Coordinates: 47°22′43″N 8°32′24″E
When compared to other main European cities, Zürich is small and does have an iconic structure people have on their bucket list to visit, as for example Paris’ Eiffel Tower Eiffel or Florence’s Ponte Vecchio. But this city has many hidden treasures; beyond those already on the bank vaults for which this city is so famous.
Besides the lake and namesake that defines its scenery, two rivers flow through the city: the Sihl and the Limmat. This is not a big surprise in a country where water is the most important natural resource. What is interesting, is to explore the city from the perspective of its water bodies.
River and Forest
Today the Limatt is used for leisure strolls and hydroelectric power generation, but in medieval times it served as entrance for merchants bringing gold and provisions into the city. In the XVI century, this river played a key role in the silk industry’s growth. On the other hand, if you follow the Sihl River you find a section where the train runs below it and arrive at a beautiful natural forest located in the outskirts of Zürich.
Get Lost to Explore
It is possible to walk through the city’s old town, with its medieval architecture, in one morning. But my recommendation is to spare some time and get lost, with enthusiasm, among its streets, do some shopping and visit points of interest. The most well-known streets are Niederdorfstrasse, pedestrian walk that runs parallel to the Limmat River; Bahnhofstrasse, shopping street by the main railway station and home to Switzerland’s banking industry; and Rennweg, commercial district with easy access to Lindenhof Park, an ancient Roman military fortress with panoramic views.
In Zürich, most churches are of Reformed denomination. Although less decorated than Catholic ones, they also use art as complementary education. My favorite church is the Fraumünster with its stained glass windows by artists Marc Chagall and Augusto Giacometti. Sublime!
A Renewed Viaduct
I love the Bohemian and multicultural air in this area, plus its history: To preserve the ancient Viaduct (the government wanted to tear it down and build a new train tunnel) the community joined forces and gathered the necessary signatures to propose an alternate conservation initiative to be voted upon. A perfect example of Switzerland’s direct democracy political system!
Even the commercial outposts in the area are part of this redevelopment spirit; what the design industry refers to as upcycling: Freitag, bags made of recycled canvas; Frau Gerolds Garten, an urban garden in an old industrial lot decorated with car tires and shopping carts; Fernwärme Zürich AG, waste to energy plant; and Caritas Secondhand, with secondhand articles for sale.
On-going Events Calendar
Whether in summer or winter, the city offers a variety of events. I love that there is always something happening. Among the yearly activities are: the Sechseläuten parade that dates from the XVI century with all labor unions participating; the most popular festival in Europe, the Street parade, a celebration of tolerance, freedom and love to the rhythm of techno music; and Expovina where it is possible to taste 500 wines visiting twelve boats anchored at the Zürich Lake by the Bürkli Square.
Its Own Mountain - Uetliberg
One can discern the impressive Swiss Alps from the city center in a clear day; but visiting the Uetliberg is the alternative locals prefer in a cloudy day. This way they leave the fog behind, enjoy panoramic views of the lake and the city and visit the restaurant at the top. One can reach the Uetliberg by train or walking its planetary thematic trail.
Museums to Choose from
Zürich has plenty of museums, even the FIFA is about to open one dedicated to soccer. I always recommend and return to the National Museum. Besides perfectly summarizing Switzerland’s essence, from the historical and political point of views even in furniture design, it has a varied itinerant exhibitions calendar, all translated to English, plus it is located next to the main railway station and has a reasonable entry price.
More of Zürich
I tried to summarize and I know details I love of Zürich have been omitted. My recommendation is that on your visit, you choose a Tram (tramcar) and step down in every corner that captures your attention and do not forget to walk until you get lost in this interesting city.
Conscious Travel Practices:
1. Cooperate with local recycling efforts.
2. Choose places where one can listen to nature.
3. Support local hotels and commerce.
4. Travel with an open mind.