St. Gallen, also referred to as St. Gall is a Swiss town located near Zurich and just a few minutes from Switzerland’s border with Germany. This beautiful town has about 160,000 inhabitants, with most residents speaking Alemannic Swiss German dialect. The town is famous for being home to the University of Gallen.
Is St. Gallen a Good Place to Live, Visit, Retire, Work or Buy a House? St. Gallen exudes an atmosphere of old European towns, making it perfect for those who love the old town feeling. This town is quiet and serene, and is filled with numerous shops, restaurants, and is home to the Textile Museum. Though the living costs are a bit on the high, living in this Swiss town is worth it.
Some important recommendations to future travellers: Basic living items like toiletries are very expensive in St. Gallen, so it is better to carry some before going there.
Switzerland is not a member of the EU; therefore they cannot import many things cheaply. It is really expensive to eat at restaurants or to purchase drinks at bars. However, despite the high cost of living, St. Gallen is a great place for a small-town person, because everybody knows everybody in this town.
Is St. Gallen a Good Place to Live?
St. Gall is a city that offers plenty of activities to do and many exciting attractions to view. Tourists flock at this place, particularly during the summer, but many would agree this is a good place to live in spite of the season. Expats living in this city can look forward to an excellent education system and convenient transport system.
There aren’t any bad neighbourhoods in this city. Switzerland has a good balance of wealth, which means that the minimum wages, average pensions as well as other forms of income are sufficient to not incite envy of better-off people. Moreover, Swiss people generally dislike all types of show-offs and they hate blowhards.
On the flipside, social control is very rigid. Everybody needs to try and maintain cleanliness and tidiness, and have a vehicle that is not likely to break down and interrupt the lives of others. All in all, I feel that St. Gallen is a place of bourgeois respectability with a hint of a rural atmosphere.
A great place to visit is the cosy Rock Story in Augustinergasse. This is a great place to go for a drink and watch some sports. The employees there speak English fluently and are always kind.
For a quick coffee and some cake, the Café Doessegger is a perfect spot in the town centre near Markplatz. The café has been serving residents for years and is always busy. Though I find the menu selection a bit limited in comparison to other places, the food quality is really fantastic and always fresh.
Drei Weihern (Three lakes) is a wonderful picnic place. Spend the afternoon diving in and out of the water or just relax on the grass while enjoying some food and music. It might feel like the entire town is there at times, but the general atmosphere is awesome.
How’s the weather? St. Gallen typically has 2 months of continuous sunshine during summer and regular temperatures ranging between 25 and 30 degrees. During winter, the city experiences real snow for about 2 months from January to February. The snow allows for skiing activities. The temperatures in winter can fall to as low as -5 degrees. Spring and autumn bring rain and regular temperatures of 10 degrees. St. Gallen is guarded against wind chills by the narrow valley, making it really advantageous to live here.
Important things to know when moving to St. Gallen
- Although French is considered an official language that is taught in schools, it does not mean that the local residents are pleased to hear or speak it. If one cannot speak German, it is better to use English instead.
- Do not assume that all the accommodation in Switzerland is world class standard just because this country is very rich.
- The Swiss do not cook at home much; therefore, there are usually tiny, inconvenient kitchens even in the biggest of apartments.
- The quality of education in Switzerland is good, but not all schools are good.
- Most locals rely on public means of transport, mostly because owning a personal car is super costly and inconvenient.
- Things are very expensive in St. Gallen, so it is better to shop for household goods at the border in Austria as things are a lot cheaper there.
Is St. Gallen A Good Place To Work?
The unemployment rate in this Swiss city is just below 5%. Helvetica Insurance is a major company based in St. Gallen that is among the biggest employers in the city along with tourist accommodation centres and universities.
English speaking expats can easily find jobs in the hospitality sector because hotels are always seeking English speaking staff. However, job opportunities are quite limited in St. Gallen itself and many choose to commute to Zurich instead every day using the AI where work offerings are more.
