Zurich City Guide
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. The city of Zurich is located in central Switzerland on the northwestern corner of Lake Zurich.
Zurich has been settled for over 7000 years and was founded by the Romans in 15 BC. It gained much prominence during the Middle Ages and in 1519, the Protestant Reformation movement was founded here by Ulrich Zwingli.
Today the city is surrounded by snow topped mountains and is renowned as a leading financial center that is home to major banks and financial services intuitions. Apart from being a prominent stop on the business traveler’s map, Zurich is also an immensely popular vacation destination that offers many sight-seeing and shopping opportunities for leisure tourists as well.
Where to stay in Zurich
The Limmat River, which flows from the northern end of Lake Zurich, traverses the city of Zurich and divides the city into two halves.
West or Left Bank
The Left Bank or the West Bank of Zurich is the commercial heart of the city and hosts the Bahnhofplatz or the main Zurich Railway Station, which is the center of all railway connections in Zurich. Also located on the Left Bank is the Bahnhofstrasse or the city’s main commercial district, which hosts the city’s main banks, shops, art galleries, restaurants and hotels. The Left Bank of Zurich is generally favored as an accommodation locale by business travelers who like to be based close to their work place.
East or Right Bank
The East or Right Bank of the River is home to the Altstadt or the old town of Zurich. This area is also home to the ancient guildhalls of Zurich and the Rathaus. The Old Town Hall is favored by visitors who want to experience a bit of local history on their Zurich vacation.
Places to see in Zurich
The thin blue spire of Fraumünster dominates Zurich’s skyline as it stands atop the church, which was established in 853. The Fraumünster church is known for its large, spectacular organ though its main attraction consists of five beautiful stained glass windows that were designed by renowned French-Russian artist, Marc Chagall in the 1970’s.
The Swiss National Museum
The Swiss National Museum is one of the most popular attractions in Zurich. The museum, which is housed in a castle like building, chronicles the evolution of Swiss life from the Stone Age to modern times. The permanent collection at the museum offers display of artifacts that provide a better understanding of Swiss life for visitors.
Serious art lovers on a vacation to Zurich usually make a beeline towards Zurich’s renowned Fine Arts Museum (Kunsthaus Zurich), which is housed in a modern building and world famous for its permanent collection that includes works of contemporary artists like Edvard Munch, Chagall, Picasso, Monet, Rothko, Kokoschka, Beckmamm and Swiss sculptor and painter Alberto Giacometti and many others. Aside from these two main museums, culture vultures also make it a point to take in the Zurich Museum of Design, which houses three separate collections namely the Poster, Design and Graphic Collections. Additionally, the museum also offers constantly changing exhibits of well known industrial designers, photographers, graphic artists and architects.
If you are on a vacation in Zurich with your children, then the Zurich zoo is an attraction that is definitely not to be missed. Zurich’s zoological park is dedicated to conservation of the animal species and the environment. It, thus, endeavors to educate its patrons by offering guided tours and in-depth information tools. The Zurich zoo is home to 260 different species of animals and its collection includes several endangered species like the red pandas and the snow leopards who are housed in diverse ecosystems that have been carefully constructed to resemble their own native habitats.
Polybahn or Rigiblick Funicular
Zurich’s public transport system also includes two old world funiculars that offer panoramic views of the city and Lake Zurich. The traditional Polybahn funicular traverses up Zürichberg hill and was actually built in 1889 to transport students to the University of Technology, which is located on top of the hill. The Rigiblick Funicular similarly travels up Mount Rigi. Both these funiculars afford panoramic views of the city and should be considered as a must-visit attraction on any trip to Zurich.
Best time to visit Zurich
Unlike other cities around the world, Zurich receives visitors during its summer and winter seasons. Zurich’s warm summer usually extends from June to August and the city generally experiences temperatures of 74F (23C) during its summer months. These conditions are perfect for the popular Zurich summer pastime of outdoor bathing at Badis or bath houses. Many of these Badis turn into al fresco bars during the warm Zurich summer nights and are hugely popular hang outs for both visitors and locals alike.
The winters in Zurich are usually damp and cold with temperatures that range from 35F (2C) to 24F(-4C). However these conditions are usually ideal if you want to plan a ski vacation to the many ski resorts like Bad Ragaz, Grüsch and Einsiedeln, which are located within close proximity to Zurich.
