The largest city in Switzerland with 380,500 residents, Zürich is also one of the oldest, with 7,000 years of a settlement under its belt. Just one look at the city’s beautiful surroundings on the northwestern tip of Lake Zürich and you’ll see why. The city is also a Mecca for shoppers, lovers of culture and those who appreciate fine cuisine. Zürich is a skier’s paradise in the winter with the slopes being easily accessible directly from the train station. According to several surveys Zürich is the wealthiest city in Europe and the city boasting the best quality of life in the whole world. Which I think might have something to do with the chocolate. Here’s a list of five of the most popular destinations in this beautiful and historical lakeside city.
The most imposing figures on Zürich’s skyline are the twin towers of the Grossmünster, a church whose construction began back in the year 1100. A lot has been done to this Romanesque-style treasure during the centuries that followed, but one thing remains the same: Climbing to the top of the tower still gives you the best view of the city in the city. Just be warned that the stairs are quite small and quite steep. The legend goes that the original church on this site was founded by none other than Charlemagne, whose horse fell to its knees over the tombs of Zürich’s patron saints Felix and Regula. Before that it was a burial ground for the Romans. Whatever the true origins of the church, it now offers an amazing look at the past, from its great carved portal featuring medieval columns and grotesques to its Romanesque crypt dating back to the 11th. Richard Wagner famously compared the church’s appearance to two pepper dispensers. The three-star Altstadt Hotel is right down the river bank from the Grossmünster.
Directly on the other side of the Limmat River is the Grossmünster’s perpetual competitor, the Fraumünster. Though smaller than its neighbor, the Fraumünster is also older, dating all the way back to the year 853 CE. Like the Grossmünster, the Fraumünster once boasted a convent, granted by King Henry III in 1045, so as you can imagine, the rivalry hit its stride throughout Medieval times. The monastery buildings were destroyed in 1898 to make room for the new Stadthaus, and Münsterhof, the town square in front of church, is named after the abbey that once stood there. the Fraumünster’s most famous feature dates back only to the year 1970 when Marc Chagall created five stunning stained glass windows for the church, comprised of, 1. Prophets, depicting Elijah’s ascent to heaven, 2. Jacob, displaying his combat, and dreams of heaven, 3. Christ, illustrating various scenes of Christ’s life, 4. Zion, showing an angel trumpeting the end of the world and 5. Law, with Moses looking down upon the suffering of his people. If you want to stay in a classic hotel right across the street from the Fraumünster, there’s the four-star Hotel Savoy Baur en Ville.
Set in a vintage 1898 French Renaissance Zürich building, the Swiss National Museum (Landesmuseum) is one of the most important art museums of cultural history in Europe and the rest of the world as well. Set right next to the Hauptbahnhof, the museum features exhibits showing the complete history of the city, from prehistory through ancient times and the Middle Ages to the 20th century. You’ll be amazed at all the Gothic art, the comprehensive collection of panel paintings and carved altars and the porcelain and faience collection. In fact, the Landesmuseum boasts a dizzying collection of over 820,000 objects, making the largest collection of Swiss cultural history and handicraft. Don’t miss the Swiss Furniture and Interiors exhibition or the eleven paneled period rooms dating from 1898. The Hotel Arlette Beim Hauptbahnhof provides three-star luxury right across the river from the museum.
Zürich’s contribution to the great art museums of the world is one of the best places in the world to see the work of modern Swiss sculptor Giacometti and the surrealist 18th century Swiss painter Fuseli. And that’s only the beginning. The Kunsthaus Zürich houses one of the most important art museums on the continent, with vast holdings including over 4,000 paintings and sculptures running from the Middle Ages to contemporary art. Here you’ll find work by Edvard Munch and Jacques Lipchitz, along with work by Swiss artists such as Johann Heinrich Füssli and Ferdinand Hodler. Dutch Old Masters like Rembrandt, Ruisdael, van de Cappelle and Kalf can be found on the museum walls, as well as Impressionists and Post-Impressionists like Géricault, Manet, Cézanne and van Gogh. More recent artists like Pipilotti Rist and Peter Fischli are also well-represented. One block away from the Kunsthaus is the 1835 manor housing the four-star Claridge Swiss Quality Hotel Zürich.
