Welcome to Zurich
Two thousand years old, and offering the best quality of life on earth, according to a recent global survey, a trip to Zurich is like inhaling a lungful of pure oxygen. The city is beautiful, clean, rich, cultured and thoughtful. Some big cities are a chaotic din- but despite being Switzerland’s largest, Zurich is their meditative antidote, where calmness and reason prevail, exquisite buildings glow in the fresh, pastel shades of a gentle April morning, and the shining Lake Zurich and River Limmat cast arcs of light across the cobbled streets of the old town.
But regardless of a tangible past that stretches from Roman settlements to Medieval guildhalls to great Victorian hotels, Zurich is a dynamically modern city, and the wealthiest in Europe – it houses the headquarters of the world’s major research centres, banks and financial institutions, where if the streets aren’t quite paved with gold, they certainly run above vaults stuffed with gleaming bullion. Its shops and business reflect its economic standing- but alongside the glittering designer stores and impenetrable skyscrapers, the old town remains as affordable and charming as any Alpine village, while Zurich West has become a hipster’s dream of reclaimed art spaces, funky boutiques and cool bars.
Zurich vibrates with culture- past residents include Carl Jung, Einstein and James Joyce; and there are hundreds of museums and art galleries, the famous Swiss National Theatre, and more than 1500 restaurants.
Sometimes, historic beauty is all there is. In Zurich, it’s just setting the scene.
THE CHURCHES IN ZURICH
THE JULES VERNE BAR
Like any big city there are endless things to do in Zurich- but if you have a little more time, try and see the Bahnhofstrasse, the favoured district of the Swiss super-rich, full of fur-clad women and their little handbag-dogs.
Zurich’s main sites are clustered on both sides of the Limmat river between the station and the lake. It’s easy to see the Old Town on foot, and a very attractive walk.
Amongst Zurich’s many museums, key is the Landesmuseum, on Museumstrasse. This is the largest museum of Swiss history in the country- and will tell you all you ever needed to know, and more.
The Polybahn, a 19th century funicular railway, goes up the hill and offers excellent views at the top. It starts at tram station Central.
Zurich is not cheap for eating out- but take the tram from the station to Zurich West, get off at Dammwig, and the Great Market Hall is almost opposite.
This gorgeous food court offers coffee counters and grocery stalls, where anyone can enjoy drinks, a gourmet sandwich or a beautiful cake, at very affordable prices.
Don’t go to Zurich without enjoying a hot chocolate and a cake- the city runs on refined sugar, good wine and strong coffee.
Zurich is supremely efficient in its public transport- there’s very little need for a car, unless you’re on a driving trip.
TRAM, BUS AND LOCAL TRAINS
About 70% of visitors use the tram or bus- yet the queues at stops are easily navigable,
The three forms of transport are run by the same operator, (www.zvv.ch) which streamlines services. They run from 5.30 am to midnight. Tickets are bought in advance of the journey- ticket machines are located at stops.
Destinations have a code to type in, or you can choose manually. A single ticket is valid for 5 stops and costs CHF 2.10 while for greater Zurich, valid for an hour, it’s CHF 3.60.
If you buy from a dispenser it doesn’t need to be validated in advance. But the Zurich card or other tickets need to be clicked in the Entwerfers machines on the platforms.
Zurich is not particularly easy to drive around- narrow streets, bridges and congestion make it tricky. Look for the car parks (www.parkhaeuser.ch) opposite the main post office and on Uraniastrasse, next to the e-café. Parking costs about 32 CHF a day, while parking meters have a two hour maximum (CHF 5).
Only use if strictly necessary- taxis in Zurich are very expensive, and the public transport is so good, it is usually pointless. If you do have very heavy luggage, there is a rank at the station and others at various points in town, clearly signposted- they are not usually flagged down.
Biking in the city centre can be a challenge for the inexperienced cyclist, due to the high number of trams and buses. But there are very attractive cycle paths by the river.
City bikes (www.zuerirollt.ch) can be rented from Velogate (near platform 18 at the Hauptbahnhof) outside the Globus store on Usteristrasse and outside the Opera House.
A passport or ID card and deposit of CHF 20 is required, but rental is free if you bring the bike back after six hours- or it’s CHF 5 a day.
Public transport runs on the river and lake. ZSG operates passenger boats on the Limmat river and Lake Zürich, between Zürich and Rapperswil.
Get unlimited travel by tram, bus, rail, boat and cable car throughout Zürich and its surrounding area, free entrance to most museums, a discount at selected Zürich shops, and extras at certain Zürich restaurants. It runs for 24 or 72 hours, and represents good value for money if you’re travelling through the city regularly.
Zürich CARD for 24 hours: CHF 24.00
Zürich CARD for 72 hours: CHF 48.00