Updated: Jun 18
We all agreed that our trip to St. Gallen was one of our all time favourites. Rich in culture and steeped in history, this beautiful town is full of activities for visitors of any age.
We arrived on Saturday afternoon and found a parking space in the centre of town from where we could easily walk to the Tourist Office where we were meeting Monika Raschle who was going to give us a guided tour.
We all liked Monika immediately and began our tour with a visit to the impressive Baroque cathedral which is just next to the tourist office. The cathedral is incredible both inside and out and we were all especially awed by the beauty of the interior which, unlike many cathedrals we have visited, was full of natural light. The paintings and decorative features are just beautiful and we all took a few moments to gaze around us and absorb as much detail as we could. It was really great to have a guide with us to point out some of the most important features and explain a bit about the history. Jude surprised us by having quite a few questions and he’s gaining the confidence to ask which was lovely. Monika was really brilliant with the children and explained things in a way that was easy for them to understand.
We continued to explore the Abbey District with a visit to the famous library which is the oldest in Switzerland and one of the oldest and largest monastery libraries in the world. The children decided that the library with its 170,000 books reminded them of Harry Potter and were captivated by unique hall and all the interesting artefacts it contained. One of the exhibits that caught our attention was the 2,700 year old Egyptian mummy which is displayed in the hall. Again, here it was really great to have such a knowledgeable tour guide to explain the history of this gift to the town and we lingered here while the children asked lots of questions with a mix of horror and fascination. The museum is also home to the oldest book written in German and there are lots of other treasures to discover too. You really must visit this if you get the chance.
Pushchairs aren't allowed in the library but wheelchairs are authorised so we were able to take Elio in with us without having to carry him. Visitors are requested to put some slippers on over their shoes to protect the floors and also expect to leave your bags in a locker outside. Photographs are not permitted inside.
Back outside in the sunshine and we took a stroll through the town to the Red Square. This is known as the largest outdoor living room in Switzerland with its red “carpet”, plenty of seating areas and light installations. The square is located in the heart of the old textile area where Monika showed us some samples of the types of fabrics which were produced here, and gave each of the children a little pot which they filled with compost before adding some flax seeds to demonstrate the origins of how linen is made. The children really enjoyed this and our flax plants are currently happily sprouting on our terrace.
We were lucky enough to have a sunny afternoon and it was such a joy to explore the beauty of the old town and discover the charming streets with their wonderful architecture. The restaurants were coming to life again after Covid and how nice to see people enjoying a drink outside and the arrival of spring in the air. St Gallen boasts lots of museums so there is plenty to do even on a rainy day.
Monika is lovely and the tour was so much fun for all of us with interesting facts, hands-on activities and the perfect pace for the children. We really recommend this as a family activity to get a feel for the city.
After parting ways with Monika, we hopped back in the car to head to our hotel. We were staying at the Säntis Park hotel which is about a ten minute drive from the town centre. It’s a large, modern place and is packed with facilities to make a family visit easier, including a play room, leisure facilities and its very own water park! Sadly this was closed at the time of our visit but due to open on 31st May following the easing of the virus restrictions. It sounds amazing though with a number of different pools, slides and a wave machine. The hotel also has a spa offering a range of wonderful treatments. Discover the room tour here!
We were booked to have an early dinner so we discovered our accommodation which comprised two interconnecting rooms, giving us all plenty of space and everything we needed for a comfortable night. The restaurant is really nice, bright and airy with modern decor. We were staying on a half board basis and found the menu varied with plenty of choice for everyone including the children who we find often only have a couple of options. We enjoyed a delicious meal and after dinner, since it was still quite early, we decided to have a drink at the bar so that the children could enjoy the play room for a little longer. We all slept well and were up bright and early the next morning to begin the days activities. Breakfast was very good with a large selection of hot and cold dishes including sweet and savoury options. We had a busy day ahead so we were glad to have a good meal before we set off.
The first thing on our agenda was a trip to Säntis mountain. We had been keeping an eye on the weather forecast for the summit and realised that it was likely to be VERY cold so we packed up our winter gear before setting off in the car to the cable car station. It’s a short car ride with parking directly outside so we wrapped up the children and were soon waiting for the cable car.
It was an impressive ride up with large hail stones bouncing off the windows of the cable car as we rose higher up towards the summit. As we expected, the temperature up there was extremely cold and windy so Jean and I took turns to go out to the viewing platform leaving Elio inside where it was warmer. We had quite a foggy day so we couldn’t see too much during our visit but its easy to imagine that the view must be spectacular on a clearer day.
