Geneva to Zurich was a 2.5 hours train journey. The tram station was on the other end of the Zurich Bahnhof or the railway station on Bahnhofstrasse. On the way, we stopped by the tourist office to grab a copy of the city map, tram numbers and to get an idea on from where to start the city tour. The main entrance of the station opened up into a busy square dominated by a statue of railway pioneer Alfred Escher and while you are there do not miss the remarkable triumphal arch facade of the station. The main station built in the 19th century is the largest railway station in Switzerland serving across Switzerland and neighboring European countries.
Zurich is the largest and one of the most expensive cities in Switzerland. Zurich also easily falls on the list of must visit Switzerland cities for its medieval buildings, churches, and as a base to explore the picturesque landscapes and fairy tale locations in Switzerland. Zurich to Bern is less than two hours makes it a great base for day trips from Zurich to Interlaken and places in Bernese Oberland. Numerous Zurich points of interest like gardens and zoo make it a perfect destination to explore with kids. The high-end shops and flea markets make Zurich an ideal place go on a shopping spree too. Here is what you should do when you visit Zurich –
1. Bahnhofstrasse Zurich
Towards the west was the tram station. The street was bustling with moving trams, buses and shoppers exploring the several high-end shops along the street Bahnhofstrasse. Bahnhofstrasse is a 1.4 km long street popular for exclusive designer boutique shops, jewelry and watch brands and luxury hotels. The shop rents are also said to be highest in Europe which makes it one of the expensive shopping streets in the world.
Altstadt or Zurich Old Town
The Old Town Zurich is one of the top places to visit in Zurich. We boarded a tram to Altstadt or the Old Town Zurich. The Zurich old town exudes its own charm with the colorful Renaissance buildings, narrow cobblestone alleys winding through buildings with pretty windows overflowing with flower beds and churches. Saunter along these historic alleys or join one of the guided Zurich tours and discover the bygone times of the city.
We boarded a tram to our first stop in Zurich city tour. There are several churches tucked away in the narrow cobbled stone alleys of the old town. The 12th-century Grossmunster is a Romanesque-style church with its twin tower dominating the Zurich city skyline. The 200 steps climb up the tower offers wonderful views of the city, the Limmat river, and other nearby churches.
On the other side of the river is the Fraumunster or the Church of Our Lady reached through the Munsterbrucke (Munster bridge). The Church stands on the Munsterhof town square and dates back to 13th century with a 9th-century crypt underneath the church. Worth checking in the church is the remarkable frescoes and the five magnificent stained glass windows in the abbey choir by artist Marc Chagall.
If you look at the panoramic landscape view you can spot a clock tower piercing the city skyline which is the largest clock dial in the world and adorns yet another important church in Zurich the St Peters Church.
4. Squares and Fountains
The squares and fountains are a major part of Zurich sightseeing. While strolling through the old town area of Zurich you will come across several fountains dotting the pretty squares surrounded by medieval buildings. The Munster square behind the Fraumunster has several buildings painted in vibrant colors and its window adorned with brightly hued flowers.
This building, in particular, grabbed our fascination. The Zunfthaus Zur Meisen is a historical building housing the porcelain and faience collection of the Swiss National Museum. The rococo style palace has elegant wrought iron gate and balcony with the interior bedecked with beautiful paintings. It is situated opposite the Fraumunster church in the Munsterhof.
We made our way into the narrow alleys lined with cafes and restaurants and souvenir shops. One can find several fountains dotting the alleys and squares. The city of Zurich boasts of around 1,200 potable water fountains.
This fountain in Weinplatz (literally the Wine Square) was the prettiest of all. The Winzerbrunnen or the Winegrower fountain has a statue of a vintner carrying grapes on his back. The cast iron canopy of the fountain embellished with the graceful vine design was stunning. We replenished our bottles with chilled water from the fountain and moved ahead.
5. St Peter Church
St Peters church or St Peterskirche is one of the main and the oldest church in Zurich dating back to 9th century and is located on the way to Lindenhof hill. The church is known for its clock face which is said to be the largest in the world. The church tower is said to be used as a fire watch tower until the middle ages, worth checking in the church is baroque nave and some medieval murals.
We climbed uphill into a large wooded garden on Lindenhof hill. The garden has several vantage points which offer glorious views of the Old Town, city hall, the churches, and the Limmat River. The Lindenhof has been the location of a former 4th-century Roman fort which today is a beautiful park with even more beautiful views of the city. Lindenhof is open to the public 24 hours a day.
From Lindenhof, we walked down into a gorgeous rose garden teeming with bright hues and fragrance. We spent some time here amidst nature while Chhavi ran around enjoying the lush greens.
The Uetliberg summit or Uto Kulm at a height of 870 m is popular with hikers and bikers and offers wonderful panoramic views of the Zurich city, the Zurich Lake, and the Limmat valley. The summit has a hotel and observation tower and is well connected by trains from the Zurich main station.
8. Zurich Boat Trip
Another great way to experience the beautiful city of Zurich is to hop onto a boat and cruise through the picturesque panorama of the city and its medieval treasures. There is a wide range of choice from canal boat tours for few hours to full day cruises. Choose a short round trip from the Zurich city center to old town Zurich or a cruise tour running between Zurich and nearby Swiss cities the breathtaking vistas are sure to leave you awestruck. Book boat tours to explore Zurich.
Things to see in Zurich with Kids
Here are few other Zurich tourist attractions you may not want to miss if visiting with kids
The 90-year-old Zurich zoological garden is a lush green area divided into several ecosystems to recreate natural habitats comprising of elephant park, aquarium, the rain forest and is home to approximately 4000 animals. Kids can also cuddle and feed the domestic and farm animals. Get more details on tickets and open times here.
10. Botanical Garden
The Botanical garden of Zurich University is a great place to unwind and relax amidst the abundance of greenery. The garden is home to around 9000 species of plants and the domed green houses display a variety of exotic plants. The best time to visit the garden is during the spring when one can explore a wide range of bright hued floral collection.
11. Zurich Tram Museum
The Zurich tram museum housed in the old Tram Depot of Burgwies exhibits a fascinating collection of historic trams, engines, ticket machines and uniform which are sure to walk you back into the bygone times and provides an insight into the history of transportation in Zurich at the same time.
The Zurich city card offers unlimited travel on public transportation and discounts on various Zurich attractions, museums, and restaurants. The Zurich card can be bought from Zurich airport, Zurich main station and from ticket machines around the city for a validity of 24 or 72 hours.
Have you been to Zurich? What did you like the most about Zurich?
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