Some cities have an impact on the global scene that far exceeds their physical dimensions. Zurich has witnessed the birth of art movements, and provided a fertile environment for musicians, architects and philosophers. Its cultural highlights comprise many world-level institutions, such as the superb modern art museum Kunsthaus Zürich. There are also some other less familiar locations, as described in this article.
1. A walk through the solar system
Take a walk on the ridge above Zurich, a mountain named the Uetliberg, with its verdant green forests and stunning views of Lake Zurich and the Alps. The path is well maintained and fairly easy, and it includes a scale model of the solar system, with the sun and planets, over a 6km walk from Uetliberg to Felsenegg. The model is at a scale of 1:1 billion, and as you walk, you will be travelling at over twice the speed of light. You can reach the start of the walk by taking a train from Zurich, and go back to the city by taking the cable car from Felsenegg down to Adliswil. From here, another short walk brings you to a ferry stop where you can take a boat bringing you back into town.
2. Just one night each year
In Zurich, each summer, cacti enthusiasts await an event that takes place for just one night every year: the flowering of the “Queen of the Night,” a cactus that exhibits its large scented flowers for a single night. This is just one of the 6,500 cactus species exhibited at the Sukkulenten-Sammlung Zürich.
Tel. +41 (0)44 412 12 80
3. Experience an earthquake
The FocusTerra section of ETH Zurich includes an earthquake simulator, an appliance weighing 3 tonnes that can simulate the motion of earthquakes up to Richter intensity 8. A room with space for up to 10 people is furnished with tables and other objects. The experience is accessible during one-hour guided tours, on Sundays at 11am, 1pm and 3 pm, and on weekdays from Monday to Friday with prior booking.
ETH Zurich – focusTerra
Tel. +41 (0)44 632 62 81
Clouds restaurant is on the 35th floor of the Prime Tower, Zurich’s tallest building at 105.5 metres in the trendy Zurich-West district. It’s a great place for drinks or dinner, with spectacular views over the city, lake and mountains.
Tel +41 (0)44 404 30 00
5. Frau Gerold’s Garten
This venue began life as a city garden in 2012, and it has now become a cosy venue open all year around, a favourite meeting place for young and hip visitors. Great cheese specialities such as fondue, along with vegetable and salad-based dishes using ingredients grown on site. Excellent drinks and beer, and a selection of shops. Booking recommended. The venue is close to the famous Freitag Tower.
Opening times: winter, Monday to Saturday 6pm-midnight, Sunday closed.
Frau Gerold’s Garden
Geroldstrasse 23 / 23a
6. Rietberg Museum
The Rietberg Museum is in a stunning location, set in a verdant park. Its collections of art objects from all over the world include countless masterpieces, beautifully arranged, with identifying labels in English and German. There is something for all tastes, but highlights include a remarkable collection of early Chinese ceramics, and superb selections of Japanese, Pre-Columbian, Indian and African art. The Museum is open Tues-Sun 10am-5pm, Wed open until 8pm, closed on Mondays. It is open on all public holidays except for 25 December.
Tel. +41 (0)44 415 31 31
7. Beyer Clock and Watch Museum
This small museum is on the basement floor of the Beyer watch store, and it comprises about 250 pieces dating from 1400 B.C. to the present day. iPads are used to present information on the exhibits in different languages, but staff are on hand for explanations. Pieces include a pocket watch that was synchronized every night by being attached to a master clock, and the Rolex that Edmund Hillary wore during the first ascent of Mount Everest. Open Monday-Friday, 2pm-6pm, 10 Swiss francs.
Beyer Zurich Clock and Watch Museum
Tel. +41 (0)43 344 63 63
8. Landscaped garden
One of the less familiar museums in Zurich is Villa Patumbah, built in eclectic style in the late 19th century, set in a lovely English-style garden. Its name is based on a phrase in the Indonesian language meaning “A place you like to be,” reflecting the work of its builder, Carl Fürchtegott Grob-Zundel, who amassed a fortune after 11 years farming tobacco in Sumatra. Open Wed, Fri and Sat 2pm-5pm, Thurs and Sun midday-5pm.
Tel. +41 (0)44 254 57 90
9. Home to an art movement
Just over a century ago, a group of artists and poets opened a small café and gallery, Cabaret Voltaire, on Spiegelgasse in Zurich to host a new movement, something unlike anything previously seen in art: Dada. Their outlandish activities were short-lived, but left an indelible mark on modern art. Cabaret Voltaire is now an appropriately unconventional venue, a commemoration of Dada where you can find out more about the movement, or have a coffee or drink. The Museum is open Fri-Sun 11.30am-5.30pm. The Bar is open every day from 5.30 pm, closing at midnight Mon-Thurs, at 2am Fri and Sat, at 11pm on Sun.
Spiegelgasse 1, 8001 Zurich
Tel. +41 43 268 56 30
10. A giant chaise longue
In Zurich you can find art in many unexpected locations. An example is the giant chaise longue in the atrium of the University of Zurich, an installation by Zurich-born artist Pipilotti Rist. Students and visitors can climb onto this 4-metre-long couch, created with the intention of encouraging reflection on women’s difficult place in the academic world. The artwork is in fact dedicated to Emilie Kempin-Spyri, who graduated in law at the university and completed her doctorate in 1887, but was unable to practice because at that time women were not allowed to work as lawyers.
Boggi Milano in Zurich
In Zurich, the Boggi Milano store is close to the main shopping street, Bahnhofstrasse:
Tel. +41 (0)43 497 21 30
Open Monday – Friday 9.30am – 7.30pm, Saturday 9am-7pm, Sunday closed.