Villa Patumbah – Zurich, Switzerland - Atlas Obscura

Zurich, Switzerland

Villa Patumbah

This eclectic architectural gem played witness to Zurich’s colonial past. 

The picturesque Villa Patumbah was erected in 1885 and represents a wild mixture of architectural styles. Different parts of the façade and interior combine elements of Italian Renaissance, Rococo, Swiss Chalet Style, and Southeast Asian folk art. The stately mansion, now hosting a museum, is surrounded by a beautiful English-style garden. Both the park and villa are among Zurich’s most wondrous and outstanding architectural sights.

This unique, eclectic ensemble is well preserved and there is so much detail to be discovered. Yet Villa Patumbah is not only appreciated by architecture lovers. As a post-colonial relic, the history of the building sheds light on the imperial heritage of Switzerland. Even though the state itself never colonized other nations, many Swiss citizens came to riches by profiting from the imperial structures that Germany, Britain, or France had established from the 18th century on.

For instance the mansion’s owner, Carl Fürchtegott Grob-Zundel, a merchant from Zurich, made a living by exploiting a tobacco plantation in Sumatra. When he returned from Indonesia to Zurich after 11 years, his wealth was so enormous he was able to build the flamboyant Villa Patumbah, designed by the famous Swiss architects Alfred Chiodera and Theophil Tschudi. In fact the villa’s name, “Patumbah,” derives from the Indonesian language, and means “A place you like to be.”

Know Before You Go

The park is accessible free of charge year-round. The villa’s interior and museum exhibition can be visited on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursdays and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.

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