Landesmuseum Zurich: The Most Popular Swiss National Museum

Three museums and a collection center make up the Swiss National Museum. Among the four locations of the Swiss National Museum are the following:

  • National Museum Zurich (Schweizerisches Landesmuseum Zurich)
  • Forum of Swiss History Schwyz (Forum Schweizer Geschichte Schwyz)
  • Château de Prangins
  • Collection Center in Affoltern am Albis (Sammlungszentrum)

An Overview of Landesmuseum Zurich

Image of Landesmuseum Zurich by TouringSwitzerland.com

The Swiss National Museum’s headquarters are at the Swiss National Museum Zurich (Schweizerisches Landesmuseum Zurich), the most popular of these four locations.  Also, it’s the biggest and most important cultural and historical collection in the country. Landesmuseum Zurich covers Swiss history from prehistoric times to the present. Over 820,000 objects are on display here.

Among the collections are items dating back to the time of the pile-dwellers, the Roman and Germanic periods, and the medieval and Gothic periods. Aside from glass art, there are also church treasures to be found. On display will be ceramics from the Baroque period (Rococo) and other artifacts related to the Protestant Reformation. With mannequins dressed in lavish clothes from the 18th to the 21st centuries and a significant collection of linen embroidery and ornamental textiles, Landesmuseum Zurich also contains one of the largest collections of traditional Swiss dress and costumes.

The museum displays weapons, gold, silver, textiles, coins, watches, paintings, and sculptures.

The Purpose of Landesmuseum Zurich

Landesmuseum Zurich collects and preserves ancient historical artifacts. It is of national importance to preserve antiquities and works of art.

Swiss historical museums teach us about the past. It’s supposed to be a bit like a photo book of Swiss history, with guides explaining things. The Swiss National Museum was founded to collect items that represent Switzerland’s commercial prowess, its historical past, and the honor and fame of its people.

Although museums are great for learning, they’re not the best place to conduct research. Lastly, the Landesmuseum is designed to be a place for students interested in learning how to be museum employees.

A Quick History of Landesmuseum Zurich

Image of Landesmuseum Zurich by TouringSwitzerland.com

Though each canton has its own history collection, talks about a national museum started anyway. In 1891, Zurich was chosen over Lucerne, Basel, and Bern as the location for the museum. In the years since then, the museum has been preserving and promoting Switzerland’s rich cultural history.

The building of Landesmuseum Zurich began in the autumn of 1892 and was completed on the 25th of June, 1898.

Rather than a huge colossal monument, it’s a beautiful, artistic line of rooms around a courtyard. Because of this style, the rooms that hold collections and the corridors get lots of light.

Since it opened, the museum has been expanded and renovated. The last set of renovations was completed in August 2020. A total of 95 million Swiss francs and 20 years went into building the Landesmuseum Zurich.

Landesmuseum Style and Architecture

Standing like a castle near Zurich’s main train station, Landesmuseum Zurich is not easy to miss. Gustav Gull, the architect and creative genius behind it, showed off his great eye for detail with its fairytale-looking structure. Switzerland’s medieval past is reflected in its design. Also, the facade of Landesmuseum Zurich inspired the Bern Historical Museum, which André Lambert was building around the same time.

Surrounding an inner courtyard, the museum’s rooms get ample, yet not overly much, light. Various events take place in this courtyard. A light show in winter, an open-air cinema, concerts, exhibitions, and food stalls are all things you can expect here. Platzspitz Park separates it from the north. From Landesmuseum Zurich, you can easily hop on a boat to cruise the city’s Limmat river, which is nearby.

Path to the Modern Wing of Landesmuseum Zurich by TouringSwitzerland.com

A modern wing adjoins the original building, designed by Chris & Gantenbein of Basel. Chris & Gantenbein’s signature expansion was inspired by modern architecture. Gustav Gull’s original building has also been totally renovated by Chris & Gantenbein. After 20 years of renovations and extensions, it was finally finished in August 2020. 

Landesmuseum Zurich: What to Expect

Image of one of the rooms inside Landesmuseum Zurich by TouringSwitzerland.com

In its permanent exhibits, Archaeology of Switzerland, History of Switzerland, and Gallery Collections, the National Museum Zurich shows Swiss history from the very beginning up until today.

From early human evidence in Switzerland to modern times, the museum’s collections and exhibitions explore Switzerland’s history. The museum covers all aspects of Swiss history. Exhibits span prehistory, ancient times, medieval times, and the 20th century. The following periods are covered by the Landesmuseum Zurich:

  • Pre-historic
  • Helvetic-Gaul-Etruscan
  • Roman
  • Alemannic-Burgundian
  • Middle Ages and Renaissance until the 18th century

Landesmuseum Zurich has a huge collection of household crafts, decorative arts, coins, weapons, and even fashion items, giving you an inside look at the region’s cultural history. Artifacts from the medieval age until the 18th century include the following:

  • Components and sculptures
  • Ecclesiastical Art
  • Treasury
  • Household goods, wood carving, furniture
  • Textile Art
  • Stained glass
  • Ceramics
  • Weapons
  • Musical instruments
Image of Costumes at Landesmuseum Zurich by TouringSwitzerland.com

Permanent exhibits at Landesmuseum Zurich also include an extensive collection of artwork, crafts, fashion, and decorative objects. The Landesmuseum Zurich also covers these topics:

  • Swiss History and the cantons
  • Costumes
  • Legal and state antiquities
  • Historic paintings, portraits
  • Building models
  • Rarities
Image of Landesmuseum Zurich by TouringSwitzerland.com

Furthermore, there are special exhibits every couple of months. There’s always something new to see at the museum, even if you’ve been there before.  The museum’s temporary exhibits illustrate various aspects of Swiss culture and history in greater depth.

How to Get to Landesmuseum Zurich

With the museum right across the street from the Zurich Hauptbahnhof railway station (via the tunnel north of the platform), it’s a convenient landmark for travelers making a short layover at the airport or traveling around Switzerland.

AddressMuseumstrasse 2, 8021 Zürich.
By TrainZurich HB
By TramSihlquai/HB or Bahnhofquai/HB

Final Thoughts: Landesmuseum Zurich

Swiss National Museum is a must-see tourist attraction in Zurich, especially for people who love history, culture, and architecture. It represents the modern, genuine Switzerland of the past 120 years, both architecturally and historically. There are guided tours in German and English, as well as school workshops at the Landesmuseum Zurich.  A couple of hours at the museum can easily be spent learning about local history.

When you’re in Zurich, be sure to check out the Landesmuseum Zurich, one of the most popular museums in Switzerland.

Resources

  • Landesmuseum Zurich. https://www.landesmuseum.ch/.
  • Gysin, F. Ziele und Aufgaben des Schweizerischen Landesmuseums und sein Verhältnis zur schweizerischen Volkskunde. Jahresbericht / Schweizerisches Landesmuseum Zürich 1938-1943. Accessed on 17 July 2022.
  • Herter, H. Nachruf: Gull, Gustav. Schweizerische Bauzeitung, 12. Dezember 1942. Accessed on 18 July 2022.

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