Travel Diaries: One Day in St. Gallen and Heidiland, Switzerland

One of the highlights of our recent trip to stunning Switzerland was definitely our visit to the city of St. Gallen and its neighboring town Maienfeld — more popularly referred to as Heidiland. Since we visited on a weekend, we were already expecting these touristy places to be extremely busy. But surprisingly, instead of pushing our way through lots of other tourists coming from all directions, we were so happy to discover how peaceful and incredibly low-key both of these places actually were.

Our one day trip to St. Gallen and Maienfeld last June (with Zurich as our base) truly felt like the perfectly quiet and relaxing retreat that we both needed.

After landing late in Zurich from Dubai, we decided to get an early night to rest so we'll have a lot of energy for our first Switzerland adventure. The very next morning, we hopped on the 10AM train from Zurich Flughafen station to spend the first half of our day in St. Gallen, a quaint little city in the northeastern side of Switzerland, which really made an impression and struck major fancy after watching the tearjerker rom-com Meet Me in St. Gallen a couple of months ago.

Meet Me in St. Gallen
St. Gallen is only one hour away from Zurich. At first I was underwhelmed when we got out of the train station because it didn't seem much, but as we started walking further and further into its Old Town, discovering charming stoned alleyways lined with colorful storybook-worthy looking houses along the way, and seeing baroque architecture in every corner, that's when it suddenly dawned on us: we're in for a special treat.
As you walked around the St. Galler Bleichi district (the city’s shopping and business centre), it’s impossible not to spot this unique area called Roter Platz or the red carpet square of St. Gallen — a public lounge where they literally painted the town red. It’s the city’s initiative to encourage people to go out and enjoy the outdoors with its rubber benches, play area, and even a red molded sportscar. Not so into it to be honest because to me it sticks out like a sore thumb in the middle of the already charming landscape of St. Gallen, but atleast my husband thinks it’s cool. I’m guessing the red sportscar had something to do with it. :)

It was a Sunday when we went to St. Gallen, so a lot of the establishments were closed, but we were able to attend mass inside the famous St. Gallen Cathedral — a Roman Catholic church, which is actually a part of the Abbey of St. Gall, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The church service was in German so I didn't understand a single word (haha!), but my eyes feasted on the church’s pastel-colored interiors, intricate pillars, and its overall baroque design, which I could best describe as “classically chic”. The inside was surprisingly light, airy, and felt almost whimsical, which was unique and unlike most old churches we've visited before.


We also had a short visit inside the famous Stiftsbibliothek or the Abbey Library of St. Gall — a medieval monastic library considered as the oldest library in Switzerland and apparently houses over 160,000 volumes. Opening hours of the library is from 10am to 5pm and last admission is at 4:45pm. At the time of writing this post (August 2019), a single adult ticket to the Abbey Library costs CHF 12. Children under 16 years old can enter for free as long as they are accompanied by their parents. 

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take pictures of the library interiors since it's not allowed, but it's reminiscent of those huge dreamy libraries you’d imagine only in fairy tales. It's any book dork's perfect haven for sure! :)

After downing a delicious cup of hot chocolate and some light desserts inside Chocolaterie am Klosterplatz — a small cafe just right across the cathedral, we boarded the next train to get to our next destination: Maienfeld.

Meeting Heidi, A Girl of the Alps 
There was a quick train change in Sargans station, but Maienfeld is only an hour train ride from St. Gallen. Train system in Switzerland is one of the most reliable and comfortable in the world, so commuting from one city to the next was relatively easy.


Maienfeld is a compact and walkable municipality, most popularly known as the setting of Johanna Spyri's classic book "Heidi" — the very reason why we were there. It's actually the place that initiated everything about our entire trip to Switzerland and how I have always pictured Switzerland in my head throughout the years.

Bubbly little Heidi, her supportive friend Peter, her grumpy but severely misunderstood Grandpa, and their herd of cutesy goats will always conjure some of the best memories of my childhood.

At first we were supposed to ride the Heidi Bus (PostBus) from the station to get to Heididorf, but decided against it at the last minute, so we can explore more of Maienfeld on foot. The Heidi trail was easy to navigate from the station since they conveniently placed red signage that says "Heidiweg" and brown signage that says "Heididorf" which you can both follow to guide your walk.


We took our sweet time walking around and relishing the peaceful sounds of nature — past the old houses, beautiful expansive vineyards, cows, and lush greenery. Maienfeld looks incredibly tranquil and picturesque with the snow-capped Swiss Alps as its backdrop.


However, I almost forgot that I suffer from asthma and that I'm not at all in shape to do a full-on hike, so the supposed walking time from the train station to Heididorf of only 35 minutes became more than one hour for us because we needed to lie down on the grass a lot of times for me to literally catch my breath and not die. Luckily, there's a drinking fountain located in every corner and the town’s fresh air helped a lot in my ordeal.

It was a tragically comedic experience because we found ourselves crying and laughing at the same time when we finally reached Heididorf after an exhausting hike of what felt like a million years. One of the local farmers even stopped feeding his cows to briefly check on me as he thought I passed out and needed to be sent to a hospital. Quite embarrassing for me, but what an absolutely sweet guy!

One tip: Don’t live a sedentary lifestyle and exercise! Don't be like me!

Heididorf is open from 10am to 5pm. Ticket costs CHF 13.90 each for adults, and CHF 3.90 for kids (aged 5 to 14 years). With the ticket, you get access to Heidi's Mountain Hut, the original Heidi house, and Johanna Spyris' Heidi world.

It's not much, but fans of the book would definitely enjoy reliving their childhood memories and being surrounded by nature. There is also a small gift shop that sells Heidi chocolates, books, and other souvenirs.


After exploring Heidi's house, we then resumed our hike and had an early dinner in nearby Heidihof Hotel and Restaurant. We ordered some pasta and well-deserved scoops of ice cream (a highlight in any hiking trip for me!) while enjoying the view of the Alps as the sun sets.

But since we’re being honest, it's more like "while largely worrying on how I'd go down from the mountains," since there's obviously no way I can do it all over again on foot. To make matters worse, there was no Uber or busses available anymore that I even contemplated on checking in Heidihof hotel to stay the night instead.
Fortunately, the friendly servers of Heidihof were so nice to arrange a cab for us to go back to the train station. We paid CHF 20 for the cab and instead of dropping us in Maienfeld station, the nice driver suggested to drop us in Bad Ragaz station so we can board directly without having to change trains anymore to get back to Zurich. He also drove us around scenic routes and tried his best to share some interesting stories about Maienfeld and Bad Ragaz which really made taking the cab worth it. 


And if God doesn't answer them at once I shall know it's because He's planning something better for me... — Heidi

Our one day itinerary to St. Gallen and Maienfeld in Switzerland was such an adventure and could pass as one of the most fulfilling daytrips we’ve ever taken together.

3 comments

  1. I actually havent heard bout St. Gallen before but this post is making me want to go there. And my my! Those pictures of Heidiland look soooooo incredible! You guys are lucky!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It looks even better in person. :)
      Thank you for your kind words

      Delete
  2. Switzerland also has one of the lowest crime rates in Europe. Another interesting fact about Switzerland is that it has been neutral for over 700 years and has not seen war since the times of Napoleon.Geneva car hire

    ReplyDelete

Back to Top