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7 Best Things to Do in Appenzell, Switzerland

Appenzell (aka Appenzellerland) is a region in northeastern Switzerland that is divided into two sub-cantons: Appenzell Ausserrhoden and Appenzell Innerrhoden.

This beautiful corner of Switzerland embodies pastoral romanticism. Farms are situated on hilly green pastures framed by pockets of forest. As you take in the idyllic landscape dotted with grazing horned Braunvieh cattle, you might think that you’ve landed in the happiest place on earth.

The Alpstein mountain range forms the backdrop of the Appenzell region. Hiking in the Alpstein is magnificent and surprisingly very accessible. Many day hikes begin, or end with cable cars.

As you’re hiking, you’ll be accompanied by the cheerful bell ensemble of the alpine cows and goats. Perhaps the most satisfying aspect of hiking here is that you can purchase Appenzeller cheese directly from farmers. So, in our book, Appenzell is one of the best places in the world to hike.


Appenzell Map

APPENZELL DESTINATIONS

Accommodations

Schäfler Ridge

Berggasthaus Äscher

Seealpsee – Äscher – Ebenalp

Lake Seealpsee

Marwees Ridge

Saxer Lücke

Lisengrat Ridge

Appenzell Village


Getting Around Appenzellerland

Alpstein Mountains, Appenzell, Switzerland

Appenzell is extremely transit friendly. If you base yourself in Appenzell, Weissbad, or Schwende, it will be quite easy to get around Appenzellerland with trains and/or buses.

If you’re driving to Switzerland from a neighboring country, make sure to buy a Swiss motorway sticker (aka vignette) for 40 CHF. 

The vignette is valid for the whole year. Unlike Austria and Slovenia, there are no shorter period options.

In Switzerland, the “vignette” can be purchased in petrol stations, post offices, garages, TCS outlets, as well as from the road traffic authorities. 


Where to Stay in Appenzell


Appenzell Village

Appenzell Village Landsgemeindeplatz, Switzerland

The lovely town of Appenzell is the capital of the Swiss Canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden.

Surrounded by beautiful countryside, Appenzell is a picturesque town with colorful gabled buildings that house delicious bakeries, restaurants, hotels, apartments, and museums. Read our Appenzell village guide for restaurant recommendations.

Accommodations are always clean and comfortable, but modest. There are no 5-star hotels in this area of Switzerland.

Appenzell is also a great base for those traveling without a car. With train connections to Wasserauen and Weissbad (bus transfer to Brüllisau), it’s effortless to get around to various trailheads.

Budget | Alte Metzg – Hostel offers 3 spotless rooms with communal bathrooms and kitchen facilities. This intimate hostel is walking distance to the Appenzell village center and train station. On-site parking is available, but must be reserved in advance (fees apply). They also run the neighboring midrange Alte Metzg Boutique Pension with private single, double, and family rooms.

Midrange | Blattenheimat – im traditionellen Appenzeller Haus (2 nights minimum stay) is a traditional, gabled house with 2-3 bedroom apartments and free private parking, very close to the Hauptgasse (pedestrian main street of Appenzell). Guests have access to a washing machine and dryer in the basement.

Midrange | Located very close to the Appenzell train station, Hotel B&B Stossplatz is a darling bed and breakfast with free private parking, free bikes, and a shared lounge. Rooms either have shared, or private bathrooms.

Luxury | Hotel Appenzell is located on the historic Landgemeinde Square in the center of Appenzell village. Boasting an excellent restaurant with an outdoor terrace as well as a confiserie (patisserie), this traditional Appenzell hotel is a great option for your stay. Breakfast and parking are included in the rate.

Luxury | Adler Hotel is centrally located at the start of the pedestrian Hauptgasse (main street), across from the Parish Church of St. Mauritius and the Metzibrücke Bridge. This traditional hotel with two restaurants is a great place to stay if you’re traveling without a car. No parking available on-site.

Look for accommodation in Appenzell.


Weissbad Village

Weissbad is a quiet village in Schwendetal Valley between Appenzell and Wasserauen.

Situated on the Gossau–Wasserauen train line of the Appenzell Railways, Weissbad is a great base for exploring the region. It takes a mere 6 minutes to reach Appenzell village by train.

