How to Make the Most of a St. Gallen to Appenzell Day Trip

st gallen to appenzell means seeing rolling hills

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Going from St. Gallen to Appenzell means stepping back in the pages of time. In Appenzell, you will have the privilege of experiencing one of Switzerland’s most traditional and fascinating cantons. I, personally, fell in love with this place.

Not to mention, St. Gallen to Appenzell is a quick and easy day trip that will open your eyes to a completely different part of Switzerland than Lucerne, Zurich, or Geneva.

For example, while in St. Gallen, the bartender at our hotel told us that we could “easily spend two weeks in Appenzell,” and my goodness, he was absolutely right. In the future, I would love to stay in a little quaint guesthouse to simply enjoy Appenzell’s beautiful of the gentle green countryside. Appenzell is amazing and holds a special place in my heart. 

I want you to do your own St. Gallen to Appenzell day trip the next time you’re in Switzerland. I thought St. Gallen was worth visiting for many reasons. One of them was the easy accessibility to Appenzell. 

looking happy and content on a st. gallen to appenzell day trip

Planning Your Visit to Appenzell

Switzerland has some of the best public transportation that I’ve ever used in Europe. Seriously, their trains and buses are frequent and on time, and the interiors are super comfortable and clean. You’ll feel like you’re riding the rails in first class even with a second class ticket. 

Although Appenzell is very rural, a tourist can easily reach the most famous sites using public transportation. Sure, if you want to go deeper into the country to challenge yourself to some longer hikes, then renting a car miiiiight be necessary, but if you just want to come for the day, the train will take you everywhere you need to go! 

Let’s talk about the train in more detail.

this local train will take you between st. gallen and appenzell

St. Gallen to Appenzell Train 

It’s so, so, so easy to go from St. Gallen to Appenzell on the train. Trust me, even if you frequently get lost on public transportation, you have absolutely nothing to worry about over here in Switzerland.

As a traveler and writer, I praise Switzerland’s fast and efficient public transportation system several times on this blog. You can seriously spend months in this tiny country and never bother renting a car. The trains, buses, and boats literally go everywhere, and they’re comfortable too.

A little local train – the S21 or Appenzeller Bahnen – departs St. Gallen’s center on a regular basis.  Buy your ticket or use the SwissPass to board the train. Make sure all tickets are validated with the times and dates ahead of departure to avoid hefty fines. The train from St. Gallen to Appenzell only takes about 40 minutes in total.

To go deeper into Appenzell, I recommend switching at the main Appenzell train station and taking the train to Wasserauen to partake in some spectacular hikes. More on them later.

is st gallen worth visiting - yes because it is beautiful

Why Stay in St. Gallen and Not Appenzell?

I want to emphasize that I have nothing against staying in Appenzell. For some people, particularly more adventurous hikers who want to dive more deeply into the countryside, Appenzell is a perfect choice. I would love to stay in Appenzell one day. 

However, for visitors who perhaps only have 8 days in Switzerland, St. Gallen’s efficient train connections to other regions in Switzerland makes the city a worthwhile base. For example, St. Gallen has super fast connections to Zurich (and its airport) and Lucerne, whereas Appenzell’s train would require making some switches along the way.

Furthermore, St. Gallen is home to many lovely attractions too, including a UNESCO World Heritage Abbey and Library. I loved St. Gallen. I think it’s very underrated and would absolutely recommend using it as a base into Appenzell itself. 

a day trip to appenzell and arriving at the train station

What to Bring on an Appenzell Day Trip

You don’t want to head over from St. Gallen to Appenzell without throwing a few essentials in your bag! Since you’ll spend much of the day outside, you need to feel super comfortable. I personally would bring these six items with you on your day trip. 

  • Day Backpack: Bring a lightweight backpack with you for exploring Appenzell’s towns and natural wonders. You can easily keep a small water bottle, sun lotion, and other essentials in this comfortable backpack. 
  • Hiking Boots: Even as a casual hiker, I still recommend bringing high-quality hiking boots for your trip in Appenzell. The most popular trails in Ebenalp and the surrounding areas are still muddy and messy at times. Protect your feet and ankles as you explore this beautiful region. 
  • Layered Athleisure Clothing: I also recommend layered leisure clothing for visiting Appenzell. Sure, you’ll look like you’re visiting the gym, but stretchy and cozy leggings and lightweight jackets are especially useful. 
  • Lonely Planet Switzerland Guide: Lonely Planet makes my favorite guidebooks. Bring a Lonely Planet Switzerland guidebook to see everything on your wish list. 
  • Mirrorless Camera: Last but not least, if you want to take the best pictures, you need to invest in a compact and highly quality camera, such as Sony’s Alpha’s Mirrorless camera, to snap your memories of Appenzell.

day trip to appenzell town

What to Do on an Appenzell Day Trip 

Appenzell has plenty for a traveler to see and do. Hikers will want to spend most of their time exploring Appenzell’s diverse trails. However, travelers who also want to eat some local food and learn some history will have to plan carefully to see everything with their limited time. 

