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Zurich is a major connecting point for many flights, so if you happen to fly through the city, it would be very advisable not to miss the opportunity and use the time for a brief excursion around the city.
Important note: it will take 5 to 10 minutes to get from the airport to the city by train; trains depart every 5-10 minutes, the fare is only 7 francs. It is very easy to leave your luggage at the station, with prices from 3 to 7 francs, depending on the size of the coin-operated lockers. Just throw a coin into the slot then shut the door.
The city centre and major attractions are all within close proximity to the train station, and you can easily reach the lake which is only half an hour walk.
The starting point of the excursion is Haupt Bahnhof, the main train station of the city. Finding your way around is very simple. The upper floor of the building is where trains depart. Also, here the main cash desk and the schedule board are located. Below, in the mezzanine there are toilets, showers, lockers and seats for waiting. If you walk down one floor you will find shops and eateries. Even lower there is the platform for the administration of several specific electric trains.
1. Bahnhofstrasse: straight from the railway station runs the main street of Bahnhofstrasse. You can be sure you are on Bahnhofstrasse when you see a sculpture with a fountain. All the way behind this fountain (when you look at it from the train station) is the Bahnhofstrasse. It leads to the pier Burkliplatz at the Zurich Lake. Twenty minutes is enough to walk through it all.
2. The Pestalozzi Park is located right on the Bahnhofstrasse, a couple of blocks from Banhofplats. Behind this public garden sits an elite department store Globus featuring collections of famous brands, and in the ground floor you can buy tasteful delicacies.
This very small square is a popular place among the citizens for Saturday shopping; here you can have a picnic on the grass or just play with kids.
Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827), whose monument is in the middle of the square, was a famous reformer in the field of education.
3. Paradeplatz: one of the main transport hubs of the city and a popular place for various activities (the name of the area is literally translated as the Parade Square). From here starts the Guild parade, and popular Street Parad. In the 18th century this area was used as a cattle market. Above Paradeplats reigns a majestic building of Credit Suisse built in 1876.
This area is easily recognizable by the large circular tram station. If you stand with your back to the station, on the left, over the roofs of houses you will see the tower of the two main churches of Zurich, St. Peter's Church and Fraumyunster (Nunnery). Near the square, right along the direction of our travel you will find a famous Confiserie Sprungli tea-room, the most elegant and fashionable cafe on the Bahnhofstrasse, where you can relax a bit, drink some tea and enjoy the best sweets in town. The cafe's storefront is decorated with small round pastries called Luxemburgli, a branded delicacy of this cafe.
4. St. Peter's Kirche
To the left of the Bahnhofstrasse there a small square, where on the left and right sides of the building small streets lead to the Old Town. If you go to the left you will reach the St. Peter's Kirche.
The most interesting thing here is the Europe's largest tower clock. The building once served as a fire tower, there was a man on duty who would hang out a flag on the side of the tower facing the district with fire and would start to ring the bells.
Passing by the church and climbing up the hill would take you to Lindenhof, an observation deck with excellent views of the Limmat River flowing from Lake Zurich, the city itself, and the Alps.
This place was the cradle of the city, here the Romans established a customs post to control the flow of goods across the Limmat River, which were then transported by the Rhine river to the north of Europe. Zurich grew out of that customs office.
6. Weinplatz: heading from Lindenhof down to the river you will find yourself on Weinplatz, a small square ending with a large bridge over the Limmat River. You can be sure that you are on Weinplatz by seeing the hotel Storchen on the right side of the square with its facade decorated with a figurine of stork.
Weinplatz was a bread exchange until 1620, and in fact is the oldest commercial area of Zurich. The name comes from the fountain Weinbauer, established here in 1909, depicting a Swiss-winemaker with a basket of grapes in his hands.
From this point you can see:
7. Rathausbrucke, a wide bridge that goes from Weinplatz to the other bank. The name means Bridge Town Hall, built in 1878.
8. Rathaus: Town Hall, made in the style of late Renaissance, overlooking the promenade Limmatquai on the right bank of the river Limmat. The building was built in the late 17th century. The cantonal council still gathers here. The Town Hall is open to visitors on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10:00 am to 11:30 am.
On Weinplatz, turn right without going to the other side. Use the Gallery of the Storchen Hotel leading to the lake. It comes to another old gallery with a very low ceiling and old windows of handicraftsmen.
9. Munsterhof: after exiting the gallery you find yourself at Munsterhof, a square on the left bank of the Limmat River. Its name means the Monastery Courtyard because of the proximity of two monasteries: female Fraumyunster and male Grossmunster (on the other side of the river).
10. Fraumuenster: this convent for aristocratic ladies is a must-see destination for all guided tours around the city. The church was founded on this site in 853. Like any other Protestant church, Fraumyunster features no sumptuous interiors. But the highlights of the cathedral are exceptionally beautiful stained glass windows designed by Marc Chagall.
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