The northeast of Switzerland
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Appenzell Innerrhoden (©_Switzerland Tourism)

History, Hotels, Visiting the city, Restaurants, Nightlife, Listings, City map

Appenzell, Around Appenzell, Stein, Appenzel's traditions

Konstanz, Rorschach, Münsterlingen, Kreuzlingen

Arrival, Hotels, Visiting the town, The Rhine falls, Restaurants, City map

Arrival and Hotels, Visiting the town, Restaurants, Kartause Ittingen

Travel and details

Switzerland’s rural NORTHEAST – known as Ostschweiz – is one of the least celebrated areas of the country, and is often sidelined by tourists anxious to get to the household names further south. Which, of course, means that you can enjoy the mountains and lakes, medieval town centres and rolling verdant countryside, in relative peace, free from hard-sell tourism and the glitz and glamour of big-name resorts. Most visitors haven’t even heard of the main city of the northeast, St Gallen, and yet its magnificent Baroque cathedral and well-preserved medieval town-centre make it a major cultural landmark. Immediately to the south lies the hilly backcountry of Appenzell, sheltering a close-knit, still largely isolated community of farmers and crafts people occupying the foothills of the Alpstein range. The highest mountain in the region is the Säntis, which tops 2500m – mediocre in Swiss terms, but still tall enough to enjoy plenty of snow, vistas stretching to the horizon and quality hiking in the web of valleys beneath it.

The River Rhine, which bulges out into the huge Bodensee (often anglicized to Lake Constance) in Switzerland’s northeast corner, throws a protective loop around this part of Switzerland, forming international frontiers with Germany to the north, and Austria and the tiny independent statelet of Liechtenstein to the east. At the westernmost tip of the lake, the cosmopolitan shoreside German city of Konstanz is divided from its Swiss twin of Kreuzlingen only by an arbitrary dividing line between buildings. The beautiful river journey west from Kreuzlingen runs past Stein-am-Rhein, an almost perfectly preserved medieval village boasting spectacular sixteenth- and seventeenth-century frescoes and one of the country’s best small historical museums, and ends at the atmospheric medieval town of Schaffhausen, dubbed “Rheinfallstadt” for its proximity to the mighty Rhine falls, the largest waterfall in Europe.

There are a couple of travel passes covering different areas of the Ostschweiz region. The Thurgau Day Pass (Fr.27.50) is best value, covering all transport within Canton Thurgau as well as journeys to and from Konstanz, St Gallen, Winterthur and Schaffhausen. If you’re planning a boat trip along the Swiss shore of the lake or down the Rhine from Kreuzlingen to Schaffhausen, this will save you plenty. The Appenzell-Toggenburg Regional Pass (May–Oct only) takes in St Gallen’s city buses, all the mountain railway and cable-car journeys around the Alpstein including the Säntis, and trains and postbuses from Buchs to Rorschach and Romanshorn: for three days’ free travel in seven, the pass costs Fr.78; for five in fifteen it’s Fr.98.

For information and brochures on the whole region, contact the Ostschweiz Tourist Association, Postfach, CH-9001 St Gallen (071/227 37 37, www.ostschweiz-i.ch).

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