Not packed in a bus. Not herded with a group. Self guided walk is the SAFEST way to sightsee while observing SOCIAL DISTANCING!

Old Town Walk (Self Guided), Zurich

The historic heart of the city beats on both sides of the Limmat river, where guild houses, churches and historic places line the romantic little streets and adorn the hidden corners. This self guided tour takes you to explore some of the most important sights in the old town Zurich.
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Old Town Walk Map

Guide Name: Old Town Walk
Guide Location: Switzerland » Zurich (See other walking tours in Zurich)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.4 Km or 0.9 Miles
Author: ellen
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Bürkliplatz
  • Confiserie Sprüngli
  • Paradeplatz (Parade Square)
  • Fraumünster (Church of Our Lady)
  • Windows of Marc Chagall
  • Wasserkirche (Water Church)
  • Statue of Emperor Carolus Magnus
  • Grossmünster (Great Minster)
  • Rathaus (Town Hall)
  • Schwarzenbach Kolonialwaren
  • Niederdorfstrasse

1) Bürkliplatz

Bürkliplatz is a popular attraction with both tourists and locals. From the promenade you can admire the view of Lake Zürich's calm waters and a fascinating panorama of the Alps. There is also a statue of Ganymede and Zeus, in the form of an eagle, being taken to Mount Olympus.
Confiserie Sprüngli

2) Confiserie Sprüngli

For over 170 years Confiserie Sprüngli has produced its delicious chocolate, maintaining an important place in the history of Swiss chocolate making. Their assortment of chocolates with different fillings, pralines and truffles is immense, but the most recognizable are the Luxemburgerli and the Grand Cru truffles. What makes this confectionery special is that, even today, they offer products made by hand, always fresh, from only natural ingredients without any food additives, which is especially important for your kids.
Paradeplatz (Parade Square)

3) Paradeplatz (Parade Square)

Paradeplatz is located in downtown Zurich and is often described as one of the most expensive pieces of real estate in the city. It is the location of the headquarters of Credit Suisse and UBS, a Swiss global financial services company. Historically, the square stood outside of the medieval city walls and was incorporated into the town in 1642. It served as a livestock market in the 17th century and was called the “Pigs Market”. Later that name changed to the “New Market” since it sold things other than livestock. The Paradeplatz was the site of numerous clashes between canton troops and insurgents in 1839. The Credit Suisse building dates back to 1873, and the UBS building dates back to 1899. The Hotel Savoy Baur en Ville was constructed in 1838 but reconstructed in 1978. The Confiserie Sprungli, a luxury Swiss confectionery is opened in 1859 at the south end of the square and is a popular place to pick up some sweet treats.

Horse-drawn trams originally came through the square, but their use was terminated in 1882. The trams were electrified in 1896. Today, you can pick up trams to a variety of locations in the city form the Parade Square.

Make sure to Türler Watches while here: they have an amazing hand-made clock in gold & brass, showing the Time, Horizon, Earth-Sun rotation and the Zodiac in the sky. This is for free and they are very welcoming.
Fraumünster (Church of Our Lady)

4) Fraumünster (Church of Our Lady) (must see)

As you may have noticed, Zurich’s skyline is dotted with church spires; however, none are as remarkable as the slender blue spire of the Fraumünster. In 853 Emperor Ludwig founded a Benedictine convent on this site and his daughter became the first abbess of the convent. In 874 a basilica with a crypt was added. The crypt holds the relics of the martyred two Patron Saints of Zurich, Felix and Regula.

The present church on the site dates from the mid 13th century, but the crypt still remains beneath the church. Reformation closed the convent and in 1524, the last abbess donated the church and abbey to Zurich. All icons and religious imagery were destroyed.

The church underwent a remodel in the 20th century, which the installation of beautiful Marc Chagall stained glass windows in 1970. The five windows are 10 meters high and each has its own color theme. On the northern side is the red-orange “Prophet” window. On the eastern side, the windows are named “Jacob”, “Christ”, and “Zion”, from left to right. The south wall piece is called “Law”.

Why You Should Visit:
Reasonable entry fee and definitely worth stepping in to admire the lovely Chagall stained glass windows.
Included in the ticket is a very good audio guide that really brings the building and the 5 windows to life.

Be sure to bring Swiss francs as only cash is accepted.
NO PHOTOS of the Chagall windows allowed inside.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-6pm
Windows of Marc Chagall

5) Windows of Marc Chagall

Mark Chagall is often referred to as one of the most successful artists of the 20th century. He was a Russian-French artist who worked in a wide variety of medium, from paintings to stage sets to fine art prints to book illustrations. Chagall has a series of stained-glass windows at Zurich’s Fraumünster cathedral. Each window measures 9.8 meters (32 feet) by approximately one meter (3 feet) wide. Each window has its own color theme with green and blue representing the earth. The heavens are shown in yellows and reds. On the northern side of the cathedras is the red-orange “Prophet” window. This window depicts Elijah in a fiery chariot with Elisha looking on. On the eastern side, the windows are “Jacob”, “Christ”, and “Zion”, from left to right. “Jacob” depicts reddish-colored angels. “Christ” is the largest of the window and shows a timeline of Jesus’ experiences from bottom to top. “Zion” depicts the End of the Days. The south wall piece is called “Law”. It shows Moses holding the Ten Commandments. It appears that Moses is looking disapprovingly at men on horses that appear to getting ready to go to war. It is interesting to note that, while Chagall was from an Orthodox Jewish background, the stained-glass pieces do feature a lot of Christian symbols.
Wasserkirche (Water Church)

6) Wasserkirche (Water Church)

The Water Church is another church with a long history in the city. The first mention of the church goes back to 1250. It was constructed on a small island in the Limmat River. The first church on the site was built in the 1100s and was reconstructed at various times. It was completely reconstructed in 1486. During the Reformation, the church was seen as a place of idolatry. The Reformation leader turned it into a secular use, specifically a library. In 1634 the church became the first public library in Zurich. In the 1800s, the island was connected to the riverbank. In 1917, the library that was housed in the church merged into the Central Library and the empty church became a place for storing crops. In the 1940s, together with reconstruction work, some archaeological excavations took place. After the 1940s renovations were complete, the church building went back into religious use, specifically as the Evangelical-Reformed State Church of the Canton of Zurich.

