A Good Walk: Zurich

Begin at the Hauptbahnhof, a massive 19th-century edifice. Directly behind the Hauptbahnhof is the Schweizerisches Landesmuseum, housed in an enormous 19th-century neo-Gothic mansion; behind that is a shady green park. Walk northward to the tip of the park, cross on the left-hand side of the bridge, and turn north a bit along Sihlquai. Back at the train station, look across Bahnhofplatz and you'll see traffic careering around a statue of Alfred Escher, the man who brought Zürich into the modern age.

Cross the square to Bahnhofstrasse, Zürich's principal business and shopping boulevard. A quarter of the way up the street—about five blocks—veer left into Rennweg and left again on Fortunagasse, an atmospheric medieval street well removed from the contemporary elegance of Bahnhofstrasse. Climb up to the Lindenhof, a quiet, gravel square with a view across the river to the Niederdorf. From here a maze of medieval alleys leads off to your right. Nestled among them is Kirche St. Peter, whose tower has one of the largest clockfaces in Europe.

From Kirche St. Peter, bear right on Schlüsselgasse and duck into a narrow alley, Thermengasse, which leads left; you'll walk directly over excavated ruins of Roman baths. At Weinplatz, turn right on Storchengasse, where some of the most elite boutiques are concentrated, and head toward the delicate spires of the Fraumünster. In the same square you'll see two of Zürich's finest guildhalls, the Zunfthaus zur Waag and Zunfthaus zur Meisen.

Wind left up Waaggasse past the Hotel Savoy to Paradeplatz. From here you can take a quick side trip to the art collection at Haus Konstruktiv by going up Talackerstrasse to Sihlstrasse, turning left onto Selnaustrasse. Back at Paradeplatz, continue south on Bahnhofstrasse, which, as it nears the lake, opens onto a vista of boats, wide waters, and (on a clear day) distant peaks.

At Bürkliplatz, look to your right: those manicured parks are the front lawn of the Hotel Baur au Lac, the aristocrat of Swiss hotels. Beyond, you'll see the modern structure of the Kongresshaus and the Tonhalle, where the Zürich Tonhalle Orchestra resides. Across General-Guisan-Quai is one of the local swans' favorite hangouts: the boat dock, which is the base for trips around the Zürichsee.

Here you can take General-Guisan-Quai west to Seestrasse to the Museum Rietberg (about a 25-minute walk) or turn left and cross the Quaibrücke (Quay Bridge) for one of the finest views in town, especially at night, when the floodlit spires are mirrored in the inky river, its surface disturbed only by drifting, sleeping swans.

Timing

The area is surprisingly compact; half a day is enough time for a cursory visit. If you plan on museum-hopping, the Schweizerisches Landesmuseum and Museum Rietberg merit at least two hours apiece.

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