Zürich - More interesting than might be imagined

Although Zürich was never exactly prominent on my travel wish list, circumstances have resulted in me spending much time there. Fortunately, whilst its reputation for being the overly orderly home of Swiss bankers is somewhat justified, I have found that the city can also be a pleasant place.


Zürich - More interesting than might be imagined

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Invicta73 on May 24, 2004

Probably my single favourite thing to do whilst in Zürich is exploring its compact centre, especially the portion on the Left Bank of the River Limmat. The area offers a variety of pleasures, ranging from the lavish shopping opportunities provided all along the grand boulevard known as Bahnhofstrasse to the less materialistic charms of the narrow streets that comprise the most picturesque part of the Old Town.

In addition, even when the weather is poor I have rarely been bored in the city, because it is home to various decent cultural sights. A personal favourite is the Museum of Fine Arts, which exhibits a well-presented and diverse collection of works. In addition, the immense and insightful Swiss National Museum is a great spot in which to learn about the country’s history and culture. ${QuickSuggestions} One personal recommendation is to bear in mind that a trip to Zürich does not have to be a purely urban experience, as there are many good ways of enjoying nature around the city. Both going for a swim in the clear waters of the lake and strolling along its fine shoreline are lovely activities on a warm summer day. Additionally, venturing further out to the spectacular Rhine Falls and ascending some of the quite local hills and mountains are also very good ideas.

Meanwhile, several smaller towns in the general vicinity are also ideal destinations for a day trip. Probably the most obvious place for such an excursion is Stein-am-Rhein, a beautifully preserved place full of wonderful old half-timbered structures that are enlivened by some lovely murals.${BestWay} Nearly all of Zürich's attractions and facilities are within reasonable distance from one another, and many streets in the historic centre are pedestrianised. Therefore, most of the time the best way to get around is on foot, which also allows for a leisurely appreciation of the place.

Nevertheless, the city is fortunate enough to also have one of the best public transport systems in the world, which really is the epitome of the stereotypical efficiency so often associated with Switzerland. Huge effort has been made to study journey durations and acceptable waiting times, which has paid dividends by helping to create an integrated network of trams, buses and trains that reliably sticks to a sensible timetable. Unfortunately, though a non-profit making service, the available individual tickets and 24-hour passes are not all that cheap, unless compared with the cost of using the prohibitively expensive taxis.


Hotel Ascot

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Invicta73 on May 24, 2004

Given that Zürich is an important financial centre, finding that many of its hotels are members of international chains that cater for business travellers on expense accounts is hardly shocking. One such place is the Hotel Ascot, which elegantly avoids the clichéd and bland corporate style that is nowadays typical, and therefore easily exceeded the expectations that I had prior to staying there during my first trip to the city.

It is located in a pleasant area that is within reasonable walking distance of the Old Town, but which is close to both a railway station and tram stops as well. To be completely honest, the unattractive exterior gives a rather bad initial impression, and therefore seeing the lavishly eye-catching style of the reception area came as a very nice surprise to me. Also of note is the wonderfully main staircase, which is so grand that using the lifts feels like a bad choice.

As would be expected of a deluxe four-star establishment, each of the 75 bedrooms features all of the usual modern facilities, such as en-suite bathroom, satellite TV, mini-bar, modem connection and air-conditioning. A quite recent refurbishment also means that all are tasteful, comfortable and fairly luxurious in an old-fashioned way, whilst some also have balconies, although the views are admittedly not great.

There are also two very highly regarded restaurants to choose from on the premises. The menu of the incredibly sumptuous Lawrence Colonel focuses on Eastern Mediterranean food, and includes an excellent mezze, whilst tasty dishes are prepared in a traditional style by Japanese chefs in Fujiya. Meanwhile, lighter meals are on offer in the plush Turf Bar, which proved to a great spot to unwind in with a drink, especially during the evenings, when the live piano music helps to create a relaxing atmosphere.

Hotel Ascot
TESSINER PLATZ 9
Zurich, Switzerland
41-1-2081414

Restaurant Hiltl

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Invicta73 on May 24, 2004

As a vegetarian, not having a particularly wide range of dining options in a destination is hardly an unusual experience when travelling. Therefore, eating in Restaurant Hiltl, which offers a huge selection of excellent meat free fare, has been a real pleasure that I have endeavoured to make the most of whilst in Zürich.

