Old Town, Zurich
Between the Bahnhofstrasse and the left bank of the Limmat extends the western half of Zurich's old town. In this area is to be found the quiet tree-shaded Lindenhof, the site of a Roman fort and later of an Imperial stronghold and, today, a popular place for a short excursion. From the terrace there is a fine view of the old town.
St Peter's Church
To the south of the Lindenhof, on a little hill, stands St Peter's Church, the oldest parish church in Zurich. It has an early 13th C. Romanesque choir under the tower and a Baroque nave (three-aisles, with galleries) of 1705. In 1538 the church acquired the largest clock dials in Europe, 8.7 m/29ft in diameter. The great preacher and writer J. C. Lavater (1741-1801) was pastor here for 23 years; his former house was the Hans zur Armbrust (No. 6) on the square outside the church.
To the south of St Peter's Church is the Münsterhof, a pleasant square in Zurich's Old Town, with a long history. On the Münsterbrüche (1838) over the Limmat stands a bronze equestrian statue (by H. Haller, 1937) of Burgomaster Waldmann (beheaded in 1489), under whose rule Zurich reached the peak of its power in the 15th C.
Church of Our Lady
On the south side of Zurich's Münsterhof square is the Fraumünster (restored 1965), a three-aisled pillared basilica with a Gothic nave (13th-15th C.), an Early Gothic transept and a pointed spire. The Fraumünster was given by the Emperor Ludwig (Louis) the German to his daughter Hildegard in 853 and, from that time until the high Middle Ages, the head of the convent was also governor of the town.Choir windows by Marc Chagall.
Opening hours: 10am-12pm, 2pm-4pm
Entrance fee: FREE
In the imposing Late Romanesque choir of Zurich's Fraumünster are five stained-glass windows by Marc Chagall (1970). The undercroft contains remains of the crypt of the abbey church founded by the Emperor Ludwig (Louis) the German in 853. The abbey itself was demolished in 1898 to make way for the Stadthaus, but the Romanesque and Gothic cloister survives, with paintings of old Zurich legends by P. Bodmer (1928).
Zunfthaus zur Meisen (ceramics)
On the north side of Zurich's Münsterhof (No. 20) is the Zunfthaus zur Meisen, a magnificent Late Baroque guild-house (by D. Morf, 1752-57) in the style of a French hotel (town mansion) with a cour d'honneur, which now houses the Swiss National Museum's ceramic collection of the 18th C., (including Zurich work from the porcelain factory in the Schooren) near Kilchberg and a court of honor.
Zunfthaus zur Waag (restaurant)
From the Zunfthaus zur Waag, Zurich's Stadthausquai leads south past the Bauschänzli summer restaurant to Bürkliplatz and the Quaibrücke, which crosses the outflow of the Limmat to Bellevue Platz on the opposite bank. In Bürkliplatz is the landing stage for the lake steamers on which visitors can take delightful trips on Lake Zurich. To the south, in good weather, there is a splendid view over the lake to the Glarus Alps.
From Zurich's Weinplatz, with the Weinbauer fountain (1909), we cross the Limmat on the Rathausbrücke (1878), successor to a series of earlier bridges which for centuries provided the only crossing. Along the banks of the Limmat are well-preserved old Burghers' houses, such as the "Schipfe" housing complex on the west bank which dates from the 17th-18th C.
At the east end of the Rathausbrücke, overhanging the river on the right, is the Zurich Rathaus (Town Hall, 1694-98), a massive Later Renaissance building, with rich sculptured decoration, in which the cantonal and communal councils meet in public. The tastefully furnished Baroque ceremonial hall is well worth seeing.
Along the Limmatquai, a popular Zurich shopping street, are a number of elegant old guild-houses with richly appointed interiors reflecting the wealth of the guilds which governed the town until 1789: at No. 54 the Haus zur Saffran (1719-23), at No. 42 the Haus zur Rüden (1660) and at No. 40 the two-storied Haus zur Zimmerleuten (1709: extended 1783-1785; with a beautiful oriel window), all now housing restaurants. No. 62 is the Haus der Museumsgesellschaft (1866-1868; rebuilt in 1965).
On the south side of Zurich's Münsterbrücke stands the Late-Gothic single-aisled Wasserkirche ("water church"), once entirely surrounded by the Limmat. It was not connected to the land until 1839 when the Limmat quay was constructed. In front of the choir is a bronze statue of 1885 to Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) Zurich's great Reformer. Built on to the north side of the church is the Helmhaus (1794), with an open fountain hall, in which special exhibitions are put on by the municipal authorities.
Great Minster is Zurich's main church with two towers that can be seen from around the city. This Romanesque basilica was started in the 11th century and features stained glass of note and two bronze doors.
Old Town streets
A walk through the eastern part of the old town of Zurich is full of charm and interest, with many excellent antique shops adding to its attractions. Going north up Münstergasse, we come to the Napfgasse, with the Brunnenturm, headquarters of the Lombard money-changers in the 14th and 15th C. The most interesting house is No. 6, the Haus zum Napt, which has fine interior furnishings, including rooms in Renaissance and Regency styles.
In Zurich's Spiegelgasse is a house (No. 17) in which Lenin lived in 1917. In this street, too, was the cabaret in which Hans Arp and Tristan Tzara launched the Dadaist movement in 1916.
