Zurich, Switzerland part 1: Old Town walking tour

Zurich is the world’s best city to live in,
with the highest quality of life, according to recent studies — so it is also a perfect
place to visit. While most people know its reputation as a
modern banking center, you will be surprised to discover the historic charms of its extensive
Old Town, among the largest in Switzerland, and the glamor of the modern shopping streets. Visitors can take pleasure in this great lifestyle,
enjoying friendly, efficient services while exploring many fascinating sights. With just under 400,000 people, Zurich is
an ideal place to stay — especially when you consider the main visitor attraction,
which is a beautiful Old Town of cobbled lanes lined with historic buildings and numerous
fine shops and restaurants. It is delightful to wander in this large pedestrian
zone that is filled with enchanting little alleys which lead through an ancient town
that was founded during the Middle Ages. With the right strategies you can see this
slightly expensive city without spending a fortune. It’s an easy city to cover on foot, which
is always the best and cheapest way to see any historic town. Showing you on the map of Zurich how the Old
Town is really divided in two parts on either side of the Limmat River. This charming, compact city is situated on
the picturesque waterfront shores of Lake Zurich, with the Limmat River running through
the center of town. And the city embraces the riverfront coming
through town with some lovely walkways and many vistas across this watery landscape. The Old Town extends about five blocks in
from both sides of the river and stretches for about a mile in length, so it’s very extensive. The right bank, or east side, of the river
has the larger cluster of old buildings and is considered the prime district for visitors. Much of your first day can be devoted to exploring
its many little side alleys and shops. Many visitors arrive by train so a typical
starting point is the centrally located main train station. It’s got more trains running through it than
any other station in the world and there is a big shopping mall downstairs. Average daily passenger count is 400,000 with
that world record of nearly 3000 daily trains. The modern side of Zurich is most impressive
when you emerge from the train station you are right at the end of the Bahnhofstrasse,
the main street of town. This is a glamorous Boulevard — broad, tree-lined
and for pedestrians and trams, so you don’t have any automobile or truck traffic on the
Bahnhofstrasse. It’s a very comfortable place to stroll about. It goes for nearly a mile from the train station
down to the lake and there some small plazas along the way and great sidestreets for exploring
Of all Swiss cities Zurich has the largest combination of modern and Old Town districts,
very extensive, from the sleek upscale shops of Bahnhofstrasse to the narrow lanes of the
big historic zone. In this program we will present a detailed
look into many of these wonderful neighborhoods, each with their own special character. Zurich has also been ranked in the top-ten
most expensive cities in the world — third most expensive city in Europe and second most
expensive city in Switzerland after Geneva. And yet Zurich residents have the world’s
strongest purchasing power, primarily because of their high incomes. Don’t be scared away thinking Zurich will
be too expensive to visit, because the hotel and food prices are quite similar to Europe’s
other major cities, and there is a lot you can do here for free, such as walking around,
which is the main activity we will be showing in this program. As usual, we find walking tours are the best
way to see a city, and it is easy here because the center is not large, only about one square
kilometer, yet rich with a tangle of dozens of little lanes, major boulevards, historic
sites and waterfront promenades. We’re going to show you how to spend the day
on an in-depth walking tour of Zurich traveling around in a big circle starting out from the
train station, circling around and ending up back at the station in the evening. There are many little side lanes to explore
and places to just go wandering on your own, but we will give you a general outline of
a best single route in which to take. Now you can either start going straight down
the main modern street, the Bahnhofstrasse, and circling all the way around counterclockwise,
or on the other hand, the route we’re going to take you in today’s program is
leave the station and walk around into the Old Town first, down through Niederdorf, then
continuing around in a clockwise fashion ending up at the Bahnhofstrasse modern street. For most visitors it’s the Old Town that has
that special attraction, and so therefore it’s worth doing it first before you run out
