A March 2004 trip
to Zurich by lcampbell
Quote: Pedestrian-friendly Zürich has a rich history displayed in grand churches, ancient buildings, and impressive artworks. Stroll around stone-paved streets to discover hidden monuments and fountains mixed with modern accents like charming cafés and trendy shops. Zürich has everything: diverse museums, natural beauty, cultural events, and family activities.
Zürich is a great place for pedestrians. I love to walk, especially after over 24 hours of shuttle bus, airplane, and train travel from the west coast of the USA. I stayed in the heart of Old Town Zürich, a perfect place to explore on foot. From my hotel, I could easily stroll to the famous and exclusive shopping area called Bahnhofstrasse, meander around hip and trendy Niederdorf, enjoy the peaceful views of the Limmat River and Lake Zürich, and soak in the history of the area with an Old Town Walking Tour given by the Zürich Tourism Board.
The ZürichCARD looked like a great deal. It includes unlimited us of all train, tram, bus, and boat transportation offered by Zürich Public Transport(ZVV), free entrance to 43 museums, free welcome drinks at over 20 restaurants, and other discounts, including 50% on the Zürich Tourism Walking Tour of Old Town (see separate journal entry). Price is CHF15/24 hours, and CHF30/72 hours.
Yes, I am starting the transportation section early, but I was so excited about this tourist service offered by Zürich Tourism. 300 bicycles are available for use free of charge May to October, 7:30am to 9:30pm, seven days a week from five locations including the main train station near Old Town.
Flying in comfort
If at all possible, fly to Switzerland in Business Class on Swiss Air. The full-recline seats allowed me to get some valuable sleep. Good food and personal media system (economy and business class alike) also helped pass the hours.
After landing at the airport, I walked across the street to the train station. Zürich Public Transport (ZVV)
tickets can be purchased from a machine or ticket desk, and are all-inclusive (train, bus, tram, and boat). Tickets are issued for any length of time (example of price: €5,40 for 2 hours). You can also buy a ZurichCARD combining public transport and museum fees (see above).
It was 10-15 minutes by train from the airport to the Hauptbahnhof (Main Train Station), near Old Town. The arrival announcement was also made in English, making my life easy.
Maps of the tram system are pretty easy to read (even if not in English), but I didn’t use the tram as it turned out I was only a five-minute walk from my hotel. "It is beautiful!" the woman on the platform told me, pointing me in the right direction, so off I walked into the gentle snow along the Limmat River.
Hotel | "Hotel Adler"
This is my first glimpse (ever!) of Europe. I’m not sure what I expected, but I love what I see.
Hotel Adler was easy to reach by taking a 15-minute train ride from the airport to the main train station, or hauptbahnhof. From the train station, it is about a 5 minute walk to the hotel, or a short cab ride if you have more luggage than I had.
I was greeted by the friendly staff immediately upon entering the hotel. One employee showed me up to my room on third floor. He struggled with the electronic key a bit and shyly apologized, saying that it was his first day. When I returned, nine days later, he was an experienced pro, of course.
My room was small and tidy. The bed, with a down comforter and pillow, was very inviting, as did the Swiss chocolate on my pillow. Above the bed was a lovely small mural of one of the historical buildings of Zürich. A postcard of the mural was also left for me on my pillow. When I stayed in a different room on my return trip, there was also a mural and postcard, but of a different scene. There was a television, desk, chair, mini bar, and safe. The bathroom was modern and spotless. There was a shower but no bathtub.
Hotel Adler offers laundry service, dry cleaning, and free internet (which was on the fritz during both my stays – but the hotel manager let me use his office computer to make up for the inconvenience). There is no pool or sauna, but there is so much to see and do in Zürich, you won’t be spending much time at the hotel anyway. When I did go out to explore the neighborhood, I returned to find a fresh fruit plate in my room – a classy touch.
The breakfast in the morning was excellent in the cozy restaurant Swiss Chuchi. There was fresh bread, croissants, sweet rolls, cereal, granola, yogurt, fresh and dried fruit, cheeses, cold meats, and of course coffee, tea, and juice. I was not as impressed with dinner at the hotel restaurant, and found it a bit expensive.
Hotel Adler has an excellent location near the Limmat River on the north side. It is in the heart of the Neiderdorf district, with hip shops and pubs and a lively atmosphere (but still quiet at night). It is a 5- to 10-minute walk to the Main Train Station, Lake Zürich, the exclusive Bahnhofstrasse shopping district, and numerous churches, museums, and historical sights.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 30, 2004
Attraction | "Walking tour – Old Town Zurich"
We started with a stroll through the Niederdorf district, filled with hip and trendy shops, cafés, and pubs. We stopped to see a scale model of Zürich, showing structures that no longer exist, including a protection wall and series of city fortresses. One line of fortresses was in the exact location of the current-day Bahnhofstrasse, a street of exclusive and expensive shops.
While all pre-13th century structures are gone (they were built of wood), there is plenty of post-13th century stone left in evidence around Zürich. On the south side of the river, near St. Peter’s Clock Tower, there is a partially excavated roman bath. It is under the sidewalk and is covered by a grate that pedestrians walk over.
Other highlights of the tour were:
Grossmünster Church – this church, with its matching towers, is a real beauty. The Zürich Tourism Board website says this about Grossmünster: "According to legend, Charlemagne discovered the graves of the city's martyrs Felix and Regula and had a church build as a choristers' cloister on the spot."
Fraumünster Church – this church and former convent is most famously know for its stained glass windows designed by artist Marc Chagall. Chagall was 80 years old when he did the windows. Other than the windows, this church is relatively plain, a result of the Reformation period.