Midrange | Weissbad Lodge, not to be confused with the nearby sister property of Hotel Hof Weissbad (luxury), is a comfortable accommodation with spacious, modern rooms and free on-site parking. The lodge is located on the bank of the Sitter River, just a block away from the Weissbad train station and bus stop. The only negative is the self-service breakfast.

Luxury | Hotel Hof Weissbad accommodates luxury-minded travelers with its two restaurants and bar, two swimming pools, fitness center, spa and wellness area. Breakfast and parking are included in the room rate. The price is rather steep.

Look for accommodation in Weissbad.


Schwende Village

Schwende lies in Schwendetal Valley, just south of Weissbad. 

This village is also located along the Gossau–Wasserauen train line, with direct connections to Wasserauen, Weissbad, and Appenzell.

Midrange | The family-run Hotel Frohe Aussicht, which means “happy outlook,” is a hillside hotel and restaurant surrounded by beautiful countryside. It’s a short uphill walk from the Schwende train station to the hotel. Guests love the views and the restaurant!!!


When to Visit Appenzell

Alpabzug Cattle Drive Descent in Appenzellerland, Switzerland

This Swiss region is very rich in its traditions. We recommend timing your trip with a local festival if possible.

The procession of cattle to alpine pastures takes place every year from mid-May to June. Alpine herdsmen, clad in traditional costumes, and carrying a milking pail (Fahreimer), lead the bell cows up to the alp for the summer.

Side note: the single long golden earring – shaped like a snake – that the men wear in one ear is an ancient symbol of fertility and protection against snake bites. During the ascent, the herdsmen sing and yodel.

From mid-August to the end of September, the descent (Alpabzug) takes place in a similar fashion. You can see photos of this cattle drive in our guide to Almabtriebe in the Alps

We visited in early August, which was perfect for hiking. Serendipitously, the Folk Music Festival was taking place in the town of Appenzell during our visit. Music is an important way in which Appenzeller people uphold their cultural heritage. We were able to hear traditional music, like multi-voice yodeling, and see locals clad in their vibrant traditional attire. 

Here are some annual events that would be memorable to see:

December 31st & January 13th New Year’s Mummers (Silvesterkläuse) – Dressed in grandiose costumes, the Silversterkläuse process from one farm to another ringing cowbells and performing a Zäuerli, which is a traditional wordless natural yodel.

Maundy Thursday (Thursday before Easter) – Ash Wednesday: Carnival. In Appenzell, Carnival is celebrated with Ommetronmmere (drumming) and with the Botzerössli (hobby horses and riders). The wooden hobby horse procession mainly takes place on Saturday.

Fourth Sunday in Lent (March) – Bonfire Sunday has its roots in pagan ceremonies that were designed to drive away the winter and exhilarate the fertility of the fields.

Mid-May to June: Alpine Cattle Drives (Ascents to the alpine pastures)

June-August – Alpine Festivities, hosted by herdsmen, take place on various alps and in mountain inns.

Early-August: Folk Music Festival in Appenzell

Mid-August to end of September: Alpine Cattle Drives (Descents from the alpine pastures)

It’s very easy to romanticize this region as a visitor. However, living in a traditional society has its challenges and downsides too. The women of Switzerland didn’t earn the right to vote until 1970 (very late by European standards). But, the women of Appenzell Innerrhoden weren’t granted the right until 1990 (cringe).


1. Hike Hut to Hut Across the Appenzell Alps

Schäfler Ridge, Appenzell, Switzerland

The Appenzell Alps comprise the Alpstein massif, the Churfirsten chain, Alvier Group, and the Speer – Mattstock Group.

One of the most exciting ways to experience the Appenzell Alps is on a hut-to-hut hiking trip. The Appenzell Alps are studded with charming and hospitable mountain inns, which serve delicious regional cuisine and offer comfortable overnight arrangements (double rooms).

During our second trip to Appenzellerland, we hiked this 3-Day Alpstein High Trail. This U-shaped route runs along the high trails of the Alpstein mountains, starting in Wasserauen and ending in Hoher Kasten, Brülisau. Read Alpstein Trek Stage 1, Alpstein Trek Stage 2, and Alpstein Trek Stage 3 for a complete overview of this thrilling trail.