of time and energy and will be time at the end to see some of the modern city as well,
which we will be presenting in Part Two of our series on Zurich. In today’s program we’re going to show you
the Old Town in depth. We’re heading to the largest part of the Old
Town which is across the Limmat River just a few hundred meters from the train station. In two blocks you’ll reach the east side of
the Limmat River and there you’ll find the beginning of Niederdorfstrasse, the longest
lane in the Old Town. Well your main itinerary could be summarized
as simply wandering up and down nearly every little lane in the Old Town, which is an ideal
version of the best imaginable collection of historic buildings set amid a delightful
tangle of narrow, cobblestone pedestrian alleys. Disney could not have done it better, but
this is the real thing. Leave it to the Swiss to preserve their past
and maintain these 500-year-old buildings in perfect condition. There is not a single ugly or boring moment
to break the spell. For help in locating the various sights and
streets it’s always good to have a map whenever you wander through little lanes so that you
know what you have covered and where to go next; otherwise, you might end up going in
circles, wasting time and getting slightly lost. Free maps are widely available from hotel
desks and the Tourist Information office at the main train station. In particular, there is an excellent hotel
in the heart of the Old Town, the Adler, and they have got a lively and colorfully detailed
map of the Old Town. You might inquire and take a look at that
hotel while you’re checking it out. It’s also useful — and can lead into some
interesting conversations — to ask directions from the locals, who are quite friendly and
generally speak English. Coming up we will be showing you map details
about our specific walking routes to make this a practical guide for you on how to discover
Zurich on your own. On the other hand you could just wing it. You don’t really really have to have a map,
it’s a small enough old town, and you could just walk along the main lane, but you do
want to explore the little side lanes and that’s really where the map can come in handy. This map shows in detail the lanes along Niederdorfstrasse
and the route that we’ll be taking as we wiggle our way around, and will be explaining all
of this to you right now with the video. If you are exploring on your own, you don’t
need to follow this exact, but these are the main lanes that you’ll want to try and find. We’re standing in the heart of the Old Town
of Zurich now. This is the Niederdorfstrasse and it’s truly
one of the great streets in the world. It’s a pedestrian street nearly a mile long
and there’s all kinds of characters here. You’re going to see an international crowd
on the street as well as mostly locals, and there is of course a lot of restaurants, sidewalk
restaurants and bars, cafes, bakeries, there’s hotels here such as the Hotel Alexander, very
conveniently located. And this is the main thoroughfare of the Old
Town of Zurich. There are side streets that are also really
fun to walk along — you go up a few blocks and across and then back down to Niederdorfstrasse
and it’s a bit of a maze when you get into some of those little back lanes as well as
going back across the river, across the Limmat to the newer part of town where the Banhofstrasse
is at and most of the banks and department stores and major shops and the ultra-luxury
shops, the Gucci and the Hermes. And that too has a nice chunk of Old Town,
again focused along the water’s edge. There’s some fine dining that could be enjoyed
here or just simple inexpensive food like donner kebabs sandwiches, take-out sausage,
you don’t have to spend a fortune here in Zurich, even though Zurich is known as a fairly
expensive city — prices are relatively high — but Zurich is also noted as a city with
a very high quality of life. It’s been ranked occasionally in the top three
in the world cities for a quality-of-life. It’s a wonderful place to raise a child even
though it’s quite urban. They really take care of the kids here, and
there are playgrounds of course and great schooling. Swiss education is among the best in the world. So its got that quality of life which is measured
by things like income level which is quite high here, health statistics, mortality, age
of living, as well as the facilities available — education, health facilities, and such. Zurich is right there at the top in the world. Paved with cobblestones and lined with historic
buildings hosting modern shops, cafes and restaurants, Niederdorfstrasse is a place
to linger and enjoy. Sometimes it widens to form small plazas as
