Travel Guide to Zurich, Switzerland

By Rachael Funk


A sophisticated city with cosmopolitan luxury and an incredible atmosphere, Zurich is known as one of the world’s most livable cities. A bustling metropolis, Zurich is constantly alive with activity during the day and night. Here, museums, boutiques, restaurants, art galleries, food festivals, events, and a thrilling nightlife are yours to explore.


What to Know

Zurich is the heart of Switzerland’s economy and education. Formerly known as an uptight financial district, the lakefront city has a thriving fine arts scene and has gained notoriety as a hip destination. Though the city is modernizing, it still values its history, which is evident in the meticulously kept ancient center, streets, and buildings.


When to Go

Zurich has plenty to enjoy year-round, so the best time to travel depends on what you’d like to do while you’re there. The warmest weather can be found June-August, when temperatures hover in the low 70s during the day. This is peak travel season, so prices tend to increase during this time, but if you’d like to swim in the lake or take part in the Street Parade, this is the best time for travel.

If you are looking for a ski vacation in close to proximity to the slopes of the Swiss Alps, December-February are popular months for winter sports travel. Zurich’s shoulder seasons land in March-May and September-November. During these times, you will find lower room rates as well as lower temperatures.


How to Get Around

Walking

The easiest (and cheapest) way to get around the city is on foot. The city is compact and easy to navigate. If you plan to walk most places, do bring good walking shoes; some of Zurich’s streets are quite old.

Cycling

Zurich has a free bicycle rental program which only requires a valid ID and a deposit of CHF 20. Unlike many bike share programs in other cities, you can take the bike out for the entire day. In the winter, rentals are only available from the train station but for the rest of the year visitors can rent from the pop-up bike stands all over the city.

Public Transit

Switzerland is known for its streamlined, efficient transit system and Zurich is no exception. The Zurich Transportation Network (ZVV) is a system which includes trams, buses, cable cars, and trains which reach all of the city (the entirety of which is located in zone 10) and the surrounding areas. Ticket prices start around CHF 2.60 and increase based on the number of zones traveled. Alternatively, you can buy a day pass for CHF 5.20 which is good for 24 hours in one zone. You can also get a Zurich Card for CHF 20, which affords you unlimited travel on all public transportation, plus admission to several attractions in the city.


Where to Eat

Switzerland is a foodie paradise, and Zurich is no exception, with an average of about 17 culinary establishments to each square sixth of a mile. Gourmands and casual eaters alike are sure to find some sumptuous new favorites when dining in this culinary hotspot. Pulling inspiration from across Switzerland’s 26 cantons and whipping up local specialties, Zurich is the ideal place to taste your way through the delicious and delightful.


What to See

Grossmunster

A landmark of Zurich, this church was built over the graves of Felix and Regula, the city’s patron saints. In the 16th century, the Grossmunster was the starting point for the Swiss-German Reformation. Popular things to see in the Grossmunster include the stained glass windows, the Romanesque crypt, the bronze doors, and the Reformation museum in the cloister.

Fraumunster

Another prominent landmark of the city is Fraumunster Church, which is known for its green steeple and stained glass windows. This church was built in the middle of the 9th century and is located across the river from Grossmunster. The church houses the largest organ in the Canton of Zurich, which has 5,793 pipes.

Lake Zurich

A main attraction of the city, Lake Zurich is one of the most accessible lakes in the country. In the summer, you can swim, sail, or find a place to picnic. In the winter, visitors can ice skate or take advantage of the nearby attractions by the lake. Several restaurants are located close by, where you can sample regional and seasonal specialties and take in the stunning views.

Uetliberg

Rising high above Lake Zurich, Uetliberg Mountain offers panoramic views of the city and the lake. Visitors can take a train to the summit or hike the walking paths up the mountain. A great place to camp or take in the blooming plant life along the way, Uetliberg has two towers on the mountain which serve as the lookout for those who want to take in the scenery.


Tips and Tricks

  • Don’t take taxis unless you absolutely have to. Taxi rides in Zurich are among the most expensive in the world, with an average of $5.19 per sixth of a mile. Take public transit to save money.

  • Don’t skip Zurich-West. The former factory district is now home to the city’s best nightlife and art scene.

  • Spring for the Zurich Card. Though some city cards aren’t worth the expense, this one certainly is. The card gets you airport transfers, unlimited public transportation, free admission to 40 museums, and other discounts.

  • Remember your sunscreen. If you’re headed up the mountains, you can reach high altitudes quickly, which means faster sunburns and altitude sickness. Pay attention to how you’re feeling and don’t forget to take breaks and drink plenty of water if you’re feeling lightheaded.


Day Trips

Grindelwald

Located in the foothills of the Bernese Alps, the village of Grindelwald is considered the gateway to the Jungfrau region. The ski town offers exciting day trip activities such as hiking, zip lining, and sledding. The village is also surrounded by picturesque countryside with vibrant pastures, footpaths, waterfalls, and streams.

Basel

Basel is a city with a rich history and a wealth of impressive architecture to explore. This multicultural city borders France and Germany and has offerings to entertain every traveler. The Beyeler Foundation boasts a collection of modern and contemporary art to explore and the city’s Gothic catherdral, the Basel Minister, features two soaring spires.

Lucerne

Sprawled along the River Reuss, Lucerne is a breathtaking town which has retained many of its old features in the city center. The famous covered wooden bridge, Kapelbrucke, was built in the 1300s and remains intact to this day. The Altstadt, the city’s old town, is a must-see while in the area.

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