Are you looking for the best things to do in Appenzell? I’ve got you covered!
I have now visited this beautiful and still rather unknown region in Switzerland twice! Here you won’t find hordes of international tourists like in other popular places in Switzerland. Instead Appenzell is a secret that apparently only the locals seem to know of.
But what makes this region so spectacular that you should add it to your bucket list when planning a trip to Switzerland?
The Appenzell region is what Swiss dreams are made of:
- An endless amount of hiking trails that can either be done separately or combined.
- Jagged mountain peaks towering over the landscape.
- Crystal clear lakes surrounded by those mountains where you can take a refreshing dip in the water after a strenuous hike.
- Mountain huts where you can easily spend the night without having to make a reservation months in advance.
- Green pastures where cows and goats are frolicking in the meadow and the sound of cow bells greeting you as soon as you arrive.
- Traditional Swiss vibes with wooden chalets and cobblestone streets.
- A perfect public transportation system thanks to the Appenzell train and the cable car stations.
- Excellent Swiss food.
In this guide I will tell you exactly what I did during my 3 day visit in Appenzell, where I stayed, where to eat and which hikes I did!
Very Best Things To Do In Appenzell – A 3 Day Appenzell Guide
Appenzell is a region in north eastern Switzerland and the Alpstein mountains form its backdrop. Hiking in the Alpstein mountains is very accessible since pretty much every hike can begin or end with taking a cable car up or down the mountain.
During your hikes or if you’re simply out exploring its beautiful nature you’ll be accompanied by the cheerful music of bells dinging and the alpine cows and goats can be seen grazing on the side of the hiking trails.
And on the way you’ll bump into plenty of mountain guesthouses where you can try some of the local delicacies and local mountain farms where you can buy Appenzeller cheese pretty much straight from the goat.
When to visit the Appenzell region
The best hiking weather is mid June through to early October, with many mountain huts opening in early July. When planning your trip make sure to take the weather into account. During my first visit it was raining pretty much the entire time and the mountains were covered in thick grey clouds.
But during my second visit I frequently checked the weather and when I saw 3 days of sunshine appear on the weather app I booked my hotel and drove off to Switzerland.
A lot of these hiking trails are also pretty rocky and shouldn’t be attempted during rainy weather. The rocks can become very slippery and it will make the hiking trail a lot harder and also more dangerous.
Where to stay in Appenzell
I stayed for 3 nights which gave me plenty of time to explore the many hiking trails in the Appenzell region. Their rooms are spacious and offer a stunning view over the mountains or green pastures and idyllic town of Weissbad. Even their single room, which I picked, was pretty spacious with an enormous terrace with a lounge chair on it. Usually the beds in a single room are tiny but that wasn’t the case here!
Their breakfast is served from 8am until 10am, but usually I was already up in the mountains by that time. I did however have dinner here every night and it was absolutely delicious with a stunning view over the Alpstein mountains.
Another plus point is that since I was staying for 3 nights I received a special car which gave me access to almost all of the cable cars for free!
Getting around in Appenzell
If you’re traveling through Switzerland by car you’ll need to buy a vignette upon entering the country. It’s 40CHF but it’s valid for the duration of the entire calendar year. So if you buy your sticker in January and 2023 it will be valid for 13 months, if you only buy it in December 2023 it will be valid for just 2 months. Another reason to frequently return to Switzerland once you buy your vignette :p.
Unlike Austria, there are no 10 day or 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.
Best things to do in Appenzell – A 3 day guide
In this 3 day Appenzell guide I will give you a complete overview of everything that I did every single day. So if you want you can simply copy past my itinerary. I can guarantee you’ll have an amazing time!
Day 1 – Arrival in Appenzell & Lisengrat Ridge Hike
I left our house in Belgium at 3am in the morning, my head was still in sleep mode but after jugging down a first Red Bull Light I jumped into my car and hit the road.
A mere 7.5 hours later I arrived at my destination in Switzerland. I had pretty much planned my itinerary from before and on the first day I wanted to attempt one of the best things to do in Appenzell: Hike the Lisengrat Ridge Trail.
The Lisengrat Ridge Trail
The Lisengratt Ridge Hike is one of the most spectacular hiking trails in Appenzell and one that offers incredible views over the Alpstein mountains the entire duration of the trail.