If you’re interested in a longer trek, we recommend booking the self-guided 8-Day Hut to Hut in Appenzell Alps Standard Itinerary (moderately-paced), or this 6-Day Hut to Hut in Appenzell Alps Active Itinerary (fast-paced).

Whiskey connoisseurs ought to check out the thematic 8-Day Swiss Whiskey Trek.

Those that want to bypass challenging terrain and technically difficult trails should consider this 6-Day Easy Appenzell Alps Relaxed Itinerary.


2. Swim in Lake Seealpsee

Seealpsee Hike, Appenzell, Switzerland

Seealpsee is a picturesque alpine lake in the Alpstein, only accessible by foot. It’s also a popular destination for swimming.

Two trails lead from Wasserauen to Seealpsee in just over an hour. The most scenic approach leads to Seealpsee via the Klein-Hütten mountain pasture. After enjoying the lake, hikers can either return to Wasserauen via the forest road, or extend the hike to Berggasthaus Aescher.

Follow our Alpstein Trek Stage 1 until Ebenalp for details on how to do this. From the Ebenalp plateau, descend to Wasserauen with the cable car.

Experienced mountain hikers can visit Seealpsee along this gorgeous Marwees Ridge Trail.

This 14.5 km circuit trail starts in Wasserauen as well. The route ascends to the Bogartenlücke saddle and then continues all the way up to the Marwees Eastern Summit. The trail clings to the Marwees ridge and then drops down to Widderalp mountain saddle.

A lovely traverse brings you to the charming Berggasthaus Meglisalp mountain inn. The final stretch leads down to Seealpsee and ultimately back to Wasserauen.

For a summary of all three hikes, read our Seealpsee hiking guide.


3. Eat Lunch at Berggasthaus Äscher

Berggasthaus Aescher restaurant and guesthouse in Appenzell, Switzerland

Built into the side of the mountain, Berggasthaus Äscher is one of those places that romances you at first sight. This photogenic mountain guesthouse is a rewarding place to eat lunch after a strenuous hike.

We devoured our Rösti (regional potato specialty: hashbrowns) and Appenzeller Käse (regional cheese) with great pleasure, and likely we’d have ordered more if we didn’t have to hike uphill. We were also astounded by the kind and swift service, despite the number of people.

You can reach this mountain inn by hiking from Seealpsee (see experience above), or from the Ebenalp plateau, accessible by cable car from Wasserauen.

Read our Ebenalp – Berggasthaus Aescher trail guide for more info.

Äscher is also closely located to the Wildkirchli Caves, which contain a cave chapel (1621) and a Hermit’s House, originally built in 1658 and reconstructed in 1972. Herdmen and hermits began selling food and drink here as early as 1800. The caves also were used in the Palaeolithic Era (45,000 to 30,000 BC) by hunters and gatherers. In the early 20th century, archeologists found prehistoric stone tools and the remains of about 800 animals.

Season | May – November 1st

Reservations | First Come, First Served


4. Visit the Appenzeller Schaukäserei in Stein

Appenzeller Schaukäserei in Stein, Appenzell, Switzerland
Copyright: Appenzeller Schaukäserei AG

If the hiking hasn’t convinced you to come to Appenzellerland, then the cheese might.

Appenzeller cheese is known for being kräftig (bold) and würzig (spicy). The unique flavor of the cheese is attributed to the quality of the milk as well as the herbal brine recipe, which is composed of a variety of herbs, roots, leaves, and flowers. The cheese is made from fresh milk of alpine cows that only feed on grass, hay and maize plants. 

A great place to understand the Appenzeller cheese-making process is at the Appenzeller Show Cheese Dairy in Stein. You can observe every step of the process and learn about how cheese-making and tradition are synonymous.

Connected to the showroom is a shop and a restaurant. We sampled a platter of cheese and their fondue made with white wine and cherry schnapps.

Admission | Free

Address | Dorf 711 | CH-9063 Stein AR


5. Hike the Hoher Kasten – Saxer Lücke – Fälensee Trail

Alpstein Trek Stage 3, Appenzell, Switzerland

The Hoher Kasten to Saxer Lücke hike runs along the undulating Eastern Ridge of the Alpstein massif. This scenic high trail offers spellbinding views of the Rhine Valley as well as the Alpstein mountains.

