23 Spots You Shouldn’t Miss in Zürich If You Love Architecture

Planning a trip to Europe? Then this article will give you some ideas

Zürich is under construction.

The historical Roman town has been busy at work and new exciting buildings, squares and public parks have bloomed across the city. Since my first trip to Zürich in 2014, a lot has happened around good old Turicum.

After a compelling trip organised by Visit Zürich and my friend Philipp Heer, we were able to visit some of the newest, most interesting and uplifting places of the city. Flitting hither and thither, Roc Isern, David Basulto and me enjoyed the privilege of a tailored itinerary, access to Zürich’s gems and perhaps the most inspiring, the architects behind these amazing structures.

If you are tremendously looking forward to a little exploration, Swiss cheese and white wine, Zürich has plenty of those to offer.

Because there is no better way to travel than with an architectural schedule, I made a list of my favourite places of Zürich so you can have some ideas for your next trip. You can also download my Free Architecture Guide of Zürich (PDF).

Let me know in the comments… which is your favourite place of the list?

Note: Please don’t use any of these pictures without the consent of the owners.

©Virginia Duran

1. Historical churches: Grossmünster Church, Fraumünster Church, St Peterskirche Church
Architect: Unknown
Grossmünsterplatz, 8001 Zürich (Google)
Year: 1220
Description: First things first, Grossmünster Church (c1220), Fraumünster Church (c1250) and St Peterskirche Church (c1000) are (still) some of the most impressive buildings in Zürich. Before you continue reading make sure these are high on your priority list as much is to be learnt from them. Read more here.

©Virginia Duran

2. Sihlcity
Architect: Theo Hotz
Kalanderpl. 1, 8045 Zürich (Google)
Year: 2003
Description: This massive development occupies the former site of a paper mill near the Sihl river, which by the way is very cool – or not depending on your opinion – with the motorway on top. The best thing about Sihlcity? The not so obvious corners of the complex: the library, the elevators as seen from above and the car park. Read more here.

©Virginia Duran

3. Law Library
Architect: Santiago Calatrava
Rämistrasse 74, 8001 Zürich (Google)
Year: 2004
Description: While the exterior of the old building from Hermann Fietz (built in 1908) was untouched, the interior was transformed into an oval wonder of light and awesomeness. What is absolutely remarkable is how the structure (integrated as part of the shelves) blends with the old building to support the new addition of space. The result is as if the new parts were floating in the courtyard. Pay attention to the white beams, have you noticed them? Read more here.

©Virginia Duran

4. Leutschentower
Architect: Bétrix & Consolascio Architects
Leutschenbachstrasse 52, 8050 Zürich (Google)
Year: 2011
Description: Leutschenbach, an area experiencing wild growth, has plenty of offices and increasing housing projects. Leutschentower integrates both. This playful and distinctive tall tower boasts offices and public areas combined with residential use. Another wonderful project by the same architects is the Letzigrund-Stadion. Read more here.

©Roc Isern

5. Haus G
Architect: Pool Architects
Genossenschaftsstrasse 13, 8050 Zürich (Google)
Year: 2015
Description: Haus G is part of a new interesting building cooperative called Mehr als wohnen (More than housing). The main objective of the district is to transform the way we live and work towards a more sustainable and ecological approach. The Tetris-like façade is the result of oversized living spaces that aim to bring light into the deep floor plans. Read more here.

©Virginia Duran

6. Haus E
Architect: Müller Sigrist Architekten
Hagenholzstrasse 104, 8050 Zürich (Google)
Year: 2015
Description: Another interesting block in the Mehr als wohnen cooperative, this photogenic building by Müller Sigrist Architekten is one of many by the firm in the Hunziker-Areal. Located on the former site of the Hunziker cement factory, Haus G became so distinctive thanks to its living façade. The requirements of the masterplan included the definition of three main elements: the plinth (4.5 m high), the body and the roof. Read more here.

©Virginia Duran

7. HWO Student Building
Architect: Architektick Architects
Wolfgang-Pauli-Strasse 10, 8049 Zürich (Google)
Year: 2016
Description: ETH Zurich (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich) is one of the leading universities in Zürich and HWO is one of its recent additions of the Hönggerberg campus. HWO, which consists of three buildings, is also the largest student housing complex in the city. The psychological approach of the program (grouping activities together) and the energy concept (green in every possible way) have been thoughtfully arranged both in plan – 3 individual structures – and elevation – from public on the ground floor to private use on the upper floors. Read more here.

