Depending on where you live and work, you might have taken trams number 6 or 7. If you did, chances are that along the route, your eye was caught by a lovely spot between Paradeplatz and the Stockerstrasse tram stop, a narrow canal nestled between buildings, with boats docked along the sides: an oddly idyllic-looking spot, so incongruous in the middle of the city.
That spot is part of the Schanzengraben, a canal that was used as the outer moat outside the Zurich city walls starting in 1642.
On a sunny spring or summer day, a walk along the Schanzengraben makes for a great break in the heat and noise of the city, with several spots to stop for a picnic or to read a book in peace. Start your walk just off Bürkliplatz, where the canal connects to the lake, on the right of the Bar Au Lac, and then keep walking along the Schanzegraben's zigzag shape, crossing Dreikönigstrasse, Bleicherweg, Gartenstrasse.
Just when you start feeling a little lost and are getting ready to check the map on your smartphone, you will get to the Selnau bridge, at which point you might consider taking a little detour to check out the Old Botanic Garden, another little treasure in the middle of Zurich that is undiscovered by many. The Old Botanic Garden has lots of great spots for a picnic, or to lie on the grass or one of the benches to chat, relax, or read a book. You might find that you prefer to just stop and hang out here.
If you decide to continue your walk, exit the garden from the back and follow the canal and the old city wall to what might be an already familiar place: the old Männerbad, l located in the back of the new Börse. Among the many closed lakeside and riverside pools (known to the locals as Badi) in Zurich, a few are limited to either men or women, as they were when they were created. The old Männerbad on the Schanzengraben still welcomes men (and boys) exclusively during the day, but by night it turns into the Rimini Bar, a sort of open-air chillout bar, where everyone is welcome. There is no entry fee; guests only pay for their food and drinks, and, weather permitting, it's open from late May until October. It's a lovely spot for a mojito and a chat on a summer night, and in September and October groups of 8 or more people can reserve tables for the Rimini Fonduestübli. Details on www.rimini.ch
Once a week Rimini is also home to the Montagsmarkt (Monday Market), with booths from small boutiques and local independent designers who sell only online and at local markets. There you can fi nd handmade and vintage jewelry, clothing, accessories and small home décor items. If you have a sweet tooth, you will be glad to hear that Michelle's Cupcakes also makes a regular appearance at the Montagsmarkt.
Or keep on walking, and you will soon arrive to a spot you are likely familiar with, one that's a favorite lunch spot for many Zürcher: the canal right behind the Migros City department store. Surprise! It's all connected.
A few hundred meters further, the Schanzengraben joins the Sihl river, and when you walk up to street level you'll fi nd yourself right by the Main Station. Now you'll have no trouble recognizing your surroundings; after all, you've probably walked from the lake to the station and vice versa many times, but this time was much more peaceful and relaxing than a walk along the Bahnhofstrasse or the Limmatquai.
Just when you think you know it all, you realize that Zurich still has a lot of surprises left in store.
Photos: Elisa Bieg