In the minds of many foreigners, Switzerland is a land of offshore funded banks, unbelievably practical and small knife gadgets, political neutrality, snow-capped Alps, and glorious chocolate. Beyond the stereotypes, both good and bad, Switzerland is a gorgeous country that deserves further exploration. Zurich, the country’s cultural and commercial capital, is often a short stopover between other European destinations, so with only one day, here are some must see highlights of the city.
Zurich’s Old Town, known as The Altstadt is unbelievably picturesque, and hours could easily be wasted wandering around its well-manicured cobblestone streets. The historical buildings are numerous, as are shops catering to tourists and sidewalk cafes. The churches are classic and garner plenty of photo opportunities. The 3 most iconic churches in the city are Grossmünster, Fraumünster and St. Peterskirche. Grossmünster is a city landmark with its twin towers and was built between the 11th and 13th centuries. Fraumünster is a bit more sedate but is known for its lovely stained glass windows. St. Peterskirche is also known for its simplistic beauty as well as having the largest clock face of any church in Europe. After taking in the architectural sights, be sure to get lost down some smaller side streets instead of just sticking to the main avenues.
Lake Zurich is what truly gives the city its charm. Tourists can hop on a 1 1/2 hour boat trip in order to cruise around, get a different perspective of the city, and take in the gorgeous lake-front homes. Unlike some other canal and lake cities, Zurich’s waters are crystal clear and unpolluted. The swans swimming about also add a regal air to the city.
The city boasts an unbelievable collection of world class museums and galleries; more than 50 museums and over 100 galleries. Kunsthaus Museum is the premier spot for a collection of Swiss modern art and also features Dutch and Italian Baroque pieces, medieval sculptures, great works by Picasso, Monet and Chagall, key expressionist masterpieces plus pop art works.
Zurich is also the birthplace of the weird, subversive and unique Dadism art movement. Dadism was founded in 1916 in Cabaret Voltaire, a bar and art space on Spiegelgasse Street as a protest against social order which the founders believed had brought the horrors of World War I upon them. Dadists preached irrationality and political protest through all forms of art including visual art, poetry, literature, and theater. Cabaret Voltaire is now open to the public and an interesting stop on any itinerary.
Public transportation is well-organized, clean, and easy to navigate but a fun and very Swiss way to get around the city is on bicycle. There are numerous stations around the city offering free daily bicycle rentals.
After all that sightseeing, if weather permits be sure to take a seat at one of the numerous outdoor cafes to watch the passer-byes and then purchase some world-renowned Swiss chocolate before you bid farewell to this picture perfect town.