Arriving in Zurich
From the railway station to the Hotel Adler
Hauptbahnhof – Bahnhofbrücke – Central – Limmatquai – Rosengasse – Hirschenplatz
or: Hauptbahnhof – Bahnhofstrasse – Uraniastrasse – Rudolf Brun-Brücke – Mühlegasse – Niederdorfstrasse – Hirschenplatz
Most guests of the Hotel Adler receive their first impression of Zurich, Switzerland’s prosperous economic metropolis of about 360000 inhabitants, as they leave Hauptbahnhof, the main railway station. This first encounter is certainly no disappointment, for they are presented either with the elegant and legendary Bahnhofstrasse, leading to Paradeplatz and Lake Zurich beyond, or with the Limmat river, which divides the town in two. On the north side of the Bahnhof stands the Schweizerische Landesmuseum, the Swiss National Museum. A visit to this museum is a must for those with an interest in Swiss history. Behind the castle-like museum lies one of Zurich’s most beautifuls parks, the Platzspitz (the pointed square), located at the confluence of the rivers Limmat and Sihl.
Zurich’s main railway station has symbolic significance, representing as it does the 19th century, an era when travel, commerce and industry all experienced an important upturn. Switzerland’s first railway line was inaugurated on August 7, 1847 and linked Zurich with the spa town of Baden. The building project necessitated more than 1000 land expropriations, which were all implemented within a period of only a few months. The project included a 23 km-long railway line, many essential building structures and two stations. Zurich’s first train station was deliberately erected on a site outside the then town limits. The railway was developed by a private company called the Schweizerische Nordbahn, and the first four steam locomotives and 40 railway carriages were made in Karlsruhe, Germany. In the Swiss vernacular, the new railway was called the “Spanisch-Brötli-Bahn“ because the “Spanischen Brötli,“ delicious sweet pastries made in Baden, were transported each day to Zurich in this train.
The rapid expansion of railway construction and railway traffic in Switzerland soon made a larger station necessary for Zurich. The present-day station was built between 1865 and 1871 according to the plans and under the direction of architect Jakob Friedrich Wanner (1830–1903). Wanner incorporated in his design some elements from plans that had been drawn up for a competition in 1860 by four of Zurich’s most renowned architects. Construction was slow partly because of an outbreak of cholera in Zurich in 1867 but also because of the Franco-Prussian War (1870–1871).
During the 1950s and 1960s the Hauptbahnhof was threatened with demolition and total reconstruction due to modernist influences, but today it stands under a preservation order. The enormous, impressive hall, which until the beginning of the 20th century accommodated steam locomotives and railway carriages, was renovated only a few years ago. During the renovation, some earlier installations and temporary structures were removed from the hall. At the same time, numerous other areas inside the station were partly reconstructed and restored to their original style. These renovated areas with their decorative wall and ceiling paintings testify to the style and fashion of the Gründerjahre (the 1870s and 1880s, when many industrial firms were founded, especially in Germany).
The Alfred Escher monument
In front of the main entrance of Hauptbahnhof stands a monument to Alfred Escher (1819–1882), erected in 1889. The monument, built as a fountain, is the work of sculptor Richard Kissling (1848–1919), who also created the Wilhelm Tell monument in Altdorf, canton Uri.
Alfred Escher embodies the Swiss liberal spirit of the 19th century and the spirit of the Gründerjahre that led Zurich to become the financial and economic metropolis of the young Swiss federal state. The site of the monument is by no means accidental; it was chosen in commemoration of Escher’s role as “Eisenbahnkönig“ (railway king), in which role he became the driving force behind the construction of the Gotthard railway. Escher believed that education constitutes the basis of an enlightened and economically prosperous society, and he used his political influence to secure the founding and construction of the Polytechnikum, the present-day Federal Institute of Technology.
Alfred Escher also founded the Schweizerische Kreditanstalt (Swiss Credit Bank), which is today known as Credit Suisse.