By Hank Schrader, USMA ’71, Europe Destination & Europe River Cruise Expert
In December, 2018, we got the chance to visit Zurich, Switzerland. It was the first visit for both Anne and I. We really enjoyed our 2 days in this Alpine City.
So, I thought I would tell you a little about Zurich and what you might consider doing there if you decide to visit this wonderful Swiss city.
An Overview of Zurich
Zurich started off as a Roman settlement from roughly 15 BC until 401 AD. During the Middle Ages, Zurich was ruled by a city council head up by Abbots of the Fraumunster convent. In 1336, a group of tradesmen seized control and made Zurich part of the Swiss Confederation. These tradesmen were members of guilds and 13 of these guilds became the power behind the ruling mayors they selected to govern the city. There are some remaining examples of the guild houses that are quite striking buildings, if you chose to walk through the old town section of Zurich, which is the best way to explore this city.
Today Zurich is a leading world economic center and an important industrial center for Switzerland. Despite its incorrect reputation as an excellent example of the Protestant work ethic and a somber place, it not a just a hardworking city with few fun outlets. It is vibrant and cosmopolitan city based on our visit. Not only does it have good Christmas Markets, it has other festivals throughout the year and other fun activities. For example, during our visit we observed thousands on a fun run through the Old Town area, with babies in strollers or just barely walking, some serious runners and those just looking for a little exercise—some dressed in Christmas gear—certainly not a stodgy place at all!
The city is quite walk-able and enjoying the Old Town area on both the East and West sides of the Limmat River is quite a pleasant and memorable stroll that will take 2-3 hours.
So, let’s explore Zurich together.
For a view of one of the richest shopping areas in the world, Banhofstrasse will wow you with goods that carry a price tag worth of world-wide recognition. The street was constructed in 1865 roughly along the western walls of the old city and has a wonderful trolley system.
On Banhof street is Paradeplatz (a square), that is the home of almost every Swiss bank headquarters. The banking industry is the economic driver of the Swiss economy, as the city accounts for over half the wealth of the entire nation.
The Old Town East Side
The east side of the Limmat River is full of cafes, bars and nightlife, along with the largest church, the Grossmunster, with its twin towers. Here are some of the key sights:
Niederdorf—this street is the nightlife center in Zurich. There are night-clubs, discos, cafes, restaurants, and bars in this area, along with striptease shows.
Grossmuster—an impressive Cathedral building, its twin towers dominate the horizon and are the most recognized landmarks of the city. One tower has a carved statue of Charlemagne near the top of the tower on his horse. Inside the building are the original crypt of Charlemagne and chancel (place for the priests and choir).
Rathaus (Old Town Hall)—this wonderful baroque building is not open to the public, as it still is used for government purposes, but it is an impressive building from the outside
The Old Town West Side
The West side of the Limmat River has some interesting sights. These include Lindenhof Square, Peterskirche, Munsterhof Platz and Fraumunster. Here is a description of these sights:
Lindenhof Quarter—the square overlooking the old town was once a Roman settlement—portions of the customs house and fortress remain. The fountain in the square commemorates the heroism of Zurich’s women, who are credited with saving the city from the Habsburgs in 1292.
Peterskirche—this is the oldest parish church in Zurich. The first church on this site was erected in the 9th century, but the current building dates from the 13th century. The church’s tower supports an enormous gilded clock, one of the largest in all of Europe.
Fraumunster—this church was originally built in the 13th century; it has a modern stained glass windows designed by Marc Chagall and Swiss contemporary Alberto Giacometti. 2 lovely guildhalls flank the church—the Weavers’ Guild, and the Wine-growers’ Guild hall. It is located on Munsterhofplatz, the grandest square in the Old Town, on the west side of the Limmat River.
Two Unique Christmas Markets
I had never been to an indoor Christmas Market in Europe, but in Zurich, in the main train station, there is a wonderful Christmas market that is unique. Along with the normal booths and stalls, there is an enormous Swarovski Crystal Christmas tree—it is truly different from any Christmas tree I have ever seen. Here is a photo of the tree:
Another great Christmas Market is located by the Opera House. It had an ice skating rink, various booths with foods and goods, and a unique fire pit to warm your hands. Here are some photos:
Zurich is One of Our 50 Europe Guides
We are quite proud of our 50 European City Guides. All are available upon request from our website. With our new visit to Zurich, between the both of us, we have now been in 43 of the 50 cites we have guides available for your use. It is easy to get as many as you desire—just go to our website (www.dreamdestinations.com), select the Europe section and send us a request for the guides you desire. Many also have PDF slide shows with our pictures that match the sights and things to do we recommend from our guides.
My Final Thoughts
Zurich exceeded my expectations—the Old town area was fun, quite walk-able and interesting. Try it on your next visit to Switzerland—we would be happy to help get you there so you can enjoy this great city.
When you are spending your hard-earned money for a vacation, you want an advisor who can match you with the right trip. You want someone who will understand your expectations and fuel your anticipation (or excitement) to get you the best possible trip experience. And, you want someone who can help you with the decision making process. We think we have all these qualities.
Whatever your Dream Destinations are, we are here to help you get the best possible vacation based on what is important to you! We will provide you high quality, expertly planned travel. Please give me a call 713-397-0188 (Hank) or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to help you: Savor life…make memories…Visit Dream Destinations! Your journey begins here!-
HANK is a certified Western European Destination Specialist (DS) who has been traveling to Europe for 45 years. He is also an Accredited Cruise Counselor (ACC), conferred by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA). This recognized expert in cruise and leisure travel is a retired Army Officer, and taught World Geography for 8 years. He is a `71 graduate of West Point and has earned 2 master’s degrees. His other Certifications:
AmaWaterways River Cruise Specialist
Viking River Cruise Specialist
Scenic River Cruise Specialist
Emerald Waterways Specialist
Avalon Waterways Specialist