With over 50 museums, art galleries, the opera, orchestras and the Schauspielhaus theatre, Zurich is the largest of Swiss cities and proof that Switzerland is not just about bankers and clocks. It pitches itself as “Downtown Switzerland” a banking and cultural hybrid, the wealthiest city in all of Europe but also the birthplace of the Dada art movement.
Zurich can trace its origins back to the 15 BC, with the founding of the Roman customs post of Turicum. By the 10th century AD, the settlement acquired city status. Most of the its attractions can be
seen in the compact Old Town, spanning the River Limmat, where the impressive Fraumünster and Grossmünster churches have been locked in a face off for centuries.
The Fraumünster was begun in the 9th century as a Benedictine Abbey but is famed for its five stained glass windows by artist by Marc Chagall. Best seen from Rathausbrücke, the Grossmünster’s twin towers facing onto the River Limmat are the city’s symbol. The minster dates back to the 11th century and the crypt is the largest of its kind in Switzerland.
Many of the most interesting buildings and byways are clustered along the riverbanks. The Roman customs post of nearby Lindenhof offers a good vantage point. The baroque Rathaus, (Town Hall) and the city’s oldest church St Peterskirche, known for its clock face, (the largest in Europe), are within a short distance of the Limmat.
Nightlife is mostly set in the Old Town bars and cafes, tucked away on Niederdorfstrasse and Oberdorfstrasse..
Kunsthaus Zurich, (Fine Arts Museum), is devoted mostly to 19th and 20th century art and has the biggest collection of Edvard Munch outside of Norway and cutting edge work from famous Swiss artists like the sculptor and painter Alberto Giacometti and the well-known Swiss duo, Fischli/Weiss
Perhaps better known is architect and designer Le Corbusier, who pioneered modernism and laid the foundation for Bauhaus. His life is honored at the Center Le Corbusier, a 1960s Mondrian-inspired building in Zurichhorn Park. The park also features many eye-catching sculptures including works by Henry Moore and Jean Tinguely.
The tallest point in the city is Üetliberg, 871m, which rewards visitors with views over all Zurich, the lake and on a clear day, the Alps.
Zürcher Opernhaus is home to Zurich’s high-calibre chamber and symphony orchestras. The Schauspielhaus is one of the most important theaters in the German-speaking world.
Confiserie Sprüngli is renowned for its 50 different kinds of chocolates. It is also Zurich’s oldest pastry shop, the first to serve coffee to women in public!
Among the city’s adopted sons were Lenin and Thomas Mann, both of whom stayed here. Carl Jung lived and died in Zurich. The Irish novelist James Joyce, who died in Zürich, is buried at Fluntern cemetery. And Richard Wagner lived in the Villa Wesendonck, which is now part of the Museum Rietberg.
The Zurich Street Parade is a technoparade second only to Berlin’s Love Parade.
The ZürichCARD allows unlimited travel within the Zurich canton and free admission to over 40 museums for a period of between 24 or 72 hours.