The Top 10 Things To Do And See In Zürich's City Centre
The Swiss capital is one of the most atmospheric places to spend your holiday and it’s ideal for a quick city break. In the heart of the city, visitors can marvel at the historic architecture, go shopping in Zürich’s famous Langstrasse or just sit back with a cup of coffee and watch the crowds pass by.
Zürich’s Altstadt – or old town – remains one of the most atmospheric parts of the city with its historical buildings and enchanting architecture. Regular and often free walking tours offer walks through the scenic quarter while providing further insight into the city centre’s history. Next to contorted, cobbled lanes and charming cafes, visitors can find the Grossmünster, the Peterskirche and the Fraumünster in this cultural epicentre. Additionally you can stroll to the quaint Niederdorf district filled with eclectic boutiques and coffee houses or proceed to the Bahnhofstrasse, Zürich’s most glamorous shopping street. As soon as the sun sets, the old town sets the scene for a bustling night-life scene with numerous bars and cosy restaurants.
A historic image of Fraumünster church | Public Domain/ WikiCommons
The Fraumünster is one of Zürich’s most important landmark and its convent once possessed great influence throughout the city. It was founded in 853 by King Louis the German for his daughter Hildegard, who became the first abbess. Until the 13th century it was home to many noblewomen until it passed into the ownership of the city after the Reformation. The most noteworthy architectural features are the Romanesque chancel, the high vaulted transept as well as the stained glass windows by Augusto Giacometti. The main attraction of the Fraumünster is the set of five stained-glass windows which were designed by Marc Chagall as late as 1970.
Ever wanted to feel like Charlie in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory? Why not visit Lindt’s chocolate factory and the adjoining shop and indulge in the delicious, sweet treats. The famous Lindt factory of Zürich has gained a worldwide reputation and also opens its doors to visitors to make their own pralines and other delicacies. For a small fee you can participate in a two to three hour workshop to learn more about the art of chocolate and even take your self-made treats home with you. The carefully instructed course offers some intriguing insights into the delicate work of the chocolatier and where better to do this than in Switzerland, a country renowned for its quality chocolate.
Over the last decades Zürich has increasingly become renowned for its extensive selections of dazzling artists and is one of the best places in Europe for art enthusiasts. Zürich’s Kunsthaus exhibits works which span from the Middle Ages to contemporary art, with a definite focus on Swiss art. Next to medieval sculptures, expect to find Baroque paintings and masterpieces by Alberto Giacometti. Swiss artists are represented through, among others, Pipilotti Rist and Peter Fischli. Other noteworthy pieces include key works of Chagall, Picasso, Monet, Backman and Kokoschka. Additionally the gallery is home to the largest Edvard Munch collection outside of Norway.
The atmospheric Bürkliterrasse was named after the city’s former engineer Arnold Bürkli and was inaugurated in 1887 as the crowning finale of the bustling Bahnhofstrasse and the the park area surrounding the lake. The terrace offers panoramic views over Lake Zürich and as far as the Alps and is ideal for taking a seat under the trees while marvelling at the scenery. Additionally you can find a boat harbour here, where you can hop on one of the many lake cruises.
The Grossmünster is another of Zürich’s famous landmarks and was completed in 1230. According to legend, Charlemagne built the Romanesque cathedral on the graves of the city’s patron saints, Felix and Regula. The Grossmünster has a fascinating history and was the site of the Swiss-German Reformation by Huldrych Zwingli and Heinrich Bullinger Most noteworthy features are the stained glass windows by Sigmar Polke, the cloister Reformation Museum, the bronze doors by Otto Münch and the Romanesque crypt. The famous twin towers are a significant emblem of the Swiss capital and the architectural structures which imitate Imperial Roman styles make it one of the most impressive buildings in the city.
The magnificent Tonhalle is one of Europe’s most renowned concert halls and home to one of Switzerland’s leading orchestras. It was inaugurated in 1895 by Johannes Brahms and its eponymous concert hall offers incredible acoustics. The symphony orchestra features about 100 musicians from all over the world, who perform over 100 concerts per season. Lovers of classical music can enjoy some of the most dazzling shows in the country and marvel at the talented musicians and their skilful, instrumental play.
Why not take a trip with one of Zürich’s cruise ships and enjoy a leisurely tour of the Old Town. Between April and October visitors can jump aboard the boats at the National Museum which will take them all the way down to the lake, past the historic building, the Grossmünster and the Town Hall all the way down to Lake Zürich. A round trip takes about an hour and is worth it even in hazy weather. The boats have been fitted with glass roofs so that you can be sure to catch a good view of the atmospheric scenery from wherever you are sitting.
If you ever wanted to take a look at the universe, why not make your way up the 157-foot-high tower and take a peek through the main telescope which allows magnifications of up to 600 times. Urania was first inaugurated in 1907 and newly renovated in 2007 for its 100th anniversary. Experienced guides give tours throughout the week providing introductions to astronomy and support with the use of the observatory’s historic telescope, the Zeiss refractor. Particularly dazzling are views of the planets and the moon. And once you’re finished why not marvel at another panorama by visiting the scenic Jules Verne Bar in the same building with a 360 degree view over the city.
The National Museum is worth the visit due to its architectural charm alone and looks much like a fairytale castle. It was first opened in 1898 and continues to attract visitors from near and far. Inside the walls of the charismatic building, visitors can marvel at the cultural history of Europe and in particular of Switzerland. Exhibits range from the Middle Ages to modernity and include an extensive collection of Gothic art, chivalry and wooden sculptures as well as Swiss furnishings, an Armoury Tower and a coin cabinet. The museum provides an insightful look into Swiss history and its cultural heritage is worth inspecting.