Zurich’s Secret: Its Compelling Museums
Zurich’s Secret: Its Compelling Museums
Here’s a question for you. What comes to mind when you think about Zurich? Is it gorgeous Lake Zurich and its lovely lakefront? Or, is it the views of the Alps from downtown? Or, maybe it’s the discreet world of insurance and high finance?
Chances are you won’t think right away about Zurich’s museums. But the city offers some world-class exhibit spaces that are well worth a visit.
For starters, check out pretty Böcklin Hall with Venus, above (Photo © www.jpg-factory.com). You’ll see this lovely gallery in the Kunsthaus Zurich.
Below, you’ll learn more about the Kunsthaus and three other venues that offer insights into Zurich’s history, art, architecture, and more.
Kunsthaus Zurich (Museum of Fine Arts)
To see the full sweep of European art, check out the Kunsthaus Zurich. There, you’ll find plenty of paintings and sculptures from old masters to modern classics in some lovely galleries.
In addition to works from the Middle Ages, you’ll find paintings by Picasso, Monet, and Chagall as well as contemporary Swiss artists.
Above all, the Kunsthaus is a perfect place to get to know Swiss art. Even if you don’t know this genre, you’ll find lots to like.
One of my favorite Swiss artists is Ferdinand Hodler. In particular, I’m a big fan of his larger-than-life murals. For instance, the mural below shows a man preaching about the teachings of Martin Luther during the Reformation.
Alberto and Augusto Giacometti
The Kunsthaus also holds the works of many other Swiss artists. For me, it’s always a joy to see the “stick-figure” sculptures of Alberto Giacometti.
Alberto Giacometti is one of the famous Giacometti dynasty of artists from Stampa, in southern Switzerland.
Also, Augusto Giacometti, a cousin of Alberto’s father, was a gifted artist. Notably, he created a stained glass window for the Fraumünster Church in Zurich.
Swiss National Museum
For surprising insights into Swiss history and culture, check out the Landesmuseum Zurich (Swiss National Museum). Through its many fine displays, you’ll learn a lot about how Switzerland has become the modern country it is today.
Even if you’re not a history buff, you’ll enjoy the exhibits here.
For instance, during World War II, Switzerland was officially a “neutral” nation. But even before the war, due to its economic ties to Germany, the Swiss government ordered some censorship measures to “please” the Germans.
Despite the risks at the time, the anti-fascist Cabaret Cornichon (“pickled cucumber”) staged satirical plays in Zurich mocking the Nazis during the 1930s.
Below, Elsie Attenhofer, one of the members of Cabaret Cornichon, is shown in a video still image.
Finally, you must see the vintage Swiss travel posters on display. Emil Cardinaux created the first “modern” Swiss travel poster, “The Matterhorn,” in 1908. In fact, the Swiss are well known for their travel posters promoting Swiss ski resorts, spas, and outdoor wonders.
Museum Haus Konstruktiv (Constructivist Museum)
If you want to see some rare modern art and design, go visit the Museum Haus Konstruktiv. Just outside of the financial district, it fills a funky space inside an old electric power sub-station.
Constructivism is a modern art movement that dates back to the early 20th century in Russia. As part of this movement, artists ‘construct’ many of their works from building materials, like concrete.
Also, the works often include abstract geometric patterns. Pictured here is Claudia Comte’s “Eye to Eye”, which she designed for the museum’s cafe. Believe it or not, the eyes are inspired by Warner Brothers “Road Runner” cartoon characters.
The Rockefeller Dining Room from 1963/64 is a permanent installation and one of the highlights of the museum’s collection. Originally, the Swiss artist Fritz Glarner created the dining room in New York for the Rockefellers.
In 1987, the family put the dining room on sale as a single piece of art. After restoration, it found a permanent home at the Constructivist Museum. It’s a rare example of “concrete” interior design.
Though it’s not a museum, the Fraumünster Church houses stunning stained glass windows by two well-known artists, Marc Chagall and Augusto Giacometti.
Not surprisingly, the Chagall windows receive lots of attention. Set up as a series, the five windows depict Biblical and Christian stories in vivid colors. But don’t miss the big stained glass window by Augusto Giacometti.
Use the Zurich Card for Museum Discounts
Tip: The Zurich Card offers free admission or discounts at many of the city’s museums. Be sure to buy one before you visit the museums and other local sights.
Try Hotel Glockenhof – for a Weekend Deal
The Hotel Glockenhof is close to the train station and Zurich’s charming old town. If the weather is nice, the hotel offers dining at Restaurant Conrad’s lovely outdoor patio.
Plus, the Glockenhof offers a “Weekend Special,” with a three-for-two rate for overnight stays from Friday – Monday. Don’t miss out!
From Zurich, you can easily get to all parts of Switzerland. In particular, you can take a scenic train ride to the Upper Engadine along the border with Italy. There, you’ll find lots of skiing and hiking and a distinct local culture.