©Virginia Duran

8. K.I.S.S. Apartment Building
Architect: Camenzind Evolution
Badenerstrasse 575, 8048 Zürich (Google)
Year: 2008
Description: Camenzind Evolution had a difficult task for this building: an intensive market research on potential customers. Their lifestyle, income class and needs is what shaped both form and function of this residential block. Three specific target groups were identified and a bold design (with very striking interiors too) was applied in each case, going beyond the functional aspect of the structure. The maisonette names were: Classic, Industrial and Funky. Read more here.

©Philipp Heer

9. Extension of the Swiss National Museum
Architect: Christ & Gantenbein Architects
Museumstrasse 2, 8001 Zürich (Google)
Year: 2016
Description: The Swiss National Museum, a late 19th century beauty by Gustav Gull, was in need of additional space. A new wing adjoining the Platzspitz Park was added in 2016 to solve this problem. The new structure, a vast concrete monolith, will appeal to all Brutalist lovers. An effective intervention with its own modern character in my opinion. Christ & Gantenbein Architects, best known for their Kunstmuseum in Basel, have also a less known but equally superb structure in London: The stunning refurbishment of the Swiss Church. Read more here.

©Philipp Heer

10. University of Arts (ZHdK Toni Areal)
Architect: em2n Architekten
Pfingstweidstrasse 96, 8005 Zürich (Google)
Year: 2014
Description: Zürich’s District 5, a traditionally mono functional industrial zone, is rapidly changing into a more mixed and culturally exciting area. The former Toni milk processing building has been converted into a heaven of culture (Museum für Gestaltung Zürich), education (University of Arts) and housing. In addition, the architects have recently completed Lucerne School of Art and Design. Read more here.

©Virginia Duran

11. Stadelhofen Railway Station
Architect: Santiago Calatrava
Stadelhoferstrasse 8, 8001 Zürich (Google)
Year: 1990
Description: Stadelhofen Railway Station was the first rapid-transit system to be built in Switzerland. The Swiss Federal Railways commissioned the expansion of the already existing railway station on Stadelhofen Square. A then young Calatrava integrated a third track, a commercial arcade and, perhaps the best, a canopied promenade which is a beautiful continuous section. Other aspects of the complex such as bridges, stairs and elevators blissfully connect all parts of the project. Read more here.

©Philipp Heer

12. Peterhof Building
Architect: Werner & Otto Pfister
Bahnhofstrasse 30, 8001 Zürich (Google)
Year: 1913
Description: This unassuming Credit Suisse building on Bahnhofstrasse hides one of Zürich’s most special courtyards. It was designed in 1930 by the Pfister brothers in conjunction with Otto Münch, who was responsible for the ornate façade. Other nostalgic and wonderful buildings by Werner and Otto Pfister are the Schweizerische Nationalbank and the Kantonale Verwaltung Walche. Read more here.

©Virginia Duran

13. Zürich Hauptbahnhof
Architect: Jakob Friedrich Wanner
Bahnhofpl., 8001 Zürich (Google)
Year: 1871
Description: When Zürich Hauptbahnhof opened in 1871, it was the largest railway station in Switzerland. The magnificent sandstone neo-Renaissance building awed its citizens and was a symbol of power and progress. Since then, the station has seen people coming and going. In 1990 it was restored to its full splendour. Don’t miss the temporary art installations in the richly decorated atrium. Read more here.

©Haus Konstruktiv

14. Museum Haus Konstruktiv
Architect: Hermann Herter (1932), Roger Diener and Meier + Steinauer (2001)
Selnaustrasse 25, 8001 Zürich (Google)
Year: 1932
Description: The historically impressive ewz-Unterwerk Selnau building, which provided the city with electricity until 1998, was transformed in 2001 into a vibrant museum. Five floors of exhibition space offer spectacular art. However, the cherry of the cake is the museum’s top floor where the unique exposed metal structure from the 1940s can be spotted and the equally impressive library. Read more here.

©Virginia Duran

15. Zurich University of Teacher Education
Architect: Max Dudler
Lagerstrasse 2, 8090 Zürich (Google)
Year: 2012
Description: The newly established Europaallee is a major infrastructural project with is about to be completed. It runs parallel to the train tracks and several blocks were allocated to different architects. Construction Site A, directly behind the listed Sihlpost building, was an ensemble of three buildings for Zurich’s University of Teacher Education, plus additional office and shop facilities. Read more here.

