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Hidden Treasures of Zurich

16 January 2020

Switzerland's largest city holds many unexpected treasures for travelers who know where to look.

Recently opened after a two-year renovation project, Le Corbusier's 1967 Pavilion is one of Zurich's hidden architectural masterpieces. Small in size, but big in color, the ship-like construction, based on the Swiss-French architect's famous modular system, is built of steel and glass. Today, it's a public museum run by the Museum für Gestaltung Zurich, with rotating exhibitions filling its 600 square meters. Close to Zurich's lakeside, but far enough from Zurich's Old Town and main shopping street that most visitors never see it, the building is easily accessible either by boat or by foot, about a 20-minute walk from Bellevue to the Zürichhorn.

Also near the Zürichhorn yet low on most visitors' radar is one of the highest-ranking gardens outside of China. A gift to Zurich by its partner town, Kunming, in order to thank the city for the technical and scientific support it provided for Kunming's water and sewage project, the Chinese Garden features a pond, pavilions, and a small palace. If you enter and experience harmony, the principles of geomancy explain why. Because the garden was placed between the lake and the mountain, it's the ideal location to experience the balance of yin and yang.

The walls of Zurich's old city are no longer around, but the Schanzengraben is. Today, the former location of the city's fortifications has been transformed into a promenade six and a half feet below street level. The path leads from the main railway station all the way to Lake Zurich. Those in the know stop by the men's public bathhouse, Flussbad Schanzengraben, which is along the way. In the evening, it's a co-ed hangout called Rimini Bar, where locals drink Swiss beer and Aperol Spritzes while perched on oriental cushions set in picturesque places along the wooden boardwalk.

Finally, District 4, Zurich's red-light district, is the unexpected place to go for shopping and eating in Zurich. The Europaallee, located parallel to Zurich's main train station tracks, is a new urban quarter where surprises are moving in daily. Hiltl, Europe's oldest vegetarian restaurant, now has a branch in the area. And the Ida Gut shop is an atmospheric boutique worth a visit too. Gut became famous for designing the uniform of the Swiss grocery chain Migros. But what you'll find in her boutique is anything but supermarket-style. Instead, her collection for women mixes impeccable tailoring and unusual fabrics with comfort for styles that work wherever you choose to wear them.

Discover these places and hopefully some of your own on a Swiss rail vacation. When it comes to Zurich, there's always more to see. Spend time in Zurich on Vacations By Rail's popular Switzerland trips, including Grand Train Tour of Switzerland and Montreux with Zurich & Lucerne.