By Michelle Inaba Mocarski
Just name what interests you, and you’re likely to find it in Zurich – a city of immense variety, so much that it even became famous as the “metropolis of experiences.” And if you’re looking for a destination with excellent rail and air connections to virtually any location in Europe, there’s no better place than Zurich Airport. The airport has direct connections to over 150 destinations, and it is just a short ten-minute train ride to the center of the city, where you’ll also find Zurich’s Main Railway Station, known as the European railroad hub. But Zurich is much more than just a connection place to other cities in Europe: it has a lot to offer in art, architecture, shopping, outdoors adventures, festivals, and nightlife.
Start your journey through the historical streets of Old Town, where old and new come together: medieval churches, art galleries, antiques, book shops, and boutiques. Arrive at Grossmunster, the Romanesque Protestant church built between 1100 and 1200, and inhale the history and the stories that revolve around the church. Legend says that Charlemagne, king of the Franks and emperor of the Romans from 768 to 814, had started building Grossmunster upon discovering the graves of the city’s martyrs Felix and Regula. Stories apart, it is fact that Grossmunster was the starting point of the Swiss-German Reformation in the 16th century, making it a mark of Swiss history.
Another historical mark you can’t miss is Fraumunster, an old Gothic church also located in Old Town. Fraumunster was founded in 853 by King Louis the German, and it used to be a convent inhabited by women from the European aristocracy. Its architecture is pretty impressive, and the highlight (among many other incredible features) is the stained glass windows, created by Augusto Giacometti (in the north transept) and Marc Chagall (in the south transept).
Before you leave Old Town, don’t forget to go to Bahnhofstrasse, the shopping precint, and Augustinergasse, one of the most beautiful streets of Zurich. Augustinergasse is an old, narrow street, full of colorfully painted oriel windows. It used to be the home of medieval artisans, but nowadays it is full of touristic shops, coffeehouses and restaurants.
Being that you already are on Augustinergasse, you might as well visit Bahnhofstrasse, a nearby street of shops and boutiques. Here there are two places you can’t miss since you’re in the land of chocolate and watches: Chocomotion and Beyer Watches and Jewelry. Chocomotion is a chocolate store, and their chocolate is prepared by the most creative chocolatiers in Europe. This is heaven for chocolate lovers!
The other place, Beyer Watches and Jewelry, is the oldest watch shop in Switzerland, and they have an amazing clock and watch museum in the lower level of the store. The Clock and Watch Museum Beyer Zurich displays around 500 exhibits, with clocks and watches from 1400 B.C. to present day. Literally a place where you can get lost in time.
The stores and boutiques continue throughout Bahnhofstrasse and, as you stroll along the street toward Lake Zurich, you’ll notice that the shops start to become more exclusive, presenting international fashion labels, jewelry and other luxury watch stores.
Now that you’ve drenched yourself in history and some shopping, cross Lake Zurich and visit Kunsthaus Zurich – the Museum of Fine Arts, and let the masters of Modern Art sweep you off your feet with the amazing exhibitions Kunsthaus holds. The museum is worldwide renowned for its permanent collection as well as its temporary exhibitions, and is one of the most important art museums in Europe. There you can find Edvard Munch, Vicent Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Alberto Giacometti, and Marc Chagall, among other great names.
After taking in so much culture and history, if you find yourself wanting to explore the outdoors, Zurich is your place. The city has so much to offer it can accommodate all tastes, from park strollers to adrenaline seekers. One good place to start is the China Garden, located right by Lake Zurich. This small and beautiful garden was a gift from the Chinese city of Kunming, and it’s a good place to sit and relax overlooking the lake.
As you are near Lake Zurich, why not take on a cruise? There are options of short and long round trips, and also special cruises such as the Cheese Fondue Cruise, Brunch Cruise, BBQ Cruise,Salsa Cruise, and Rhythm and Swing Cruise.
The outdoor options don’t end there, though.Another thing you can do in Zurich is biking. Zurich on Wheels, a city program that offers free bike rentals, is available seven days a week,from May through October. All you have to do is go to a bike station, present your ID, pay a deposit of 20 Swiss Franks, and start biking through this beautiful and environmentally friendly city. You can also bike to Uetliberg Mountain, where you have a panoramic view of the city, the lake, and the Alps. If you don’t feel in the mood to bike there, you can hike to the mountain, which is another very popular way of getting to Uetliberg.
Another thing to check out are the many festivals in the city. Throughout the year, Zurich offers different festivals that cater to all tastes. For instance, if you go to Zurich in June or July, you will find Zurich Festival, a combo of operas, concerts, drama, dance and open-air theatre.
Now, for those who love the nightlife, Zurich has a lot of options, too. The city has 500 clubs and bars, and the parties only start after 11 p.m., going on until morning. Some great places to visit are Kaufleuten, a famous house music club, and Mascotte, the oldest club in the city, which plays the greatest hits from the eighties.
Finally, as you are in the railroad hub of Europe, you might want to take advantage of the easiness of transportation in this city. From the train station in Zurich, you can reach the highly cultural city of Basel in one hour and 16 minutes; you can reach Lucerne, famous for its Lake Lucerne and its mountain excursions to Pilatus and Titlis, in just 30 minutes; and you can get to Geneva, the United Nations most important international center outside New York City, in just 45 minutes by air or three hours by train. Zurich is also great for those who want to ski because it’s the most frequent air connection to Austria’s skiing slopes.
As you can see, Zurich is really a metropolis of experiences, offering a wide range of multicultural activities, and it’s a given that you’ll have the time of your life there. And now it’s much more convenient to go to Zurich because American Airlines operates daily, non-stop, roundtrip service from John F. Kennedy International Airport to Zurich, using a Boeing 767-300 aircraft. This means an easy flight to a center of art and culture, in a plane that seats 28 passengers in the Next Generation Business Class cabin and 167 in coach, all with great assistance and comfort.