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Easy Day Trips From Zurich: The Majestic PreAlps Await in Appenzell

June 4, 2014 at 1:15 PM | by | ()

Zurich is one of the top destinations for tourists headed to Switzerland, and as we pointed out, a lot of that has to do with what a great home base it is for exploring the Swiss countryside. Last week, we stopped in St. Gallen near the borders of Germany and Austria, and today we're headed to the rural hillsides of Appenzell in the Prealps.

Get There

Appenzell can be reached in just under two hours by train from Zurich, usually with one train change required. Tickets are about $40 one way and can be purchased at the station or online.


Despite being only 11 miles south of St. Gallen, you will notice a stark change in the landscape as you enter the Appenzell area and emerge from the valley into the front range, or the PreAlps. If you look off in the distance from the center of town, the view will be of rolling hills and endless dairy farms producing milk and Swiss cheese. Enjoy as you walk through town and take in the Swiss mountain architecture. It's very pleasant from a distance as you pop in and out of shops, but as you'll learn, people mostly come to Appenzell to experience the outdoors, so be sure to bring your walking shoes.

Hike and Have Lunch in the Prealps

While the rural feel and rolling hills dominate most of the scenery in town, Appenzell rests at the base of the Prealps, meaning that larger, rocky peaks are also present on the outskirts to the south. Just outside of Appenzell is a small summit village called Ebenalp (about a ten minute train ride, runs constantly). When you arrive at the the Wasserauen train station, you can either begin a hike at one of the trails or take a cable car to the summit. Here, you'll find a great spot to catch an incredibly scenic lunch and a launching point for a bunch of short walks and scenic views.

Indulge in Some Swiss Cheesecake

When in town, you'll find Appenzell is filled with many local specialties. Given all the dairy farms, cheese is obviously a big deal. Definitely visit the cheese shop for a tasting, but be sure to also try the local specialty, Appenzeller Cheesecake. Don't think dessert - think a cross between pizza and Focaccia bread with a "hard-cheese" flavor. You can find it at bakeries and restaurants in town, and its salty nature goes well with a glass of white wine or beer.

Speaking of beer, pop into the Appenzell Brewery to sample its Vollmond Bier, which is brewed along with the appearance of the full moon - a token of the town's old-school appreciation of the moon's relationship to farming cycles. Keep your eye on the labels as you drink, as they are all drawn by a local artist and great pieces of art in themselves.

The last thing you need to try is the local biber. It's essentially a gingerbread cookie, made it different shapes and styles by the town's bakeries. Grab a few to enjoy on your train ride back to Zurich.

[Photos: Paulina Wilczek, Will McGough, Facebook, Will McGough]

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