Surprisingly, the award winning establishment is now over 100 years old, and has evolved from being the eccentric idea of one Ambrosius Hiltl into the present day local institution that is run by his great-grandson, and which is incredibly and justifiably popular, even with usually omnivorous customers. It is located quite close to Bahnhofstrasse in a quite large building, both storeys of which are nicely bright and airy, thanks to a fairly recent refurbishment.

Although the décor does combine with the friendly service and relaxed atmosphere to create a very pleasant environment indeed, it is the cuisine that really deserves attention. Having to pick something from the whole of an extensive menu is for me a novel situation, albeit a difficult one too because of the overall high quality of the numerous alternatives. The à la Carte choices include a wide variety of fare from various cuisines, such as mushroom stroganoff and tofu schnitzel, whilst a personal favourite is undoubtedly the mouth watering gambozola rösti, which is a wonderful interpretation of the quintessentially Swiss German dish.

However, the house speciality and also probably the biggest gastronomic attraction for most people is the impressive buffet that features over 30 different dishes. During the evenings, it has a distinctly Indian flavour, which has always proved to be good enough to satisfy the cravings of a curry addict like myself. Meanwhile, a very nice and slightly cheaper thing to do on a sunny day is to take some food away for a fine picnic.

Restaurant Hiltl
Sihlstrasse
Zurich, Switzerland
+41 1 227 7000

Café Odéon

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Invicta73 on May 24, 2004

For me, an important part of fully appreciating any destination is finding a good spot in which to people watch, take stock of experiences and simply relax. Undoubtedly one of the best venues for such activities that I have ever found anywhere is Zürich’s wonderful Café Odéon, and quite why anyone would choose to frequent the very nearby Starbucks is really beyond my comprehension.

In terms of aesthetics, entering the establishment is like stepping back in time. The lavish combined effect of the curvaceous bar, large windows and mirrors, striking furnishings, vintage posters and glass chandeliers is quite breathtaking. However, despite all of the wonderfully preserved and almost overbearing Art Nouveau splendour on show, there is still a surprisingly cosy and intimate feel.

Unlike many so-called grand cafés elsewhere in Europe, it has pleasingly avoided stagnating into somewhere that is content to merely capitalise on a lovely interior and former glories, and has instead remained true to a Bohemian past. Although Lenin would perhaps no longer find the ambience conducive to planning a revolution there as he did all those years ago, it is nice to think that James Joyce would probably still enjoy drinking some potent brews there now.

The modern day patrons represent a refreshingly alternative side to a city that is usually associated with bankers and businessmen, as they are much more likely to belong to the local artistic or gay communities, which means that there is frequently a vibrant atmosphere. Aside from warm summer days, when the outside terrace is popular, it is often busy inside, which means that sharing one of the colourful marble tables with other customers is often necessary, but that is usually a good thing because of the generally friendly nature of the regulars.

The place is open daily from the morning right through to the night, and also into the early hours during weekends. The menu offers a variety of items that is suitable for such lengthy hours, from tasty breakfasts, light meals and bar snacks to good coffee and a wide range of alcoholic tipples, including cocktails. Prices are admittedly not particularly low, especially after midnight, but considering the relative fame, exquisite décor and prime location, they are not especially expensive either.

Café Odéon
Limmatquai
Zurich, Switzerland
+41 1 251 1650

Museum of Fine Arts

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Invicta73 on May 24, 2004

Zürich’s Central European climate has at times left me looking for something to do that was away from the cold and wet weather outside. On such occasions, several of the cultural attractions in the city have proved to be good havens in which to escape from the elements, especially the excellent Museum of Fine Arts.

The gallery has actually been in operation for a reasonably long time, but that really does not feel like the case due to an extensive and forward-looking renovation during the 1970s, the results of which is a wonderful exhibition space that still feels fresh now and suits the contemporary emphasis of the collection extremely well. In fact, the imaginative layout and excellent lighting have greatly enhanced my enjoyment of the place, whilst spending time in its similarly bright and spacious café has also been a real pleasure.

Some masterpieces from the Renaissance and baroque periods by the likes of Canaletto, El Greco and Rembrandt are on show, but the majority of what is displayed is art by many of the leading exponents of the major schools from the 19th and 20th centuries, which seems fitting in the city that was the birthplace of the Dada movement. Among the best known items featured are a couple of the famous Water Lilies paintings by Claude Monet, and Auguste Rodin’s Gates of Hell is located close to the entrance, providing a dramatic introduction to what lies ahead. Additionally included are several paintings by each of Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol, as well as works by others such as Paul Cézanne, Joan Miró and Man Ray. Meanwhile, there is nowhere else outside of Scandinavia is it possible to see quite so much of the gloomy expressionism of Edvard Munch, a personal favourite.

