Traveling in Zurich
Zurich is often mistaken as the capital of Switzerland. While Bern holds that title, Zurich boasts being the largest city in the country. Most people tend to remark how expensive Zurich is, but it’s actually pretty cheap for anyone who has compared it to northern Norway! Zurich is built around the Limmat river which goes through the city center. This is where you’ll find most of the best restaurants, museums, and famous landmarks.
I spent a few nights in Zurich, so I often found myself walking along the Limmat river. Above is a photo I took during the day from one of several bridges that cross the Limmat. Below is a shot of the same area but taken at night. It’s really a picturesque area, probably best visited in the spring or summer instead of the end of winter when I was here! It’s also pretty expensive, so instead of getting a room here while I was in Zurich I stayed a bit further out in the suburbs.
This photo above was taken from Paradeplatz, a city square in downtown that is home to the headquarters of several of international banks. Somehow I foolishly didn’t photograph any of the banks here, but some of them are USB and Credit Suisse. These are some of the famous Swiss banks that are infamous around the world. A local here commented how they would take international money and never question the account owners, despite it being obvious many of them were corrupt leaders, or those involved in criminal organizations attempting to hide or launder money!
Paradeplatz has some of not just Swizterland’s, but earth’s most expensive real estate. There are several very high end fashion stores as well as art shops here. The photo above is from the store called Tom Ford. This fashion store became infamous for when they denied Oprah Winfrey’s request to look at an expensive hand bag, presumably because of her race. Clothing and handbags here are easily into the thousands of dollars, sometimes even over ten thousand!
This photo is from one of the art businesses in downtown Zurich as well. Things were so expensive here it’s hard for me to imagine them having a constant supply of customers. I saw some piece of art that looked to be a snail made out of gold and decorated with a few jewels. It was really small, but the price tag for it was over $3,000.
An important museum to visit is the Swiss National Museum in Zurich. The museum itself is an impressive building, appearing like a giant castle in the city. Because of some remodeling they were doing on the exterior, I only photographed it’s main tower. I hadn’t even planned to visit the Landesmuseum as it’s called in German, but happened to see it from a distance and my curiosity led me to it.
The Swiss National Museum covers just about everything you can imagine. There are plenty of artifacts, tapestries, paintings, and other historical items on display here. One room was beautifully decorated with dozens of large stained glass windows. Other rooms had less attractive things on display, like the man being tortured below. There was a pretty large section in the museum describing witch trails, Jewish persecution, and methods of torture that took place during Europe’s medieval ages.
One of the best Diorama’s I’ve ever seen was here at the Swiss National Museum. The diorama covers the Battle of Morat, one of the most important battles in European history. Under Charles the Bold, the Kingdom of Burundi had recently won a serious of impressive battles, and also made quite a number of enemies in the process. Charles the Bold had had some recent set backs with the Swiss, but his army was ready for revenge as he camped out near the city of Bern. Having miscalculated their movements,Charles the bold suffered heavy losses and was forced to retreat with his battered army from Switzerland. Even though he was able to escape, he supposedly became severely depressed and only died six months later in another battle. This ended 400 year rule of the Kingdom of Burgundy and disrupted the balance of power in western Europe for the next two centuries.
Of course it’s impossible to cover even a small section of the museum, but I also decided to share this painting above which depicts part of the important story of Felix and Regula. The story goes that in 286 CE, Christians were being persecuted and murdered in mass numbers. Felix and Regula and a servant were three who were able to escape southwestern Switzerland but were caught in Zurich. They were tortured and finally beheaded after not giving up on their religion. The story continues that they picked up their own heads and walked to the top of a hill where they buried themselves.
Outside of the Landesmuseum and back into the heart of Zurich is where you’ll find the Grossmunster church. This churchwas built over the location of the saints Felix and Regula around 1100 CE. The church took over a hundred years to complete and was inaugurated in 1220 CE. It remains one of the most important churches in all of Switzerland.
The Grossmunster is the most famous church in Zurich, and you can’t miss it when you’re visiting the downtown areas of the city along the river. This church above I just happened to see while passing by on a train. It’s certainly not as famous or important historically as the Grossmunster, but I liked the design and its appearance on a prominent hill. The Grossmunster is a protestant church while the Kirche Enge above is evangelical.
