When Ben informed us that Switzerland was the choice for his graduation trip, I must admit that came as somewhat of a surprise. He had always expressed interest in Scandinavia so I had assumed it was off to Sweden we would go. As it turned out, this trip would rank as one of the favorite trips for everyone in the family. Follow along with us on our amazing 15-day whirlwind tour of Switzerland.
Zürich is the gateway to Switzerland with a large international airport and daily flights from the US. Hotel Seegarten, a charming small hotel located about a block off Lake Zürich and within easy walking distance to a metro tram station, was our first stop after the redeye flight from Newark. We dropped off our bags, caught the tram to the central train station, Zürich HB, and then it was off to explore Zürich on our walking tour!
Zürich at a Glance:
Sleep: Hotel Seegarten
Eat: Sternen Grill
Known For: One of the world’s leading financial centers
Don’t Miss: Sprüngli macarons
Best Photo Op: The panoramic view from Grossmünster tower
Stop #1– Swiss National Museum
Just north of the Zürich HB across Museumstrasse is the Swiss National Museum (free admission with your Swiss Travel Pass). This is a nice little museum which can be enjoyed in less than an hour, and it gives a great overview of Swiss history and culture. After completing your introduction to Switzerland, head out the main entrance of the museum and swing around the west side of Zürich HB until you are at the main entrance to the train station on the south side of the building.
Stop #2 – Bahnhofplatz
Here stands a statue of Alfred Escher who is primarily responsible for the creation of Swiss infrastructure. Turning your back on Escher gives a grand view down Bahnhofstrasse, which is a great street for strolling and shopping.
Stop #3 – Pestalozzi Park
Head south on Bahnhofstrasse for a couple of blocks until you arrive at Pestalozzi Park on the right. Enjoy a drink of water at the public fountain on the southwest corner of the park. Here in Zurich, as with all of the cities we visited, there are numerous decorative water fountains with water safe for drinking. Don’t forget to have your water bottle or travel cup at the ready!
Continue south on Banhofstrasse. About 150 feet after crossing Uraniastrasse veer left onto Rennweg and take the first left on Oetenbachgasse. In 380 feet turn right on Lindenhofstrasse which will lead you up to Lindenhof.
Stop #4 – Lindenhof
From the time of the Romans, this site has been the location of forts and buildings which provided a strategic view of the city. Check out the statue which commemorates the women of Zürich who helped save the city from attack by the Hapsburgs in 1292.
Exit the park on the south side heading down on Pfalzgasse and taking a slight left on Strehlgasse and a slight right on Schlüsselgasse to reach St. Peter’s Church.
Stop #9 – Niederdorf
Continue east along Marketgasse for one block then take a right on Münstergasse. One of the things we love to do when we travel is to visit grocery stores and at #19 Münstergasse sits Schwarzenbach, a very unique specialty grocer. Directly across the street sample some delicious Swiss chocolate at the Conditorei Schober.
Continue south on Münstergasse for about 3 minutes until you arrive at the iconic two-towered Grossmünster church.
Stop #5 – St. Peter’s Church
Zurich’s oldest church founded in the seventh century, this church has the largest clock tower face in Europe measuring over 28 feet in diameter. The tower originally was designed to house the town watchman who would raise the alarm if there was a fire.
Continue on Schlüsselgasse past the west side of the church, turn right on In Gassen, and continue on until you intersect with Banhofstrasse. At this point, across the street is…
Stop #7– Fraumünster Church
This was originally the site of a convent established in 853, but now it’s best known for the five large stained-glass windows designed by Marc Chagall which were installed in 1970. It’s worth the 5 Swiss Francs (CHF) to have a look.
Head across the plaza to the northwest corner and follow Storchengasse north until you arrive at Weinplatz on the right.
Stop #8 – Weinplatz
This is a pleasant little square along the Limmat River which was previously a wine market in the distant past. Here sits a fountain with a statue of a happy grape picker…too bad it’s just water coming out!!
Head across the river on the Rathausbrücke (Town Hall bridge) passing by the 17th century Rathaus. You have now entered the Niederdorf District of Zürich. If you want nightlife in central Zürich, this is the place to be, as the area is filled with restaurants and nightclubs.
Stop # 10 – Grossmünster
The symbol of Zürich, Grossmünster church was originally a Catholic monastery church opened in the early 1200’s, but it became the center of the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland in 1520 through its pastor Huldrych Zwingli. While entrance to the church is free, I highly recommend paying the 4 CHF to climb the 187 steps up to the viewing balcony on Karlsturm, one of the twin towers, which gives a sweeping view out over the Zürichsee as well as along the Limmat River that flows through central Zürich.
By now the jet lag was setting in so it's time for an early dinner. Head along the southeast side of the church and cross over Kirchgasse to continue on Oberdorfstrasse. Walk about 300 yards, cross over Rämistrasse and then turn right and walk about a block where you will find Sternen Grill.
Time to Eat – Sterner Grill
Ask for a seat upstairs which provides a nice view out over the north end of Zürichsee. We enjoy eating the food of the places we are traveling to, and this place hits the nail on the head with traditional sausages, homemade spicy mustard, and beer. Order your food by marking on the paper menu with their iconic Sternen Grill pencils, and pay by taking the card on your table to the cashier. This efficient system helps to avoid the waiting around to pay the bill “scenario” which I don’t normally mind, but since the fatigue was setting in, it was a welcome change from the usual. If you are just too tired to have a sit down meal, then you can get take-away from the lower level.
A nice 10-minute walk by the lake is the perfect end to day 1 of this Switzerland adventure. Take a left out of the restaurant and walk for a short distance and then follow Route 17 towards the lake and past Sechseläutenplatz. Continue on Utoquai/Route 17 for about 700 yeards, then take a left on Seegartenstrasse. The hotel is one block away at the corner of Dufourstrasse and Seegartenstrasse. Alternatively, you could catch tram line #2 right outside the restaurant at the Bellevue station and take it to the Kreuzstrasse station which is the stop after the Opernhaus station. The hotel is about a 2 block walk from that station.
Hotel Seegarten is a 28-room boutique hotel in the Seefeld district. It’s clean and quiet with friendly staff. The only issue we had, which is no fault of the hotel, is that they lock the doors at night, and SwissAir was unable to deliver our daughter’s delayed luggage.
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