First up is the Grossmünster. Located in the Old Town, this Evangelical Protestant church is one of Zurich’s iconic landmarks. It is particularly famous for being the starting site of the Swiss-German Reformation during the 16th century.
According to legend, Emperor Charlemagne built the Grossmünster in 1100 upon discovering the graves of Zurich’s patron saints, Felix and Regula. Since then, the Romanesque church has undergone several modifications and renovations.
Some of the artistic highlights to see at the Grossmünster include:
- The huge bronze doors designed by Otto Munch
- The stained glass windows by Sigmar Polke
- The choir windows by Augusto Giacometti
- Cloister Reformation Museum
- Romanesque crypt
- Climbing 187 stairs to the top of Karlstrum (one of the two Grossmünster’s towers)
Another one of the major churches of Zurich, the Fraumünster stands out on the city skyline with its distinctive green steeple. Located on the opposite side of the Limmat River to the Grossmünster, the church was established in 853 by King Louis the German.
Originally inhabited by women of the aristocracy, the Fraumünster reserved the right to mint coins in Zurich until the 13th century. It was only after the Swiss-German Reformation, that the church came under the jurisdiction of the city of Zurich.
Some of the artistic highlights at the Fraumünster include:
- The Fraumünster’s most impressive feature is its stained window paintings, of which the “The Heavenly Paradise” in the north transept and the rosette in the south transept are very famous.
- In the cloister, visitors can admire the exquisite frescoes by Paul Bodmer, depicting the life of Zurich’s patron saints, Felix and Regula.
- The Fraumünster is also home to the largest church organ in Zurich. A grand total of 5973 pipes!
Located on the northern end of the Old Town, the Hauptbahnhof Station is a unique point of interest in Zurich. Also known as the Zurich Main Station or Zurich Central Station, the Hauptbahnhof Station is the largest railway station in Switzerland.
The Hauptbahnhof Station provides services across Switzerland, as well as to neighboring European nations like Germany, France, Italy and Austria. With up to 2,915 trains every day, the station is one of the busiest railway hubs in the world.
Many rail commuters and Swiss locals benefit from the large underground shopping complex “ShopVille” under the Bahnhofplatz. While shops are closed on Sunday as per Swiss employment rules, exceptions are made for centers of public transport. As a result, the Hauptbahnhof Station is always bustling with activity.
In recognition of its historic value, the Hauptbahnhof Station is a part of the Swiss Inventory of Cultural Property of National Significance.
If you do visit Zurich on any other day of the week (save Sunday), Bahnhofstrasse is where you need to be. This is the main street in downtown Zurich, running for 1.4 kilometers from the Hauptbahnhof Station down to Lake Zurich. The entire thoroughfare is pedestrianized, except for trams.
With the headquarters of the two largest Swiss banks, UBS and Credit Suisse Group, and iconic brands such as Hermes, Mont Blanc and Bvlgari located here, Bahnhofstrasse is one of Europe’s most expensive and upscale shopping venues. You can also indulge yourself at confectionary boutiques and chocolatiers such as Läderach Chocolatier Suisse.
Even if you are a budget traveler like me and do not plan on spending a penny on shopping, Bahnhofstrasse is still worth a stroll and some window shopping.
One of the top relaxation spots for Zurich locals during the summer months is the Lake Promenade. Enclosing the lower basin of Lake Zurich, the promenade was built in the 1800s when strolling became popular in Zurich. The scene here is vibrant, filled with sunbathers, skaters, street artists and stores selling little knick-knacks.
The Chinese Garden in Seefeldquai is one of the four park areas in the Lake Promenade. A gift from Zurich’s partner city Kunming, the Chinese Garden is one of the best gardens outside China. Built as a temple garden, there are pavilions, a palace, shady groves and a pond.
Pavillon Le Corbusier
The Pavillon Le Corbusier is a Swiss art museum in Zurich dedicated to the work of the famous Swiss architect Le Corbusier. It is the last building designed by Le Corbusier, celebrating his signature style of using concrete and stone, framed in steel and glass. The museum is also a part of the Swiss Inventory of Cultural Property of National and Regional Significance.
Note: The Pavillon Le Corbusier will reopen in spring 2019 after extensive renovation.
Popular Day Trips from Zurich
• Freiburg, Germany
• Basel, Switzerland
• Strasbourg, France