St. Peter’s Clock Tower and church – this is the largest clock face in Europe. As I firefighter, I was particularly interested in the fact that the tower was used as a fire watchtower until 1911. The nearby square is beautiful, with a large old tree growing up through the stone paving.
Lindenhof – this is a high point above the river, making it the perfect spot for defense of the city in older times. The current-day park holds the remnants of a Roman fortess and customs post. There are many trees and benches, a great view of the city, and enthusiastic chess players – I am told they are there every day of the year, no matter the weather.
Police Station – the police station is remarkable for its colorful ceiling mural, painted by Augusto Giacometti.
In addition to these sights and others, we learned so much about the area through anecdotes told by our excellent guide. Her stories really made the history come alive. We also learned about some of the famous residents of Zürich, such as authors Gottfried Keller and James Joyce. Lenin also lived in exile in Zürich from 1916-1917.
I highly recommend this informative and interesting tour.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on March 30, 2004
Old Town Zurich
Attraction | "Walking, and Shopping, and Eating"
I started my pedal exploration at Hotel Adler (see separate entry), which has a great location in Niederdorf, a hip and trendy area just north of the Limmat River. I spent some time window-shopping in Niederdorf, ogling the latest fashions, jewelry, and shoes. I loved the old buildings, as well as the narrow stone streets with hidden treasures – fountains, squares, monuments – tucked away in obscure corners.
A couple interesting spots in Niederdorf include a pub and restaurant called Oepfelchammer, or Apple Storage, on Rindermarkt street. There is a local tradition to try to climb up and hang upside-down from the wooden ceiling beam, and drink without spilling. I think it’s a college student thing. It was supposedly a hangout of author Gottfried Keller as well. On nearby by Napfgasse street, there is a bright and colorful shop filled with flowers called Schober Café. It has best hot chocolate around, with real melted chocolate and not powder.
Eventually I wandered down to the Limmat River, where ducks and gigantic white swans floated peacefully in the light snow. I stopped for a strong coffee next to the river. As I sipped, I scanned the tops of ancient churches and government buildings, which I learned more about on a Walking Tour of Old Town that I took later in the afternoon (see separate entry).
Across the river from the café and a couple blocks up was the famous and exclusive shopping street called Bahnhofstrasse, where I couldn’t even afford to window shop! Nearby was the St. Peter church and clock tower (largest clock face in Europe), and my favorite discovery was a partially frozen fountain, still struggling to put out some water.
Dinner that first night was at Restaurant SwissChuchi, located at Hotel Adler. I ordered the Raclette, a Swiss classic. It took me forever to melt pieces of cheese on an electric grill and spread it on my selection of potatoes, pickles, pearl onions, and pear slices. It was an interesting experience, which I think takes some practice, and which I found to be a little expensive at CHF23. SwissChuchi also had fondue and a few other dishes. The service was OK.
When I returned to Zürich a week later, of course more last-chance shopping in Niederdorf was in order. This time for dinner, my shopping pals and I choose a fast-food Greek place just diagonal from Hotel Adler. Here we found great service and tasty, inexpensive food. The employees were extremely amused by us – I’m not sure what we did, but I’m sure it was some cultural embarrassment that I don’t want to know about.
Walking, Shopping, and Eating
Throughout Old Town
In addition to the Walking Tour of Old Town (see separate journal entry) that I took, Zürich Tourism offers many other tours and excursions that looked interesting.
Some short tours include a trolley tour of the city with head-set narration, and a Zürich city tour (sights on Old Town walking tour, plus Lake Zürich and the University), each 2 hours in length. The Zürich and Surroundings tour is 3.5 hours and includes the city tour sights plus two suburbs, a cable car ride to Felsenegg, a ferry crossing of Lake Zürich and a bus trip back along the lake coast. A four-hour combination tour includes the trolley tour plus a guided tour to the Uetliberg tower with great views of Zürich, the lake, and the Alps. Prices of these tours range from CHF20-43.
Longer tours, from 7.5 to 11 hours, take visitors to nearby villages and cities and on mountain excursions. There is the Heidiland Tour, Mt. Titlis Glacier Paradise, Jungfrau-Eiger Glacier, and trips to Rigi, Lucerne, Engelberg, and Interlaken. Prices of these tours range from CHF49-120.
There are over 40 museum of all types in Zürich. There are cultural history museums, art museums, architecture museums, and those dedicated to science and nature. Some notable ones include the Swiss National Museum, the Botanical Gardens, Museum Für Gestaltung, the Strauhof City Chamber of Art, the Zürich City Hall, and the Ethnology Museum. Museum entrance is free with the ZürichCARD (see Overview).
One activity that I wanted to do, but did not have time for, was a boat trip on Lake Zürich. The lake is 40km in length, and it is possible to get out on the lake year round. The price for a 90-minute boat trip is only CHF5,40 (it is part of public transportation system), and it is free with the ZürichCARD (see Overview). There are two daily departures in winter (1pm, 2:30pm) and departures all day during the summer. Departure point is Zürich Bürkliplatz.
Other things to do
Of course there are plenty of other cultural activities in Zürich, such as the theater, cinema, opera, art galleries, and concerts. You don’t have to stick to guided activities – you can visit the sights of the Walking Tour of Old Town on your own, and you can make your own day trips, for example to the Zürich Zoo, to Rhine Falls (summer), or Rapperswil town. Explore the city on free bicycles (see Overview) or find another sport to suit your fancy (for instance swimming, skating, yoga, hiking, or horseback riding) Maybe go to the spa! Families might enjoy excursions to the hand-on Technorama, the Giant Slide, or the Alpamare indoor water park.
I know that I have missed many worthwhile spots – check the Zürich Tourism website (link in Overview) or get a guidebook for more suggestions. The possibilities seem to be endless – I just wish I could have stayed longer to explore, and to share the details with others.
Port Angeles, Washington