Zürich – City of the Guilds

April is the month of Zurich’s Sechseläuten festival. The faster the “Böögg’s” head explodes, the finer the summer will be.

It’s the “Böögg” who’s the star of Zurich’s Sechseläuten spring festival. The whole event culminates in the burning of this snowman-like figure to represent the driving out of winter. The faster his head explodes, say the locals, the finer the coming summer will be. The six o’clock burning is accompanied by the pealing of the city’s church bells, which gives the festival its name. Coming on the first Monday after the spring equinox, the ceremony told the city’s craftsfolk – who were organised in guilds – that spring had begun. Over the centuries, it developed into a colorful affair that included a procession of the guilds through the streets which is still held today. “Sächsilüüte”, as the locals call it, is a citywide party with only one casualty: the “Böögg”. Not surprisingly, the snowman’s builders Lukas Meier is well familiar with all the highlights of Zurich’s guild tradition:

The story of Zurich and its guilds

Zurich’s various craft guilds – its “Zünfte” – shaped and coloured the city’s social and political development for centuries. The “Zunftstadt Zürich” museum and the guided tour of the same name offer a truly fascinating insight into the city’s guilds, their splendid historic guild houses and their role in the Sechseläuten festival.

Guilded cuisine – Zunfthaus zur Waag

The city’s weavers and hatters have been united in the Zunft zur Waag for almost 700 years. Their guild house – the Zunfthaus zur Waag, located behind the Fraumünster cathedral in the Old Town – offers excellent cuisine, including traditional Zürcher Geschnetzeltes mit Rösti (sliced veal with hash browns) to make any visitor feel like a guildsman.

A guild house cruise

Some of Zurich’s finest guild houses are best viewed from the water. The “Felix” and the “Regula” riverboats – named after the city’s two patron saints – offer visitors regular services up and down the River Limmat, past the Zunfthaus zur Zimmerleuten, the Haus zum Rüden, the Zunfthaus zur Saffran and the Zunfthaus zur Haue.

Wine for the city’s patron saints

Zurich-based wine producer and merchant Smith & Smith now honours the city’s patron saints Felix and Regula in wine. The bottles’ labels are of a striking design that alludes to the saints’ fate (they were beheaded). The “Regula” is a Riesling × Sylvaner and the “ Felix” is a Pinot Noir. They are both available from the Smith & Smith shop.

Meat from the masters – Restaurant AuGust

The butchers’ guild is one of the oldest in the city. Their Zunfthaus zum Widder is a historic affair, too. But it’s not afraid to embrace the present day: its recently opened AuGust boucherie restaurant is heaven for meat lovers, and has already become a popular Zurich eating-out address.

Multifaceted Zurich

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