The imposing church with its two towers is a Zurich landmark. Legend has it that Charlemagne had the first church erected as a monastery on the graves of the city’s patron saints Felix and Regula. In the first half of the sixteenth century, Grossmünster was the starting point of the Reformation in German-speaking Switzerland under Huldrych Zwingli and Heinrich Bullinger. The theological school, which at the time was part of the monastery, would go on to become the University of Zurich. The glass windows by Sigmar Polke, the Roman Catholic crypt, the choir windows by Augusto Giacometti, the bronze doors by Otto Münch and the Reformation museum in the cloister are just some of the many sights worth seeing at Grossmünster.
Zurich’s landmark mountain rises up in the west of the city. Those who scale the peak of the Uetliberg (871 metres above sea level) can enjoy a magnificent 360-degree view out over the city and the lake, and reaching as far as the Alps. In summer, the Uetliberg is the starting point for signposted hiking and biking trails, as well as the Planetenweg (planet trail). This two-hour hike leads to the station of the Adliswil–Felsenegg cable car in Adliswil and provides a fascinating insight into our solar system. Some of the routes are transformed into exciting toboggan runs in the winter.
The first town hall was built on the eastern bank of the Limmat over 700 years ago. The current and third building replaced its wooden predecessor at the end of the seventeenth century. The town hall built across the water has been preserved extensively in its original state. While incorporating baroque elements, its basic features are Renaissance inspired, and the building’s interior also brings together a range of styles. A permanent exhibition of historical artefacts and artworks tells the story of political life in Zurich.
Le Corbusier Pavillon
The final building to be designed by Le Corbusier is located on Lake Zurich. The world-famous Swiss architect planned the cube at Zürichhorn as an exhibition space for his collection of artworks – including everything from sketches and drawings to oil paintings, sculptures and furniture. When designing the Pavillon, which was inaugurated in 1967, Le Corbusier did away with concrete for the first time and created a building structure comprising only steel and glass. He remained true to his philosophy of “new architecture”, however, and constructed the supporting framework using flexible and modular elements using inexpensive and functional industrial materials. The roof appears separate from the building structure, hovering over it like an umbrella. Coloured enamel panels give the exterior of the cube a rhythmical structure.
ETH, University and Polyterrasse
The imposing Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich was constructed in 1864 from plans drawn up by Gottfried Semper. The University of Zurich was established 50 years later in an adjacent and no less impressive edifice, and is today frequented by over 30,000 students and staff daily. The Polybahn takes you up from Central to the Polyterrasse in front of the main building of the ETH in just a few minutes. From this terrace you can enjoy superb views of Zurich’s old town.
In the fourth century, a Roman fort stood on Lindenhof – 500 years later, Charlemagne’s grandson built a regal palace on the very same site. This area continued to be a place for gatherings by Zurich’s residents right up to the beginning of the modern era, with the oath sealing the Helvetic Constitution being taken here in 1798. Today, Lindenhof is a haven of peace and tranquillity, high above the west bank of the Limmat in the heart of the city, and a popular vantage point offering a spectacular view of the old town with the Grossmünster and town hall.
The Urania Sternwarte enables visitors to have a fascinating view of the cosmos through a telescope installed at the top of the 48-metre-high circular tower which magnifies the celestial bodies 600 times. Once you have examined the craters of the moon or taken a closer look at the gas clouds on Jupiter, you can continue your journey of discovery in the Jules Verne Bar, where the panoramic windows directly below the observatory offer a unique view of the city.
Founded in 853 by King Louis the German, this church with its convent was inhabited by the female members of Europe’s aristocracy. The convent had considerable influence and enjoyed the patronage of many kings, and up until the thirteenth century the abbess had the right to mint coins. Ownership of the church and convent passed to the city of Zurich after the Reformation. Important architectural features include the Romanesque chancel and the high-vaulted transept. The north windows of the transept were designed by Augusto Giacometti, and the five-part cycle in the chancel and rosette in the southern transept is the work of Marc Chagall. The cloister also houses a series of frescos by Paul Bodmer.
The Niederdorf quarter in the old town on the east bank of the Limmat is fondly referred to by locals as the “Dörfli” (little village). Like the Limmatquai, which runs parallel to it, Niederdorf is a pedestrian zone. During the day, the many small shops hidden down the alleyways entice you to browse and shop, while in the evening Niederdorf and the neighbouring Oberdorf transform into a thriving destination for a diverse crowd of visitors with a host of restaurants, bars and clubs. The popular “Dörflifäscht” (village festival) with its DJs, market stalls, culinary delights, shows and live music is held at the end of August each year.
Known worldwide as the centre of Switzerland’s financial sector, Paradeplatz is also the heart of Bahnhofstrasse and an important interchange for the tram network near the lake. It was referred to as the “Säumärt” (pig market) in the seventeenth century, owing to a livestock market that was regularly held there. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the name was changed to Neumarkt (new market) and then, 50 years later, to Paradeplatz. Zurich’s old town, Lake Zurich and Bahnhofstrasse can all be reached from Paradeplatz.
When promenading became fashionable in Zurich around 1800, the largest public park in Zurich at the time was developed around the lower basin of Lake Zurich, and the city was transformed from the small town by the river to the city by the lake. The lakeside promenades are a meeting place for in-line skaters, bathers, jewellery sellers and street artists, who all gather here to create a colourful scene.
The panorama terrace at Bürkliplatz is in the middle of the lakeside promenade, and is a great location for admiring the other lakeside park areas of Mythenquai, General-Guisan-Quai, Utoquai and Seefeldquai. The Chinese Garden, a gift from Zurich’s twin city Kunming, is at the end of Seefeldquai.