The Lisengratt Ridge runs between Säntis, the highest mountain in the Alpstein region at 2502m and and the neighboring Altmann (2435m), a shining spire to the east.
I parked my car at the Schwägalp parking lot – parking is free and the parking lot is pretty huge. Then I made my way towards the cable car which was going to take me straight up the mountain.
Taking the Schwägalp cable car is honestly one of the best things to do in Appenzell cause it’s a super steep ride up the mountain. You’ll soar through the clouds and over jagged peaks and end up at the highest peak in the Alpstein mountains.
When standing at the top of Säntis it’s hard to imagine how anyone can safely traverse the rocky ridge line in front of you. But a bunch of ladders, stairs and chain protected parts make it perfectly possible.
I started this hike pretty much in the clouds but when I reached the Rotsteinpass after 1.5 hour it finally started to clear up!
Grab lunch at the Rotsteinpass mountain hut
The Rotsteinpass mountain hut is a wonderful place to enjoy a quick lunch. Their terrace has one of the best views over the Alpstein mountains.
I ordered their spaghetti and had a Möhl, a typical drink from Appenzel. It’s like a sour applejuice and you can choose between one with or without alcohol. Since I was still tired from driving and had to hike all the way back I went with the non alcoholic version.
💡 TIP – Every mountain guesthouse in Appenzell accepts payment by card so it’s not necessary to take out cash before you start hiking.
After lunch I explored the area a little more before I made my way back along the Lisengrat Ridge and went back down to my car.
💡 TIP – The Lisengrat Ridge hike can also be combined with other hikes in Appenzell. For me it just wasn’t possible because I was still too tired and my car was parked in Schwägalp.
If you’re interested in such a longer hike you can do the following hikes:
- Day 1 – Wasserauen – Take the cable car up to Ebenalp – Schäfler – Säntis – spend the night at Rotsteinpass
Day 2 – Rotsteinpass – Meglisalp – Seealpsee – Wasserauen
- Day 1 – Wasserauen – Seealpsee – Meglisalp – Rotsteinpass – Säntis
Day 2 – Säntis – Schäfler – Ebenalp – Aescher – Wasserauen
Day 2 – Hoher Kasten, Saxer Lücke, Falensee
After a good nights sleep at Hotel Frohe Aussicht it was time for another spectacular hike!
Take the cable car up to Hoher Kasten
I started by taking the cable car at Brülisau which goes all the way up to Hoher Kasten. The first cable car goes up at 7.20am during the summer months and thanks to the Appenzeller Card I was able to take it for free.
Once I arrived to the top I was greeted by one of the most amazing views over the Appenzell valley.
From Hoher Kasten it’s about 2 hours and 20 minutes hiking to get to the next mountain guesthouse called Staubern. That early in the morning I was still one of the only ones out on the trail and with the morning sun shining on my face I literally felt on top of the world.
The hiking trail from Hoher Kasten to Staubern is pretty straight forward and has a few inclinations but for most of the time you’ll already be descending.
Off to the right, you’ll see the lakes Sämtisersee and later Fählensee.
Have a refreshing drink at Staubern guesthouse
When I reached Staubern I surely wasn’t alone on the trail anymore. There’s also a cable car that runs from Frümsen and it arrives at the Staubern guesthouse. This is a good option if you’re short on time but I wanted a full day of hiking and do a circular trail. If you take the cable car up to Staubern that’s not possible and you will have to go back the same way that you came.
The Staubern guesthouse is located on top of the mountain and offers an incredible panoramic view. You can sit down for a drink or relax in one of the chairs.
Hike to the famous Saxer Lücke
Now it was time for one of the best things to do in Appenzell! Hike to the spectacular Saxer Lücke viewpoint! From Staubern it’s only 1.5 hour hiking and the trail is pretty easy to follow.
As the trail approaches Saxer Lücke, you’ll have exceptional views of the mountain Kreuzberg. The name Saxer Lücke (Lücke means gap in German) originated in the Middle Ages. At that time, people could cross the mountain more easily from the Rhine Valley to Appenzell and St. Gallen, because of the gap in the mountain.
Once you reach Saxer Lücke get ready to be amazed and take a ton of photos! There are a lot of sharp cliffs where you can stand to take in the views but do be careful. On one side it’s a grassy hill but on the other side it’s a steep drop down straight into the abyss.
