London, United Kingdom
May 24, 2004
The area's most prominent landmark is the Great Minster, which utterly dominates the skyline. It is most noteworthy for a pair of twin steeples that culminate with lovely octagonal domes, one of which features a statue of Charlemagne, who according to legend founded the first church on the site. Unfortunately, entering through the elaborately carved main entrance can lead to disappointment, because ever since the Reformation the remarkable austerity of the interior has been a stark contrast to the external grandeur. In fact, despite the colour and interest given to the otherwise bare scene by some early 20th century stained glass windows, visiting the adjoining cloisters has personally proved to be a more aesthetically rewarding activity.
Below, on Limmatquai, is an imposing statue of the Zwingli, the fiery preacher responsible for converting the area to Protestantism from the pulpit of the aforementioned cathedral. The same riverside stretch is also home to some of the old town's nicest architecture, but the appeal is limited due to the quantity of traffic that travels along it. Among the most eye-catching of the buildings is the 17th century baroque town hall, which has a beautifully well-preserved façade and a banquet hall featuring an incredibly ornate stucco ceiling that deserves attention.
Also on the same road are some grand former guildhalls, several of which are now put to good use as fine restaurants, most notably the Haus Zum Rüden and Zunfthaus Zur Zimmerleuten. Both serve highly regarded local specialities in elegant dining rooms that have changed little for several hundred years, which means that a meal in either is as much a visual treat as it is a gastronomic pleasure.
A less formal but more lively time can be had one block further uphill on the main street and steep adjoining alleyways that together make up the Niederdorf district. During the day, the historic and mostly pedestrianised neighbourhood is quiet and nice to explore, but once the sun goes down it transforms into the entertainment centre of the city, and imagining the rich past is then difficult as contemporary life takes over. The numerous nightspots in the vicinity vary from small trendy cocktail bars like Babalu to cavernous beer halls such as the Rheinfelder. Meanwhile, also in evidence are English style pubs that are popular with the expatriate community, most notably the Oliver Twist, as well as unusual little venues like the rustic Älplibar, which is a great place to get decent fondue, as long as listening to the traditional Alpine music is not too daunting a prospect!
From journal Zürich - More interesting than might be imagined