Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Money and Mummenschanz in Zurich

Sure an Aston Martin DB9 would be a great souvenir
Zurich is a lovely city if you like expensive cars, exquisite jewels, and immaculately attired bankers. But if you're there with your kids chances are you're using Zurich as a arrival or departure point for other adventures around Europe. No matter how many days you're spending in the sophisticated Swiss city you're going to need some entertainment.

Two days were all I allocated at the end of our summer 2012 trip to Zurich and we were all vacationed out by the time we got there. Originally our plan was for two nights in the Swiss Alps followed by three nights in Zurich and I'm very glad we swapped out more nature for less big city before we left home. Two days is just enough in notoriously expensive Zurich, unless you're there making a deposit in your secret bank account. In which case, cocktails are on you!

My tiara must be in one of these boxes
The Swiss National Museum is the best place to start your Zurich adventures. Easy to get to and located right next to the bustling main train station, it will give your crew a good overview of Swiss culture and history. I could have happily moved into the wing of Swiss furniture design but the little C&Gs made a beeline for the armory tower. For such a peaceful and neutral county they have a very impressive stockpile of weaponry, from Medieval times to the 20th century.

It's hard to mention Switzerland without referring to it as the private banking capital of the world. Every other building you pass on the street will have a discreet sign announcing some form of wealth management, so you can't miss the banking exhibit at the museum. There's an interesting display of money and currency and the little C&Gs wouldn't budge from the "vault". Even I enjoyed opening the secret lock boxes in search of forgotten jewels and stacks of gold bars. The boxes do indeed slide out and there are fun costume jewelry pieces (or are they . . . ) under plexiglass.

All that's missing is the rolls of toilet paper
When you arrive at the museum there is a mandatory bag check and you'll need to stash anything you're carrying in one of the secure lockers on the second floor. Next to the coat room is a fun Mummenschanz themed play area for the kids but save it till the end of your visit. Otherwise they'll use up all their energy before you even get started.

Giant blue foam shapes are begging to be moved, sat on, and formed into funny faces. A ceiling mounted video camera will capture their creation while you grab a seat on the comfy couches. Stacks of Swiss design magazines and books make for perfect reading material until they're done, but most likely you'll have to tempt them away with the promise of a sweet treat from the bistro on the main floor.

Admission to the museum is CHF10 (Swiss Francs) ($11) for adults and free for children under 16, and keep in mind they are closed on Mondays. iPads and iPods guides are available for a CHF5 fee ($5.50) and a good idea if you want your kiddos to learn a little history about this trilingual country. By law everything in Switzerland must be presented in German, French, and Italian, and thankfully they throw in a bit of English here and there for us monolingual Americans.

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