Planning a solo trip to Zurich? Here’s everything you need to know for your visit:
- Largest city in Switzerland, with a population of 1.4 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). 1 CHF is about 1 EUR.
- 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 5.60 Euros to Zürich Hauptbahnhof in Central Zurich. A taxi to the centre will run about 50 Euros.
- Zurich is an expensive place to visit. Come with a solid budget to make the most of it.
WHERE TO STAY
- Best hostel for solo travelers: MEININGER Zürich Greencity. It’s on the expensive side, and 15 minutes (by public transport) away from the action, but this is as good as you’re going to get on a budget in Zurich. The staff do their best to make up for this – very friendly and welcoming. Clean rooms and facilities. Social aspect is “hit or miss” depending on who else is staying.
- 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.
- 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. Head to Hallenstadion for the big rock concerts.
- The Old Town has enough bars and restaurants to suit any taste on a short visit. 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.
- Great bars for solo travelers: Moods (live jazz), Oliver Twist (Irish pub), Cabaret Voltaire, Le Raymond Bar, 4 Tiere (cocktails).
- Clubbing scene: EXIL, Supermarket, Gonzo.
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!
- Great cafes in Zurich: sphères (doubles as bar and bookstore), Kafi Dihei, Café du Bonheur.
- Tipping: people usually round up for excellent service (e.g. 154 CHF bill becomes 160, etc.)
- Great restaurants for solo travelers: Café BEBEK, Gaijin Izakaya ($$$), Hermanseck ($$$), Restaurant Lotusgarden (Chinese), Yardbird Southern Fried Chicken, QIRIN – Sushi & Drinks.
- 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, pickpockets 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 trip duration: 2-3 days