You should plan your Zurich vacation depending on your preference for summer or winter recreational activities. Luckily for you, Fare Buzz offers attractive flight deals for Zurich all year long and if you are planning on taking a Zurich vacation anytime soon, you would do well to explore the many cheap air flights for Zurich that Fare Buzz has to offer.
Getting around in Zurich
Zurich is usually accessed via its Zurich International Airport; located eight miles (12 Km) to the north of Zurich city. The airport welcomes a whole host of low cost and legacy carriers from around the globe and is easily connected to the city center via the Swiss Rail service. Other modes of transport that serve Zurich airport include trams, taxis, public buses and hotel shuttle buses.
Transport within Zurich city is provided by an efficient network of trams, buses, boats, cableways, funiculars and taxis though the city also has a green, communal bike sharing system, which is available during the warmer months of May to October. Using taxis in Zurich can be quite expensive and even the public transport system in Zurich is not cheap unless you purchase the Zurich Card, which is specially created for visitors.
This card offers free transport on all modes of transport in Zurich, along with free admission to museums in Zurich and discounted admission to the Zurich zoo. The Zurich card also offers tourists a complimentary welcome drink at various restaurants in the city. This card can be bought for validity periods of 24 to 72 hours.
Most visitors on vacation or business trip to Zurich don’t usually plan on hiring a car for their stay in Zurich since the city is quite congested and parking within the city is quite expensive. However if you need to visit areas around Zurich, then renting a car is Zurich can be useful.
If you plan to rent a car for your Zurich vacation then Fare Buzz can be of assistance for it offers a variety of affordable car rentals for Zurich which can be booked via its regular travel booking channels.
Where to shop in Zurich
Zurich enjoys a reputation as a major shopping destination even though its options are not as varied as other European cities like London or Paris. The Bahnhofstrasse a pedestrianized area that leads from Zurich’s main railway station to the lake is the most renowned destination for shopping in Zurich. Located here are many luxe stores which sell some of the finest things in life- exquisite jewelry, high-end timepieces and spectacular designer-wear. Also located along the Bahnhofstrasse are various Swiss department stores like Jelmoli, Globus and Manor which offer a whole host of products under one roof.
Other recommended shopping locales in Zurich, include the city’s Old Town area located between Bahnhofstrasse and the River Limmat. This area is home to streets like the pedestrianized Rennweg, which offers various international clothing stores and boutiques and Storchengasse littered with luxury designer stores, cutlery and souvenir shops. Also recommended is the area around the southern end of Langstrasse in district n°4. This area and its many enticing side streets are with popular with the young and trendy shoppers in Zurich.
If however, you are looking shop in malls, you could try exploring the city’s various mall offerings like Europaallee passage, Sihlcity, Einkaufszentrum Glatt, Shop Ville-Rail City and Letzipark, bastions of retail which host a whole range of stores offering a wide range of products.
While planning a trip to Zurich its worth making note of shopping times, most shops that line the Bahnhofstrasse stay open from 9 am to 8pm from Monday to Friday. On Saturdays most shops close at 5pm and on Sundays all shops are closed except those which are situated within railway stations and stores at petrol stations.
Foreigners are entitled to a tax refund when making purchases for more than 300Sfr (including VAT), provided the goods removed from the country within 30 days. VAT in Switzerland is 8% and you get a refund of this amount minus a handling fee. You should shop at stores that are affixed with the Global Blue - Tax Free sign and while paying ask for a tax refund form. When departing, simply show your purchases, receipts and passport to Swiss customs officials. They will stamp the tax refund form. You can opt to have the refund credited back to credit card or claim an immediate refund, present your stamped tax refund form at a Global Blue refund point.
Where to eat in Zurich
Zurich’s dining scene is quite vibrant and the city offers good selection of restaurants that aim to cater to all budgets and tastes. Michelin star eateries, restaurant with a view, restaurants offering Swiss classics like fondue; Zurich offers them all and more. Recommended eateries in Zurich include Metropol (East Asian), Blue Monkey (Thai), Bistro Bar Vis a Vis (French), Bodega Espanola (Spanish), Münsterhof (classic French), Vivace (Italian), Parkhuus (International), and Rive Gauche (International).
Nightlife in Zurich
Much of Zurich’s nightlife scene is concentrated within its Niederdorf district, which is situated on the East/Right Bank of the city. This area is a shopping area during the day and transforms into a lively nightlife venue featuring bars, restaurants and clubs that aim to cater to all tastes and preferences.