TT&S Zurich: Top 10 Ways to Travel Back in Time While Visiting…
Zurich is a beautiful city situated on the northern tip of Lake Zurich and is known for its banks and Swiss Stock Exchange, however it is the history that appealed to me. While flights into Zurich are affordable, visiting the country can be rather expensive so here are my recommendations to travel back in time without breaking the bank…
- National Museum Zurich
- Polybahn Funicular Rail
- Kunsthaus – Museum of Modern Art
- Thermagasse – Roman Bath
- Archaeological Collection of University of Zurich
- Stories of Old Town Guided Walking Tour
- The Church of St. Peter
- Fraumunster Church
- Grossmunster Church
- Day Trips!
1. National Museum Zurich offers a wide range of artifacts, ranging from Medieval altarpieces and tapestries to Swatch watches! There is also a great variety of period rooms (dating between 15th and 17th C.) where the woodworking and inlay furnishing take you back in time. There is also a permanent exhibit on The History of Switzerland which is arranged in three themed sections. The museum cost is free with the ZurichCARD, without it it costs 10 CHF and make sure to check museum times as they vary. Total time is 2-3 hours depending on time and interest.
2. Polybahn Funicular Rail has been in operation since 1889 and while it only takes a few minutes to reach the top of the hill, it is worth the quick ride. A little bit of history that is still around today! If you want longer ride, albeit with less history, you can take a Limmat River Cruise which will take you through Zurich’s Old Town, while passing under the seven bridges the criss-cross the city. Total time: Polybahn- 5 minutes. River Cruise- 1 hour round trip.
3. Kunsthaus – Museum of Modern Art opened in the early 20th C. yet the artwork inside ranges from the Middle Ages to contemporary art, with an emphasis on Swiss art. Late Gothic, Flemish, and Italian Baroque paintings fill the rooms as well as sculptures by Swiss Artist, Alberto Giacometti (see #6 below for more). When you arrive to the museum you are greeted by Rodin’s bronze sculpture of the Gates of Hell, one of eight existing casts featuring Dante’s infamous figures from the Inferno. The art is not all modern so do not be fooled by the name, well worth a trip. Total time- 1-2 hours.
4. Thermagasse – Roman Bath is am unexpected gem! While there is no much to it, it offers a glimpse into the past– the Roman Era! In 1983, the remains of an ancient Roman bath was unearthed during construction and are now visible 24-7 via metal grating (!). There is a small ‘exhibit’ surrounding the remains, employing signs to explain the archaeological discovery under ones feet (PDF about Thermagasse). Total time is less than 15 minutes but well worth seeking it out.
5. Archaeological Collection of University of Zurich is a small museum on the university’s campus but well worth browsing through (especially after seeing the Roman Bath). Their website may be in German but their collections appeals to all! Etruscans, Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans are all represented in their compact but informative display. The collection was started by professors collecting plaster casts of historic sculptures starting in 1852. Make sure to check the museum hours as they vary, total time 1 hour.
6. Stories of Old Town Guided Walking Tour is a great way to get an overview of the city during your stay! On the tour you will see Augusto Giacometti’s Entrance Hall in, of all places, the Zurich Police Station, take in the view of the city from the scenic overlook of Lindenhof (one time location of 4th C. old Roman Fort and 9th C. Palace) , and wander the streets of Alstadt, Old Town Zurich. The tour is available in German and English (check times) and varies a bit by tour guide, it is also half off with the ZurichCARD. Total time is 2-3 hours.
7. The Church of St. Peter is the oldest Parish Church in Zurich. Located near Lindenhof hill, the church is easily recognized by the large clock face (largest in Europe!) and from the 14th C. to early 20th C. the tower was used as a fire lookout. The altars were unfortunately destroyed during The Reformation but what remains is a mix of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque architecture. The church is and worth a visit. Total time less than 1 hour.
8. Fraumunster Church is not far from the Church of St. Peter and is recognizable by the green copper spire with a slightly smaller clock. The church is built on the remains of a former abbey, founded by Louis the German in 853. The architecture is a mix of Romanesque and Gothic, with construction spanning almost a 1,000 years the church is an eclectic mix. The newest additions of colored glass windows by Swiss artist Giacometti and French-Russian artist Marc Chagall brighten the interior. Total time less than 1 hour.
9. Grossmunster Church is distinguished by its twin towers and is easily recognized in the skyline of Zurich. The church was once a monastery, which according to legend was founded by Charlemagne over the tombs of Zurich’s patron saints, Felix and Regula. Construction began in the early the 11th C. and was later used as the ‘headquarters’ for the Swiss Reformation in 1520. New touches of stain glass by Giacometti and Sigmar Polke stand out against the whitewashed surroundings. A statue of Charlemagne adorns the Karlsturm, or south tower, and for a small fee visitors are allowed to climb the 187 steps to take in breathtaking views of the city and Lake Zurich. Total time about 1 hour.
10. Day Trips: While the city has so much to offer one would be remiss if all you saw was Zurich! Whether you dare to drive yourself, take the train or opt for a guided tour I recommend exploring the surrounding area steeped in history. The Kappellbruke or Chapel Bridge in Lucerne, the Zytglogge Clock Tower in Bern, or a boat ride down Lake Zurich to Rapperswil are all great ways to explore the past and are perfect day trip ideas…. but do not limit yourself to these alone, there is lots to see-and-do, in-and-around Zurich! Total time at least 1 day!