Zurich Old Town – sometimes the timing’s off

We’re in the middle of a ten day train trip around the German-speaking countries of central Europe. When planning such a trip, determining the day of the week that you will be in certain places is a bit arbitrary. Often the start and the end dates are fixed and then it’s just a matter of joining up the places that are on the list.

And so it fell that we had an afternoon to explore Zurich on a Monday. Not the best day of the week as it turns out. Zurich Tourism had kindly given us ‘Zurich Passes‘ with which to explore the city. However, after an early coffee stop to peruse the accompanying guide, we realised that almost all of the attractions were closed on Mondays – all but a clock and watch museum and any exhibitions on in the Stadthaus.

But actually, when you’ve only got three or four hours to explore a place, it’s possible to end up being paralysed if you have too much choice. So rather than use an hour of the available time to look at all the options, make a decision and then scamper between attractions, we felt liberated by our lack of choice.

Zurich AltstadtWe wandered around backstreets in the Altstadt (old town), poking our noses down alleyways and taking in shop windows. This grotesque pair were actually in the window of a Spanish restaurant. We could take our time over taking pictures and whilst the clocks on the churches gave us time’s measure, we relished the moments, rather than feeling enslaved by them. It was cold – the temperature was about freezing – certainly chilly for the hands and face.

We found the watch and clock museum in the basement of the very exclusive Beyer watch store. I don’t think either of us had spent a second thinking of how many different mechanisms there are to tell the time – candles, steam, water, sun – as well as the more obvious mechanical means.

Zurich AltstadtA five minute walk away was the Stadthaus – the city’s government office. This fin-de-siecle neo-Gothic building is actually quite a gem. A beaming gent at the reception desk pointed us up to the top floor where there were 18th century depictions of the Zurich Altstadt, which gave us great context for what we had seen in our earlier ambling.

And then we were done. No stress. No rush. Just a few hours well spent getting a sense of what makes Switzerland’s largest city tick. And then our own bodyclocks were telling us that it was dinnertime.

But before we finish up, we’ve got a question. We all know how the Swiss are known for their timepieces. But how many references to time-keeping did you spot in this piece?

Fraumunster Church, Zurich
Fraumunster Church, Zurich

2 thoughts on “Zurich Old Town – sometimes the timing’s off

  1. Hi Nigel and Jane, we’re Australian empty Nesters. We started travelling in 2009 when the youngest of our 4 kids was in his last years of school. We didn’t venture too far (for us) – just Thailand and Vietnam. In 2011 we revisited Thailand and Vietnam with friends and continued on to Cambodia, South Korea and Hong Kong. 2014 was our big, 3 month trip. We started in Hawaii, followed by the US then into London for a week. From London we headed to Amsterdam and then onto Germany and took a train from Hannover to Munich and Berlin then on to Paris where we stayed for another week before we flew to Barcelona for a week, then into Nice and the south of France. Flying into Rome we travelled by train to Florence and Venice and eventually flew to Turkey. Our final week was spent in Jordan. We always head home via a week or two in Bali (Indonesia) to avoid the jet lag.
    We were booked to spend 6 weeks in Greece, Milan and driving through Spain and Portugal last year, but I was unfortunately diagnosed with breast cancer in July.
    I’m finally finished treatment and we’re ready to head off again in June. We fly into Amsterdam, grab a train to Cologne to visit our daughter then back to Amsterdam to board a river cruise which ends in Switzerland. After a short stay we’ll get back to Amsterdam to fly to Bali for our usual 2 weeks, them home to Melbourne, Australia.
    Meanwhile we’ve been to Singapore in 2016 and New Zealand this year.
    It’s quite different travelling from Australia, with few countries nearby. It takes about 24 hours for us to get to the UK. Our closest countries are Papua New Guinea, Tahiti, New Zealand and Indonesia. Each are between 4 and 9 or 10 hours away.
    All of Europe would fit into Australia.
    Anyway, I’ve just discovered your insta page and loved looking at your photos.


    Margie Buttriss


    1. Thanks for finding us. You’re seriously well-travelled! We’ve just got back from a break in southern Italy. Take a look at our latest posts.

      Happy travels!



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