New York has its Fifth Avenue, Berlin has its Kurfürstendamm, and Zürich has its Bahnhofstrasse. One of the world’s most expensive and exclusive shopping avenues and some say the third most expensive street for retail property in Europe, the 1.4 kilometre Bahnhofstrasse runs from the railway station at the Bahnhofplatz, past Rennweg, Augustinergasse and Paradeplatz and on to the Bürkliplatz on Lake Zürich. Along the way, you can get anything from diamond rings to fur coats. Globus and Jelmoli are two fiercely competitive department stores, Swatch is there, along with many more traditional watch stores and the two biggest Swiss banks, UBS and the Credit Suisse Group, have their headquarters there. You can also do some shopping at the Apple Store, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Giorgio Armani, Cartier, Bvlgari, Prada, Hermès and so many other premium stores. But the street’s sweetest location must be on the Paradeplatz where you’ll find the crème de la crème of chocolate shops, Confiserie Sprüngli. For a classic Zürich hotel experience right across the street from the train station, there’s the four-star Hotel Schweizerhof Zürich.
Most famous for being home to the magnificent Swiss Alps, the small country of Switzerland draws avid hikers and skiers. Along with incredible ski runs and panoramic walking trails, however, this picturesque destination has so much more to offer. Its heritage is rich in folklore (complete with fire-breathing dragons!) and there are more than 100 art galleries in Zürich alone. Here are a few great cultural sites that will give your sore muscles a rest:
The Lindt & Sprüngli chocolate factory
Chocolate is one of Switzerland’s most beloved exports, and the Lindt brand is known all across the globe. Located just a few kilometers south of the city, the headquarters of Lindt & Spüngli is easy to reach from most hotels in Zürich by car or public transportation. Once there, you may take a tour of the chocolate factory and visit the adjacent chocolate museum. Round the day off with a screening of the factory’s film, and don’t forget to pick up your (chocolate-filled) gift bag before leaving! Also be sure to call ahead, as the place keeps limited hours.
The Maison du Gruyère
Along with chocolate, Switzerland produces mass quantities of cheese. If you love the dairy product as much as the locals do, you should definitely pay a visit to the Maison du Gruyère on the Moleson “Cheese Trail” near Gruyère. Originally opened back in 1969, the farm is now the only show dairy left in the country. Visitors can watch farmers deliver the milk and craftsmen process it into cheese loaves. The interactive exhibition is sure to stimulate your senses. Be sure to purchase some of the hard, mild cheese before leaving the property.
Marc Chagall’s Windows at Münsterhof
Münsterhof is a town square in the Lindenhof quarter of Zürich. It can be found right between Bahnhofstrasse and the River Limmat, and it is best known for one pretty amazing attraction—the slender-spired Fraumünster church. While the landmark’s architecture is eye-catching, what really make the church stand out are its windows. They were brilliantly crafted by Marc Chagall in 1967, when the legendary artist was already 80 years old. Their beautiful colors and impressive size (they are 10 metres tall) make the 5 choir windows among the most stunning attractions in Zürich.
Chagall's windows from inside the Fraumünster
Commonly thought to be the most “Italian” part of Switzerland, the medieval town of Bellinzona is also a fascinating destination. It is located on the skyline of a panoramic mountain pass, surrounded by spectacular views of the Swiss Alps. Bellinzona’s patrician houses, ancient churches and neo-Classical, Italian-style theatre mingle with more modern buildings like boutiques and cafes. However, its most intriguing attractions are its fortifications. They were built around 3 imposing castles: the Castlegrande, Castello di Montebello and Castello di Sasso Corbaro. Together, the castles form a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Want to stay the night? There are also great hotels in Bellinzona!
Château de Chillon
The most visited historic building in all of Switzerland, this “Water Castle” attracts over 300,000 guests each year—and for good reason. Since belonging to the Counts of Savoy from the 12th to 16th centuries, the Château de Chillon has been meticulously preserved. Some of the compound’s most attractive features are its wall paintings from the 14th century, its subterranean vaults and the grand bedroom that dates back to the days of Bernese rule. Comprised of 25 buildings and three courtyards, the waterfront castle is as large as it is beautiful.
the Château de Chillon
For the skiing enthusiast, Zurich is certainly one destination to keep in mind when planning a European holiday. The snow-capped mountains, quaint trappings of the old country, and modern cuisine and hospitality make this Swiss city a top consideration for travelers. Once you’ve decided to go, next comes the task of finding a reasonably priced hotel. You’ll find there are many comfortable places to stay with contemporary amenities, all you need to do is make the right Zurich hotel reservations.