it intersects with other lanes, but mostly it is just about twenty feet across. This medieval street curves here and there,
and rises then drops slightly as it continues in a most pleasant pattern. It has been the main lane of Zurich since
the Middle Ages and is still the major route for visitors to explore today. And the label Niederdorf applies not just
to the street but to the neighborhood in general. Niederdorfstrasse stretches for nearly one
mile from the train station area to beyond the cathedral and is limited to pedestrians
the entire way. Typical of European streets, it changes names
a few times, becoming Munstergasse, Hirschenplatz and Oberdorfstrasse, but it is basically the
same road throughout. Dozens of small lanes branch off both sides
leading further into the magic of the Old Town. The neighborhood is just the right size: small
enough so you cannot get lost or disoriented or exhausted but large enough to keep you
discovering new sights for a couple of days. You can easily fill out an afternoon by meandering
through this fascinating network of alleys, exploring the little shops and enjoying the
variety of traditional Swiss buildings. Anyplace you turn along this main pedestrian
route of Niederdorfstrasse in the central heart of the Old Town is a delight but there
are several exceptionally picturesque lanes you want to be sure to discover, especially
around the mid-section where the street widens to form the connected plazas of Hirschenplatz
and Stussihofstatt. Hirschenplatz has blossomed into an ideal
urban plaza ringed by outdoor restaurants and two excellent hotels, the 3-star Adler
and 4-star Wellenberg. This plaza was created in the 1870s, as part
of the redevelopment of the Prediger district to open up some space in the narrow, sometimes
oppressive confines of the lower Old Town. Hirschenplatz is one of the main open spaces
in the center of the Old Town, with various lovely lanes branching off from it and several
more of those nearby plazas easily reached on foot in minutes from here. Walk the broad, tree-lined block of Spitalgasse
to the gothic Prediger Church which dates from about the year 1230, with its mix of
later baroque decor and the town’s tallest tower reaching up 300 feet. The neo-Gothic tower was built at the end
of the 19th century. Today the Zähringerplatz plaza in front of
Predigerkirche functions mostly as a car park, but there is a peaceful outdoor restaurant
on the adjacent terrace. Several fine alleys lead away from the church
plaza, including the narrow Predigergasse and Brunngasse. Maybe it seems like nothing special but when
you walk along past shops and galleries comes alive. Predigergasse is a lovely skinny little alley,
the kind that forms a real surprise for you, and it’s quite useful because it connects
one interesting part of the Old Town with another and there’s some art galleries along
here, there are some residences and various little shop so be sure to find Predigergasse. After meandering through these lanes, walk
to Neumarkt, one of the town’s finest junctions which dates back to about the year 1145 and
still has some original buildings, especially the famous Grimmenturm, a 12th-century gothic
tower with a popular restaurant in front, Kantorei. The square-like open space in front of the
restaurant constitutes a focal point on the Neumarkt and also marks the boundary between
the Neumarkt and the Rindermarkt, the street just beyond. First mentioned in documents dating from 1145,
the Neumarkt is considered one of the Old Town’s most picturesque streets. During the Middle Ages, the Neumarkt served
as a cattle market. The excellent historic preservation of the
buildings lining the Neumarkt and their relevance to architectural and artistic history contribute
considerably to the diverse character of Zurich’s historic center. The prominent Grimmenturm tower standing above
the other structures was partly destroyed in 19th century renovations and only in the
1960s was it restored as the distinctive feature of the Old Town. At the beginning of the 20th century, it was
decided that this property, as well as many other houses near it in the Old Town, should
be torn down to make room for a new road through the central city. Fortunately, that misguided project was rejected
and the neighborhood as survived. A hidden gem of the Neumarkt is a historic
display, concealed behind an unmarked door on the left side of this plaza. There is no sign out front but look for Number
4 on the door, which leads into the City and there you will find a free display of Zurich’s
history including a scale model of the Old Town’s evolution, clearly illustrating how
Niederdorfstrasse was the first street of early Zurich and really demonstrating how
the buildings and the patterns of the streets that we see today in the Old Town are just
