Discover the Swiss city full of eastern promise

May 17, 2021, 3 Comments

St Gallen is only an hour east of Zurich but for some people that means it’s completely off the map. It’s not only tourists who maybe don’t venture to the hills above Lake Constance, it’s quite a few locals as well. So this week, I’ll be writing about St Gallen every day to show you everything that I like best about the city in the far east of Switzerland.

Let’s start with the best reason to come: the Abbey. You have to start here because it’s hard to miss. This Benedictine monastery was once at the centre of vast tracts of land but now it simply dominates the city centre. The intricate cupolas of the twin bell towers puncture the skyline, and the Abbey precinct is a wonderfully calm space amid the busy streets nearby.

There’s nothing calm about the interior. Its decoration is ridiculously opulent, almost as if the architects and artists were working under the influence. Take a seat and immerse yourself in the colourful artistry that leaps out at you from every angle. This is Baroque at its Baroquiest, a wedding-cake interior that isn’t to everyone’s taste.

Next door is the crowning glory of the Abbey, if not the whole city: the library. Somehow that word doesn’t do this room justice. It’s not merely a room full of books, it’s a work of art in itself. A riot of Rococo that is almost too much to take in, so give yourself time and walk the room – but slowly, not least because of the slippy slippers you must wear over your shoes.

Pic from St Gallen Abbey Library

Although the painted ceilings and ornate shelves date from the 18th century, the library itself is one of the oldest in the world. Its whole collection includes 170,000 books and 2,100 manuscripts but only a fraction are on display here. If you’re really into history, then also pop downstairs to the vaulted cellar for the displays on how the Abbey was built.

The Abbey was once separated from the city around it but today it’s hard to imagine St Gallen without it. Tomorrow, we’ll venture out to discover the rest of the city centre. For more information, visit St Gallen Tourism website.

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