Because Zürich, Switzerland’s largest city, is well known as the country’s economic and cultural hub and one of Europe’s main financial and industrial capitals, it’s easy to forget that it’s also a delightful and fascinating place for tourists. Its many attractions include dozens of museums, a well-preserved old town filled with medieval and Renaissance buildings, and enough art – both in and out of museums – to keep art-lovers happy for a week. Zurich’s tradition of liberal thinking and active intellectual life attracted leading figures that included Georg Büchner, Vladimir Lenin, James Joyce, C. G. Jung, and Thomas Mann, and this tradition continues into modern times. Although it buzzes with business activity, Zürich is one of the finest Swiss towns to visit and is perfectly arranged for sightseeing on foot.
The historic heart of the city beats on both sides of the Limmat river, where guild houses, churches and historic places line the romantic little streets and adorn the hidden corners.
Starting at the Zurich Main Station, you can easily discover the Old Town – including the famous “Niederdorf”– on your own. The attractions listed below are the ultimate must-sees of Zurich’s historic city center.
Those who want to learn more about Zurich’s history and past, can participate in the most popular guided city tour, the “Zurich Old Town Walking Tour”. On this tour, professional guides offer fascinating insights on the origins of Switzerland’s biggest city, explain its significance for Switzerland through the ages and also report on famous Zurich personalities.
Zurich Old Town Walking Tour
What do Einstein, James Joyce and Wagner have in common? All three were residents of Zurich. But it´s not only great minds who are captivated by this lakeside city with its well-preserved old town – people from all over the world have always flocked to the thriving metropolis.
On a two-hour walk through the old town, we go searching for clues to the city´s past in its hidden alleyways and picturesque squares. Together, we uncover the secrets of Bahnhofstrasse, find out what a “procession axis” is, and visit a church with a minute-hand that jumps a record-breaking half meter every minute.
This popular tour is filled with numerous astonishing and amusing anecdotes and has plenty to offer both visitors and locals alike.
Best Time to Visit
The temperatures are warmest between May and September, allowing visitors to benefit from the joys of swimming in the lake as well as visiting the city. The Christmas period is also a good time to visit Zurich and soak up the ambiance of the illuminated city, dressed up for the winter.
At 2,850 feet above sea level, Uetliberg towers over the rooftops of Zürich. The mountain affords an impressive panoramic view of the city, the lake and the Alps.
The Uetliberg is particularly popular in November, as its summit is often above the blanket of fog that can cover the city at this time of year. In the winter, the hiking trails to the summit are converted into sledding runs.
In summer, there’s plenty to discover on well-marked hiking routes, a mountain bike route, and on the Planet Trail. This two-hour walk from Uetliberg to Felsenegg (Adliswil) takes you on a fascinating tour through a model of our solar system.
For the best views of the city and the lake, follow locals to their favorite weekend aerie, the 871-meter Uetliberg. Southwest of Zürich, the Uetliberg is the most northerly summit in the Albis ridge, easy to reach by the Uetlibergbahn, a mountain railroad that runs year-round from Selnau station to the upper station. From here it is a 10-minute walk to the summit. The broad walkway is well lit at night and leads to the summit restaurant, a glass-enclosed space with beautiful views of the city lights below. Daytime views from the lookout tower stretch across the Valais, Bernese, and Glarus Alps, with the Black Forest to the north and the Säntis to the east. From here, an easy ridge walk to the Felsenegg takes a little more than an hour, where a cableway descends to Adliswil. You can return to Zurich by the Sihltalbahn. Riding to the Uetliberg at night for a dinner of fondue and views of the city with its lights reflected in the snow is one of the locals’ favorite things to do in Zürich in the winter.
How to Reach
How to Reach Uetliberg
- Uetliberg Address: Zurich, Switzerland.
- Uetliberg Timing: 24-hrs.
- Best time to visit Uetliberg(preferred time): 07:00 am – 02:00 pm.
- Time required to visit Uetliberg: 04:00 Hrs.