©Virginia Duran

16. MFO Park 
Architect: Raderschall AG, Burckhardt + Partner AG
MFO Park, 8050 Zürich (Google)
Year: 2002
Description: Several awards now crown MFO Park, and experimental and always growing project to the north of Oerlikon railway station. Located on the former site of a locomotive factory named Maschinenfabrik Oerlikon (MFO), the structure of the park reframes the original building footprint. The spacious metal hall is enveloped by sumptuously sprawling plants and open on three sides. Read more here.

©Virginia Duran

17. FocusTerra Research and Information Centre
Architect: Holzer Kobler Architekturen
Sonneggstrasse 5, 8006 Zürich (Google)
Year: 2009
Description: The historical Department of Earth Sciences at ETH Zürich has remodelled its courtyard to exhibit an interactive mineralogical and geological collection. The brightly lit courtyard came to life in 2009 when a three-storey tower was added to the space thus opening up a dialogue between old and new. Read more here.

©Virginia Duran

18. Freitag Flagship Store
Architect: spillmann.echsle architekten
Geroldstrasse 17, 8005 Zürich (Google)
Year: 2006
Description: In 1993, Freitag started to make tarp-bags. An innovative recycling idea. In 2006 they decided to have their flagship store built from 17 rusty, recycled freight-containers, selected in person in Hamburg and brought to Zurich by rail. Stacked low enough not to violate the city’s restriction on high-rise, high enough to send shivers down anyone’s spine. The way the elements are stacked is authentic, and only connecting elements from the shipping industry are used. This also means that dismantling the tower and leaving the site in its original state will be a straightforward process. Read more here.

©Foster + Partners

19. The Dolder Grand Hotel Renovation
Architect: Foster + Partners
Kurhausstrasse 65, 8032 Zürich (Google)
Year: 2008
Description: Zürich’s grandiose hotel gem, The Dolder Grand, was designed in 1899 by Jacques Gros. More than a hundred years serving its customers it got a facelift. Whilst the external fabric was respectfully restored, the interiors have been lavishly enhanced. The most significant move was the rearranging of the entrance to the south, which now welcomes guests with breathtaking views across Zurich and the Alps. The new building consumes half the energy of the old (75% less energy per square meter). Read more here.

©Visit Zürich

20. Pavilion Le Corbusier
Architect: Le Corbusier
Höschgasse 8, 8008 Zürich (Google)
Year: 1967
Description: Le Corbusier’s last building, Heidi Weber Museum, was built in 1967. The Swiss born architect was obsessed with systems and modules and this last structure was based on cubic units of 2.26 meters on each side, created according to the Modulor measures. It celebrates the use of steel, with which he explored prefabrication and assembly, and a freedom through modularity, in which the plan is completely open but infinitely adaptable. Read more here.

©Virginia Duran

21. Schulhaus Leutschenbach
Architect: Christian Kerez
Saatlenfussweg 3, 8050 Zürich (Google)
Year: 2009
Description: When Christian Kerez finished this primary school in Leutschenbach, he was making history. The learning facility offers a completely new dimension for learning. From the gym located on the top floor (instead of submerged under the earth) to the lack of hallways (all the classrooms open on to large recreational areas that can also be used for teaching activities), Kerez has reinvented the form and function of schools. Read more here.

©Roc Isern

22. ETH HIT e-science Lab
Architect: baumschlager & eberle
Wolfgang-Pauli-Strasse 27, 8093 Zürich (Google)
Year: 2008
Description: Named after ETH Zürich alumnus Branco Weiss, who supported the building financially, this laboratory with a Miesian façade is at the top of green structures. The façade is a contributor to the building’s climatic properties; sensors respond to the weather and the height of the sun. The depths of the balconies differ depending on their compass direction, so they also act as sunshades too. Read more here.

©Roc Isern

23. Genossenschaft Kalkbreite
Müller Sigrist Architekten
Kalkbreitestrasse 2, 8003 Zürich (Google)
Year: 2008
Description: Not only were the site constraints unique (the residential and commercial needs were to be located above a tram depot), but the housing program included different forms of living with high ecological and social standards. The polygonal shape of the building was created around a main public square with is also connected to a continuous and open roof space accessible to its residents. The flats are minimal thanks to a thoughtful process that removes the areas of a house that can be shared and puts them in the common rooms (laundry, gyms and even guest rooms). Read more here.

Check these and other amazing buildings of Zürich on the map below or download the Free Architecture Guide of Zürich:


8 thoughts on “23 Spots You Shouldn’t Miss in Zürich If You Love Architecture

  1. Pingback: 5 Skyline Photographs of Zürich | Virginia Duran

  2. Pingback: The Free Architecture Guide of Zürich (PDF) | Virginia Duran

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