Guided Tour: Archeological Windows to Zürich

Other than self-guided tours with a handset or headset, I can't remember the last time I had a professional tour guide lead me around a city, showing me the sights. The "Archeological Windows" tour we took last weekend literally opened doors to places in Zürich I had never seen or heard of.

Granted, we don't live in Zürich, so we're bound to see new things each time we visit. Still, we've been there a handful of times, and each time we have spent hours wandering around the old town. As it turns out, we've been obliviously walking right past fascinating historical sites this whole time.

I also realized that there are still many winding Gassen, alleyways or lanes, we haven't explored. One that we hadn't explored until the day of the tour was Froschaugasse (pictured left), which left quite the impression on me. Our guide, Rosemarie, had mentioned the street only in passing, so we went back after the tour to have a closer look. She recounted that a Jewish community had settled in and around Froschaugasse, then called Judengasse, during the 13th century. Although some of Zürich's residents wished to protect the Jews, the majority merely tolerated their presence, but once the Black Plague arrived in Switzerland, the Jewish community quickly became the scapegoats. As a result, almost the entire community was wiped out when a large group of Jews were confined to a building on Froschaugasse that was later set on fire. Today, between restaurants and boutiques, a single plaque pays respect to the community that perished on that very street so long ago.

We also stopped by a couple of places that the general public can visit without the aid of a tour guide, and I definitely plan to go back and spend more time studying the new stained glass windows at Grossmünster and reading up on the history of the Roman baths. Additionally, rumor has it that you can visit the tourist office and ask for the key to the sewage ditch, should you wish to experience it for yourself.

Apparently it used to be no big deal to use the "toilet" (literally the ditch between two city buildings) with everyone watching you. Sounds like a nightmare to me!

Standing where people in the middle ages used to dump their wastes

Tour highlights I found especially amusing...
  • Taking turns cramming into a tiny excavation space under the Lindenhof, in which layers of ruins highlight centuries of history.
  • The idea that we were on a private tour that isn't regularly scheduled, AND how we scored with a guide who worked her magic to get two extra keys for places not usually part of the tour!
  • The "aha" moment I had when I realized that the parking garage where we usually leave our car is built into part of Zürich's medieval city wall.
  • When I learned Dadaism was born in Zürich! (Maybe I learned that in my Modern Art class, but that was like seven years ago...)
Do you prefer to explore a new city on your own or go on a guided tour?


  1. Fascinating! I never thought that Switzerland had so much medieval history. I actually like to take guided tours, even in my own city. You always learn something new.

  2. Fly Girl - I kind of always thought guided tours tended to be boring or overwhelming. Generally, I'm just too cheap to go on a guided tour and prefer to read a little background info from a guide book before wandering around a new city. This tour completely changed my mind. I was thoroughly entertained and not at all bombarded with too much history. What I loved about our guide is that she seemed to really enjoy giving the tour and sharing her knowledge about Zurich. She didn't memorize some script handed to her from the tourist office. In fact, she continues to read the latest journals searching for new tidbits of info about the Swiss city. I learned so much from her!

  3. Amanda, that sounds like the tours that I typically go on. I think you were taking the wrong kind of tours!


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