Aside from its long history, the church is also known for standing on the site of where it is believed that two Patron Saints were executed in the Middle Ages. Felix and Regula were siblings and members of a Roman military unit. Legend has it that Felix and Regula refused to particulate in the persecution of Christians. The Water Church site is where they were decapitated.

Why You Should Visit:
Hushed and intimate – a space for rest or meditation in the middle of an active day.
The Giacometti windows are a highlight, as is the crypt below.

Opening Hours:
Wed-Fri: 12-3pm; Sat-Sun: 12-5pm
During church services and other occasions, no visits are possible.
Statue of Emperor Carolus Magnus

7) Statue of Emperor Carolus Magnus

Carolus Magnus, or Charles the Great, was the Holy Roman Emperor between 771 and 814. Carolus achievements gave a new meaning to his name. In many European languages, the very word for "king" derives from his name. The statue of the emperor is located in the southern tower of Grossmünster Church. He is holding his sword and it looks as though his crown is falling off his head. There are also old frescoes on the walls of the church’s crypt.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Grossmünster (Great Minster)

8) Grossmünster (Great Minster) (must see)

The Grossmünster is one of four major churches in Zurich, with the others being St. Peterskirche, the Fraumünster, and the Predigerkirche. Construction of the church began in 1100 and it was inaugurated in 1220. The church’s twin towers, which were erected toward the end of the 1400s, are one of the classic landmarks of the city. The original towers had high wooden steeples but were destroyed by fire in the 1780s. Following the fire, the neo-Gothic tops were added to the towers, which are what you see today.

The church is Romanesque in architectural style with carved portals, columns, and grotesque figures on the top of the columns. Beautiful stained-glass windows were added to the church in 1932. They are the work of Swiss artist Augusto Giacometti, who also created stained-glass windows for the Fraumünster church. The north and south portals feature ornate bronze doors, the work of Otto Münch. They were added in 1935 and 1950.

Originally, the Grossmünster was a monastery church. The Reformation movement in the 1500s was actually launched from the Grossmünster. Huldrych Zwingli, the father of Swiss-German reformation, had his pastoral office here. Zwingli’s presence in the church is directly related to the lack of ornamentation inside. He even had the organ and religious statuary removed.

The statue of the emperor Carolus Magnus (Charlemagne) is located in the southern tower of Grossmünster Church. He is holding his sword and it looks as though his crown is falling off his head.

Why You Should Visit:
Fairly plain inside, but the sliced agate windows are some of the more interesting and colorful anywhere.
The old statue of Charlemagne is also worth seeing, and you can't miss the beautiful door as you go in.

A trip to the top of the tower is worth it if you can do 180+ steps straight up. The views are wonderful and you can stay as long as you wish.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10am-6pm (Mar-Oct); 10am-5pm (Nov-Feb)
Open on Sundays after the service
Rathaus (Town Hall)

9) Rathaus (Town Hall)

The beautiful Town Hall building, also known as the Rathaus, was built over a four-year period from 1694 to 1698 with a portion built on piles over the Limmat River. The building got its name from the same-named neighborhood quarter. Rathaus was part of the medieval town that was located on the Limmat’s right side. It was the government seat until 1789. Since the early part of the 19th century, it had housed both the city’s municipal government and the cantonal government. The town hall built here in the 17th century replaced an earlier one that had dated back to the late 1300s. The building has a late Renaissance architectural style with a Baroque ceremonial hall. It also has decorative ceilings and portals featuring stucco detail. One of the city’s symbolic monuments, its reflections in the water can be quite stunning, especially at night.

Why You Should Visit:
Classic Swiss Architecture!
Schwarzenbach Kolonialwaren

10) Schwarzenbach Kolonialwaren

Schwarzenbach Kolonialwaren is a most attractive place for gourmets. This family business has operated for more than 140 years, and has become the most recognizable shop in the city. The impressive variety of products are of high-quality and superb flavor. Here you will find everything to your taste: dried fruits, natural honey, jams, syrups, pulses, rice, wine, fantastic chocolate and sweets, great collections of tea and coffee. They still roast their own coffee using only the best beans, which you can enjoy in their cafe next door.

Operating hours: Mon - Fri 9 - 18:30; Sat 9-17; Sun closed.

11) Niederdorfstrasse

Niederdorfstrasse is the main strip of the Niederdorf district of Zürich – an old town area, known for its bustling nightlife, abundant shopping scene, and beautiful alleyways. The area's main walk and side streets are packed to the brim with all kinds of bars and restaurants.

Why You Should Visit:
No cars are allowed on this cobblestone passage, making it very pedestrian-friendly.
In the daytime, it is mainly for shopping. In the night time, it caters for more dining and entertainment with various places to choose from.

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