Want to stay away from the famous tourist spots in Switzerland? Try a weekend trip to Appenzell. In the supermarkets of Switzerland, Appenzell draws your attention to cheese and beer. But few know that the most popular, photographed mountain restaurants – Äscher (hanging precariously on a cliff, patronized by Ashton Kutcher) is right here in Appenzell. While on your way up there, the picturesque Seealpsee lake will undoubtedly delay your schedule for all the right reasons. Have I mentioned the bacon and egg-topped Rösti yet? Btw, there are more reasons than one to make time for this picture-perfect region called Appenzell that summarizes everything Swiss in landscape and leisure.
How To Get To Appenzell
Start at Zurich Hauptbahnhof (HB – the central train station) and get your tickets for Wasserauen, from where you can either hike or take the cable car to Ebenalp for the Äscher mountain restaurant. The train to Wasserauen takes about 2 hours from Zurich HB. The Wasserauen station has a charming garden café to fill and fuel up on food and beverages especially useful if you are planning to hike.
Top Things To Do In Appenzell
#1 Take A City Tour
The Appenzell town is a walker’s delight with free-standing houses, a parish church with a Gothic choir, monasteries and historical buildings. A stroll down the car-free street leads you to quaint cafés and craft shops housed in bright yellow, red and green buildings.
#2 Head To The Cheese Factory
Appenzeller cheese is known to be the strongest this country produces both in texture and taste. Hop over to Appenzeller Schaukäserei and discover the ingredients and traditions that go into making this iconic cheese.
#3 Take a Hike
The medium-level hike to Äscher mountain restaurant takes about 3 hours from Wasserauen station with rewarding views of the Santis over Seealpsee and breathtaking mountain vistas.
#4 Cattle Walk In The Summer
Appenzell hosts the yearly alpine ascent and descent of cattle at the beginning of spring (May). At the end of summer, (September/October) farmers in colourful traditional garb lead their cattle either up the mountains or down into the valley. The colourful ceremonial processions are a festive occasion with farmers singing, cowbells clanging and local beverages flowing.
Restaurant Recommendations in Appenzell
If you can make it up to Äscher restaurant, either by hiking or the cable car, the rösti (pan-fried grated potatoes with cheese, topped with eggs and bacon/veg option available too) is your reward. Wash it down with the local beer with the appetite of an Appenzeller. In the town centre, you can find a lot of options for dining-in and takeaway from pizzerias and multi- cuisine restaurants to bakeries and kiosks. But keep in mind that most eateries close by 10 pm.
Where To Stay in Appenzell
Simon’s B&B in Urnäsch was our base for exploring the region. The young family hosts guests in their cosy home, just a few hundred yards from the train station with direct connections to the town centre and Wasserauen. The guest room is tastefully done and stocked with all the essentials. The hosts also provide guests with tips and recommendations from a local’s perspective.
Plan Your Expenses
Expenses entirely depend on whether you choose to make a day trip from Zurich or stay over to explore the region at leisure. In peak season (June to August) expect to spend around CHF 80 to CHF 90 per night on accommodation. The train fare one way per person comes to around CHF 45, lesser if you are a resident with a half-fare card. The trick is to plan and book in advance if you expect a more extended stay to avoid seasonal highs and booked-out disappointments. Appenzell is all this and more. Often overlooked in favour of westward tourist destinations like Interlaken and the Geneva region, this gem of a place can easily find its spot in anybody’s repeat itinerary. If you are feeling too adventurous, explore the whisky trail high up in the Santis. You can also choose to extend your hike on one of the many marked trails. Because as soon as you reach, a platter of Appenzeller cheese and sizzling rösti would always be at hand for comfort.
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