History of the park goes back to the Middle Ages. Positioned between the Sihl and Limmat rivers, it was originally used as a hunting and shooting ground in the 14th century, and by the end of the 18th century the park was also adorned with beautiful Baroque architecture.
During the 1980s, heroin addicts would frequently gather at the park, and attempts to disperse them merely resulted in them regrouping elsewhere. Thus in 1987 the authorities chose to allow illegal drug use and sales at the park, in an effort to contain Zurich's growing drug problem. Police were not allowed to enter the park or make arrests. Clean needles were given out to addicts as part of the Zurich Intervention Pilot Project, or ZIPP-AIDS program. However, lack of control over what went on in the park caused a multitude of problems. Drug dealers and users arrived from all over Europe, and crime became rampant as dealers fought for control and addicts (who numbered up to 20,000) stole to support their habit. The once-beautiful gardens had degraded into a mess of mud and used needles, and the emergency services were overwhelmed with the number of overdoses, which were almost nightly. Platzspitz, or Needle Park as it was then known, became a source of embarrassment to the Swiss government and in 1992, police moved in to clear up the park.
Today Platzspitz has been cleaned up and restored, and is presented by the authorities as a peaceful, family-friendly garden.
National Exhibition Vestige
Although marred by the drug-related past, the park has some beautiful features. One structure that stands out is the gazebo that stands just behind the Swiss National Museum. It is very close to Zurich's main railway station. The Gazebo is a vestige of the first Switzerland's National Exhibition of 1883. It was first built to be a musical pavilion, a function it still serves to this day.
- Platzpitz - City of Zurich official site (in German)
- New, Mitya; Switzerland Unwrapped: Exposing the Myths; 1997
- New York Times - Amid Growing Crime, Zurich Closes A Park It Reserved for Drug Addicts
- "Gazebo un Platzspitz Park - Zürich, Switzerland". Groundspeak, Inc. Retrieved 1 March 2013.