Appropriately, also represented are artists from Switzerland, most notably by an abundance of Alberto Giacometti’s distinctive sculptures. In addition, overlooking the main staircase is a typically romantic portrayal of an historical scene by Ferdinand Hodler, which is certainly eye-catching and very Swiss, but almost feels somewhat stylistically out of place.

Museum of Fine Arts
Heimplatz
Zurich, Switzerland

James Joyce Pub

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Invicta73 on May 24, 2004

Despite, or maybe because of, close personal connections with Ireland, my normal instinct when travelling elsewhere is to avoid the increasingly widespread Celtic tinged theme bars. However, one definite exception is the rather special James Joyce Pub, because it is just so different from the vast majority of such places, which tend to be quite tacky and inauthentic.

The story of the pub’s founding during the 1970s is somewhat unusual. When the original Jury’s Hotel in the Irish capital was set to be demolished, a Swiss bank purchased the fixtures and fittings of the venerable institution’s so-called Antique Bar, shipped everything back home, and reassembled it all in the centre of Zürich. The choice of name must surely have been easy, for the great author was without any doubt the city’s most famous resident Dubliner ever. Additionally, he reputedly had the occasional drink or two within the renowned watering hole’s snug confines when it was still in his hometown, and even mentioned the place in his classic book, Ulysses.

In terms of aesthetics, the project has been a resounding success. The interior features a large amount of tiling and dark wood panelling, and manages to be cosy and intimate, as well as highly evocative of the Victorian period. In fact, only the seats are not original, and even the comfortable replacements fit in very well with the overall vintage look.

However, despite what the surroundings might strongly suggest, there are a few hints that it is not quite a true example of the old-fashioned kind of establishment that is sadly becoming less common in Dublin, perhaps the most obvious example of which is the common presence of smartly dressed Swiss businessmen. Meanwhile, despite the wide selection of good quality beer, wine and food that is available, the rather uninspiring quality of the Guinness is also a clue. Nevertheless, such things have hardly detracted from the good times that I have spent in the place, primarily because the usually friendly and often lively atmosphere not only suits the décor perfectly, but also helps to make any visit enjoyable. In fact, the only real downside of the justifiably popular spot is that it is only open from Monday lunchtime to Friday evening, and closes during the weekend.

James Joyce Pub
Pelikanstrasse
Zurich, Switzerland

Around Zürich - Stein-am-Rhein

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Invicta73 on May 24, 2004

The combination of Stein-am-Rhein’s reputed beauty, fairly small size and relative proximity to Zürich convinced me that it would be the perfect destination for a very leisurely day trip. Having made the hour-long journey, I was not at all disappointed, for whilst many places have a picturesque and well-preserved old town, almost the whole of the little settlement fits such a description perfectly.

The heart of the village is the Rathausplatz, which is frequently and quite justifiably called the loveliest square in the whole of Switzerland. It is surrounded by a series of wonderful half-timbered buildings that all have fine oriel windows and exceptionally eye-catching frescoes portraying image relating to the traditional name, for example the Crown, the Stag and most impressively the White Eagle, which dates back to 1525 and is the oldest of the murals. Meanwhile, the equally impressive stand-alone town hall now also contains a collection of stained glass, weaponry and other historical artefacts. It was my good fortune that the time spent enjoying the stunning scene whilst drinking coffee on one of the numerous café terraces was during a pleasant winter’s day, because the huge number of people that perhaps unsurprisingly go there during high season would have almost certainly detracted from the experience.

The nearby cobbled streets that lead out to the remaining venerable gate towers are not quite as aesthetically spectacular. However, the main road comes close in terms of visual impact, whilst the others are nevertheless still pretty, and are home to a couple of interesting sights, including the Lindwurm Museum, a four storey mansion that has been carefully restored in a bold and largely successful attempt to evoke the lifestyle of the wealthy family and their servants that resided there during the mid 19th century.

The other particularly noteworthy attraction in the vicinity is the Monastery of St George. The riverside structure was a Benedictine abbey for around 400 years, until the Reformation hit the area in the 1520s, and instead it now houses displays pertaining to local art and history. Although the exhibits are certainly diverting, frequently more striking is the edifice’s interior, which features lovely wood panelled walls and ceilings covered with paintings.