about the same as they were back in the Middle Ages. It’s really quite remarkable to see this 3-D
model, something you would never expect. There’s no sign out front on the door saying
come on inside to look at our display so you have to look for door number four right across
from the fountain at the Neumarkt. The exhibits here are part of the city archives. A look at the medieval town wall model with
its towers becomes a nostalgic journey into Zurich’s past. Multimedia touch-screen displays have been
added to provide the visitor further historical information. You can play with that and learn something
at the same time with the pictures, maps and text. There are also many old photo displays and
a reference library covering all aspects of Zurich’s past cultural life. Leading from Neumarkt, the Rindermarkt is
an important ancient lane linking back to the Niederdorf (the Lower Old Town) where
it connects up with Stussihofstatt, another main plaza in the Old town. The name Rindermarkt means cattle market which
was its function back in the Middle Ages, 1300s when it got started. Now it’s a lien of unique shops, individually
owned. It’s a very historic street, the only one
in Zurich with gaslamps still functioning — would make a perfect evening stroll. It’s a picturesque side lane that most tourists
never discover. Browsing the shops in these little lanes can
be one of the great pleasures of your trip even if you’re not looking to buy anything
and you don’t even really need to go into this shops if you don’t want — just look
at the window displays, each one is unique. This is different than going to a big shopping
mall or one of the modern streets with all of the famous name brand stores. These are individual boutiques and delightful
little galleries individually owned and expressing all of the quirks and passions of their owners. Another typical small lane is Froschaugasse. Now you could easily walk past this without
even noticing it or glance down it and blink and just skip on by, but lanes like this can
be worth a little detour. You don’t have to go all the way down, just
to take a few steps if you’re interested, keep going and you might be delighted. These scenes do bring out the essence of the
back lanes of Zurich and why among many other reasons it’s such a wonderful place to visit. If this doesn’t appeal to you, you can stick
to the main boulevards, there are quite a few here in Zurich, but most visitors enjoy
getting off the beaten track like this. These little detours can provide memorable
moments to really enrich your experience, like stopping to pet a stranger’s dog, and
it speaks to the value of taking your time and spending a few days in a place when you
get there is such a Zurich. Sure, you could see Zurich in one day. Everything we’re showing, every place, every
boat ride and tram ride could be done in one day, but you would get a better experience
by spending at least a couple of days here with some time to enjoy music. Where just been walking on Brunngasse and
before that the lane called Froschaugasse. Not to confuse you with too many names but
here’s a map to explain these little twisted alleys and also we’re going to Spiegelgasse
and Leuengasse, two tiny plazas with fountains right next to each other. You can easily discover all these alleys for
yourself. This small Spiegelgasse has been home to some
famous people, such as Lenin, who lived here for one year immediately prior to the Russian
Revolution. This is where he was doing the planning. A charming spot with cozy restaurant, historic
buildings and a beautiful fountain centerpiece. The next plaza is Leuengasse also host to
a pretty little fountain. This is where people would get their drinking
water in the old days — a good place for kids to play and adults to relax. Soon you’ll easily find yourself out of this
twisted maze of back alleys returning to the main pedestrian lane. You’ll want to drop into some of the stores
in this district to see what treasures are hiding behind their windows. This gallery on Munstergasse offers a typical
range from contemporary to antique, with photos, paintings and old master drawings. One food shop you would enjoy is Schwartzenbach,
selling dried fruits, nuts, fresh-roasted coffee beans, chocolate and many gourmet treats,
with a casual cafe on the corner and sidewalk tables. They are especially famous for the highest
quality fresh roasted coffee beans from all over the world but as a traveler you’re probably
more interested in the dried fruits — these make great purchases for snacking as you walk
along or for a casual light picnic later on, and they have such a wide variety of the dried
pears and apples and bananas, dried wild strawberries and there is a lot of nuts, and they’ve also