I really loved the architecture here. The buildings were pretty consistent in Zurich, seeming to favor different shades of whites and blues. Most of the buildings were slim townhouses that were a few stories high like these guys above and below.
Most big cities have some attractive downtown areas, but once you reach the suburbs that changes. In Zurich I stayed a few tram stops away from Paradeplatz in a residential neighborhood. Having traveled to a few other cities in Switzerland, it really seems like the entire country well maintained and picturesque. I took this photo above out of my room when morning when looking out over the rooftops of the adjancent houses.
Since my neighborhood that I stayed at was south of downtown, I needed the city trams and trains to get me around. Like all of Western Europe, Switzerland has a very efficient transport system I took them several times to different parts of the city and to the airport when I was ready to leave. Above is a stop in a main train station. I often used the trams as well, but missed out on this one below. While walking thorugh the streets I saw it passing by as well. The Fondue Tram takes you around the city while serving you desert and drinks!
I visited Zurich in the month of March. It definitely wasn’t exactly warm yet, but it was nice enough to be able to eat outside. The weather was probably in the mid-50s,(10C), and you can tell people were anxious for the winter to be over and able to get outside again. Unlike northern Norway, which I’ll never forgive or stop talking about because of their ridiculous restaurant prices, Switzerland has plenty of places to choose from. There’s no shortage of high end places to spend money, but lots of more casual dining or sandwich places that won’t kill your wallet.
This region of Europe is famous for it’s chocolate truffles. I’ve purchased them in Belgium, Germany and now Switzerland as well. Swiss chocolate is known as some of the best in the world, and there are plenty of chocolate stores to choose from.
I did a free city tour while I was in Zurich that was organized from my hostel. There I met another American traveler and after the tour was over we ended up exploring Zurich together. I was with him when we heard sound yelling and chanting, and I told him I believed there was a protest going on. He thought I was wrong, but sure enough when we went around the corner we saw a crowd of about 1,000 people protesting with banners, signs, and even some pyrotechnics. At first I had assumed their cause to be some feminist movement because many were carrying many vulgar signs and pictures of women with them.
I saw pictures of Baraba Kistler being carried a few times. As it turns out, she is a local from Zurich who was a communist and was supposedly arrested and tortured in Turkey after joining other communists there. She later died on her second visit to Turkey, and so I believe this group had a feminist and pro-communist cause. There were some hammer and sickle signs being carried here as well, which also makes sense. As one of the best countries in the world, it blew my mind that people here would want to change to a communist country!
Tesla cars had just become a hot item when I visited Zurich. The electric vehicles that use no gas are expensive, but an attractive car because of their design, reliability, and environmental impact. Telsa will do well in a country like Switzerland where people have money, like expensive items, and also care about going green. Telsa Motors stock had nearly tripled in the past few months before I had visited Switzerland. I imagine years later they will continue to do well as their cars become cheaper to manufacture and get better mileage. Above is a photo of the store, and below shows in interiror of one of the cars they had on display. I was surprised about the giant screen they had inside and the futuristic look the interior has.
A definite must visit place in Zurich is Uetliberg mountain. It’s right outside the city and easily accessible by a short twenty minute train ride. Uetliberg has a few restaurants and activities to do, and some nice views of the city. Above is the city of Zurich seen from Uetliberg. Zurich is exceptionally beautiful, but not so much from a distance on a winter day!
Uetliberg is located at about 2,851 feet (869 meters). Even though Zurich was dry and without snow when I visited, Uetliberg was at a high enough altitude to still have lots of snow! My friend and I hiked around a bit in the area, but I was still limited because of a hip injury from six months prior. There are plenty of trails to take in Uetliberg and I was sad to not be able to do more. After a short hike we went to a restaurant on top of the mountain and each had a big ole beer.
The best part of Uetliberg is this giant tower that you can climb. The top of the tower is where I took the picture of the city, but much more impressive are the views of the Swiss Alps. Below you can see what the view looks like of some of the dramatic peaks in the distance. At the time I had no plans for it, but just six months later I returned to Switzerland and attempted to climb the Matterhorn, one of the world’s most recognized mountains!
While exploring Zurich at night with my friend we came across the opera house. Neither of us were sure why, but outside were about a dozen fancy cars with no one in them, all with the engines running and their lights on. I suppose they were ready to take their guests away at a moments notice without having them wait or maybe trying to promote the theater with some nice cars outside! The opera house has been running since 1891.