Discover the smallest city in Switzerland and the world. But will it be the most beautiful in Switzerland?

“What was the name of that pretty little town on the hill near your home?  You know, the one where the houses are joined together to form a wall and the cobblestone streets wave their way through a passageway, down to the little lake where we fed the swans and up to the castle on top of the hill?,” asked my southern visitor.  “That was one of my favorite places we visited,” she added.

The town she asked about is the medieval town of Werdenberg in Canton St. Gallen – the smallest city in the world and always the first stop on my almost professional “Three Castles in a Day Tour”. She isn't the only one impressed. A Swiss newspaper has voted it one of the top nine beautiful spots in Switzerland - the winner will be announced soon.

With 30 houses and a population of approximately 55, it qualifies as tiny. But how does it qualify as a city? In the medieval times, Werdenberg was a marketplace and was offered the status of a city - a status which remains today.

Photo Karen Landolt

The oldest remaining wooden settlement in Switzerland and has withstood more than traffic and their current neighbors, the Hell’s Angels.  The “Städtli” (little city) managed to survive 800 years without a fire or a war. Unlike the strip mall mentality of today, the city planners did an excellent job. The town was never changed or expanded.

Photo Karen Landolt

Today the old town is part of a modern town.  The castle belongs to Grabs and reigns regently on top of a vineyard clad hill and looking down on the lake in neighboring Buchs.  You can walk around the lake in 20 minutes and discover why so many locals do the same each weekend.

Walk through the medieval town past the craft store, art gallery exiting the town. Walk down a busy street, past the Hell’s Angels Villa/Clubhouse, cafés, a gelato shop and restaurants on the lake’s shore, through a wooded path along the lake where ducks and swans follow along. Although it may seem strange, you continue between the homeowners gardens to a passageway through to the old town.

Photo Karen Landolt

Take the stairs back into the old town and admire the history and architecture. The red wooden houses maybe painted today, but originally oxen blood was used for the color. Thank God for progress. Today the covered archways underneath the houses store wood, but originally housed the market stands.

Hike, about 10 minutes under the arched gate which houses the local kindergarten, up to the castle.  Take a rest at the courtyard Bistro for a cappuccino or a beer and enjoy the view before visiting the museum. Step back in time but with state of the art shadow shows and 3D tours. 

Photo Karen Landolt
The town isn’t just a monument. It is a cultural and historical gem for both tourists and locals. Today, “The Werdenberg Castle bridges the gap between the traditional and the avant-garde, it is a stage and a workshop in one, ”said the Cantonal Minister for Culture, Kathrin Hilber at the re-opening of the renovated castle and opening of a new museum in March, 2015.

The Schlossmediale – is a festival celebrating audiovisual arts, a series of concerts spotlighting old music played with medieval instruments as well as new music forms.  The festival offers Exhibitions from acclaimed artists such as the Grabs native and international video artist Pipiloi Rist, whose “Ever is Over All” was bought by the MOMA – Museum of Modern Art in New York.

In summer, Opera dominates on the open air stage in the courtyard during the Festspiele and workshops offer a platform to Switzerland’s youngest talents.
The town, castle and lake aren’t just stops on a sightseeing tour - they are leisure, historical and cultural escapes for tourists and locals alike.  Come and find out why.



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