We had only one day in Zürich so it was necessary to first do a little homework so as to maximise our time. Fortunately the weather was fine – chilly, but not wet, so walking was a great option and we bought a 24hour public transport ticket each which we renewed so we were able to use it the next morning when we left. You may also like to check out the Zürich Card, which will give you free transport and free or discounted entry to the museums, among the benefits. They are available for 24 or 72 hours and can be purchased at the Main Railway Station.
1. Visit a Museum
There are a number (according to one count, there are 43!) of fine museums in Zürich which could easily encourage you to spend longer than you otherwise might with time constraints. We found two that are easy to get to on foot from the Main Railway Station (Zürich Hauptbahnhof).
Urania-Sternwarte (The Telescope dome). You could be forgiven for thinking that it would be impossible to see anything celestial in a city but ‘clearly’ this is not the case in Zürich as they are clearly serious about cutting down light pollution. For an adult entry Fee of CHF15 you will get to enjoy a short introduction to astronomy. The telescope, which over a century old, is particularly good for observing the planets and the moon. The Urania-Sternwarte is open winter evenings 8 – 9.30pm and in summer from 9 – 10.30pm, on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays. The talks are in German, but private tours in English are available.
If, like we were, you are impressed by the medieval tower of The Swiss National Museum right near the main railway station, it’s actually somewhat more recent than that. The building was only opened in1898, with the medieval architecture designed to fit in with the style of the existing buildings in the area. The Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 5pm and to 7pm on Thursdays. Tickets are CHF10 for adults and may also be purchased online.
2. Visit a Church
Of the many beautiful churches in and around the city, we found a couple that are not only beautiful on the outside, but have interesting histories or hidden gems inside. The first two of these are home to beautiful stained glass windows by Augusto Giacometti.
Fraumünster Church (Minster of Our Lady), in addition to the Giacometti windows, is the proud possessor of stained glass windows by Marc Chagall and a series of frescos by Paul Bodmer in the cloister. A Benedictine convent founded on this site in 853 by Emperor Ludwig (Louis the German) replaced an earlier convent on the same site. Ludwig was the grandson of Charlemagne and his daughter Hildegard was its first Abbess.
This graceful building dates from the mid 13th Century despite the inscription of the date 1732 on the slender blue spire. The spire was originally one of a pair added after the original building was constructed. The crypt beneath holds the relics of Felix and Regula, martyred on the site of the nearby Wasserkirche.
The church is open every day from 10am, until 4pm in winter and 6pm in summer.
Wasserkirche (Waterchurch) has a history dating back to the end of the late fifteenth century when the church was built on the site believed to be where the Romans executed the city’s martyrs Felix and Regula. A stone marker in the crypt of the church is said to mark the site. However, an earlier church was built on this site around 500 years before the present Gothic structure and even before that, non-Christian religious rituals were held there. The church became the first public library of Zürich in 1634 but has, in recent years, following archaeological work and reconstruction, been once again used as a church.
The Helmhaus, on the northern side of the building was built in this form in 1791, although it dates back to around 1253 when it was first used as a Court of criminal justice. The Wasserkirche is open Tuesday morning and in the afternoon from Wednesday to Saturday.
St Peter’s Church (St. Peterskirche) is the oldest Parish church in Zürich and the original 9th century walls foundations can still be seen in the area beneath the chancel. Zürich’s first mayor Rudolf Brun acquired the church building in 1345 and his grave and a monument can be seen near the outer tower wall. Another gravestone, set in the church wall, belongs to Pastor J.C. Lavater, who was pastor between 1778 and 1801.
We also discovered that the clock has the largest face of any clock in Europe at an impressive 8.7m in diameter. The tower, which is home to five bells dating from 1880, does not belong to the same owner as the church building. It’s belonged to to the city of Zürich since 1803 and was used as a fire watchtower until 1911, the nave is owned by the St. Peter parish. The church is open seven days a week.
3. Have a snack
Fondue may almost be the national dish of Switzerland, and you will find fondue restaurants easily in Zürich, However, we wanted to sample some of the other things the city has to offer as well and found these four which tickled our tastebuds…
Bratwurst – Apparently the Imbiss Riviera Bratwurst stand at the corner of Limmatquai and Quaibrücke that we just happened upon as we felt the need for sustenance is well recommended. Not big eaters, we shared a sausage and discovered we could even have a glass of wine to wash it down. Very civilised.
Ice Cream. As we walked along Theaterstrasse just by the Opera House, we came across a Mövenpick Ice cream boutique, it seemed sensible to ‘taste test at the source’. There is a small park a little further down, where we decided to sit and enjoy our cones or we could have walked across the Square and sat by the lake. They have a good range of flavours, but only open at 12midday, most days of the year.
Chocolate. The Sprüngli Restaurant along Bahnhofstrasse is a great spot to stop and watch the world go by with a cup of hot chocolate or a light lunch.
Pastries and Biscuits. Just off Bahnhofstrasse, as we wandered along Storchengasse, we were distracted by a shop selling very enticing florentines, chocolate dipped orange, and biscuits. Very hard to resist. You can also pick up very reasonably priced croissants to take on a train trip at Cafe Spettacolo in the Main train station, which we did to use up the last of our CHF before we left. We were left wishing we’d had more to spend as they were really good.