Urania Observatory – Zurich, Switzerland - Atlas Obscura

Urania Observatory

Switzerland's oldest public observatory is an important part of the Zurich cityscape. 


Observatories are rarely found in the middle of a city due to the light pollution emitted by the nearby houses, this makes the Urania observatory a rare and surprisingly accessible gem of Zurich.

The land on which it stands was once owned by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) and had several observatories at this location throughout the centuries. However, it was bought by a businessman named Weill-Einstein at the turn of the 18th century. The only condition was that ”a beautiful building appropriate to the location of the building site be built on the building site within five years of the transfer of ownership.” 

This demand was fulfilled through the construction of a public observatory.

The observatory was completed in 1907 and was the first concrete building in the city, it was also fully separate from the surrounding building to minimize vibrations. Despite this technology, no science was ever done in the tower, instead, it has always been used to teach astronomy and explain how telescopes work. 

Inside the building is a beautiful Zeiss refractor that was custom-built for this tower. The telescope has a length of 16 feet (five meters). It’s described by Zeiss as a ‘Urania Type.

Know Before You Go

The observatory is open three days a week for walk-in tours, but group tours can be booked on other days. Tickets cost 20 franks, with discounts for special groups. Make sure to book ahead. 

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September 8, 2023

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