got foods in jars like pates and jams and tees as well, so you gotta stop in and spend
a little money. Upon leaving Schwartzenbach look to the other
side of the lane for another food discovery. This hidden gem is the Cafe Schober, set back
from the road behind bushes, but worth finding or its pastries, tea service, dark Teuscher
chocolates, and a festive 19th century interior. Easy to find and well worth your time, it’s
located in what’s called the Great Alcove right along Niederdorfstrasse. Here you’ll find one of the most famous cafes
in Europe. It’s been in business for over 120 years. Now this might hurt your eyes to look at all
of these beautiful pastries — incredible. We are in Cafe Schober, highly recommended. They do have some different dining areas. You can sit downstairs in the cafe but we
much prefer this elegant tea salon with the red velour upholstery and the beautiful red
theme and wood beams in the ceiling. Just looking you can see how delicious these
pastries were, and the hot chocolate was the best ever. It can make a very nice break when you’re
walking around with friends to sit down at a cafe like that and enjoy an hour sitting,
not standing, not walking, having coffee or hot chocolate and just regaining your energy
for the walks that are yet to come A quick sketch of our continuing walking around
to the great Munster Cathedral and then into more of those charming little lanes and then
we will cross the river. This pedestrian lane just keeps on going block
after block. It’s like a mile and a half from one into
the other but it seems like 3 miles, there are so many interesting things to have a look
at. You’ll be stopping, window shopping, maybe
have a drink or two along the way and always lots of people watching. As you continue along the main pedestrian
lane of the right bank you will reach the major historic site of town — the Great Cathedral,
or Grossmunster, a huge Romanesque church dating back to the year 1106. This is where the Protestant Reformation began
in Switzerland with the fiery sermons of Huldrych Zwingli in 1519, two years after Martin Luther
began his crusade in Germany. The Grossmunster cathedral is Zurich’s most
famous landmark. According to legend, Charlemagne built the
first church here as a monastery and chapter school. Construction of the current building was from
about 1100 to 1300 in the Romanesque style. The monumental Romanesque interior is rather
plain, stripped of all pictures during the Reformation, but be sure to appreciate the
stained glass. The crypt is an original Romanesque portion
of the church, downstairs just behind the altar — be sure to go down and have a look. Centerpiece is a large statue of Charlemagne
sitting with a mighty, two-edged sword upon his knees, and a gilded crown upon his head,
but the figure is oddly proportioned, but the statue is a good-natured, stumpy affair,
that brings a smile. That ubiquitous emperor certainly manifested
great interest in Zurich. About midway up one of the towers, a copy
of this statue appears again on the exterior in a lofty niche. The remarkable Romanesque cloister back adjoining
the church was restored with infinite pains, and is well worth a visit. If you were here 100 years ago you would have
heard the vaulted cloisters resound with merry laughter, and see the girls play tag around
the carved columns because a girls’ school was built here in 1853. Today it is a quiet oasis in the midst of
the city, but the inconspicuous door is easily overlooked and often locked. Out in front of the church we ran into a bunch
of local kids. The city is their playground. [kids speaking] We speak Germany, and, and,
I’m the champion, and a little bit English and a little bit French. French too, that’s great. It’s great to be able to see kids walking
around freely without worries of danger or needing adults to watch over them and keep
track of them. Although it’s a big city, Zurich is quite
safe for these free-ranging children. Back outside the church in the plaza there
is a nice model of the Cathedral with some braille to help the blind so that they can
get a good idea of what the structure looks like. Built in a Romanesque style and yet this was
the time period in which the Gothic was already getting started in France. Switzerland was a little behind the times
architecturally and yet created one of the world’s great churches. You’ll benefit from walking all the way around
it to see it from the various angles. Typical of Europe’s ancient cathedrals, it’s
surrounded by the best parts of the old town with many lanes to explore. Naturally a lane called Kirch-Gasse or Church
Street is one of those just behind the church and it is another lovely place to go wandering. It’s got sidewalk cafes, there is a downhill
