Switzerland's largest eastern city, bustling St. Gallen is dominated by students during the school year. The narrow streets of the Altstadt (Old Town) are flanked by a wonderful variety of boutiques and antiques shops.
St. Gallen has been known for centuries as both an intellectual center as well as the source of some of the world's finest needlework, including the embroidery that embellished the gown worn by Michelle Obama at President Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony in 2008. But today its commitment to the latest trends in art, design, and architecture marks a new direction for the city, which seems to be competing against Zürich, Basel, and Winterthur as a contemporary art destination.
St. Gallus, an Irish monk, came to the region in 612 to live in a hermit's cell in the Steinach Valley. In 719 an abbey was founded on the site where he died. Soon a major cultural focus in medieval Europe, the abbey built a library of awesome proportions.