The largest and most popular Swiss history museum in the world, the Swiss National Museum (or Landesmuseum) is the go-to culturally educational stopover for first-time visitors to Zurich (or otherwise curious souls) before they decamp for the Alps or other Swiss cities and destinations.
Broken into four thematic areas, the History of Switzerland exhibit covers Swiss history from its roots as a nation to the present day. The Collections Gallery displays selections from the museum’s holdings, an impressive 820,000 examples of Swiss handicraft. Other facets of the museum’s permanent collection accessible to English-language speakers include a focus on Swiss architecture and furnishings, an impressive collection of weaponry, armor, and antiquated ammunition from the old Zurich Armory, and the country’s largest collection of clothing, costumes and garments from the 18th to the 21st centuries.
Current and upcoming installations include a visual biography of the World Wildlife Fund (showing now through September 2011), which is now celebrating its 50th year as an organization, and a celebration of the Bernese songwriter and poet Mani Matter (1936–1972), whose body of work is considered a Swiss national treasure (showing May through September 2011).
The museum is open to the public Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Admission is $12, with free admission for children under the age of 16. It is well worth contacting the museum or visiting the official website to peruse the calendar of presentations, talks, panel discussions, workshops, concerts, and guided tours available to the public.