Appenzell – The Traditional Swiss Village of Painted Houses

Appenzell is a small pretty village nestled amidst the verdant rolling hills of Alpstein massif. The traditional village of Appenzell with a mere population of 6k beckons visitors to experience its well-preserved cultures and traditions from middle ages. Appenzell lies close to the border of Austria and Liechtenstein which are just an hour drive away.

Geneva to Appenzell took us close to 5 hours with a train change at Gossau. If you are based out of Zurich, Appenzell is just 2 hours away. The vistas of the countryside all along the way are scenic and keep you glued to the window.

You start experiencing the charm of the village as soon as you walk out of the tiny train station. The street is lined with a small park where the oldies sat and soaked up the relaxed aura of the sunny day and to the right is a pizzeria and a pub painted in interesting colors.

Painted Houses Appenzell Switzerland

Painted Houses Appenzell Switzerland

Painted Houses Appenzell Switzerland

Walking further we came across a huge crowd gathered in front of the Bazar Hersche building. The facade of the gorgeous traditional building was decorated with the beautiful painting of whimsical figures. We made way through the crowd to check out what fascinated the people gathered. Dozens of figurines of gnomes decorated the entrance of the building and few of them also bedecked the roof which made for a wonderful sight to behold especially for the kids.

Painted Houses Appenzell Switzerland

Painted Houses Appenzell Switzerland

We had already spent the first half exploring the cave chapel and the mountain restaurant of Wildkirchli in Appenzell which could be reached by cable car from Ebenalp. The hiking region of Ebenalp in Appenzell is a starting point for several rambling trails in the region of Alpstein. The Appenzell village was a quick stop on the way back before we headed back to Geneva. Beautiful bright spring blossoms bedecked the streets in a myriad of hues which was quite in contrast with snow covered Wildkirchli we visited in the morning.

Painted Houses Appenzell Switzerland

Painted Houses Appenzell Switzerland

At the end of the street is the Parish Church of St. Mauritius. The imposing church dates back to 1071 and is a testimony to the wonderful history of the region.

The exhibits at the Appenzell Museum consist of a wide range of local arts and handicrafts, the local costumes, paintings which offer a great insight into the rich history and culture of Appenzell. To the left is Hauptgasse one of the prominent streets in Appenzell lined with painted buildings. Rathaus or the town hall with its impressive facade painting is another notable building from the 16th Century located in Hauptgasse. The parish church, the town hall and most of the painted buildings of Appenzell are listed as heritage sites of national significance.

Painted Houses Appenzell Switzerland

The main street of the village Hauptgasse was buzzing with omnipresent tourists marveling at the facade paintings of the buildings along the street and capturing them into cameras. The color popping buildings are washed in bright hues and their facades embellished with frescoes and primitive folk art mostly illustrating the daily life featuring the cattles, mountains and the valleys. And to add to this charm the windows burst with vibrant blooms.

The buildings house myriad of small stores, boutiques ideal for shopping and several cafes where you can stop by and relish the local specialties. Lowen pharmacy is one of the Appenzell gems with its facade decorated with paintings of medical herbs on the round-arched boxes underneath the windows.

Painted Houses Appenzell Switzerland

Painted Houses Appenzell Switzerland

The most interesting would be to check out the sign boards or Tafeens as they call it which can be found protruding from the walls above the doors of most of the shops and restaurants in the Hauptgasse. The designs and artworks representing the shops or cafes are masterly pieces to behold.

Painted Houses Appenzell Switzerland

Tucked away amidst the buildings are small squares with open cafes and restaurants where you can taste some culinary delights while taking in the quaint and colorful aura of the traditional Appenzell chalets and its paintings.

Painted Houses Appenzell Switzerland

Painted Houses Appenzell Switzerland

Landsgemeindeplatz is the historic town square which serves as a local parliament where all the villagers gather to opine on the local issues by raising their hands. Historically in this event carried out from middle ages only men of the village were allowed to vote by raising their family swords but after 1190 even women were given the privilege.

Painted Houses Appenzell Switzerland

The most popular and grand ceremony of the Appenzeller is the descent of the cattle in autumn when the farmers lead their cows crowned with alpine blossoms back into their barns to spend the winters. This is something we really wanted to witness but could, unfortunately, could not make it.

Another interesting tradition with the Appenzeller is the yodeling. Originally the farmers communicated to other farmers in the alpine valleys through yodeling today it is endeared as a traditional lore. One can witness this in the cattle descend processions where four yodeling herdsmen follow at the end of the procession which is believed to aid in descending of animals down the mountain to the villages.

Painted Houses Appenzell Switzerland

A stroll across the town one can find several chalets made of timber and steep gabled roofs. The facade and the windows painted in enchanting colors and patterns.

Painted Houses Appenzell Switzerland

Painted Houses Appenzell Switzerland

The tourist office also offers a guided tour of the village on specific day and time which would be a great way to experience and understand the age-old traditions and its people. The villagers are said to don their traditional attires and lucky ones may even spot some women dressed in ornate lace and embroidery work and men in a red vest and a gold earring.

Join us as we take you on a virtual tour of the beautifully painted houses of Appenzell.

A visit to Appenzell is a must to experience traditional Swiss charm and beauty. And possibly a chance to get clicked with one of the natives dressed in traditional costumes. What fun!

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