Wealthy, expensive and cosmopolitan Zurich is the cultural capital of Switzerland. Though a glass of Petite Arvine or plate of rösti will set you back quite a bit in this modern, progressive metropolis (not quite as much as in Geneva mind you), Zurich is well worth the effort and price.
Sure, a basket of common goods in the city costs a lot. Switzerland is famous for the hit it takes on your wallet. Yet Tokyo, Osaka, Moscow, Hong Kong and yes, Geneva, rank above Zurich in this regard. So dismiss the frugal cynics and reflect on another characteristic of the city and Switzerland in general: quality of life. Zurich consistently ranks up there with the likes of Vienna, Montreal, Auckland and other Swiss gems like Geneva and Bern in the ever-elusive “best quality of life in the world” index. Tour the city and these ten must-see attractions to find out why.
10. Rietberg Museum
One of the best museums on the continent devoted solely to non-European art, the Rietberg is a paramount cultural institution in Zurich.
From the 13th century until the late 17th century, Zurich was a typical city-state, with extensive fortifications and ramparts. Today, traces of these Schanzengraben, as it were, exist throughout the old city. From Rennweg to Limmatquai, elements of medieval Zurich unfurl one by one to intrepid pedestrians.
The paragon museum of Switzerland is the de facto National Museum in Zurich. Known as Landesmuseum, the arts and culture facility is one of the most vital in the country and indeed, Europe as well. Take your time in this notable Zurich gem – your patience will be rewarded.
Built in the Romanesque style, the Grossmünster is one of three principal church landmarks in Zurich. Singular for a major role in the Protestant Reformation, construction on the monastery church began in the year 1100. Built on a Roman cemetery, the Grossmünster has priceless historical import and strikes a dramatic pose from Lake Zurich.
Since 1929 the Zurich Zoologischer Garten has been a leader in conservation and first-rate facility, as far as zoos go. With over 3,000 specimens on display, the zoo is a great place in the city for educational, wholesome family fun.
Another vital city symbol, the Fraumünster dominates the Zurich skyline. The abbey of the same name dates back to the year 853, incredibly, and the church contains some impressive stained glass design work by none other than Marc Chagall.
Since the year 1910, Kunsthaus Zurich has been one of the most significant art museums in Switzerland and Europe. The collection of mostly Swiss-centric art is as impressive as the historic edifice itself, one of the most recognizable in the city.
Like Fifth Avenue in Manhattan or Avenue Montaigne in Paris, Zurich’s Bahnhofstrasse is more of a curiosity than a feasible, accessible place to shop for mainstream tourists. Easily one of the most expensive streets in the world, the major thoroughfare is awash with all the posh brand names, from Tiffany to Dior, Zegna to Bvlgari. All in all, a superb place to window shop and dream, perhaps not to score a bargain or haggle however.
This being Switzerland of course, Zurich has a lake and lush scenery galore to admire. Head outside the old city to the idyllic confines of Lake Zurich then, either on foot or via bicycle. Stroll, meander or just plain walk. The views are brilliant here.
A hill and section of old Zurich, the Lindenhof is the historic home of a Roman castle and fortress. A wonderful recreation space for locals and visitors alike, the vehicle-free zone provides beautiful panoramas of Zurich.
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