But it does make for some epic photos!
Grab lunch at Bollenwees
After 30 minutes of hiking down you’ll reach one of the best guesthouses in Appenzell: Bollenwees. Located on the banks of the stunning Falensee this is the ideal place to grab lunch.
Order a rösti, their house speciality, and top it off with a local Appenzeller beer. Rösti is a Swiss dish consisting mainly of potatoes, sautéed or shallow-fried in a pan. It was originally a breakfast dish, commonly eaten by farmers in the canton of Bern, but is now eaten all over Switzerland and around the world.
You can order a rösti with either eggs, Appenzeller cheese (highly recommended) or bacon. Since it was my first time trying I ordered one with all three which turned out delicious but way too heavy for just one person.
Take a dip in Falensee
One of the best things to do in Appenzell is to take a refreshing plunge in one of the crystal clear lakes. Falensee is the perfect spot on day 2! Later on the way down there’s also Samtisersee but due to the dry weather it was almost completely dried up.
Hike the Erster Geologischer Wanderweg der Schweiz. “Geological Trail”
This is actually the trail that we’ve been on the entire day. And every now and then you’ll bump into an information board with some explanations about the landscape and its fascinating geology.
Bot no worries, you don’t need to read them to enjoy this hike!
The way back you’ll get to admire the ridge line from before from way down in the valley. And the trail back to Brülisau is a lot less strenuous.
Make sure to look around during your hike to take in all of the views one last time before you arrive back at the car in Brülisau.
Dinner at Hotel Frohes Aussicht
Back at the hotel it’s time to take a refreshing shower and get ready for dinner. The restaurant at Hotel Frohe Aussicht has a big terrace which overlooks the Appenzell mountains. Make sure to try their signature cordon blue with Appenzeller cheese.
Day 3: Schäfler Ridge and Seealpsee
On the final day of this long weekend in Appenzell it’s time to discover another famous hiking trail!
Simply park the car at the car park in Wasserauen (you’ll need Swiss coins to pay for parking here) and take the cable car up to Ebenalp.
The first one goes up the mountain at 7.30am and I highly recommend to be there 15 minutes from before to ensure your spot.
Hike from Ebenalp to Schäfler Ridge, one of the best things to do in Appenzell
From the top of the cable car it’s only a 1.5 hour hike up to the Schäfler mountain hut. 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’s one hike that you really should do during your time in Appenzell it’s this one!
After first exploring the ridge a bit I sat down on the terrace and ordered myself some breakfast. A delicious rösti with fried eggs and an apple juice.
Taste the local Appenzeller cheese at Altenalp
Altenalp is a 2,5 hour hike from Schäfler but can also be done through a quicker route. I haven’t done that one myself since I heard that it was very steep. Instead I hiked back towards Ebenalp but after the first descend I went right towards the sign that said Aescher.
At the next intersection I followed the trail markers for Altenalp. It’s a local farm high on top of a green alpine pasture and their goats are running around the farm.
💡 TIP – This is the only place that didn’t accept card but they do accept €.
Take a refreshing dip at Seealpsee
The hike from Altenalp to Seealpsee is a steep one that will take you through the forest below and is often secured with steel cables to hold on to.
But the reward once you reach Seealpsee is so worth it! I won’t lie, I only took off my shoes and socks and jumped right in. I didn’t have my bathing suit with me but who cares, it was so hot anyway, my clothes were going to dry immediately!
After a refreshing dip it’s time for lunch! And what better place to do so than at the Seealpsee mountain guesthouse! I tried there schnitzel and it was absolutely delicious!
Then it was time to hike back down to Wasserauen which took about 40 minutes. The way back is very steep but the road is paved all the way down.
After another long day of hiking I simply relaxed at Hotel Frohe Aussicht and enjoyed one last Swiss meal before driving home the next morning.
I hope this detailed 3 day Appenzell travel guide will give you enough insight to plan your own adventure in the Alpstein mountains!
And if you have any questions simply drop me a comment below!
Charlotte Lint is the founder of Charlies Wanderings.
Charlotte has traveled all over the world and is based in Belgium where she also owns her very own dental practice.
She is an expert on writing efficient travel guides and finding unique places to stay.
Every month she helps over 134.000 people discover the most beautiful places in the world through her detailed travel guides.