Stein-am-Rhein Sights & Attractions
Throughout Stein-am-Rhein
Zurich, Switzerland

Kaufleuten

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Invicta73 on May 24, 2004

Prior to going there, the thought that Zürich might be especially entertaining during the evenings never exactly occurred to me, so discovering that it is actually home to a variety of decent nightspots was slightly surprising. Of the various places in the city where I have particularly enjoyed spending time after the sun has gone down, my personal favourite has to be the much loved Kaufleuten.

As might be expected from somewhere that has attracted the likes Madonna and Prince in the past, it is very distinctive and really quite special. The plush décor is suggestive of a baroque theatre and features old-fashioned furnishings, antique paintings, chandeliers and even bathroom fittings that were once part of the Orient Express. However, what is particularly appealing is the way that the somewhat unstructured layout and charmingly dishevelled little touches moderate the potentially overawing grandeur. Overall, the eclectic and comfortable interior exudes a certain nonchalant cool that suits the clientele very well indeed.

The venue comprises several distinct sections, the largest of which effectively operates as an excellent nightclub, with regular entertainment provided by a variety of fine DJs and top quality live acts. It tends to be very popular, especially at weekends when long queues for admission are not uncommon, so pre-purchasing tickets when possible is advisable. Meanwhile, there is also a quieter lounge area, where enjoying various drinks, including excellent cocktails, in more relaxed surroundings is possible without having to wait in line or book in advance.

Finally, there is additionally a well-liked and high quality restaurant, which is perhaps the best option around when it comes to eating late. The menu is truly international, offering choices ranging from Japanese and Thai dishes to more locally derived fare, such as steak, salmon and Weiner Schnitzel. Although it is not especially cheap, the prices are still more reasonable than many of the city’s more formal eateries, the food is just as good, and the overall dining experience feels much more fun.

Kaufleuten
Pelikanstrasse
Zurich, Switzerland

Minster of Our Lady

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Invicta73 on May 24, 2004

Of the distinctive church spires that pleasantly punctuate the skyline of central Zürich, one of the most elegant and most notable is that of the Minster of Our Lady, which is known locally as Fraumünster. Although it is neither as grand nor important as the city’s cathedral, I have actually grown to prefer the more unassuming edifice.

Its riverside position has been home to a religious institution since Louis the German founded an abbey there during the 9th century. Both have changed much in the intervening years, and in fact only the crypt of the original structure has survived, whilst the fine cobbled square outside seems too nice to have ever been the location of a pig market.

The main façade lacks the elaboration usually associated with Gothic architecture, and did not seem too impressive when first seen. However, the subtle charms of its pale stone, harmonious form and slender clock tower have become much more apparent to me since the initial view.

Meanwhile, the interior is for the most part similarly low key. Nevertheless, its simplicity feels bright and elegant rather than heavy and austere, and an ornate organ adds some aesthetic interest to the main part of the structure.

However, the reason that the place of worship is remarkable instead of merely nice is the stained glass that is located close to the main entrance in the almost separate Romanesque choir. In 1970, the then octogenarian artist Marc Chagall created the five incredibly unusual works, portraying a different biblical scene using mostly warm variations of one primary colour in each. Every window is stunning in its own right, and I loved the bold contrast between the understated venerable setting and the vibrant modern pieces, which is surprisingly effective.

Fraumünster (Minister of Our Lady)
Adliswil, Altstadt
Zurich, Switzerland

Swiss National Museum

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Invicta73 on May 24, 2004

I always find that making the effort to learn a little about a destination helps me to better understand, and consequently also to make the most of, what is experienced whilst there. Therefore, when faced with the prospect of spending quite a bit of time in Zürich, visiting the Swiss National Museum seemed like an obvious course of action.

The important attraction is located in a suitably grand purpose-built edifice close to the main railway station, which convincingly recalls the local form of Gothic architecture, despite being little over 100 years old. In fact, the building’s eye-catching exterior mosaics, colourful roof tiles and lovely main courtyard are in some ways just as appealing as the insightful exhibits that are housed within its sturdy looking stone walls.

The large scale of the structure might initially seem over the top, until it becomes apparent just how big the collection actually is. Even though some of the many items pertaining to Switzerland’s history and culture are fairly staid in terms of presentation, the sheer amount and variety of things displayed should ensure that everyone should find something interesting to see.

