Einsiedeln is a stunning part of Switzerland that you might not have heard about, or have heard a lot about. It is most famous for its Abbey Church, an old Benedictine Monastery that is the most important pilgrimage site of the Virgin Mary in Switzerland.
While the Abbey Church, aka Kloster Einsiedeln, brings pilgrims from miles around, there is a lot more to Einsiedeln than just that. It is the combination of history, architecture, and beautiful natural surroundings with wonderful things to do that make Einsiedeln so special.
In this article, I’ll take you through everything you need to know about the Benedictine Abbey, how to visit it, and all the great things to do in Einsiedeln in the summer and winter.
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How to Get to Einsiedeln, Switzerland
Located just south of Zurich and east of Lucerne in central Switzerland on the shores of Lake Sihl, getting to Einsiedeln is incredibly easy to get from Zurich, Bern, and even Geneva.
There are direct trains from Zurich Airport to Einsiedeln which will have you there in just 1.5 hours. From Bern, it takes 2.5 hours and requires you to change trains at Wädenswil. And, from Geneva, it is about 4 hours and requires changes at Zurich HB and Wädenswil.
Driving takes a similar amount of time as the train, but having your own car gives you a bit more freedom in Einsiedeln. From Geneva, it is a 4-hour drive, Bern around 2 hours, and from Zurich just 45 minutes.
The Abbey, also a Benedictine Monastery, dates back to the 9th century but the exact date is unknown. It was created as a shrine by a Benedictine Monk who brought a statue of the Madonna with him.
The small shrine was then taken over by more Bendictine Monks who turned it into a chapel in the year 940. What happened at the chapel from the year 948 is quite astonishing. On September 14th 948, when the church was about to be consecrated, everything changed.
It is said two Bishops kneeling at the altar saw Christ along with saints and anglers. As one of them tried to consecrate the church, an angel stopped him and told him that Christ himself had already consecrated it the night before.
In 1465, the statue and chapel burned down in a fire but both were rebuilt quickly and over time expanded to become the Benedictine Monastery you see today.
In the 1700s, the Abbey was built and today it is a functioning monastery home to 55 monks who are scholars and teach at the school. It is said that more than 150,000 pilgrims visit the Abbey every year.
The monk who started it all was Saint Meinrad. He was the one to create the first hermitage and shrine on the site of Einsiedeln in the 800s, and it was he that brought the wooden statue of the Madonna to it.
Saint Meinrad was a humble and kind man and often provided a place to sleep and food to passing travelers. Unfortunately, one night he invited in two men who turned out to be thieves that beat him to death after discovering he had nothing for them to steal.
It is a sad story but without St Meinrad, the abbey would not be there today!
The Black Madonna
The original wooden statue of Madonna was burned in the fire in 1465 but the replacement still stands in the Abbey today.
It was referred to as the Black Madonna but wasn’t black. But now the Black Madonna is black as it was blackened by candle smoke for the hundreds of years it has been in the Abbey.
The Black Madonna was thought of as a Christianized pagan Dark Goddesses and is thought of as having esoteric and magical powers.
Today, the Black Madonna sits in the Chapel of Grace in the Abbey and is one of the most important places of pilgrimage dedicated to the Virgin Mary of the Catholic Church in all of Europe.
The Abbey you see today was created in 1719 to 1735 by architect Kaspar Moosbrugger after its stagnation in the middle ages.
It features a stunning Baroque architectural style with an amazing facade, towers, and nave. There are lots of stuccos and frescoes to be found around the Abbey, and there is the Neoclassical Chapel of Grace where the statue is located.
You also have the Abbey Square, the Monastery Grounds, and lots more to see at the Monastery. There is a library, school, workshops, winery, and stables with their own horses that they breed.
Entrance Free and Opening Hours
The Abbey is open Monday to Saturday from 6 am to 8:30 pm, and on Sundays from 7 am to 8:30 pm. Entrance is free but you can book a guided tour to learn more about the Abbey, but this does come at a cost.
What To Do Around Einsiedeln During Winter
Enjoy Einsiedeln Christmas Market
If you happen to be in Einsiedeln between the end of November and the first two weeks in December then you will have the opportunity to see the magical Christmas Market.
The village comes to life during this time and is beautifully decorated with festive lights and lots more. Take a look at all the lovely things for sale at the stores, drink some mulled wine, and enjoy the awesome festive cheer.
Go Skiing, Snowboarding, and More
There are three ski areas where you can snowboard, ski, cross-country ski, and go snowshoeing too around Einsiedeln.
The ski areas of Einsiedeln, Hoch Ybrig, and Brunni-Mythen offer great skiing and have excellent snowfall over January and February. You can also attend the Ybrig ski school, the oldest ski school in the country for some lessons if you need them.
It is an excellent place to go skiing with the family as the slopes are not too extreme but still great for experienced skiers.
Explore The Einsiedeln Village
When the weather is bad, a little trip around the lovely village of Einsiedeln is a great thing to do. You will find museums, restaurants, and lots more to discover. Some of the highlights are the Mineral Museum or Gingerbread Museum and the Zoo is also pretty epic.
What To Do Around Einsiedeln During Summer
Enjoy The Many Hiking & Biking Trails
In the summer you will have access to more than 400 km of biking and hiking trails around Einsiedeln. The trails will take you through forests, valleys, around the lowlands, and the beautiful lake.
There is also a special thematic trail close to the Abbey with nine information boards that teach you about the history of the region. It is only 3.5 km and a great one to do with the family.
Spend Time On The Lake
Summer in Switzerland is all about finding the nearest lake to enjoy, and luckily Einsiedeln is right next to Lake Sihl. You can hang out on the beaches, sunbathe, and swim in the stunning lake.
For anyone interested in water sports, one can rent kitesurfing equipment, paddle boards, and windsurfers to explore the lake with. You can also sail on the lake too if that is something you would enjoy.
Day Trip To Lucerne & Mt Rigi
A wonderful day trip from Einsiedeln is a trip to nearby Lucerne and Mt Rigi. Lucerne is on the banks of Lake Lucerne and the Reuss River.
The views across the lake are incredible, a stroll around the Medieval Old Town is magical, and walking across the famous chapel bridge is a must too.
You will also find the Swiss Transport Museum here, one of the most visited in the country and you can even take a cruise on Lake Lucerne to discover some of the charming lakeside villages.
Just up the lake from Lucerne, you can access the famous Mt Rigi, with the oldest funicular in the country which you can ride to the top.
At the top of Mt Rigi, you will have incredible views across Lake Lucerne and into the alps. There is also a great restaurant at the top plus a bunch of hiking trails you can use to explore the mountain.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Einsiedeln, Switzerland famous for?
Einsiedeln is famous for Kloster Einsiedeln, aka the Einsiedeln Abbey more than anything else. Being the site of the statue of the Black Madonna, where bishops saw Christ, saints, and angels, it is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in all of Europe.
When was Einsiedeln Abbey built?
The abbey was built between 1719 and 1735, and it includes the Chapel of Grace and the statue of the black virgin mary (madonna) that were rebuilt after the originals burned down in 1465.
Where is the Black Madonna Switzerland?
The Black Madonna, a statue of the Black Virgin Mary can be found in the Chapel Of Grace within Einsiedeln Abbey.