slant to the cobblestone lane, you can sit outside, have a beer, have some Thai food
or just walk by. Oberdorfstrasse is a continuation of that
main pedestrian lane that began as Niederdorfstrasse and it just keeps going down here below the
great Cathedral, just south of the Cathedral — more shops, there are little side lanes,
there are little cafes still yet down in this area, and it goes for another five or six
little blocks so you might as well explore it all. There’s some nice window shopping to be had
here. You might not be purchasing these big items
but shoes might come in handy, especially if you’re climbing up a staircase street. There’s an interesting side lane with a beautiful
mural covered with an ivy wall. Instead of graffiti, Zurich does have some
lovely artistic wall murals — that is a much better alternative. And notice the clever design of the hill side
lane — smooth on one side and steps on the other, you can take your pick. And on one of our visits we ran into these
curious bears that were found scattered all over the city. We’ll show you more bears in part two of our
Zurich series focusing on the modern side of town. And always a few more art galleries scattered
around. We have arrived down by the riverside at Schifflände
and there are some clothing stores. You might think Switzerland is just too expensive
for normal shopping but you’ll be surprised, you’ll find some good sales. You can always run into a clearance where
you’ll get a bargain. It is a lovely couple of blocks. So you want to have a walk through this little
plaza on your way over to the river. It’s a relatively remote corner of the Old
Town that does not attract very many tourists, so you’re very much into the local scene here. It’s that kind of neighborhood with an easy-going
authentic feeling with shops for locals but doesn’t show up in guidebooks, a place that
most visitors never bother to get to, and yet when you’re over here walking around surrounded
by residents of the city it makes you feel like you belong, if only for a moment
This leads to the embankment along the river which is another delightful place to explore. Here you’ll find outdoor restaurants and more
shops and a long medieval-style arcaded sidewalk. If you’re feeling at all hungry or thirsty,
there are numerous choices here ranging from fast food to the ultra-gourmet
Before the construction of embankments along the Limmat, the arcades saw a bustle of activity,
such as loading and unloading fish and cargo, and a series of major headquarters for the
merchants were built here. The guild houses, together with the other
imposing buildings lining the right bank of the Limmat, provide an impressive view, including
a nice perspective on the old Town Hall, still functioning today. Guilds were like our modern union, an association
of craftsmen or merchants who played an important role in running of the town in previous centuries. From the Middle Ages on, the guilds established
themselves along the river, which explains the considerable number of large guild houses
in the area. Many of them have become excellent restaurants
featuring a refined cuisine in splendid, historic rooms. You would probably enjoy a traditional meal
of sliced veal with cream gravy, mushrooms and rosti potatoes. Up on the hill behind you can spot some of
the buildings of the University of Zurich. You can take a tourist boat ride on the river
but as will show you later, it is more interesting to have a ride on Lake Zurich, and notice
in the distance you can see the snow-covered Alps. Keeping one hand free for a beverage and rowing
with the other in a traditional Swiss boat the weisling, it’s a flat-bottom boat usually
about 10 meters in length, been used since the Middle Ages. The clean unpolluted waters of the Limmat
make very good fishing grounds. Looking across the river now for a view it
more of the Old Town on the west side of the Limmat River. We’re taking a walk there now. There is a convenient bridge right in front
of the Grossmunster Cathedral that will bring you across the river in just a couple of minutes. Then turn back and have a look at the magnificent
view of the high towers and some traffic on the river. Continue walking a few short blocks to Fraumunster,
another of the major churches and Zurich’s oldest building, dating back to the late 9th
century. It began as a flat-roofed Romanesque convent
and was expanded into a gothic church around the year 1280. The striking pattern of pointed arches inside
is overshadowed by the church’s main treasure — stained glass painted by Marc Chagall when
he was in his 80s. Fraumunster Church was originally a convent
for aristocratic women from southern Germany. It was founded in 853 by Charlemagne’s grandson,
King Ludwig the German for his daughter Hildegard; He endowed that King Henry III grant the convent