Perhaps the single most notable area is the series of rooms containing religious objects, including Carolingian art, medieval woodcarvings and gilded altarpieces, and an installation of 15th stained glass windows. There are also some impressive archaeological finds on show, dating from Neolithic times to the period of Roman rule in the vicinity, as well as a wide variety of weaponry and armour, regional costumes, antique toys, beautiful glassware and much more.

One particularly striking focal point is the Hall of Arms, which features a memorable fresco by Ferdinand Hodler, the Retreat of the Swiss Confederation at Marignano. However, the personal highlight was viewing the wonderful recreations of the manufacture of books and clocks in the past, whilst the opportunity to ring the series of large vintage bells with the provided rubber mallet was just too tempting for my noisy inner child to resist!

Schweizerisches Landesmuseum
Museumstrasse 2 CH-8023
Zurich, Switzerland

Around Zürich - Winterthur

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Invicta73 on May 24, 2004

The majority of people in Switzerland seem to associate Winterthur with manufacturing and engineering, whilst many others from elsewhere are either unfamiliar with the name, or think of the du Pont mansion in Delaware when they hear it. I personally feel that both the predominantly industrial image and lack of recognition do the place absolutely no justice at all. In fact, it is a very appealing town that has a pleasantly relaxed feel, which contrasts favourably with that of nearby Zürich, and makes the short trip from the latter worthwhile.



Additionally, there are more reasons to visit other than just a nice atmosphere. Years of prosperity have resulted in a fine compact city centre that is a pleasure to explore on foot, as it is full of greenery and elegant buildings, most notably a lovely church. Meanwhile, also in the vicinity are a lot of lively bars that cater primarily for the students who attend the local university, and which ensure a generally fun nightlife that has tempted me to stay into the evening.



The single biggest draw is undoubtedly the surprising number of cultural attractions, two of the best of which are the direct responsibility of the eminent past citizen, Oskar Reinhart. Eschewing the highly successful family banking and industrial interests, he instead devoted much time, energy and wealth to acquiring an incredible amount of art, much of which was eventually bequeathed to the state. The small gallery adjoining the main park that bares his name nowadays showcases works originating in the general region, including several by Ferdinand Hodler. More spectacular, but less conveniently located, is the renowned collector’s fairly grand former residence, Römerholz. Most of the pieces displayed inside its walls date from the 19th century onwards, and spending time perusing the paintings by the likes of Cézanne, Monet and van Gogh in such nice surroundings is an enjoyable activity.



A completely different, and perhaps more family orientated, experience is offered at Swiss Technorama. The institute deals with all things related to science and technology, using creative and often interactive exhibits, which can be a lot fun, especially for children.



However, anyone who prefers things a little less modern will perhaps be better advised to travel out a few miles to the Kyburg Castle, which was once a Hapsburg stronghold. The attractive old structure not only has some interesting architectural features, such as the Renaissance chapel, but is also home to a museum of both decorative and military antiques. In addition, from the parapets there are some wonderful views available of the surrounding hilly countryside, which is good terrain for hiking. Meanwhile, it is not the only venerable fortress in the area, merely the most striking, and those on a budget might be pleased to find that one of the others is now a hostel.


Right Bank

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Invicta73 on May 24, 2004

The flow of the Limmat splits the centre of Zürich into two distinct halves that differ somewhat from each other. Although the so-called Right Bank on the eastern side of the river is the less attractive of the two and does not have many obvious sights, it is still pleasant and I have found that spending time there can be fun, especially at night.

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!

Right Bank Sights & Attractions
Throughout the Right Bank
Zurich, Switzerland

Left Bank

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Invicta73 on May 24, 2004

To be quite honest, Zürich does not compete with the more major European destinations in terms of sheer quantity of worthwhile things to see. However, the central area to the west of the River Limmat, which is commonly known as the Left Bank, is not only the site of several interesting attractions, but is also generally nice, and I have thoroughly enjoyed spending time there, both initially as a sightseer and later as someone who had become familiar with the city.



The area is the location of the main station, where many visitors first arrive on the train. To one side of the grand transport hub, beyond the statue of Alfred Escher, a prominent local 19th century magnate, is the start of the famous Bahnhofstrasse. The grand shopping street is sometimes called the most beautiful in the world, which is in my opinion is somewhat overstating the case, although admittedly it does compare favourably with many counterparts elsewhere. The elegant thoroughfare, which is off limits to all traffic except trams, is a fine place to stroll and look at luxury goods that are too expensive for the majority of us to buy. The opulence reaches a peak around the prestigious Paradeplatz, where Tiffany and other similarly exclusive outlets are located.