Officially called the Geological Trail, this path links the Hoher Kasten summit, accessible by cable car from Brülisau, with the Staubern mountain inn, Saxer Lücke saddle, Fälensee Lake, and Sämtisersee Lake.

As you journey from the ridge-straddling Staubern mountain inn to the Saxer Lücke mountain pass, you’ll be treated to bird’s-eye views of Fälensee, cradled by a wreath of serrated peaks.

The descent to Saxer Lücke is accompanied by unimaginable views of the vertical Kreuzberg mountain chain. This is one of the most sought-after “photography” destinations in Switzerland.

The name Saxer Lücke (Lücke means gap in German) originated in the Middle Ages. A mule track led from Sax village in the Rhine Valley over Saxer Lücke to Brülisau village, thus connecting St. Gallen with Appenzellerland.

The trail continues to Berggasthaus Bollenwees located on the lakeshore of Fälensee (also spelled Fählensee) and then all the way down to Brülisau village.

Read our Hoher Kasten to Saxer Lücke Trail Guide for a complete and detailed description of this spectacular Appenzell hike.

Distance | 19.3 km circuit with cable car ascent.

Time Needed | 6 hours

Difficulty | Moderate


6. Hike to Lake Fählensee

Lake Fälensee view from Geological Panorama Trail, Alpstein, Switzerland

Fählensee (also spelled Fälensee) is an alpine lake in the Alpstein mountain range. The mountain Inn Bollenwees is located on one end of the lake. On the other end, there’s a dairy farm. This is truly one of the most serene and dreamy places on earth.

The best way to experience the lake is by eating lunch at Bollenwees and walking along the lake to the farm. We stayed at the farm for an hour, watching the white Appenzeller goats return home from a strenuous day of grazing.

To reach this lake, follow the Geological Trail from Hoher Kasten, or hike 2:30 hours from Brülisau.


7. Explore the Town of Appenzell

Appenzell Hauptgasse Main Street, Switzerland

Appenzell is a quaint town of 7,000 inhabitants in Switzerland’s Canton Appenzell Innerrhoden. It’s the cultural and political center of the region.

When you’re in Appenzellerland, it feels like all roads lead to Appenzell, especially when you’re hungry.

What strikes you at first are the colorfully painted facades and curved gables of the wooden houses. Enveloped by bright colors and happy patterns, you can’t help but feel cheerful as you walk through the town center. 

We recommend eating at Gass 17 (modern Swiss cuisine), Chanh (Vietnamese), and Hotel Appenzell (traditional). On rainy days, check out the Museum Appenzell, housed in the same building as the tourist office, and the Kunstmuseum Appenzell, a contemporary art museum.

Read our Appenzell Village travel guide for tips on where to eat and what to do.



More Places to Visit and Hikes around Appenzell


Alps Trip Planning Essentials


When to Visit the Alps

We recommend visiting the Alps in summer (June – mid September), fall (mid September – late October) or winter (late December – March).

Read Alps in Summer to learn everything you need to know about visiting the Alps between June and mid/late September.


Alps Road Trips

Most destinations in the Alps are accessible by transit. If you’re visiting during peak seasons, we recommend traveling with trains and buses.

If you’re visiting during shoulder seasons (late May, early June, late September, October), a car is often essential in getting around.

When we go on hut-to-hut hikes, we always travel with transit. When we want to do a lot of day hikes, we find it easier to travel with a car.

We recommend using the Discovercars.com car rental reservation platform to search for and book car rentals. This easy-to-use booking platform compares car rental deals from 500+ trusted providers, so that you can choose the best option for your trip.

Check car rental rates here

Alps Road Trip Itineraries


Alps Hiking Guides

Hiking in the Alps is our passion.

To learn about when to hike, where to hike, and hiking safety, read: Hiking in the Alps: Essential Tips. For trail inspiration, check out Best Hikes in the Alps.

For region specific trail inspiration, read:


Alps Hiking Essentials


Appenzell Region Travel Guide, Appenzellerland, Switzerland

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Moon & Honey Travel is an independent blog created by two passionate hikers. We are able to provide free content to you, because of ads and affiliate links. When you make a purchase using one of these links, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Happy travels and happy trails,

Sabrina & Kati