the right to hold markets, collect tolls, and mint coins, effectively made the abbess
the ruler of the city. Now it’s parish is the towns smallest because
it’s in the financial center, but it’s still going after 1200 years. Crossing the adjacent Muensterhof plaza you’ll
find the French Baroque-style palace it’s the Zunftshaus Zermeisen which now houses
an elegant restaurant. Following another twisty and curvy route up
the hill of Lindenhof for a view and then we will walk over to the main street, the
Bahnhofstrasse, and say goodbye to you there. In part two of our series on Zurich. We will show you the Bahnhofstrasse in detail,
so be sure to look for that other program. You can take a stroll along the riverbank
on this nice promenade with a waterfront view including a nice vista looking back at the
Munster, a church so big you have to gain some distance to see the whole thing. The Wuhre is a pedestrian passageway along
the river, with several narrow lanes branching off, and some retail including a popular cafe. The walkway is so hidden away you might not
notice it, or you might think it is private, but it is open to the public. In the old days there was no walkway, just
a riverbank where they would unload the goods. You’ll likely see a few swans in this stretch
of the river. Here’s a photo tip — if you want to get a
good close up picture with lots of swans in it, bring along some bread and feed them a
little bit. Another great view of the old City Hall, the
Rathaus, on the other side. We’ll see it again soon from the hilltop. This embankment continues along the river
where it changes name to Schipfe and leads past the arcade cafe at the elegant Hotel
Storchen — a perfect place to have a drink while admiring the view across the Limmat. This riverfront neighborhood is the oldest
core of Zurich, dating back to settlements over 2000 years old. This brings you to an open space in front
of the hotel called the Weinplatz, a lovely setting for another Terrace Cafe and why not
a glass of wine after all it’s the wine plaza. These peaceful venues offer a moment of relaxation,
away from traffic yet only a few blocks from busy downtown. The Storchengasse shopping lane with its select
shops, merits special attention. Around the middle of the 19th century, the
open market stalls were gradually — that replaced by shops, and large shop windows
were installed on the ground floors of the mostly medieval houses lining the narrow street. Teuscher is an upscale confiserie that specializes
in chocolatte truffles. This is one of three outlets in Zurich, also
found on Bahnhofstrasse and the Jelmoli Department Store. This neighborhood is generally called Lindenhof
because we’re just at the base of that hill that we will be walking up in a moment. It’s a little tangle of retail shopping lanes
— nothing particularly special in these few streets but just go wander and keep your eyes
open and enjoy the shop fronts, people watching, and always there’s some dogs going by. The Swiss just love their dogs. Often you’ll see dogs without a leash but
they always seem to be with their masters so they’re very well trained. These are Swiss dogs after all and the masters
look out after them, but sometimes these guys get rowdy when they see some of their neighborhood
friends. In the midst of this special network of alleys
you can’t miss the towering steeple of St. Peter’s Church with Europe’s largest clock:
28.5 feet across, 500 years old and still keeping accurate time. The quiet little square next to the church
is one of the most charming spots in town. Continuing along to Lindenhof, a small park
on top of the hill. Now here’s a tip for getting up there. There is a staircase which is rather steep
and long or you can walk around the backside of it up a more gradually sloping pedestrian
lane and then have a short staircase, so that’s a better way to get there. The park is one of the most famous places
and popular and recreational areas in the heart of the city, one of Zurich’s main attractions. From Lindenhof you gain the best view across
the river to the main section of the Old Town, where you will notice the tall spires of the
Grossmunster, Zurich’s main church and signature sight, along with several other church steeples
and beautiful buildings along the riverfront. It is still used today as a very active park
by the locals. One of their favorite activities up here is
playing chess with these big chess pieces, and it is quite a spectator sport as folks
gather around to watch the moves. You also can find ping-pong and petanque,
the ballgame sometimes called bocce or boule, one of the favorite recreational games throughout
Europe. Lindenhof one of those rare special places
