In the footsteps of Einstein, Joyce and Lenin

Artists, scientists, political visionaries - Zurich has been home to some of the greatest and most original minds of the last century or two. You can follow their footsteps, see many of the houses they lived and worked in, the graves where they are laid to rest and with a bit of imagination feel what Zurich felt like for them. We’ve listed the sites for you, which also include museums and even a pub!

That genius par excellence, Albert Einstein, was a citizen of Switzerland, of Zurich even. Ok, he didn’t start off life Swiss. He studied natural sciences at the Polytechnikum, today’s Federal Institute of Technology from 1896 to 1900, lodging at different addresses, such as Unionsstrasse 4. His career as a scientist didn’t take off until 1909, when he was appointed professor at the Polytechnikum and again lived in Zurich until 1914, when he left for Berlin and higher things. In 1916 his revolutionary work on the general theory of relativity was published and in 1921 he was awarded the Nobel prize in physics.

Some of the new arrivals fleeing the First World War had more literal revolutions on their minds. Marxists Vladimir Lenin and his wife Nadezhda Krupskaya spent a year of their exile in Zurich at Spiegelgasse 14. They left Zurich in April 1917, on hearing that revolution in Russia had begun without them, crossing Germany in a sealed train carriage which had been given ‘extraterritorial status’ by the German government.

The couple Emmy Hennings and Hugo Ball were to trigger a revolution right in the middle of Zurich itself: the anti-everything art movement Dada. Both active on the stage, they were forced to leave Germany in 1915 amid fanatic support for the war they criticized in their plays.


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