Zurich has the biggest connection for trains in Switzerland. It also has the country's biggest and busiest airport. Because of its importance as a transportation center, it is likely to be the first place you visit in Switzerland. It is the financial capital of the country (although, contrary to what you may have thought, not the political capital). It has many international companies, and is home to the country's stock exchange.
It is a wonderful jumping off point for visiting the Alps, but also a great destination in and of itself. It's a very clean, efficient and wealthy city. It was considered for a long time to have the highest standard of living in Europe. There are countless restaurants of excellent quality, wonderful nightlife, happy people, and too many things to see and do to count. Be sure and allow yourself plenty of time to explore Zurich.
Zurich has four seasons with January being the coldest month and July being the warmest. During the average year there are 88 days where the temperature drops below freezing. During the month of July, the average high hovers around a comfortable 25 degrees Celsius. The spring and fall months are cooler but still comfortable and are still a great time to visit.
Most of Zurich's sights and attractions are located in the old town, around the lake and along the river. There are many things to see and do, but simply wandering around some of the city's interesting neighborhoods is highly recommended. Some of the city's top sights include Landesmuseum, Schanzengraben, Rietberg Museum, and the Lake Promenade.
Zurich is split by the Limmat River and can be divided into 12 districts. Altstadt is the old town that sits on the west bank. It has quaint, wandering streets and beautiful squares. In particular, Munsterhof is a beautiful city square. Bahnofstrasse is a neighborhood that is not too far from old town and is pedestrian only with many interesting stores. On the east bank, Niederdorfstrasse is the old town. This area has a great nightlife and some interesting boutiques. Langstrasse is also a great area to go out at night as is Hardbucke. Viadukt has many places to go shopping as well as the famous Freitag tower and the Prime Tower. Many of the city's hotels and restaurants are found in Turbinenplatz.
Shopping in Zurich can be quite fun, as there are a good number of local specialties that are fun to take home as souvenirs. Of particular interest is the Swiss Chocolate, Swiss clocks and watches, pastries and Swiss army knives. Flohmarkt Burkliplatz and Flohmarkt Kanzlei are two good flea markets in town where you can often find some good buys. Even if you're not shopping for something specific, they are fun to browse and look around. Another fun option is to head to Pastorini Spielzeug, which is a high end toy store where you can find some hand made and unique toys that make for good souvenirs.
Popular events include Streetparade, Zuri Fascht and Sechselauten.
Food and Dining
Zurich offers many local specialties including Zurigeschnatzlets, which is chopped veal in a cream and wine sauce. Grilled worste, or sausages are also a local favorite. They are usually served with boiled potatoes or noodle dumplings, similar to spatzle. During the winter months fondue and raclette are popular options, and they are available at touristy restaurants throughout the year.
In general, Zurich has many cafes that serve coffee or wine. These are great places to relax and people watch. There are also many international dining options including Asian, Italian and Turkish food. International food is often more affordable than traditional Swiss restaurants. Vegetarian food is readily available as well, but vegans may struggle because cheese is common in many recipes.
Zurich has some the best public transportation in Europe. The system includes trams, buses, surburban trains (called the S-Bahn), regular trains, cable cars and boats. Trams run at street level and are usually efficient and on time when weather is good. Snow and traffic can delay the schedule though. They usually run every 7 to 15 minutes. The S-bahn reaches into most of the suburbs of Zurich. It is fast and convenient and most lines pass through Hauptbahnhof. Boats include the river buses and the lake steamers. The river boats only run during the summer months and the lake boats are significantly reduced during the winter months. The river buses run between the Landesmuseum to Tiefenbrunnen with several stops along the way. The lake steamers leave from Burkliplatz. There are several routes designed specifically for tourists with a favorite traveling to Rapperswil at the south end of the Zurichsee.
It is not recommended that you bring a car as you can rely on the buses and trams which are highly efficient and reasonably priced. Alternatively, it's a great biking city and there are a handful of bike rental options if you don't have access to your own.
Celebrate Swiss National Day
By backpackguru on Nov 16, 2011 in Entertainment
A great time to find yourself in Zurich is for Swiss National Day. The celebration falls on August 1st of every year and, while there are festivities in many cities, Zurich is particularly fun. There are fireworks launched in the evening and you can see them over the lake. You could also take the S-Bahn an hour away to a nice display over the Rheinfall. Or, if you're comfortable, you could launch your own display.
Riding a Boat
By backpackguru on Nov 20, 2011 in Local Transportation
Getting around by boat in Zurich can be a fun experience. There are two options for boat travel with public transit. The river buses, which only run during the summer months, travel between Landesmuseum and Tiefenbrunnen running along the Limmat River and Zurichsee. They stop several times along the route. The Zurichsee Schiffahrtsgesellschaft (ZSG) runs the lake steamers which operate year around, but at much less frequency during the winter. They depart from Burkliplatz and make several different routes. There are several tourist oriented routes you can choose from, some of which include food and historic boats. It's a wonderful way to experience Zurich in a unique way.