Old Town, Zurich

Old TownOld Town
Sights in the eastern section of Zurich's Old Town include: the Town Hall, the Wasserkirche, the Grossmünster, the Art Gallery and the University.
Sights in the western section of Zurich's Old Town include the Lindenhof, St Peter's Church, Münsterhof square, the Fraumünster Church and the Weinplatz.


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

St Peter's ChurchSt 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

Church of Our LadyChurch 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.

Stained Glass

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.
Address: Wühre 2, CH-8001 Zürich, Switzerland

Zunfthaus zur Waag (restaurant)

On the west side of Zurich's Münsterhof square is an old guild-house (No. 8), the Zunfthaus zur Waag (1636; restaurant) with a stately Baroque doorway and Late-Gothic window-frames in the guild-hall.

Bürkliplatz (Quaibrücke)

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.

Town Hall

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).

Water Church

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

On an open terrace above the river stands Zurich's principal church, the Grossmünster (Protestant), which dominates the city with its twin towers (domed tops added in 1782). Built between the 11th and the 13th C., it is a Romanesque three-aisled galleried basilica with an aisleless chancel over a crypt of about 1100. The upper levels of the towers date from 1487. On the upper part of the south tower, on the side facing the river, is a seated figure of Charlemagne (copy: original in the crypt), who is believed to have founded the house of secular canons to which the church originally belonged; on the north side of the north tower is a figure of the Reformer Heinrich Bullinger. Notable features of the church are the two modern bronze doors (1935-36), the sculptured Romanesque capitals, remains of Gothic wall-paintings and the Late Romanesque cloister (ca. 1200). In the choir are three vividly colored stained-glass windows designed by Augusto Giacometti (1933) and in the crypt is the badly weathered statue of Charlemagne. From 1519 until his death in the Battle of Kappel in 1531 the great Reformer Ulrich Zwingli was a secular priest in the Grossmünster. His residence was close by, at Kirchgasse 13. The Neo-Gothic Grossmünster chapel (1858-1859) was designed by J. J. Breitinger, the minster terrace is by A. Negrelli.

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.

Lenin's House

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.

City Archives

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

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

In Zurich's Zeltweg lived the young authoress Johanna Spyri for 15 years; some of her work can be seen at No. 13, where the Spyri foundation is housed.
Address: Zelteg 11, CH-8032 Zürich, Switzerland

Preacher's Church

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.
Address: Zähringerplatz 6, CH-8001 Zürich, Switzerland

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.

Zurich Art Gallery

A short distance south of Zurich's Conservatoire is the Heimplatz, on the southwest side of which we find the Art Gallery (Kunsthaus), with an important collection of pictures and sculpture from antiquity to the present day. To the right of the entrance can be seen a large piece of bronze sculpture, the "Porte de l'Enfer" ("Gate of Hell") by Auguste Rodin (1880-1917). The institution, run by the Zurich Society of Arts with the aid of a public subsidy, goes back to a society of artists, founded in 1787; the "Künstlergüetli" gallery was established in 1847. The buildings were extensively enlarged in 1925, in 1954-1958 and in 1976. In addition to Swiss painters of the 19th and 20th C., such as J. H. Füssli, F. Buchser, R. Koller, A Böcklin, F. Hodler, C. Amiet, A. and J. Giacometti, M. Gubler and M. Bill, there are important works by E. Munch, O. Kokoschka and M. Beckmann. Also to be seen are paintings by French Impressionists, including Manet, Monet and Cézanne, international avant-garde artists of the 20th C. such as Klee, Mondrian, Picasso, Chirico, Matisse, Chagall, and many exhibits in a Dadaist collection. The department of modern sculpture since the time of Rodin has works by Moore, Picasso, Barloch, Maillot, Rodin, Segal, Caler and Tinguely. The graphic collection has about 80,000 drawings and prints by J. H. Füssli, S. Gessner, F. Hodler, F. Hegi, L. Corinth, A. Dürer, Raffael and Rembrandt, P. Klee, F. Glarner, C. Amiet, M. Klinger and the Zurich "concrete" movement.
Address: Heimplatz 1, Postfach 8024, CH-8001 Zürich, Switzerland


Facing the Zurich Art Gallery, on the southeast side of the Heimplatz, is the Haus zum Pfauen (House of the Peacock: built 1888-89, reconstructed 1976-78), with the Schauspielhaus (theater), one of the most renowned of German-language theaters, completely remodeled in the recent rebuilding.


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.


From Urich's Heimplatz, the Rämistrasse, coming from the Bellevueplatz, continues up to a terrace on which stands the University (founded 1833, rebuilt 1911-14), with a 64 m/210ft high tower. The University buildings contain a number of museums and collections. Extensive new university buildings on the Irschel, in the Unterstrasse district, were brought into use in 1978. Zurich is the largest Swiss university - in 1988 there were some 19,000 matriculated students.

University Medical Collection

The museum illustrates the development of medicine through its rich collection of medical objects. Medical developments in areas such as anesthesia, tuberculosis and AIDS are represented.
Address: Sammlung der Universität, Rämistrasse 71, CH-8006 Zürich, Switzerland

University Archaeological Collection

The collection has Egyptian, Syrian, Greek and Roman works of art. It also contains plaster reproductions of original antique art.
Address: Rämistrasse 73, CH-8006 Zürich, Switzerland

University Anthropological Collection

The exhibition at the Zurich University Anthropological Collection gives an overview of human evolution.
Address: Winterthurerstrasse 190, CH-8057 Zürich, Switzerland

University Botanical Garden

The greenhouses of the botanical garden are open during the following hours:
daily 9:30-11:30 a.m. and 1-4 p.m.
The garden contains more than 1.5 million plants.
Address: Zollikerstrasse 107, CH-8008 Zürich, Switzerland

University Zoological Museum

The fauna of Switzerland from the ice age to present day is exhibited.
Address: Karl Schmid-Strasse 4, CH-8006 Zürich, Switzerland

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.
Address: Schönbergasse 15, CH-8001 Zürich, Switzerland

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

This exhibit highlights Switzerland's contribution to the culture of china and earthenware from the 18th century.

Architectural Forum

The Architectural Forum is located in the Old Town of Zurich.

James Joyce Foundation

The foundation contains manuscripts and books by James Joyce.
Address: Augustinergasse 9, CH-8001 Zurich, Switzerland

Toy Museum

The Toy Museum of Zurich presents toys from the 18th - 20th C.
Address: Fortunagasse 15, CH-8001 Zürich, Switzerland

ETH Graphic Collection

Prints by Durer, Rembrandt, Piranesi and Goya plus Swiss prints from the 15-20th C.
Address: ETH-Zentrum, Ramistrasse 101, CH-8000 Zürich, Switzerland

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.
Address: Witellikerstrasse 22, CH-8702 Zollikon, Switzerland

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

ETH Geological and Mineral Collection

An earth-sciences exhibition including paleontology and mineralogy.
Address: ETH-Zentrum, Sonneggstrasse 5, CH-8092 Zürich, Switzerland

Kulturama (Schulmuseum)

The Kulturama presents a paleological collection.
Address: Letzi, Espenhofweg 60, CH-8047 Zürich, Switzerland

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