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

Zurich Introduction Walk (Self Guided), Zurich

Switzerland’s largest city, Zürich, is rich in heritage and historic value, and is a popular travel destination. Its medieval architecture is well-preserved and worth seeing, as well as the city’s historic monuments and modern sculptures. Old Town, with its 13th century buildings, is an especially wonderful historic area to be seen. Be sure to visit some of Zürich's best landmarks in the following tour.
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Zurich Introduction Walk Map

Guide Name: Zurich Introduction Walk
Guide Location: Switzerland » Zurich (See other walking tours in Zurich)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 14
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.0 Km or 2.5 Miles
Author: ellen
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Hauptbahnhof (Central Railway Station)
  • Bahnhofstrasse
  • Urania Observatory
  • Sculpture by Max Bill
  • Paradeplatz (Parade Square)
  • Bürkliplatz Market
  • Fraumünster (Church of Our Lady)
  • St. Peterskirche
  • Rathaus (Town Hall)
  • Grossmünster (Great Minster)
  • Statue of Emperor Carolus Magnus
  • Wasserkirche (Water Church)
  • Kunsthaus Zürich
  • Niederdorfstrasse
Hauptbahnhof (Central Railway Station)

1) Hauptbahnhof (Central Railway Station) (must see)

The Hauptbahnhof is the largest rail station in Switzerland. Zurich is a major rail hub, not only to other cities in Switzerland but also for service to Germany, Italy, Austria, and France. The station is located in the old town portion of central Zurich at the confluence of the Sihl and Limmat Rivers.

The first rail station in the city was constructed by Gustav Albert Wegmann. At the time of the construction, it was on the northwestern outskirts of town. In 1871, a newer building was constructed on the site. That building was designed by Jakob Wanner. It features a triumphal arch at the main entrance. A monument to Alfred Escher, a railway pioneer, stands in front of the arch. The building is constructed of sandstone in a neo-Renaissance style. The station features 200 underground shops that cater to travelers, including cafes and souvenir shops. The two underground shopping areas are connected via a hall that features marble and granite walls and floors. There are 20 terminal tracks on the ground floor with two additional tracks one level below. Commuter train service is also provided.

Why You Should Visit:
Lots of good food for sale, several grocery stores, chocolate shops, bookstores, stores for knick-knacks, restroom facilities, shower stalls, and trains to take you everywhere in Europe!

There are a lot of meeting points in the station so if you wish to meet up someone in Hauptbahnhof, make sure you make it very clear of where to meet.

2) Bahnhofstrasse (must see)

Bahnhofstrasse is Zurich's main downtown street and one of the world's most expensive and exclusive shopping avenues. In 2011, a study named the Bahnhofstrasse the most expensive street for retail property in Europe and the third most expensive worldwide. It came into existence when the city fortifications were demolished in 1864 and the ditch in front of the walls was filled in. Until that time, the name of the location had been Fröschengraben ("Ditch of the Frogs"), which then was changed to the current Bahnhofstrasse ("Station Street").

Bahnhofstrasse starts at Bahnhofplatz in front of the Zürich Hauptbahnhof, passing Rennweg, Augustinergasse and Paradeplatz before it ends after 1.4km at Bürkliplatz on Lake Zurich (National Bank), Hotel Baur au Lac. The street is largely pedestrianized but is also an important link in the Zürich tram network.

The shops are on average expensive but in late June the sales start and you may get good deals/bargains.
Don't miss the Jelmoli department store – it is "right in the mix", has something for everyone's budget, as well as a great buffet restaurant and bar.
A stop at Sprüngli, a sweet tooth's paradise, is always recommended to enjoy some of the best coffee and chocolates the world has to offer.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Urania Observatory

3) Urania Observatory (must see)

The Urania Observatory is visible on the city landscape, with its curved dome and impressive height. It was named after Urania, the muse of astronomy in Greek mythology. It began, first, as an observatory on the roof of the Zunfthaus zur Meisen. The Urania Observatory was initiated in 1899 and went into operational use in 1907. The refracting telescope is equipped with a two-lens system allowing for 600-fold magnification. The refractor is what sits in the large dome structure. The telescope stands on a pillar and is fitted with anti-vibration components. The optical telescope, designed by Carl Zeiss, weighs 12 tons and was considered a technical masterpiece at the time. The telescope underwent a restoration in 2006 and was placed back in the observatory in 2007. Tours are available at the observatory for viewing of the moon and Solar System objects, such as stars, star clusters, and galaxies. Because the observatory is in the middle of the city, it is subject to urban light pollution, so views from within are fairly limited. Paid public tours are given in the evenings, Tuesday through Friday when there is clear weather. A restaurant and bar are located in the building.

Why You Should Visit:
To experience an great view of downtown Zurich, all while learning new things about telescopes and the outer space.