Where are the best hotels in Zurich? There are so many to choose from, but here are ten to research when you’re ready to visit.
Hotel Bristol Zurich – Within walking distance of Old Town, the Bristol offers breathtaking views of the Limmat River and easy access to the theater district.
Schweizerhof Zürich – Here you’re close to the railway station, great if you have Europass. The Schweizerhof also boasts one of the better hotel bars in town.
Zurich Marriott Hotel – A brand American visitors can trust, the Marriott offers contemporary comfort in the old world.
St. Gotthard – Situated on the famous Bahnhofstrasse, the Saint Gotthard Hotel right where the action is. Easy access to shopping, dining, and the ski resorts, at a great price.
Rex Swiss Quality Hotel – This lovely, hip hotel is not far from the university once home to Albert Einstein, and there’s no end to the possibilities for sight-seeing when you stay here.
If you are interested in price-comparison of Zurich hotels for your European vacation, be sure to thoroughly check all the major booking engines for discounts according to location and season. A relaxing trip can be yours if you know how to plan. Enjoy Zurich!
BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP…
Ah yes, the less-than-comforting sound of an alarm clock. There you were, in a perfectly blissful state of slumber, and that awful blaring of competing tones disrupts your bliss and you are forced to leave that safe, warm place and go out into the harsh world.
But, what if you could take that warm, peaceful feeling with you to work or school?
Yoga allows that to happen. By syncing your body and mind through different poses and meditation, you become more focused. For me, yoga gives a greater sense of purpose for all of the day’s tasks, so I don’t become overwhelmed or stressed, but take things one step at a time. Doing this doesn’t make getting out of bed difficult, but almost exciting to make the most of your day.
Travel & Leisure posted an article of the top 25 yoga studios around the world. Here are a few located in Europe:
- Hamsa Yoga Studio: Copenhagen, Denmark – Offering Vinyasa yoga, this studio also offers advanced back-bending and Thai massage. English classes available on request.
- Triygoga: London, England – With locations in Primrose Hill, Covent Garden and Soho, this studio also offers acupuncture, naturopathy and massage.
- Airyoga Munich: Munich, Germany – About a four-minute walk from Mandarin Oriental Hotel, this studio offers massages, facials and pedicure in addition to all major yoga styles. English classes available upon request.
- Rasa: Paris, France – This studio focuses primarily on Vinyasa yoga, but still offers classes in Mysore, Ashtanga and Yin. English classes available upon request.
- Airyoga Zurich: Zurich, Switzerland – Here, a variety of 10 different yoga traditions are taught in a convenient location in Bellevue Plaza. Almost all classes are taught in English.
Of course, there are many yoga studios around the world you can attend. Just try out a few sessions and see if it’s a good fit. Hopefully it will leave you rejuvenated and refreshed. With plenty of hotels in and around Copenhagen, London, Munich, Paris and Zurich, be sure to check out affordable hotels at Eurobookings.com.
If all else fails, perhaps a more soothing alarm clock could also do the trick. But trust me on the yoga thing.
Looking for an young, hip place to spend the evening in Switzerland? Look no further than the Zic-Zac Rock Garden, which is one of the hottest spots in the Zurich. Here, you can dance on the tables and jam to different types of music each night. The DJ changes out the music almost nightly, so there is always something new and fun to listen to.
The Rock Garden is located in the Zic-Zac Rock Hotel, which is seven short minutes from the train station, and a walking distance from the heart of Zurich’s vibrant nightlife district. If you have a long night partying in the Rock Garden, check in at the hotel. Each room carries an ecclectic, unique vibe that complements the friendly staff.
This Rock Garden is a great way to spend an evening partying in Zurich. Everyone who visits can experience their own unique escape. Visit, and find out why this hotel’s motto is “Be Yourself.”