Hip and bohemian, yet, disciplined, clean and ultra-modern – Zürich has been named one of the greatest cities in the world – and for good reason. Whether you’ve got company or you’re just making a stopover, Girlfriend Guide to Zürich has the ultimate historical guide for what to see in this glorious city.
Friday: 3:00 PM
Towering over Zürich’s old city and offering one of the best views in town, Lindenhof is a must-see for anyone visiting Zürich. Lindenhof sits on a moraine hill, which for the non-geography buffs among us, is a glacially formed accumulation of unconsolidated glacial debris. This area was originally settled on around the 1st century BC, by the Helvetti Celtic tribes and later by the Romans and Germanic Alemanii tribes. The Romans used Lindenhof as a military lookout and tax collection point while the Alemanni built a fortress there. Various historical remnants that once stood on Lindenhof can be seen by taking the taking the hidden steps next to the Freemasons Masonic Lodge at Lindenhof 4. When walking up towards the Lindenhof from Platzgasse, you’ll find the tombstone of Lucius Aelius, ‘dulicissimo filio’ (sweetest son) to Unio (Roman tax collector for the emperor) and his wife Aelia Secundina. This tombstone is most notable because it contains the oldest written reference to Zürich’s Roman name, Turicum. The original can be found inside Zürich’s Landesmuseum
While at Lindenhof, check out the square’s fountain, closest to the lodge. Legend has it that in 1292 (although some accounts say it was 1291), the women of Zürich disguised themselves as warriors and stood on the walls of Lindenhof to scare off attacking neighboring tribes. When the oncoming soldiers saw the army, they turned away. The fountain at Lindenhof commemorates this event. (BTW: The women were left to fend the city on their own because townsmen were out to lunch or fighting somewhere else, the details are fuzzy, what’s clear is that women saved the day, but, of course!).
Zuri Girl Tip
Keys for the Lindenhof as well as other historical locations can be obtained at Stadt Archiv Zürich. You’ll need to leave a valid picture ID and return to the keys within 24 hours. Get your afternoon caffeine kick at ViCafe (hidden mid-way down the steps from Lindenhof, walking on Marktgasse). ViCafe’s Flat White is sure to hit the spot.
Lindenhof | 8001 Zurich (Map)
Friday: 4:00 PM
Anyone who comes to Zürich mustn’t miss walking along on one of the world’s most expensive streets (currently ranked 6th, costing around 900 CHF per square foot of real estate). Ironically, this street’s history was anything but luxurious. Previously known as Froeschegraben (Frog Ditch), the 1.5 km area from the Main Station to the Lake of Zürich was a moat – inhabited by frogs, infested by mosquitos and used as a washing area for most certainly ‘non-brand name’ clothes. The area around Froeschegraben (near Fraumünster) was known as ‘Chratzquartier” (scratching district) because in warmer months it became infested with mosquito whose bites led residents to ‘scratch’ (Chratz) themselves. The moat remained until 1864 when Arnold Bürkli (Bürkliplatz, anyone) convinced city officials to convert it into a street – and a nice street they made indeed. All Bahnhofstrasse buildings are exactly 5.5 stories high, there are no exceptions. And yes, there is gold underneath.
Bahnhofstrasse | 8001, Zurich (map)
Friday: 8:00 PM
Argentinean Wine & Beef : Ojo de Agua.
When visiting the Lindenhof/ Bahnhofstrasse area, make sure make sure to stop by Dieter Meier’s quaint wine shop/ eatery, Ojo de Agua ‘WeinKontor’. Ojo de Agua serves some of the finest premium beef, organic wine and specialties outside of Argentina. Delight in any one of Meier’s Puro wines – after a few glasses, you’ll likely end up staying longer than intended. This place is loved by many, so make sure to call ahead to reserve.
Ojo De Agua | Oetenbachgasse 13 8001 Zurich (map) | +41 0 44 210 4700
Friday: 11:00 PM
Night cap with a view Top the day with spectacular views of the city from Jules Verne’s rooftop bar. This bar is only a stone’s throw from Ojo de Agua, so if you still have one more in you, then head here to enjoy panoramic views of the old city and lake.
Jules Verne Panoramic Bar | Uraniastrasse 9 8001 Zurich (map) | +41 43 888 66 66
Morning Gipfeli at Bäckerei Vohdin.
Start your day right with fresh Gipfeli (Swiss German for croissants) at Bäckerei Vohdin. This bakery is the smallest, yet, oldest in Zürich in operation since 1626. Currently operated by Urs and Elivra Vohdin, a stop here will not only fill your stomach, it will also melt your heart. To get to Bäckerei Vohdin, walk down from Grossmünster towards the Lake of Zürich along Oberdorfstrasse, you’ll find Bäckerei Vohdin nestled between the buildings at Oberdorfstrasse 12.