Opening Hours:
Thu-Sat: 9pm-10pm
Sculpture by Max Bill

4) Sculpture by Max Bill

Max Bill was a Swiss architect, painter, designer and artist. The Pavillon-Skulptur is located adjacent to the Bahnhofstrasse. It was constructed in 1983 and depicts arches, plinths and pillars in granite. This sculpture is one of the most visible of Max Bill’s work and shows his preference for clean, straight lines. Like all large sculpture pieces, it raised a lot of controversy at the time, as it was a very modern sculpture in an area that was hundreds of years old. Bill started out as a silver smith and then took up study at the Bauhaus, where he learned from Kandinsky, Klee and Sclemmer. Following his time at the Bauhaus, he moved to Zurich. It is said that since 1950s, Bill was the most influential person in Swiss graphic design. He was also an industrial designer, and his work was characterized by precise proportions. In 1953, Bill founded the Ulm School of Design with Inge Aicher-Scholl and Otl Aicher. Bill also served on the Federal Arts Commission for eight years. He served as the chair of environmental design at a Hamburg academy.
Paradeplatz (Parade Square)

5) Paradeplatz (Parade Square) (must see)

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.
Bürkliplatz Market

6) Bürkliplatz Market

The market on Bürkliplatz is an open air market located between the Zurich business district and Lake Zurich. The market offers a large choice of fresh products such as fruits, vegetables and berries, different sorts of cheese, fish, fresh bread, bakery and confectionery, and many farm specialties and flowers. As you explore the wonders of the Bürkliplatz Market you can also enjoy the wonderful view of Lake Zurich.

Tuesdays and Fridays: 6 am - 11 am
Fraumünster (Church of Our Lady)

7) 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
St. Peterskirche

8) St. Peterskirche (must see)

St. Peterskirche was built in the 9th century, which makes it the oldest parish church in Zurich. It also boasts the fame of having the largest clock face in all of Europe, measuring 9 meters (28.5 feet) in diameter. This translates to a minute hand that is 4 meters long (12 feet)!

The church was significantly altered in the 13th century and again in the early 1700s. Up until 1911, a firewatcher manned the steeple. It was his job to look out the windows four times an hour to look for fires. If he spotted a fire, he was to sound an alarm and point to the direction of the fire with a flag. Apparently, this ended up being an effective strategy because unlike many other European cities, Zurich never suffered any devastating fires.

The interior of the church features a Baroque nave, Romanesque choir, and an elaborately carved pulpit. Interior frescoes depict the story of martyrs and the Virgin Mary. Medieval murals can be observed in the choir. Today, the church actually has split ownership. The City of Zurich owns the church steeple, while St. Peter’s parish of the Swiss Reformed Church owns the nave. In addition to the stunning Chagall windows are frescoes by Bodmer. In the north transept is another stained-glass window completed by Giacometti in the 1940s.

It is very interesting up close, but it is more beautiful from across the river.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8am-6pm, Sat: 10am-4pm, Sun: 11:00am-5pm
Rathaus (Town Hall)

9) Rathaus (Town Hall) (must see)

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!
Grossmünster (Great Minster)

10) 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.

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
Statue of Emperor Carolus Magnus

11) 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
Wasserkirche (Water Church)

12) Wasserkirche (Water Church) (must see)

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.
Kunsthaus Zürich

13) Kunsthaus Zürich (must see)

The Kunsthaus is one of the most important museums in Europe. The building was designed by architect Karl Moser and completed in 1910. The facades contain bas-reliefs designed by Oskar Keifer, a long time collaborator with Moser. The collection is impressive and diverse, from pieces dating to the Middle Ages to contemporary ones. Overall, the collection emphasizes Swiss art through various periods. Some of the Swiss artists represented include Fussli, Hodler, Rist and Fischli. Works by Munch, Lipchitz, Van Gough, Picasso, and Giacometti are a draw as well. The museum has a group of works by Monet and another by Chagall.

Specific collections include Swiss Paintings, Swiss Realism, Zurich Concrete Art, and collections featuring paintings and sculptures by Bocklin, Segantini, Hodler, and Vallotton. The museum also has a good collection of video art that started in 1979, with the thought that video art is an independent and creative medium. Video artists represented include Acconci, Baldessari, Calle, Graham, Hill, Marclay, Paik and others. In addition to the permanent collection, the museum features temporary exhibits and a library with books focusing on modern art. An audio guide which highlights over 200 of the pieces in the collection, is available.

Why You Should Visit:
Super modern with lots of unique perspectives! If you're a fan of modern art and appreciate surrealism and impressionism, this museum is a must.

Free entry to the main collection on Wednesdays, and you can also get an audio guide for no cost. Their library is open-access anytime.
The building might not look massive on the outside, but the collection is extensive, so make sure you leave at least 2-3 hours to visit.

Opening Hours:
Tue, Fri-Sun: 10am-6pm; Wed-Thu: 10am-8pm

14) Niederdorfstrasse (must see)

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.

Walking Tours in Zurich, Switzerland

Create Your Own Walk in Zurich

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Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.3 Km or 4.5 Miles
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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.3 Km or 0.8 Miles
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Religious Sights Walking Tour

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Souvenir Shopping

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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

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