Poor old Zurich (Eng & French-Zurich, German- Zürich Italian- Zurigo, Swiss German- Züri). It gets a bum deal, so it does. If I had a Swiss franc for every time I’ve heard Zurich called boring, I’d have….. ohhhh…. about 5 francs, I reckon. That’d be enough money to buy me a cup of coffee. I’d kick in the rest of the cash so I could sit down with the town’s detractors and tell them why it’s not.
Ok, so I’m biased. While I don’t actually live in the city of Zurich, I live close to it and have become very attached to my adopted hometown. It’s not boring, honest. Granted, we have clean public toilets and public transport that runs on time and the locals can sometimes be a little uptight but nevertheless, Zurich is a beautiful town, rich with history, culture and diverse architecture as well as being just, you know, rich. There’s an old legend about the Gnomes of Zurich scurrying about under the streets of the city looking after the gold while Zürchers and tourists wander the streets. An amusing thought but it’s not for nothing. Zurich is, after all, the main financial hub of Switzerland.
But it’s not all money. money, money. There’s so much more to the city; something for all sorts of visitors, all year round. Visitors can get to Zurich easily via air and by rail; the international airport and main railway station are both very well serviced. It’s true, hotels are not cheap but good deals can be found through most travel websites so a visit to Zurich isn’t prohibitively expensive.
So when’s the best time to visit?
There’s something going on in Zurich all year round. For the outdoorsy type, there’s no doubt about it, Zurich is beautiful in the summer. Lake Zurich is warm enough to swim for quite a few months of the year and there are public lake swimming spots dotted all around the lake shore. There are Wanderwege/walking trails in the hills surrounding the city for miles, all well maintained and teeming with nature. Or, walk around the city itself and stop to enjoy a drink in sunshine- Zurich has many cafes and bars with al fresco service. Let’s not forget, Switzerland celebrates its annual national holiday on 1st August with town and village fireworks everywhere.
Autumn brings the big festival of Knabenschiessen, a “boys’ target shooting” competition which dates back to the 17th century. Don’t be fooled by the name though- a girl won it this year. The shooting competition itself is the star of a massive fair with rides, stalls and Swiss foods of all sorts. At the end of September and into October, the big hall in the Zurich main station hosts its version of Oktoberfest where you can enjoy a beer and bratwurst and maybe even spot a few fellows wearing lederhosen.
Winter is, of course, for Christmas. For the entirety of Advent, Zurich is decorated for Christmas and holds a Christmas market. Christmas market stalls selling all sorts of handicrafts, wooden toys, Christmas decorations and, of course, the all-important traditional Swiss winter warmers of Glühwein and Raclette. Zurich in the snowy winter can make for a lovely romantic getaway.
And so to Spring which is heralded in by Sechseläuten, a big traditional parade through the streets of Zurich with loads of Swiss costume on display. Once the parade has taken place the climax of the celebration is the burning of an effigy of a snowman packed with fireworks, the Böögg. It’s said that the time it takes for the Böögg to explode is an indication of the summer ahead. The shorter the time, the better and hotter the summer to expect. I suspect this is not based in science but it’s a nice thought.
A Cultured City
But it’s not all parties and parades in Zurich, as much as we’d love that to be. The art-lover can find a lot to admire. Zurich’s Kunsthaus houses an impressive collection of modern art, you don’t even have to go inside to see Rodin’s sculpture of the Gates of Hell. Beautiful stained glass windows by Chagall can be found in the Fraumünster; there are many pieces of avant-garde art on display to be admired for free by anyone who cares to take the time.
Places of interest for history lovers include the Grossmünster, said to be the site where Felix & Regula, the patron saints of Zurich fell over with their own heads in their hands after being beheaded and walking 50m or so from their execution site and the Landesmuseum/Swiss National Museum, filled with Swiss exhibits from prehistoric times.
See, not boring at all.
And of course we have opera, ballet, cinema (Zurich has its own film festival), theatre, music, sports too. And food and drink to boot. You name it, Zurich (probably) does it. It’s a city well worth a visit, for all sorts of folks. Let me know when you’re on your way and I’ll get the drinks in.