Zurich has only 360,000 inhabitants, yet it feels like a bigger city. Luxurious shops along the bahnhofstrasse contrast with the slightly alternative feel of the Niederdorf. Restaurants, cafés and bars that open till late. Walking along the Limmat river down towards the lake. The antiques market at Bürkliplatz on a Saturday morning. Banks banks everywhere, and is there really tons of gold buried underneath Paradeplatz?
Let’s start at the HB, or hauptbahnhof. Ease of train travel was one of the reasons I was able to travel so much during my stay, the rest of Switzerland and Europe were within such a short distance. The journey is meticulously planned, down to which platform to change trains and the name or number of the train. Hop out of the HB and onto Bahnhofstrasse, with the big shops like Jemoli and Globus and banks galore. The big intersection at Paradeplatz, something of interest on all 4 sides – big UBS buliding on the west, which in fact is the private banking building and not the headquarters (that’s the one at Bahnhofstrasse 45). Credit Suisse building on the north side. Sprüngli and Mövenpick on the south side and the Zeughaus Keller on the east side.
The summer I was in Zurich was the year of BenchArt, with colourful and sometimes funny benches everywhere around town.
Tramming it from the HB along Bahnhofstrasse
BenchArt Zurich 2001
Omnipresent in Zurich is of course the lake and the river. The Limmat divides the city into essentially left and right banks. The west bank is the oldest part of the city, with old buildings, shops and the raised platform at the Lindenhof. St Peter’s church has the largest clockface in Europe and the Fraumünster has beautiful stained glass windows by Marc Chagall. The east bank is dominated by the Niederdorf, the bohemian, and at certain parts raunchy, heart of Zurich, it’s basically a series of cobbled streets full of restaurants and small shops. A favourite is Vom Fass, a shop that sells oil, vinegar and liqueur in all types of flavours in beautiful glass bottles and flasks.
Of course, there’s also the lake …
Limmat with the 3 churches
Typical scenes on the lake
Street parade every summer is a long weekend of floats, costumes and dancing in the streets to the beat of loud techno music. At the end of the night the streets will be littered with red bull, paper and sleeping couples. But once dawn breaks the ever efficient swiss cleaning brigade would have cleaned it all up. Sechseläuten in the spring is so typically swiss in its tongue-in-cheek seriousness. On the third Monday in April, a parade of folks in traditional garb is followed by the ceremonial buring of the Böögg – a snowman stuffed with fireworks perched on a bonfire — at Sechseläutenplatz. It is said that the faster the snowman burns up the better the summer.