Säntis is known as the weather mountain and inside there is a fascinating exhibit dedicated to the subject. Its very child-friendly with plenty of things to see and touch including a tornado machine which enables visitors to see (and feel) how the tornado gathers force. Jude really liked this and spent a while with his hands inside the machine trying to understand how it worked. As a true English woman, I spend a lot of time examining the weather forecast and was very interested to learn more about the science behind measuring and recording the weather. Alba and I enjoyed the area dedicated to snow and we were fascinated by the sizes and shapes of the snowflakes and how they differ depending on the temperature. This is really a great spot for children which provided lots of talking points for us all as well as a wealth of information.
There is also an exhibition of minerals which was interesting. A lot of the information was only in German here so we did a bit of Google translating and managed to cobble together some information on the stones we liked best. Alba was in heaven seeking out the most colourful examples.
There is a restaurant area too which must be a nice spot for a meal during your visit.
After a thorough tour, we were on our way back down again and heading back to the hotel. Our first plan was to look for a restaurant in St Gallen for lunch but since the weather was a bit cooler and only terraces were open, we decided to go back to the hotel for a bite to eat indoors. The children were soon installed with the colouring kit provided so that we could feed Elio peacefully before tucking into our own meals. Jean took a rösti and I had a delicious salad while the children shared some chicken nuggets.
Jude was very excited about our next visit which was a trip to the FFA museum which is the Altenrhein Aviation and Vehicle Museum in English. Our GPS struggled with this for some reason but we found a car park not far from the entrance of the large hangar space where the museum is to be found.
A lot of the planes are the former stock of the Swiss army as well as lots of British produced planes. When we walked into the main room Jude caught his first glimpse of the planes and ran from one to the other to discover which was the fastest, the most powerful, the most impressive. There are some flight simulator games set up in this space so Jean and Jude got stuck into those (my attempts were disgraceful, possibly due to the fact that I had the controller upside down :-)) and I had to drag them away when a queue started to form of other people who were waiting for their turn.
It’s amazing to be able to get so close to so many impressive machines and learn more about their production and usage. There are plenty of beautiful cars here too and Jude couldn’t believe the size of them! We loved the collection of Rolls-Royces and each picked out our favourite. There are a number of more modern sports cars to admire too so it’s really perfect for car enthusiasts of all ages. There is a tea room too which was closed when we went but it would make a fun spot for a drink surrounded by classic cars.
After our museum visit, we decided to head back to St Gallen for an ice cream and a stroll. It’s such a pretty town with so many treasures, it was a real joy to absorb the atmosphere.
Back at the hotel and it was almost time for dinner again so we tidied ourselves up and headed down for an early meal. We have found that eating earlier is easier for us since there are often plenty of other families around to dilute our noise and Elio is less likely to bother people if he decides to shout :-). We had another nice meal and the staff we encountered were so helpful and accommodating. We really enjoyed these family moments around the table and the children are always so excited to eat in a restaurant.
We followed the same format as the previous night and sat in the lounge area for a while after dinner so that the children could spend more time with some newly acquired friends and enjoy the playroom.
All too soon our last morning in St Gallen arrived and we enjoyed another good breakfast before packing up our suitcases. The last visit on our agenda was a trip to Maestrani’s Chocolatarium which was a short drive from the hotel. We were there quite early and there was still plenty of parking outside but I expect it must get quickly full at busy times. It’s very much advisable to book your tickets in advance to reserve a slot on the tour, which starts with the chance to help yourself to some chocolates and a short film explaining a bit about the history of the brand.
From there you pass from zone to zone to discover all about the glorious process of chocolate production. The decoration is wonderful and really captures the essence of how we might imagine a chocolate factory to look. The experience leads you through every part of the chocolate making process from procuring the ingredients (the children found the cow milking game lots of fun) to the end product. We all liked the tasting room of course, where we could sample some melted chocolate. Elio especially loved this part and we had to give him a few spoons :-). Discover ou video here!
The actual factory was closed when we visited but it must be wonderful to see it in action with lots of the production visible from the viewing platform above. Throughout the visit there is plenty of chocolate to try so Elio was a very happy man. We stopped in the shop at the end to stock up on our favourites before we set off for home.
We strongly recommend you to visit this beautiful region of Switzerland. The culture is omnipresent in town and the fun family activities around St-Gallen make it a wonderful place to visit! We would really love to go back with our families when they are able to visit to share this magical place which encapsulates so many of the wonderful things we love about Switzerland.
St.Gallen-Bodensee Tourismus Bankgasse 9 9001 St. Gallen