Approximately 37 kilometers southeast of Zurich lies the town of Rapperswil, part of the Rapperswil-Jona conurbation. With its lakeside location, Rapperswil invites you to enjoy a pleasant afternoon visit. For example, if you managed to visit the Bächlihof pumpkin farm in Jona in the morning, why not end the day in Rapperswil? Rapperswil’s main attractions are its historic center with its 13th-century castle, rose gardens (which is why Rapperswil is also called the “city of roses“), and the longest wooden footbridge in Switzerland.
How to reach Rapperswil
You can get to Rapperswil by train from Zurich Main Station on lines S5, S7, or S15. The journey takes 36-43 minutes, and a one-way ticket costs CHF 17.20 (CHF 8.60 with a Half-fare card). The train station in Rapperswil is right on the edge of the Old Town. Boats to Rapperswil from Zurich (Bürkliplatz) leave every hour during the summer, and the cruise takes just over two hours.
I probably don’t need to remind you that you can find the timetables for all the trains on the website or, better still, on the SBB app. For details on boat transport on Lake Zurich, click here.
What to see in Rapperswil
Suppose you are interested in history, culture, and beautiful natural scenery. In that case, you should take a walk through this picturesque town, which is, among other things, an essential point on the famous Via Jacobi. The Via Jacobi is one of the three routes on the Swiss part of the European pilgrimage route, namely the route from Nuremberg to Geneva and then to Santiago de Compostela. For pilgrims following the Via Jacobi, Rapperswil is a vital stopping point to find accommodation, food, and other services along their journey.
The Old Town
The old town of Rapperswil is full of historic buildings, picturesque streets, and little squares that make you feel like you’ve returned to medieval Switzerland.
On the main square (Hauptplatz) of the Old Town, you will find several cafes, restaurants, and shops offering excellent refreshments and shopping opportunities. It is a pleasant place to relax and observe local life, for example, from the garden of the Koivu Café.
From the main square, you can climb the stairs to the 13th-century castle. The castle is currently closed for renovation, but at least you can get to the ramparts terraces, where you have a fantastic view of the town and the lake. Children will love the deer park on the castle grounds.
Interestingly, until May 2022, the Polish Museum was located here, documenting the history of Poles in Switzerland, Polish emigration to Switzerland, the Solidarity trade union, and the personality of Pope John Paul II. Due to the city’s intention to renovate the castle and set up new exhibitions, the Polish Museum had to leave its premises in the castle after 151 years of existence (in the future, it will be opened in the former Hotel Schwanen). But at least the Polish Pillar of Freedom remained. And while you’re here, don’t forget to peek at the St. Johann Catholic Church.
The wooden footbridge
Once you’ve explored the picturesque streets and corners of the Old Town and headed back to the station, take the underpass to the other side. In a few dozen meters, you’ll reach the shores of the lake. This is the start of the wooden footbridge that connects Rapperwil with the village of Hurden. The wooden footbridge dates back to the time of Rudolf IV. Habsburg-Austrian in 1358. Although finds of wooden bridge pylons date back to 1525 BC a Roman wooden bridge from the late 2nd century has also been archaeologically documented*.
In April 2001, an 841-metre-long and two-and-a-half-metre-wide wooden bridge of modern construction was opened on the site of the old footbridge. It is the longest wooden footbridge in Switzerland. It stands on a total of 233 posts.
Circus Knie and Kinderzoo
All Swiss know this family circus, which has been touring the country from March to November since 1919. The circus has dozens of animals, and hundreds more can be found in the Knies Kinderzoo. You’ll find it about a 10-minute walk from Rapperswil train station at the Oberstrasse.
As a hockey mom, I also have to mention this 🙂 If you’re a hockey fan, right next to the zoo is the St. Galler Kantonalbank Arena, where the local league club Rapperswil-Jona Lakers play their home games. Of course, in addition to the hockey game, you can also come here for public skating.
Bächlihof Jona Pumpkin Farm
And a few bus stops away is the aforementioned Bächlihof pumpkin farm. It’s open all year round, not just in autumn when the famous pumpkin sculpture exhibition takes place.
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