This is the final stop in our trip. Hold back your tears, it’s been fun. Let’s just think of the good times.
Once you reach the train station, head south to find most of the hotels and attractions. Perhaps the premiere lodging destination in the city is Hotel zum Storchen. It claims to be the oldest in Europe, and actually is the only hotel directly on the Limmat River, which flows into Lake Zurich. Much like the Hotel Des Balances in Lucerne, the zum Storchen has gone through several incarnations before becoming the property it is today. The small hotel, with 70 rooms, gets its name from a legend that says hundreds of years ago, a couple of rare black storks made their home on the roof of the building. Their nests were blown off during a bad storm but a black egg, blown out of the nest, was found on the ground and was considered to be good luck.
Hotel zum Storchen. Photo by Ben Shlesinger.
The rooms can be pricey, ranging from 390-545 CHF but the hotel has a cozy feeling to it. Not only do you get a free fruit plate every night but there are also plenty of freebies in the room and a toiletries mini-bar of sorts in the bathroom. Just staying for one night will show you that a lot of thought and care went into the rooms. A nice touch is that guests get the security of electronic entry using a key fob. Furthermore, the keychain, if you will, is an oversized heavy brass weight roughly the size of a stick of butter. The hotel includes the weight so that the key is left at the front desk when leaving. This way the guest does not have to worry about misplacing the key and the staff gets to know everyone. I was greeted warmly a few times and I was only at the property for a day.
Hotel zum Storchen, Weinplatz 2, www.storchen.ch, 044 227 2727, 390-545 CHF
Fraumunster. Photo by Ben Shlesinger.
Much like everywhere else on this trip, there isn’t enough time to do everything in a day but a good first stop is the Fraumunster (Church of Our Lady). It is a treat to visit because of the five stained-glass windows created by Marc Chagall. On the other side of the river from this church is the Grossmunster (Great Church). Photos are not permitted inside of either but a quick and narrow climb up the spiral staircases of the Great Church is rewarded with a view of the entire city. Several different lookout points allow for a 360-degree view of Zurich that can be recreated later with pictures.
Fraumunster, Fraumunsterstrasse, 044 211 4100, Free.
Grossmunster, Grossmunsterplatz, 044 252 5949, Free admission to cathedral, 2 CHF for tower access.
An absolute must-see is the Kunsthaus Zurich (Museum of Art). The museum houses an expansive collection of impressionism, post-impressionism and modern art. A bronze cast of Rodin’s Gates of Hell sits right outside the museum’s front steps. Inside, there are paintings from Monet, Cezanne, van Gogh, Gaugain, Kandinsky, Chagall, Klee, Mondrian, Matisse, Munch, Picasso and many more. Of course native son Alberto Giacometti, my favorite sculptor, has a lot of his life’s work on display. The Kunsthaus Zurich is one of the best art museums I’ve ever visited and worthy of several hours if you have the time. I came too early for a special Seurat exhibition that is around until Jan. 17.
Kunsthaus Zurich, Heimplatz 1, www.kunsthaus.ch, 044 253 8484, 13 CHF
Another museum worth visiting is the Landesmuseum (Swiss National Museum). If you ever wanted to know anything about Switzerland this is the place. The museum has prehistoric artifacts, and displays anything and everything from then until now. There is also an expansive collection of weapons and armor. A very interesting part of the museum is the coin collection that shows Swiss currency throughout the years. A word of caution though, those who cannot read German or French will need to get the audio tour. Very little in the museum is in English so it will be very difficult to navigate the collections without being able to read about them. It can take a few hours to properly visit the museum so plan accordingly.
Landesmuseum, Museumstrasse 2, www.musee-suisee.com, 044 218 6511, 5 CHF
The Opera House is worthy of a quick stop if just to see the nice architecture and to visit a different part of town. It was under construction and closed when I visited but it was still interesting to see.
Opera House, Falkenstrasse 1, www.opernhaus.ch/e, 044 268 6400
Near here is where I got a brezel, although they are available all over the city. Brezels are no-nonsense, large soft pretzels that come with different toppings or fillings and the dough can have different flavors. I got a sonnenblumen (sunflower) brezel and it was fantastic. There are scores of bakeries and other stores where authentic Swiss food can be purchased quickly while touring the city.
A different way to end the day in Zurich is to work your way up to the Zurich Zoo. Take the 6 bus from the center of town. When you get off at the last stop, you will be right next to FIFA headquarters. FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, has an expansive campus with many lush green acres and a big statue of children holding a soccer ball. This is worth a quick look but not much more.
Continue on your walk just a little bit more to find a pretty good zoo. There are elephants, hippos, gorillas, orangutans, and many other zoo staples you might expect to see. There were no giraffes but just walking on a path and crossing a peahen and her chicks makes up for it. The zoo should be devoid of tourists given its distance from the center of town so a stop here might provide you with a break of the hustle of Zurich before winding your trip down and heading home.
Zurich Zoo, Zürichbergstrasse 221, www.zoo.ch, 084 896 6983, 22 CHF
For more info: Check out the slideshow in this post and also refer to the list below for my other Switzerland reports.
- 10 things to know before going to Switzerland