As summer slowly waves good bye and temperatures drop down, Zürich becomes ready for the next season. However, two weeks before October, I was gifted with the last kiss of good weather and the happiness that goes with it.
Visit Zürich and my friend Philipp Heer organised a short trip to this delightful area of Switzerland so I could update my Zürich Map and check in person some really stunning buildings that are either completed or about to be finished. Because this time I’d done the heavy stuff already, I was able to look at the city differently. Like when we rediscover the beautiful features of a friend’s face after knowing them for a long time.
Zürich has a mature kind of allure, one that comes from respect and self-love. The immaculate streets in the old town were some of my favourite corners. Was I influenced by the fact that I saw a devoted person cleaning them in the morning? Or because people actively tried to keep them clean? I don’t know. Truth is that this time I was able to discover some new and charming aspects and locations as well.
Today I decided to bring to your attention some gorgeous and sometimes secret places of Zürich. If you’re planning to visit the good old Turicum, I hope you go to these sights to delight your eyes. Needless to say is that if you love architecture, you’ll likely love all of these too.
So here are my top 10 prettiest and most photogenic places to visit in town.
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1. The Old Town
The Old Town of Zürich has seen exciting – and turbulent – bits of history. If the walls could speak… Since its foundation by the Romans about 2,000 years ago, to later becoming Switzerland’s largest city, Zürich has fought wars, educated some well-known poets and produced some of the best Swiss foods (to name a few). All these life can be felt in the cobblestone streets of the Old Town, where still after almost 1,000 years, Grossmünster Church (c1220), Fraumünster Church (c1250) and St Peterskirche Church (c1000) bow to each other in respect.
Location: Grossmünsterplatz, 8001 Zürich (Google)
2. B2 Boutique Hotel
Located in a most unassuming corner of Enge – where all the attention goes to the nearby Alfred Bluntschli’s church – the B2 Boutique Hotel is a most interesting building. The structure belonged to the old Hürlimann Brewery, which was founded in 1836 and stayed in the same family for five generations. In 2010 the building opened after heavy restoration by Althammer Hochuli Architects and nowadays it works as a hotel and thermal bath & spa. My favourite? Its stunning and HUGE library by Ushi Tamborriello has over 33,000 books.
Location: Brandschenkestrasse 152, 8002 Zürich (Google)
Image courtesy of Widder Hotel
3. Zunft zum Widder Guild
A couple of streets behind the famous Augustinergasse, the former Zunft zum Widder Guild still stands proud. It was originally founded in 1336 as the butchers and cattle merchants guild (look for other guild buildings across Zürich because they are amazing) and according to legend, the butcher defended mayor Rudolf Brun from murder on the night of 23 February 1350, during the Mordnacht von Zürich. Nowadays, its historical wooden beams and walls support the Widder Hotel, which has not only a pretty façade, but also beautiful views of the city’s skyline.
Location: Rennweg 7, 8001 Zürich (Google)
4. Tanzhaus Zürich
Tanzhaus, meaning house of dance, has recently open its doors again with a brand new building designed by Spanish architecture firm Barozzi Veiga. The former Tanzhaus, also located on this site, was destroyed during a fire in 2012. The new building is not only a stunning piece of sculptural concrete, but also a key element in activating this area around the banks of the Limmat River. The café, with its exposed concrete walls and chic interior design, is open to the public.
Location: Wasserwerkstrasse 127a, 8037 Zürich (Google)
5. Lindenhof Hill
This public square in the middle of Zürich is the actual city centre of the Roman and Carolingian eras and around which the city has historically grown. Lindenhof sits atop the remains of a glacier and still nowadays is about 25 meters above the Limmat. The area is popular with tourists as the elevated view provides an extra special background of the city. Early in the morning when the sun starts to rise is when you’ll find nobody here.
Location: 8001 Zürich (Google)
Image courtesy of Manor
6. Manor and Banhofstrasse
Zürich is very popular with rooftop restaurants and bars. In fact, you’ll find them everywhere across the city. However, the ones around the city’s main (and most beautiful?) street Bahnhofstrasse are my favourites. The atmosphere is great, views are epic and… well, can’t complain about the food and cocktails of Switzerland, can I? Three department stores use their top floors to provide a public space to sit, relax and enjoy the view: Jelmoli, Globus and Manor. For this article I chose Manor but unfortunately it will move from Bahnhofstrasse by the end of 2019 – another reason to visit it soon before it disappears.
Location: Bahnhofstrasse 75, 8001 Zürich (Google)
7. Law Library
I was tempted to leave this one out as it’s public but not so accessible and also – and the main point – students who use the space need some rest from outsiders. However, because the ground floor is open to everyone (as long as you are quiet), I’ve decided to include one of the most beautiful interior spaces in Zürich: The Law Library by Santiago Calatrava. All I can say is that it’s even more amazing in person, please visit.
Location: Rämistrasse 74, 8001 Zürich (Google)
8. Swiss National Museum
Not without much tension are the Swiss National Museum and its extension (Christ & Gantenbein Architects, 2016) coexisting together, side by side. One is a handsome looking building from the 19th century designed by Gustav Gull in a traditional style (dozens of towers, gabled roofs and stone) and the other is an (also very beautiful) vast concrete monolith. Can you feel the tension already? And now? Ah, it’s quite enjoyable in my opinion.
Location: Museumstrasse 2, 8001 Zürich (Google)
9. Pavilion Le Corbusier
This colourful museum by the pioneer of Modernist architecture was his last project and the only one in glass and steel exclusively. Pavilion Le Corbusier has reopened to the public after architects Silvio Schmed and Arthur Rüegg restored the art museum to its original state. The result? Amazing. Is as if time hadn’t passed at all. The four-storey structure was designed for Swiss gallery owner and interior designer Heidi Weber.
Location: Höschgasse 8, 8008 Zürich (Google)
10. Zürichsee or Lake Zürich
Last but not least, this clean lake that is the source of much joy to Zürich’s citizens: Zürichsee. During summer, you’ll see people swimming, sailing and enjoying a picnic on its riverbanks. You can photograph Lake Zürich from Grossmünster or as I did, using a drone. A shocking fact for somebody who lives in London: The lake’s water is purified and fed into Zürich’s water system; it is safe to drink.
Location: Zürichsee, Zürich (Google)
Check these and other beautiful locations on the map below or download the Free Architecture Guide of Zürich.