- Largest city in Switzerland, with a population of ~390,000 (1.2 million in the metro area).
- The wealthiest European city, Zurich is a financial hub and powerhouse.
- Consistently receives top rankings in the world for quality of life.
- Nickname: Little Big City
- Currency: Swiss Franc (CHF).
- Spoken languages: Standard German and Swiss German, although English and French are also widely spoken.
- Best time to visit: from June to August (summertime).
- Arriving from the airport: buy a 2nd class train ticket at the adjoining stations for CHF 6.60 to Zürich Hauptbahnhof in Central Zurich. A taxi to the centre will run about CHF 60.
WHERE TO STAY
It’s best to stay in the medieval Old Town, from which everything is pretty accessible. Niedderdorf is the more charming, well-known neighborhood in the city center, though it can be a bit much if looking for peace and quiet. For something a bit mellower, consider the area around the central train station.
- While most of the city is very walkable, Zurich is also known for one of the most well-organized, most efficient public transportation systems in the world. Schedule and price information about tram, bus, and rail networks can be found on the official website.
- If traveling around Switzerland, another good option is The Swiss Pass from Swiss Travel System, which gives you access not only to all public transport in Zurich but the rest of the country as well.
- Lake steamers (year-round) and river buses (only in summer) provide access to the city via Zurich’s beautiful waterways.
- Free skateboards and bicycles can be borrowed at several locations around the city – passport and a deposit of CHF 20 are required.
- Drinking age is 16 for beer/wine/cider, 18 for all else. Most clubs close between 2 and 4 AM.
- In contrast to much of Switzerland, Zurich has emerged as a great party destination and has a higher club density than any other European city.
- The Old Town has enough bars and restaurants to suit any taste on a short visit. Check out Moods Jazz Club for some great music, or head to Hallenstadion for the big rock concerts. Further out, Jules Verne Panorama Bar is great for epic views of the city, and the Kaufleuten is a nice place known for its four themed bars and celebrity sightings.
- Clubbing scene: start at Club Indochine or Rohstofflager. From there, talk with people and follow the crowds! Pick up a copy of the 20 Minuten for more great venues.
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- Be sure to head out on a lake cruise, as Lake Zurich composes a good deal of the heart of this great city. The longer tours cover the whole lake and take about 4 hours.
- Visit Zurich’s three great churches – Fraumünster, St. Peterskirche, and Grossmünster.
- Hop on a train and head out of the city to Rhine Falls, the largest waterfall in Europe.
- Hike to the top of the Uetliberg, a small mountain that pops up in the middle of the city. It’s topped with a viewing tower that offers breathtaking views of the city and the Alps beyond. Some routes take about an hour, making it a very nice way to get some exercise.
- A walk along the banks of Lake Zurich is highly recommended.
- Plan your trip for the 2nd Saturday of August to catch the famous Street Parade, the most popular technoparade in Europe. It should be on everyone’s bucket list!
- Zurich is an expensive place to visit. Come with a solid budget to make the most of it.
- Where to find good cheap eats: make your own meal! Go to Migros (next to Löwenplazt) or Coop (on Bahnhofstrasseor) and pick up some ingredients for a picnic. Alternatively, visit a bakery and pick up a local snack: ask for a Wurstweggen, Canapé, or just a regular sandwich.
- Dangerous areas: while overall a very safe city, pickpocketers and bag thieves abound in Zurich, especially around the central train station. Also, young locals sometimes try to pick fights near the lakefront; if harassed, avoid engagement and walk on.
RECOMMENDED ZURICH GUIDE BOOKS
- Lonely Planet Switzerland
- Switzerland: 100 Locals Tell You What to Do, Where to Hike, & How to Fit In
- Fodor’s Switzerland (Full-color Travel Guide)
Recommended trip duration: 2-3 days
- Utrecht, Netherlands
- Antwerp, Belgium
- Brussels, Belgium
- Bruges, Belgium
- Amsterdam, Netherlands
- Geneva, Switzerland
- Paris, France
- Berlin, Germany