Lake Zürich and Bürkliplatz
During all seasons and on all parts of the lake as well as the river Limmat, Lake Zurich Navigation offers various scheduled boat cruises daily (between 1.5h and 4h). Passengers can relax on well-maintained steamboats or motor vessels as well as Limmat boats while enjoying the lovely landscapes that roll past.
For a very special experience, passengers may treat themselves to one of the Lake Zurich Navigation company’s boat cruises on various Dream Boats. Among these are the Fondue Cruise, the Steamboat Dinner or the Late Riser’s Brunch (Breakfast Boat). Whether party person, epicurean or families, there is a suitable Dream Boat for everyone.
|Route:||e.g. Zürich – Rapperswil – Zürich|
|Distance:||length of the lake to Rapperswil 28 km, total length of the lake including upper lake 42 km|
|Duration:||1 h 30 min, 3 h or 4 h|
Bahnhofstrasse and the Bahnhof
Before becoming the Bahnhofstrasse of today, the railway was operated in 1847 as the Spanish Brötlibahn (railway), as well as the station which has remained in the same place as the main railway station or “Hauptbahnhof”. Earlier in 1838, the Hotel Baur en Ville had already opened on 24th December at the Paradeplatz; today it is called Hotel Savoy Baur en Ville. After years of discussion about the relocation of the main railway station, in 1854, the decision was made to keep the main station in place. The planning of the new link between the main station and Paradeplatz began. It was seen as a more ‘cosmopolitan’ solution, and the construction started in 1864, when the ditch was filled up around the water area, which were called Fröschengrabens (frogditch). In 1865 the Bahnhofstrasse between Paradeplatz and Central station was opened to public. The original unpaved roads from decades before were reconstructed as lawns and local streets, until today those traditional pathways developed to be commercial roads as conceptual boulevards.
In 1868, the photographer Johannes Ganz was the first to build a store at Bahnhofstrasse 40. Later, up until the First World War, many others followed and there were more commercial buildings. In 1899, Jelmoli the first department store, opened on the 16th of September. In the 1880s, the upper part of the Bahnhofstrasse (between Paradeplatz and the Lake of Zurich) had been built. From the beginning, the Bahnhofstrasse was also home of the banks. In 1856, the ‘Schweizerische Kreditanstalt’ (today Credit Suisse) was founded and its well-known building was built between 1873 and 1876 at the Paradeplatz. Then the Zürcher Kantonalbank was founded in 1870. In 1869 the Volksbank changed its address and moved to the Bahnhofstrasse in 1928. The Bank Julius Bär was founded in 1890, and the Schweizerische Bankverein in 1889 moved two years later to the Bahnhofstrasse. (same here) The UBS, originally called Schweizerische Bankgesellschaft, moved to the Bahnhofstasse in 1907 and Bank Leu (founded in 1755) followed suit in 1915.
Often mistranslated to Church of Our Lady, the name of the protestant Fraumünster actually means Women’s Church, referring to the founding of an abbey here in 853 for aristocratic women of Europe by the Emperor Ludwig for his daughter, Hildegard. Until the high Middle Ages, the head of the convent was also governor of the city. The church is a three-aisled, pillared basilica with a Gothic nave built from the 13th to the 15th centuries, a Romanesque chancel, and an Early Gothic transept with high vaulting. In the undercroft, you can see remains of the crypt of the 9th-century abbey church.
Although the church itself is worth seeing, what makes it one of Zürich’s most popular tourist attractions is the beautiful set of five stained-glass windows in the chancel created by Marc Chagall in 1970. From left to right, the vividly colored windows show Elijah’s ascent to heaven, Jacob, scenes of Christ’s life, an angel trumpeting the end of the world, and Moses. The rosette in the southern transept is also the work of Marc Chagall. In the north transept is another impressive stained glass window, The Heavenly Paradise, created by Augusto Giacometti in the 1940s. The abbey itself was demolished in 1898 to make way for the Stadthaus, but the Romanesque and Gothic cloister survives, with 1928 paintings by P. Bodmer illustrating the legend of the convent’s founding and the city’s patron saints, Felix and Regula.
Address: Münsterhof, Zürich