One establishment that is particularly worth visiting is Beyer, which not only sells watches by esteemed manufacturers such as Rolex and IWC, but also houses a museum of timepieces. On display are a notable variety of weird and wonderful items, ranging from vintage sundials to modern scientific chronometers.



Meanwhile, the area that is sandwiched between the glitzy boulevard and the river is home to part of the historic core of the city, which is mostly a network of picturesque cobbled lanes. Aside from the general abundance of lovely old buildings and the presence of hundreds of drinking fountains, there are also some worthy sights including Lindenhof, which is a peaceful unpaved square shaded by lime trees. Once the site of a Roman customs post, it has been the subject of a building ban for centuries, and nowadays locals gather there to walk dogs or to play chess, whilst the good views afforded by the open hilltop position draw tourists.



Nearby is the Church of St Peter, a somewhat understated but not unattractive structure that mostly dates from the early 1700s. Although best known because its spire features the largest clock face in Europe, the striking baroque interior also deserves attention.



Another noteworthy place of worship, the Minster of Our Lady, is located down below, almost at the waterfront, and features some striking stained glass windows by Marc Chagall. On the same square is the ornate guildhall known as the Zunfthaus zur Meisen. The building has an elaborately decorated rococo interior that is actually more aesthetically pleasing than the porcelain collection that is on display inside, which belongs to the Swiss National Museum.


Enjoying nature around the city

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Invicta73 on May 24, 2004

Although by no means a major tourist destination, Zürich is reputed to offer one of the highest standards of living in the world, and indeed I have appreciated nearly all of the urban pleasures that a resident or visitor could hope for. In addition, thanks to its fine setting, there are various easy opportunities to enjoy more natural surroundings, which have greatly enhanced my time in the region.

The easiest and perhaps also most obvious way to get away from things is to visit the neighbouring lake of the same name, around which the streets and buildings soon give way to lawns and trees. Whilst there are some diversions in the vicinity, such as a Chinese garden and several places to eat and drink, most people seem to go there simply to relax amidst the greenery, especially during the summer. On hot days the locals set a fine example, using the grassy shoreline as a replacement for a sandy beach, and even though sunbathing is not an activity that appeals to me, joining the swans by taking a cooling dip in the surprisingly mild and very clean water has often proved to be a tempting option.

Zürichberg, one of the hills overlooking the city is also a good spot to escape from the hustle and bustle that is found just a tram ride away. Most notably it is the location of an important and nicely spacious zoo, which is home to a couple of thousand species from all over the world. Meanwhile, less exotic creatures, for example small birds and squirrels, frequent the peaceful and shady confines of the neighbouring Fluntern cemetery, a trip to which is a must for admirers of James Joyce like myself. The Irish author lived locally, and now rests in a grave that is marked by a wonderfully representative statue of the great man sitting with a book and walking stick. Finally, lovely long walks through the woodland that stretches away from the two aforementioned sights are also a pleasant possibility.

An even more popular and higher elevated place for an excursion in Uetliberg, which in typical Swiss fashion has been made readily accessible by a railway line. On the summit there is a decent restaurant and a viewing tower from which the vistas of the surrounding area and the Alps to the south are certainly picturesque on a clear day. Many visitors spend time on the 3,000 feet tall peak either having a picnic or sledging, obviously depending on the season, whilst others follow the Planetary Path to Felsenegg, from where it is possible to take a cable car down and a train back to the centre. Following the route requires a couple of hours of leisurely walking, during which time a series of scale models representing the heavenly bodies of our solar system provide a mild distraction compared with the more picturesque scenes available from the ridge.

Finally, travelling slightly further to the Rhine Falls yields much more spectacular results. Although not very high, it is actually known as the biggest waterfall in Europe due to the sheer volume that the mighty Rhine pushes over the top every second, particularly after the mountain snows start to melt during springtime. Below the small but attractive castle that nowadays hosts a souvenir shop and a high quality eatery are the best static viewpoints, from where it is possible to appreciate the dramatic power of the scene at close quarters, which is a thrilling but soaking experience. Even more fun, but just as wet, is taking a trip on one of the boats that traverse the river, which stop at the rock that stands in the middle and get very close to the violently churning rapids in the process.


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