, but you’re gonna need this! If you don’t have it already, go to Google translate , and get this Google Chrome extension on your desktop or the app on your phone/tablet. Stop now, load it (it’s free). You will love the ease of this translator (and it will be helpful with the next section).
Swiss Rail Pass Discount Activities
Remember, this is why you bought that train pass! Just look at what’s free or discounted when you use your Swiss Travel Pass (Here’s where you can read more about why you need a Swiss Travel Pass). You will need to show your printed ticket for entry into each place (and possibly your passport), so make sure you have these items with you. Since many of the sites below will likely pop up in German, just use the Google Translate “translate this page” feature. You downloaded it, right? It’s magic!
- St. Gallen Nature Museum – This museum has just opened in it’s new location. The collection is engaging for kids and adults alike. Great mid-day activity if you are needing a slower pace for your day (but the kids are wanting to get going).
- Stiftsbibliothek. The Abbey Library of St. Gallen is a historically and artistically amazing monastery, library and baroque church. The audio guide is 5CHF, but worth it to get the best understanding of the importance of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s super easy to make this part of your day in town.
- Textilmuseum. Lace crafted in St. Gallen is world renowned. It’s intricate like the making of a fine Swiss watch. Absolutely beautiful! This museum will give you an appreciation for the skill and handwork involved.
- Historisches und Völkerkundemuseum. – The Historical and Ethnic Museum
- Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen. – Contemporary Art Museum
- Museum im Lagerhaus. – Art Museum
- Rhein Fall – beautiful waterfall, castle and outdoor area for the whole family. Certain parts are not free, but the price is reasonable enough. It’s a bit a train ride, but that’s why you have that fancy train pass! A nice stop on your way to Zurich or over to Germany.
- Play in the snow in the winter or
- Go on a “wanderweg” around the countryside where you are staying any time of year.
- Go for a hike to Seealpsee in the winter (if there’s no snow yet) or summer – Spectacular. This ambitious adventure deserves it’s own post ! (Coming Soon!)
If you are a hiking or a backpack enthusiast, then you probably already know about NomadicMatt. Such a great site, I could spend hours there dreaming of my next ambitious adventure!
Pricey, But Worth It
SantisPark – Wallet alert! This one can be a bit pricey (but it’s worth it!). If you are not so much into the history and old buildings or art, then catch a bus and head over to SantisPark. It’s a posh resort-like water park, shopping centre, spa and wellness centre. It has restaurants, great shopping, workout & spa facilities, and a phenomenal water park. Something for everyone no matter your age or ability! It is a bit expensive (2 hours is really enough if you are just doing the water park). It’s a great break from hiking and museum going – especially if you are there in the winter like we were. Swimming in the outdoor hot springs with Jacuzzi and fountains took our breath away!
Finally, enjoy the train ride to your next destination, the view will be stunning. There is so much to see, do and experience in St. Gallen. You could easily spend a week here just enjoying the area, eating the cheese and day-tripping to tons of places on and off the beaten path. No matter how you plan it, I hope you have a bucket-list-dream-come-true Swiss Alps vacation!
Cheap Flights to Zurich
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I’ve collected all sorts of Swiss travel tidbits just for you!
- Secrets for Cheap Flights to Europe
- Save with a Swiss Rail Pass
- Lodging tips & how to save money by eating like a local.
- Bern City Guide