that are enjoyed by the local residents and by the savvy visitors. It’s not easy to find when you’re traveling
around, so you have to know what you’re looking for. Then you might be rewarded with a sublime
experience of the view, a beautiful park with lime trees, and locals hanging out and socializing
having fun together. You’ll notice the big chess set provides opportunity
for more than a game, but for the neighborhood to get together and have some fun. While today Lindenhof is a park, in the past
it was occupied by a variety of important buildings, from the early Roman fortress surrounded
by a wall with twelve towers, to a major medieval palace which was demolished in the 13th century
during a citizen revolt. Since then, further construction has been
forbidden to preserve it as a small urban park. It was the only park in medieval times, when
one of the main recreational activities here was shooting crossbows. One focal point is the Hedwig fountain. It recalls a historical legend from the year
1292: while all the men of Zurich were away at war, Duke Albert attacked the unprotected
city with his troops. It was the brave women of Zurich put on armor,
grabbed swords and lances and drove the Austrian army away. Hedwig was the leader of these women and she’s
depicted in the helmeted figure on top of the fountain which was erected in 1668. The city actually began at Lindenhof. Like many European cities, Zurich was founded
by the Romans, who set up headquarters on this hill as an outpost for their expanding
empire. The hilltop area of Lindenhof is listed as
a Swiss heritage site of national significance because of its prehistoric, Roman, and medieval
remains. Upon leaving the park we ran into a wonderful
local celebration, something that you see quite often in the streets of Zurich. It’s a bachelor party, a stag party for this
fellow who is going to be shackled to a ball and chain from now on it looks like, all done
in great fun. We will show you more and some hen parties
where the ladies carry on and have some fun in Part Two of our Zurich series. These are the steep stairs you can avoid by
coming up the back way we showed you — not so bad going down though. A Roman tombstone from the second century
was found here, with the earliest written record of the Roman name for the town, they
called Turicum. The original is in the Swiss National Museum. Exit Lindenhof down the south steps along
Platzgasse, At the foot of the Lindenhof hill you face
a maze of five little alleys radiating out in all directions, but don’t worry about which
way to go: this is a good place to get used to the idea you are going in every direction. This cluster of alleys is really one of the
nicest parts of the city, so walk a few short blocks along one route and circle back along
a different lane to where you started, and then pick another circuit. In wandering you’ll undoubtedly come upon
Rennweg, which is the biggest street in this part of the Old Town, and it has been one
of the main streets of the city ever since Roman times. It’s still an attractive thoroughfare lined
with shops and restaurants and really geared more for local people. It’s a practical place for them to go shopping
so you would probably enjoy this authentic lane to stroll up and down. Swiss love to display their colorful banners. Be sure to have a good look at Augustinergasse,
which has a perfect atmosphere of ancient buildings arrayed on a gentle curved path,
luring you along by revealing more charming structures until it reaches the busy Bahnhofstrasse. If you spend enough time walking around on
the streets you’re going to run into some nice musical entertainment, and if you really
get lucky, you might hear an Alpine horn concert. This Italian restaurant operated by the famous
wine family is ranked number 10 out of 1500 restaurants in Zurich by Trip Advisor. In the evening, especially around that magical
hour of twilight, the same streets take on a wonderful glow with a mix of shop lights,
sunset and streetlamps. You will be dazzled. And perhaps we’ll get lucky and run into some
wonderful street musicians. If your schedule allows for it, try and be
out walking on the street at this particular time of day. No matter where you are in Europe, it’s always
rewarding. I hope you’ve enjoyed this detailed look at
the old town of Zurich. And we have more to show you. There is the newer side of the city, the Bahnhofstrasse,
we’re going to take you on a boat ride, to museums, out to some restaurants and hotels,
show you the modern downtown shopping area in the next installment of Zurich, Part Two. Be sure to look for it in our series. Look for our complete series of travel videos
about Switzerland covering many highlights this beautiful country.

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