Bäckerei Vohdin | Oberdorfstrasse 12 8001 Zürich (map) | Website
Probably one of the most recognized landmarks in Zürich, this building is a historical hotspot. According to legend, the site was the burial place of Felix and Regula, Zürich’s patron saints. In 289 Felix and Regula (siblings and persecuted Christians) escaped the Valis together with Exuperantius (what a cool name, huh) and fled to Zürich. After their arrival, they were caught and executed by the Romans at the Wasserkirche just across the road. Miraculously, these three martyrs were able to pick up their decapitated heads and walk from the Wasserkirche up to present day Grossmünster. Walking around with your decapitated head must have been a thing during these times as it was also done by St Denis of Paris, around the same time (~250 AD)… Just saying?! 500 years later, Charlemagne (Charles the Great) was traveling through Zürich when his horse suddenly fell to his knees at the site of these martyrs’ graves. To venerate these saints, around 800 AD Charlemagne commissioned a Carolingian church on the site. Building of Grossmünster’s present day structure, however, commenced only later in 1100 AD and finished in 1220 AD. In the 1500s Grossmünster housed Huldrych Zwingli’s reformation movement against the Catholic Church. Huldrych was a fiery, passionate preacher who urged fellow Zürich residents to live a devout, disciplined life. He also pushed for the translation of the Bible (from Latin into Old German) and prohibited prayer to saints. On a lighter note, Huldrych argued against priest celibacy (because everyone needs some lovin’) and briefly lived out of wedlock with his partner, Anna Reinhart. Apart from fighting for religious institutional change, Zwingli and Reinhart kept busy caring for their 7 children (4 together and 3 from Anna’s previous marriage).
Grossmünsterplatz 1 8001 Zürich (map)
Shopping along the Niederdorf at ChangeMaker.
While in the area, make sure to check out some of Niederdorf’s local specialty shops. ChangeMaker’s boutique (located just minutes from Grossmünster) offers some of the most beautiful specialty products that are stylish, but also ecological, fairly traded and paid and of high quality.
Lunch Walk across Münsterbrücke passing Fraumünster until you reach Zürich’s old artillery, Zeughauskeller. Built in 1487, this arsenal now serves some of the finest traditional Swiss meals. Meat lovers can feast on Zeughauskeller’s traditionally served Zürcher Geschnetzeltes (Zürich style veal), many different types of Wurst (sausages) and other house meat specialties. Vegetarians will love Zeughauskeller’s Rösti (Swiss hash browns) and mixed house salads.
Zürich’s Middle Ages Sewage System Nothing helps digest a big lunch better than walking through remains of Zürich’s middle age sewage system. The Swiss’ obsession with recycling and waste management started already back in the Middle Ages (seriously!) In the 1200’s Zürich’s ‘Ehgraben’ (narrow ditches between two buildings) served at a more sanitized way of collecting and recycling human and other types of waste. How it worked? Kitchen and bathroom waste would be dropped into these narrow spaces (about 1-2 m wide) between two buildings (‘Ehgraben’), dried and later collected to bring back to the farms as fertilizer. In typical Swiss fashion, neighbors would then organize a plan for cleaning the space and collecting the waste.
Ehgraben | Schifflände 30/32 Zürich 8001 (map)
*Keys at Stadt Archiv Zürich
Warm Thermal Baths at Hürlimann’s Infinity Pool.
Indulge yourself to relaxing massage or other body treatments, meditate in dimly lit relaxation pools or just enjoy some of the most spectacular city views up top Hürlimann’s rooftop infinity pool. The spa is located in one of Zürich’s old breweries (Hürlimann) that has been luxuriously renovated to satisfy all your senses. Water is supplied from one of Zürich’s thermal springs and is heated to 35C-41C. To book an appointment in the Irish-Roman bath or for other treatments, call ahead.
Dinner at Costa Brava.
If the afternoon at the spa has left you hungry, dinner at Zürich’s Costa Brava will surely satisfy you. Relish some Spanish specialties and meats but make sure to book ahead, because this joint gets crowded.
Brunch at Roots.
Enjoy some of the most delicious brunch ever at Roots & Friends. Züri Girl absolutely loves everything that Hermann Dill und Frédéric Brunner (Root’s chefs/ founders /owners / every girls’ eye candy) have to offer. Try Root’s delicious porridge, protein pancakes or yummy avocado toast… Can you say yum!?! Check out the brunch menu here and make sure to call ahead / book online to reserve.
Article by Zuri Girl Emilia Siravo. Emilia is a freelance English language teacher and researcher living in Zürich, Switzerland. Born in Philadelphia to a passionate Italian father and fiery Argentine mother, Emilia felt propelled to neutralize things by marrying someone Swiss. In addition to her work, Emilia loves going on long hikes with her husband and very active 4-year-old son, doing BootCamp, practicing yoga, running and boxing. Follow Emilia online on Twitter: @esiravo or read her blog @: http://lostinspeech.com/