What You Need To Know
St. Gallen is a city south of Lake Constance (Bodensee), in northeastern Switzerland. It’s home to the Abbey of St. Gall, a monastery of various architectural styles including baroque. The complex includes a library with a rich collection of ancient books, and a twin-towered cathedral. Nearby, the Textile Museum details this important local trade. Many buildings in the old town have decorative bay windows.
Embedded between pre-Alpine hills in Eastern Switzerland, the city of St Gallen has the rare distinction of being on the border of four countries.
Area: 39.38 km²
Population: 75,310 (2015)
- The Swiss franc (CHF) is the only official currency in Switzerland. The franc is the only currency accepted everywhere. The Euro is the currency in the neighboring countries Germany, France, Italy and Austria, and in many other European countries.
Nevertheless, you can pay with Euros in many shops, hotels, rail stations and gas stations in Switzerland. This is convenient if you’re only in transit or only stay for one night. Many smaller shops, market stalls, kiosks, etc. only allow payment in Swiss francs. Note that the Euro is a foreign currency in Switzerland, so accepting it results in extra costs and risks for shop owners. Therefore, if you pay with Euros, change will be in Swiss francs and the exchange rate is mostly not in your favor. For longer stays, it is cheaper and more convenient to have Swiss francs at hand.
- Credit cards and debit cards are widely accepted, so there is no need to have large amounts of cash at hand. You can pay larger amounts by cards and take along some cash for smaller payments and places that do not accept cards.
Swiss francs can be obtained from ATM’s. They are available in all towns, and you usually find them at the post office, rail station and shopping center. In general this is the cheapest way to obtain cash. Your bank can provide exact fees. To save time upon arrival, it can be handy to purchase some Swiss francs before you depart.
Your bank may charge fees for both cash withdrawal through ATM’s and credit/debit card payments.
The climate is warm and temperate in St. Gallen. The is a great deal of rainfall in St. Gallen, even in the driest month. According to Köppen and Geiger, this climate is classified as Cfb. The average annual temperature is 8.1 °C in St. Gallen.
Switzerland has four official languages: German (spoken by 64%), French (20%), Italian (6.5%) and Romansh (0.5%). A lot of Swiss speak English fairly well, especially the younger generation. So generally getting by in English is no problem.
Health and security
- The Swiss healthcare system is globally known as an outstanding model, with among the highest amount of healthcare expenditure in the world after the US. Swiss healthcare combines public, subsidised private and totally private healthcare systems to create an extensive network of highly qualified doctors (many of them from elsewhere in the EU) and Swiss hospitals, the best equipped medical facilities and no waiting lists – but it all comes at a price.
Switzerland’s healthcare system derives a significant portion of funding from mandatory Swiss health insurance premiums (averaging around EUR 450 per month) and out-of-pocket payments, meaning there is no free healthcare in Switzerland. In line with the high cost of living in Switzerland, Swiss health insurance equals around 10 percent of the average Swiss salary.
- Switzerland on the whole is a very safe place to live and bring up children. There are good and bad places to live, but everything is relative.
- Switzerland is not a member of the European customs union. On the one hand that gives you the opportunity to buy real tax-free goods at airports when you are travelling from and to Switzerland. On the other hand there are tight restrictions on the goods you can take free of customs duty from Switzerland to your country. For EU-countries the following customs and tax allowances apply (for other countries check with the according customs authorities):
Tobacco: 200 (50 to some countries) cigarettes or 100 (20) cigarillos or 50 (10) cigars or 250 gr (50) of smoking tobacco.
Alcohol: 1 litre of spirits over 22% vol or 2 litres of spirits with less than 22% vol, 4 litres of still wine, 16 litres of beer.
Other goods: Max. value of all goods: 430 euros for air travellers and 300 euros for other travellers.
Goods over these limits must be declared when entering a EU-country, additional taxes and VAT may apply.
- Switzerland is known as one of the more expensive countries to visit in Europe, and visitors are advised to choose their dinners wisely. However, responsible planning can help you avoid paying too much. While a three-course meal with wine will cost you more than 40 Swiss francs per person, you can have sandwiches that will cost you no more than eight francs. Also, remember that in Switzerland, most restaurant bills include service. Unless service is exceptional, there is no need to add any further server tip. However, visitors should be aware that the credit card bills leave open the ability to tip. If you’re not paying attention, you may end up paying far more for the meal than you realized.
- Visit the Lapidarium of the Abbey Library, Lots of early medieval stonework came to light when the abbey was excavated in the 1960s.
Now, in the bowels of the abbey you can delve into the site’s Early Medieval origins.
In these vaults you’ll see a forgotten repository of Carolingian art, in the form of carved capitals and the imposts that would have been above them.
The exhibition down here also has a model of the abbey as it would have been in the 9th century.
There’s information on the life of the abbey’s patron, the 7th-century Irish monk St Gallus, as well as details about the culture and history of the monastery.
Visit the Drei Weieren , The high ridge forming a boundary against St Gallen’s southern neighbourhoods is a beautiful public recreation area.
This is Freudenberg, where you can amble for captivating views of the city, but also swim if the weather’s right in summer.
There are five artificial ponds at the highest point, and these have historic origins.
The first two were dug in the 17th century to provide the city with a water supply, and more followed over the next 200 years.
People have been swimming in the ponds since the 1700s, and today two are available in summer, one with free access and another that requires admission.
Weather-permitting, you can go ice-skating on the Buebenweiher pond in winter.