|Zurich : the Schweizerisches Landesmuseum|
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Behind the main station, and unmistakeable in its mock-Gothic, purpose-built castle, is the Schweizerisches Landesmuseum,Museumstrasse 2 (Swiss National Museum; Tues–Sun 10.30am–5pm; free; www.slmnet.ch). This massive building has a wide and varied collection covering the range of Swiss history, and is well worth investigation, though some of its displays are rather sterile. The collection is so vast, and the layout of the place so labyrinthine, that you may find it more satisfying to consult a (free) floor-plan and then head straight for those areas which interest you rather than to try and absorb the whole thing. Staff give regular guided tours of the whole collection in English (June–Sept Thurs 10.30am; free).
The museum begins with a series of rooms devoted to sacred art from the ninth to the sixteenth centuries, displaying medieval wood carvings, painted altar pieces, a wheelable model of Christ on an ass (used in Palm Sunday processions), and 65 copies of the 153 panels adorning the ceiling of the church at Zillis. Fifteenth-century stained glass has been installed in a room which also displays a sequence of images of some less well-known saints (including St Vitus, patron saint of bedwetting). Rooms lead you past a reconstruction of an eighteenth-century apothecary and a intricately detailed sixteenth-century bestiary; up some stairs are several watches and clocks, and a display on exploration crowned by a spectacular two-metre-high globe dating from 1570. Pieces showing the life of the Swiss nobility include a decorated gentleman’s sleigh from seventeenth-century Luzern. Stairs lead up again to a tower, with dozens of cases of costumes, some pieces of silver and eighteenth- and nineteenth-century toys. Returning back down the same stairs brings you to a sequence of Baroque and Rococo rooms, including a ceremonial hall from a Zürich house of 1660. There’s also a section on military history, as well as an archeological collection, comprising a wealth of finds from Roman Zürich. Pick of the Iron Age collection is a stunning embossed golden bowl from 600 BC; Neolithic and Bronze Age artefacts bring you back round to the entrance again.
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