I was able to see all of these attractions with just a single day in Appenzell. Yup, all of them.

At the same time, I didn’t feel rushed or overwhelmed either. Appenzell’s atmosphere just forces you to slow down your pace and not worry about the time. Not to mention, trains constantly run in the reverse direction back to St. Gallen, so you don’t have to fret about being stranded in Appenzell (although would that be such a bad thing really?).

appenzell museum teaches you the history of this region

Appenzell Museum

Do you want to learn all about Appenzell’s unique history? Then you’ve certainly come to right place by stopping at Appenzell Museum.

This delightful museum was founded in 1879 in order to preserve Appenzell’s rural culture. I personally loved all the examples of intricately stitched Appenzell embroidery. I felt a deep respect for the time and commitment it took to sew even one dress. The thought is humbling. 

Appenzell Museum also hosts special exhibits on a regular basis, so make sure to check their website ahead of time to see what’s on.

inside st mauritius church in appenzell

St. Mauritius Church

As much as Europe’s grand cathedrals take my breath away, the smaller town churches also touch my heart, and are always wonderful places to relax and unwind, particularly after a long day of sightseeing. 

St. Mauritius Church is a beautiful place of quiet and prayer that is located right in the center of Appenzell town.

I definitely recommend that you visit to admire the ornate frescos, windows, and alter. The art feels like it surrounds you considering the church itself isn’t very big. The grandeur will surprise you and touch your emotions at the same time. 

day trip from st. gallen to appenzell promises great food
Let’s Dig In and Eat!

Restaurant Hof

I hope you arrived to Appenzell with an empty stomach! Because it’s time to devour some classic Appenzell fare at one of the local restaurants in town. Appenzell town has a variety of food options for visitors, but I personally loved my lunch at Restaurant Hof. 

This cozy restaurant is inside a quaint Swiss home. Honestly, Restaurant Hof is a little bit touristy, but the meals are both hearty and delicious, and all food is very authentic to the region. I loved dining at this place! The staff was also very helpful and friendly, which is comforting to a newer traveler who may be exploring Switzerland for the very first time.

You can find Restaurant Hof right in the heart of Appenzell town.

shop in the town of appenzell
Get Ready to Spend Money!

Appenzell Shopping

In Appenzell, you’ll also encounter plenty of shops with the goal of separating you from your money. Sure, you’ll encounter plenty of touristy shops selling cheesy souvenirs, but you’ll also find a lot of awesome local home goods stores, fashionable independently owned boutiques, and an exquisite little chocolate shop.

Go with an open mind. Don’t worry about spending money on a trinket that will remind of your trip to Appenzell. 

st gallen to appenzell: ebenalp is a must see
Time to Explore Ebenalp.

Ebenalp Cable Car

Okay, remember how I said that you need to continue onward after arriving in Appenzell and head to nearby Wasserauen? Well. Here you can take the cable car up to stunningly gorgeous Ebenalp, which is the northernmost summit of the Appenzell Alps.

Ebenalp Cable Car efficiently carries walkers and hikers to the summit in only six minutes. I personally recommend taking the cable car in the morning hours, because clouds tend to roll in later in the afternoon, unless you’re blessed with a brilliant sunny day. 

Once you’re at the summit, close your eyes and listen to the cow bells ring all around you. Honestly, the song of the cow bells floating into my ears made me feel incredibly at ease, at peace. Don’t simply rush down the walking trails. Stop. Listen. 

a mountain church gem in appenzell

Wildkirchli Caves & Chapel

From the cable car station, follow the walking trails down the the side of the mountain for even more spectacular natural wonders. As a disclaimer, I’m not in great shape, nor am I a skilled hiker, and I was still able to complete this walk without too much difficulty. The most important thing is to bring sturdy hiking boots. Take good care of those feet!

Eventually, you will walk through the prehistoric Wildkirchli caves where stone tools were discovered, indicating that this place was inhabited over 40,000 years ago. As you continue walking, you’ll also encounter a serene chapel skillfully built into the mountainside. 

And then, of course, the most famous postcard image of Appenzell comes at the end of the path. 

appenzell is absolutely beautiful everywhere

Aescher Guesthouse

Last but certainly not least, probably the most iconic views of Appenzell are at Aescher Guesthouse (or Berggasthaus Aescher). This beautiful guesthouse welcomes hikers from May to November. Even if you’re not staying here, you’re more than welcome to sit at one of the outdoor tables and drink a local beer, as you gaze out at Appenzell’s lush mountains. 

Not joke, Aescher Guesthouse is so beautiful that I was moved to tears. I could’ve spent hours sitting here with a journal and drink. 

Ultimately, you will feel like taking a St. Gallen to Appenzell day trip was well worth your time, energy, and money.

st. gallen to appenzell worth it for mountains

I hope you enjoyed reading about all the reasons why you should do a St. Gallen to Appenzell day trip. Of course, feel free to reach out with other questions and ideas for this guide! Hope you make it to Appenzell really soon! 

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