The village of Appenzell and the Canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden are situated in a singularly beautiful landscape of rolling hills. The region is known for rural customs and traditions such as the ceremonial descent of the cattle in autumn and cultural events such as folk music and rustic dances, as well as hiking tours in the Alpstein region.
With about 7,000 inhabitants, Appenzell is the political, economic and cultural center of Appenzell Innerrhoden, the smallest Swiss canton. The car-free village beckons with pretty lanes and a myriad of small stores and boutiques that are ideal for shopping and browsing. The facades of the buildings are decorated with frescoes. Appenzell Museum, which is in the town hall, shows a cross section of Appenzell’s history and culture.
Those visitors seeking noise, hustle and bustle, and crowded ski pistes will be disappointed in Appenzell’s winter manifestation. The hilly pre-Alpine landscape and the mighty Alpstein take on the appearance of a snowy-white winter fairytale. Winter walking and cross-country skiing are very widespread in the hilly Appenzell landscapes. A wide network of around 200 km of cross-country ski trails extends through Appenzell. Kornberg, Hoher Kasten and Ebenalp-Schwende are popular ski areas with families in winter.
New Year’s Mummer
Like patches of bright color dotting the snowy winter landscape, the mummers procession is probably the Appenzellers’ most venerable winter tradition. On the last day of the year – and according to the old Julian calendar on the 13th of January – men and boys costumed as one of the typical characters in traditional masks and colorful robes proceed through the Hinterland and Midland towns in the canton of Appenzell Ausserrhoden. In the early morning hours, the «beautiful», «ugly» and «forest and nature» figures take to the streets in groups, the so-called «Schuppel». Ringing traditional bells and yodeling, they go from door to door wishing everyone a Happy New Year. The dazzling spectacle dates back to the fifteenth century and still fascinates spectators from all over Switzerland and the surrounding countries year after year.
Nowhere else in Switzerland is the transformation from the hilly landscapes of the Swiss mittelland to the rock-dominated Alpine world so full of surprise as in the Alpstein region. Mighty rock formations tower loftily to over 2500 meters in height – seemingly from nowhere.
A cableway operates between Wasserauen and the Ebenalp (1644 m) – the gateway to the hiking region of the Alpstein – and the “Wildkirchli” cave chapel, which appears to claw dramatically to the rock, can be reached on foot in only 15 minutes by walking through an initially gentle landscape and two caverns. But the position of the Aescher hostelry, captured a thousand times on postcards, is even more spectacular, having been built precariously into the rock face. The Ebenalp is also a paragliding paradise and starting point for the hike up onto the Säntis summit. Mind you, the ascent up onto the Säntis by cableway from Schwägalp is far less strenuous!
Appenzell benefits from a particularly dense network of rambling trails, including ‘experience trails’ such as the barefoot trail near Gonten, a trail which enables you to experience nature, and the circular chapel trails. Further walking regions in Appenzell: the Kronberg (1663m), which can be reached by cableway from Jakobsbad, and the Hohe Kasten (1795m), whose summit offers magnificent views down into the Rhine valley.
Seeing this event may get you interested enough to visit the Roothuus Gonten Center for Appenzeller and Toggenburger Music. More of an archive than a traditional museum, this establishment has thousands of copies of sheet music and is busy digitizing their archive so that this musical heritage (which is quite different from the rest of Swiss-folk music) is preserved. In Appenzell, there is also a good chance you will hear the dulcimer because it is an integral part of Appenzeller music. That said, you will most likely hear one of Johannes Fuch’s dulcimers. A second generation dulcimer builder, he is one of only six remaining craftsmen in Switzerland. The special wood he uses has been dried and aged for 70 years. This does wonders for the sound.
This Swiss region is very rich in its traditions. 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 takes place in a similar fashion.
We recommend timing your trip with a local festival. 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)
What to see in Appenzell
A visit to the town of Appenzell should be on your list, too. It is very beautiful and attracts the most tourists in the region, in particular for it house facades.The first house, Kreuz, spurred the owner of the house Raben to make his colorful and on it went. To best see the town, go to the tourism office and take a guided tour of the town.
Granted, the town is quite small. widely known Appenzeller cheese.
The colorful and car-free center of the village should probably be your first stop. Here, you will find many charming leather and blacksmith shops. If you are interested to find out more about Canton’s history, knock on the door of their town hall. This beautiful building houses the Appenzell Museum where you can explore local beliefs, costumes, hand embroidery, folk art and furniture painting.
Tucked behind the beautifully painted façades, speciality shops of all kinds will entice you to take a leisurely shopping spree. Here you will find handcrafted and culinary Appenzell products. Sleepy corners, historic buildings, beautiful paintings, quaint restaurants and gardens invite you to enjoy an adventure full of surprises.
At the butcher, try the local Mostbröckli (cured beef) and other sausages. At the bakeries, look for Appenzeller Biberli (soft gingerbread filled with an almond paste). And in Appenzell, ask for the famous Landsgmendchrempfli – a special baked good that used to be only for election Sundays.
- Museum Appenzell
The Folklore Museum is housed in a modern building next to the show dairy in Stein (Appenzell Ausserrhoden). Major collection of peasant art. Cheesemaking in the original Alpine hut, weaving at the satin stitch loom, embroidery at the manual stitching machine as well as film shows.
- St Mauritius Church
Another interesting site is the Parish Church of St. Mauritius. It is located in the northeast corner of the town next to the Sitter River and dates back to 1069.
- Kunstmuseum in Appenzell
The museum, opened in 1998, is housed in a very interesting 1,644-square-meter / 17,700-square-foot building, designed by the Swiss firm Gigon & Guyer, easily recognizable by its saw-tooth roof and its metallic exterior.
The architects designed the exhibition space of the museum as a collection of ten small to medium-sized rooms, from 30 to 50 square meters each, apt to accommodate artworks of different type and size.
The Kunstmuseum Appenzell also contains a reading room, a small video room, a shop, and a relatively large entrance hall which can be also used as a multifunctional space for meetings, lectures, and presentations.
Externally, the building is entirely clad with satin stainless steel shingles which, together with the zigzagging roof shape, are reminiscent of the traditional rural architecture of the canton Appenzell.
- Hampi Fässler’s Atelier
One of amazing places to visit is Hampi Fässler’s Atelier where he makes leather goods with metal decor. You can buy one of the legendary belts here or if you are lucky see how he delicately works pieces of metal into the shape of cows, dogs and farmers.
- Awesome hikes in Appenzell
The Schäfler Hut (Schäflerhutte) is perched up above the incredible Schäfler Ridge, which is one of the most dramatic sections of the Alpstein region in Appenzellerland. If there is one hike you should do while in Appenzell it is this. You get so much along the way and then the finishing viewpoint is this incredible ridge, which will blow your mind.The hike starts in Wasserauen and then takes you up the mountain to the world-famous Aescher Cliff Restaurant, before passing through Ebenalp and then up to Schäflerhutte and Schäfler Ridge. I advise staying overnight at the mountain hut so you can enjoy the sunset and the sunrise at this amazing spot.
- WHAT TO EAT & DRINK IN APPENZELL
Appenzeller Cheese – regional cheese with a distinctly bold taste.
Rösti – hash browns. You can order Rösti with eggs, Appenzeller cheese (recommended), and bacon.
After knowing all the amazing facts about Appenzell, add this destination to your traveling bucket list.