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St Gallen, Switzerland

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St Gallen, SwitzerlandSt Gallen, Switzerland
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St Gallen (German: Sankt Gallen, French: Saint-Gall, Italian: San Gallo, Romansh: Son Gagl) is the largest city in Eastern Switzerland. It is the capital of the enonymous St Gallen canton. The city situated 675 m (2,215 ft) above sea level covers 39.41 sq km (15.22 sq mi) and has a population of 73,000 people (2011 estimate).

St Gallen is located in a valley in northeastern Switzerland. Due to its location, it receives more snow than other major cities of the country. To the north of St Gallen is Lake Constance while to the south the Appenzell Alps, where the highest peak Säntis rises to 2,502 m (8,209 ft).

The city of St Gallen began with the founding in AD 612 of a hermitage in the area by its namesake, an Irish monk called Gallus. The choice of location in a marshy area means that many of the buildings that were built had to sit on piles. The city itself developed out of the Abbey of St Gallen which was founded by an Alemannian priest, Othmar, in around AD 720. As protection against regular invasions and raids, the abbey erected a protective wall around it in AD 954.

St Gallen grew to become a noted industrial center specializing in the production of linen, which it exported all over Europe. The city is particularly famous for its intricate embroidery. This cottage industry had its roots in the 19th century. By the early 20th century, embroidery was being mass produced on a large scale. However the industry suffered a major setback after the Great Depression. Today embroidery is still being produced in St Gallen, but only on a small scale.

St-Laurenzenkirche, St GallenSt-Laurenzenkirche, St Gallen
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Today the majority of the people in St Gallen speak German (83%). 27.5% of its population are foreign nationals, the majority coming from the former Yugoslavia, Italy and Germany. As a result, the second most commonly spoken languages in St Gallen are Serbo-Croatian and Italian. 44% of the people in St Gallen are Roman Catholic while 27% belong to the Swiss Reformed Church.

St Gallen has a well-preserved Old Town. It has 28 sites on the list of Swiss heritage sites of national significance, including the Abbey of St Gallen, a World Heritage Site. There are many theaters and museums in the city which I shall list down below.

Visiting St Gallen

You can easily reach St Gallen from Zürich. There are two trains every hour. The journey takes an hour and 10 minutes.

The Museum of History and Ethnology of St GallenThe Museum of History and Ethnology of St Gallen
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Sights & Attractions in St Gallen

  1. Bierflaschen Museum
    Museum celebrating the breweries of Switzerland. It has a collection of over 2,000 beer bottles from some 260 breweries all over the country, providing a fascinating glimpse into the history of beer in Switzerland.
  2. Bohl
    This is an esplanade to the east of the old market square. The main attraction here is Waaghaus, a weighhouse erected in 1583. Today it is used by the local authorities and often holds concerts and exhibits.
  3. Historisches und Vökerkundemuseum
    Museum of the History and Ethnology of St Gallen from prehistoric times to present times. Among the highlights is a model of the city in the 17th century. Also exhibited here are artifacts from foreign lands.
  4. Kunstmuseum
    Housed in a late 19th century building, this is an art gallery combined with a museum of natural history. On one side are paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries, while on a separate wing are displays on the plants and animals of the area.
  5. Marktplatz
    The old market square of St Gallen is surrounded by fine houses from the 17th to the 18th centuries. Many are half-timbered houses with intricately painted frescoes on their façades.
  6. Neue Kunst Halle
    A contemporary art galley where often experimental works are on display.
  7. St Gallen Cathedral (Stiftskirche St Gallen)
    The church of the Benedictine abbey established in 747 and reached its height of importance in the 9th to the 11th centuries. Today it is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture dating to most recent reconstruction in 1767.
  8. St-Laurenzenkirche
    Church that was originally part of the Abbey of St Gallen. It became the center of the Reformation movement in the 16th century. The building that we can see today, in the Neo-Gothic style, is the result of renovations carried out in the mid-19th century.
  9. Stiftsbibliothek
    The library of the Abbey of St Gallen is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture that escaped destruction during the Reformation. The interior has intricate Rococo decorations.
  10. Textilmuseum
    Museum recounting the history of the textile industry in Eastern Switzerland, particularly in St Gallen.
  11. Universität
    The main point of interest in the University of St Gallen lies in its architecture and ornamental decoration. Built in 1963, it successfully integrates paintings and sculptures to its overall design.

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