Salary negotiations for expats in Switzerland are normally very hard. Job adverts rarely indicate the salary and potential workers are usually expected to quote their salary expectations prior to or during the interview. This can be beneficial for those who know the going rate and how to push it. However, in many cases job applicants may either state an amount that is too high and be forced to go lower (or miss out completely), or state an amount that is too low and end up missing out on a couple thousands.
The average monthly salary of a person who is employed in St. Gallen is about 6,718.98 EUR. 75% of the people make at most 8,814.92 EUR per month, 50% make at most 5,802.86 EUR per month and 25% of the people make 5,201.17 EUR per month.
Is St. Gallen A Good Place To Buy A House?
In the canton of St. Gallen houses are available for sale in Rheintal, Rorschach, Sarganserland, See-Gaster, Toggenburg, Werdenberg, Wil or other surrounding regions. However, buying a house in Switzerland as an expat is not easy. Owners are required to have a residence permit or citizenship to be allowed to purchase a house; otherwise foreigners are limited to choose holiday homes with a limit on the number permitted. Such rules help to guard the land and house values from going too high for locals.
Moreover, the property one can buy is limited to a size normally between 200 square metres and 250 square metres. In general, expats are only permitted to purchase one house, particularly when purchasing a holiday home. The only time where one can purchase 2 homes is when they are transitioning to a new house. In such a case, the first house should be sold prior to entering the second home. Fortunately, selling is not normally an issue in Switzerland.
Another important point to note is that expats who own homes are not allowed to rent out the home in part while still living in it. In addition to that, in the beginning years that a person owns a home (whether a Swiss or an expat) there’s a 100% capital gains tax charged that effectively prevents owners from flipping homes and effectively causing the market to skyrocket.
Is St. Gallen A Good Place To Retire?
In general, St. Gallen may be a good place to retire because it is a scenic and quiet town that offers great amenities. Though the general cost of living is very high, the transport system is excellent. There’s no need for a personal car while in this city because the bus and train network is efficient.
However, a car may be necessary when going for long trips to the mountain side or shopping for large, bulky items. Rather than buy a car (which can be really expensive due to the cost of maintenance, parking fees, taxes and tyre changes), it is way cheaper to just hire one on the days when a car is really necessary.
St. Gallen has an old European town atmosphere, making it perfect for those who love old towns. The area is generally safe and the locals are keen on maintaining the overall cleanliness of their town, so this is a good place to retire.
The cuisine offered in the numerous restaurants and hotels is always fresh and mouth-watering. Long evenings during summer present an opportunity for a great night out in the city sipping on a fine glass of beer. Events are in plenty all year long and tourist attraction sites are many too.
Is St. Gallen A Good Place To Visit?
St. Gallen is a great place to visit, and here are some reasons why:
- This city exudes a feel of the Old Town. The atmosphere is quiet and serene and offers a great opportunity to enjoy scenic views of the town while sipping a cup of coffee or some beer.
- There are plenty of shops, eateries and accommodation areas.
- Fashionistas can get great inspiration at the Textile Museum. St. Gallen is considered a fashion hub in Switzerland.
- Peter and Paul Wildlife Park is a major attraction in this city. It is open all-year round for local residents and tourists to view and take photos of the wildlife which includes red deer, wild cats, marmots and wild boars. There’s a restaurant in the park too where people can relax while enjoying some tantalising food.
- Three Lakes is a must visit tourist site. I find the place ideal for spending some quality time with family. Children will especially enjoy running around on the beautiful grass.
- The Abbey of St. Gall is a European church that is recognised as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site. It is adorned with outstanding architecture.
- Maestrani Chocolate Factory has the most delicious Swiss chocolate in St. Gallen. The factory allows visitors to view the making of the mouth-watering Swiss chocolates.
- Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen is simply a haven for art lovers. Established in 1985, this museum is filled with fascinating art pieces that are bound to captivate anyone’s interest.
- The Abbey Library in St. Gallen is amongst the oldest libraries in the globe and is a recognised UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.
- The city offers quality and delicious food in all its restaurants.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.