Zurich, Switzerland brings together beautiful mountains, sparkling water and a deep sense of history going back centuries. The town was founded by the Romans a bit over 2,000 years ago. Recent excavations show evidence of settlement even before that over 6,400 years ago. This rich history makes it an amazing town for history buffs, even for the Rathaus or city hall which only dates back to the late 1600s. As the largest city in Switzerland outdoor activities from hiking to boating are easy to find.
Zurich's Old Town or Altstadt gives a sense of history that you can explore for hours while offering plenty of shopping and sightseeing right on the tram line. One of the oldest buildings, from 1260, is home to the restaurant Kaiser's Reblaube, worth a visit for traditional Swiss food. The restaurant was once the bedroom of writer, statesman and scientist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
The Grossmunster is a 12th-century church, Fraumunster dates from the 11th century and features stained glass windows by renowned artist Mark Chagall. St. Peter's church requires a short trip up a footpath, but both the 8th-century church itself and the beautiful view from the top are worth the excursion from Bahnhofstrasse or the Munsterplatz. Then there are the bells of St. Peter's which you don't have to visit to enjoy, but why not?
It's Switzerland's largest city and one of the world's biggest financial centers, so you know the shopping is going to be upscale and fantastic. Bahnhofstrasse decorates lavishly at Christmastime, and it's a great area to shop and relax at any time of year. For those who aren't fans of history, it provides plenty to do while others explore the old city.
The city enjoys opera, ballet and theater performances at this theater first built in the early 19th century. It has been home to the Zurich Opera since 1891. It was here, in the original theater, that Richard Wagner composed during his exile from Germany. When rebuilding the aging building was proposed in the 1970s, it aroused the cultural passions of the locals who began months of street riots in May, 1980 in protest of the changes. By the way, after dining in Goethe's bedroom at Kaiser's Reblaube, why not have a nightcap at the Goethe Bar next to the opera house?
From the Zurich train station or Hauptbahnhof, it's about 90 minutes to the starting point for many exquisite hikes with memorable views. Consider the Rigi Panoramic Trail with cliffside paths, the Planet Trail from the Uetliberg to Felsenegg with a discussion of the solar system featured along the way and the Trail Pfannenstiel which leads to the town of Meilen on Lake Zurich where you can dine at an inn before returning.
A more modern panoramic view, by about a thousand years, than the local church towers is the Prime Tower which was built in the 21st century. For a while it was the tallest building in the country. It offers food and drink with a view of the lake, city, old town and the nearby 4,430-foot Hardbrucke bridge which crosses the city from north to south.
The 1894 railway viaduct has dining, club life, shopping, and a popular marketplace under its arches for visitors to explore. It's a very different feel from the old town, worth seeking out during the day for exploring. Pick a restaurant or club that looks good and then return at night for a bit of Zurich's energetic nightlife such as the El Social which features Argentine Tango.
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Take a break from city life and relax or stroll around the Chinese Garden. It was a gift from the city's partner town of Kunming, and is located right by Lake Zurich at the Zurichhorn river delta. It's designed as a temple garden and said to be one of the best outside China. Inside the garden's wall visitors can enjoy the peace, the art and the natural beauty including the Water Palace which provides a focused and meditative perspective on the gardens.
The National Museum and Zurich's Art Museum or Kunsthaus have wide-ranging art collections. The Kunsthaus features major European works and Swiss works from the middle ages to current times. The National Museum includes historical exhibits and coverage of current events -- from 2019 to 2029 it features "Simply Zurich" with some of the more offbeat and controversial aspects of life in the city and surrounding canton. An archaeological exhibit provides access to the area's many millennia of civilization.
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A day or two on the water is a refreshing counterpoint to city life. Visitors can enjoy boating, a dinner cruise or other lake tour. Driving along the shore, local dining and small inns provide a great way to experience Swiss life and food more intimately.