Zurich's Spiegelgasse runs east into the Neumarkt in which are the Shoemakers' Guildhouse (No. 5), now the Theater am Neumarkt. The Hans zum Rech (No. 4), which dates from the High Middle Ages, now houses the town archives (opening times given). The 13th C. Grimmenturm, (No. 27, restored in the mid 1960s) was originally a residence.
Address: Newmarkt 4, CH-8001 Zürich, Switzerland
Opening hours: 8am-12:30pm, 1:30pm-5:30pm; Sat: 8am-11:30am, 1:30pm-5:30pm
Entrance fee: FREE
Gottfried Keller House
Set back from the Spiegelgasse in the east side of Zurich's old town, Gottfried Keller House was the birthplace of the great Swiss writer Gottfried Keller (commemorative plaque); he was the first Chief Clerk of the canton of Zurich. Close by, at Rindermarkt 12, is the Oepfelchammer restaurant, a favorite haunt of his. The house in which he died is at Zeltweg 27, southeast of the Heimplatz.
Johanna Spyri Foundation
To the north of Zurich's Neumarkt stands the Predigerkirche (1611-1614), the Preachers' (i.e. Dominicans') church, an Early Baroque building with a Neo-Gothic tower. In 1917 the Gothic choir, which was added in the 14th C., became the home of the cantonal archives.The High-Gothic choir of the Predigerkirche will be freed from its present additions and once again will be revealed in its full splendor. Between the Chorgasse and the inner courtyard of the choir a new pedestrian precinct will be a welcome addition to the Old Town.
University library of Zurich
Adjoining Zurich's Predigerkirke is the Central Library, on the site of a Dominican monastery. The buildings have recently been extended; the restored main house in the Zähringerplatz houses a special collection and the North American Library; there also is a public wing with reading rooms along the Mühlgasse, an administration block between the Seilergraben and the Chorgasse.
Hirschengraben (Haus zum Rechberg)
To the east of Zurich's Neumarkt is the Haus zum Rechberg, Hirschengraben 40 (at the corner of Künstlergasse), which was built by D. Morf for the guild master J. C. Werdmuller amid terraced gardens between 1759 and 1790. It is Zurich's finest Roccoco building and the most important secular building of the 18th C. In 1799 the house was occupied by French and allied generals and, in 1815, by the Emperor Francis I of Austria. Also of interest is the Hans zum Neuberg (No. 59/60) which dates from 1733 but rebuilt in 1818; Alfred Escher, the Zurich statesman, was born here. On the upper floor of No. 42, the Haus zum Krönli, built in 1739 and restored in the 19th-20th centuries., can be seen fine paneling. To the southeast is the Conservatory of Music.
The Art Gallery in Zurich houses an extensive collection of antique and contemporary artwork. The bronze sculpture known as the "Gate of Hell" is particularly worth seeing.
From 1642 to 1833 Zurich was surrounded by a ring of ramparts and bastions. After the demolition of these fortifications the moats were filled in, and the town was able to expand beyond its former limits. The monumental complexes of the University and the College of Technology are the result of this wave of building activity in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Federal College of Technology
Immediately north of Zurich's University is the Federal College of Technology (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule), founded in 1855, which now has some 11,000 students. The two-storied building with wings was constructed by Gottfried Semper in 1860-1864 in the Historism style, and extended in 1915-1925 by Gustav Gull. Semper was also responsible for the Federal Observatory (Sternwarte; Schmelzbergstrasse 25). In the main building of the College of Technology is a comprehensive collection of graphic art (exhibitions). Geological and mineralogical collections are housed at Sonneggstrasse 5. Extensions to the college were built on the Hönggerberg to the northwest of the town. From the northwest corner of the main complex a funicular descends to the Limmatquai.
Thomas Mann Archives
A collection devoted to the writer Thomas Mann (1875-1955) including documents and manuscripts. A library can be observed after prior arrangement.
Town Council reception rooms
At Seestrasse 203, the Muraltengut has reception rooms which are used by the Zurich Town Council.
Guild House of Meisen China
James Joyce Foundation
ETH Graphic Collection
Museum of Swiss Hotellerie
The development of tourism and hotels between 1830 and 1930 is shown in annually changing exhibitions.The 15th C cellar is classified as a historical monument.
Museum of Tin Figures
The Museum of Tin Figures contains toy exhibitions and the Gottstein-Blum model collection.
Address: Obere Zäune 19, CH-8001 Zürich, Switzerland
Opening hours: 2pm-4pm; Sun: 11am-3pm; Closed: Tue, Thu, Fri
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), May Day / Labor Day (May 1), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Good Friday - Christian, Pentecost Monday (Whit Monday) - Christian, Easter - Christian
Entrance fee: FREE
ETH Geological and Mineral Collection
The Kulturama presents a paleological collection.
Address: Letzi, Espenhofweg 60, CH-8047 Zürich, Switzerland
Opening hours: 2pm-5pm; Sun: 10am-5pm; Wed: 2pm-9pm; Closed: Mon, Sat
Entrance fee: FREE
Useful tips: The Kulturama is also open the first Sunday of every month from 10am to 5 p.m. Also open by appointment. Closed on official holidays.
Map of Zurich Attractions