Zurich

Zurich (German: Zürich, Swiss German: Züri) is the largest city in Switzerland, with a population of some 400,000 in the city proper and 1.2 million in the agglomeration area. Zurich is on Lake Zurich, where the lake meets the Limmat River, in the north of Switzerland.

Understand

Zurich is the largest city of the Swiss Confederation (Switzerland) by land area and population. It is the financial centre of Switzerland and houses the stock exchange and the headquarters of a large number of national and international companies. National and international media agencies as well as most of the national TV channel companies are also located here. Because Zurich is the central node of the Swiss-wide train network and also runs the biggest and busiest international airport in the country, it generally is the first place where tourists arrive. Because of the city's close distance to tourist resorts in the Swiss Alps and its mountainous scenery, it is often referred to as the "portal to the Alps".

Contrary to what some believe, Zurich is not the capital of Switzerland — that honor falls to Berne. Zurich has long been known for being clean and efficient. Due to this, it has been continuously ranked as the city with the highest living standard world-wide for many years. However, only for the last ten years has it truly become a fascinating and worthwhile travel destination. This is mostly thanks to the liberalization of the cultural, party and gastronomy sectors. An increasingly cosmopolitan population has helped, as well, while more buttoned-down Geneva remains Switzerland's most culturally heterogeneous city.

Limmatquai street and river Limmat

The official language is German, used in all official publications and announcements, and practically everyone can speak it, but the native language of the masses is Swiss German. The most common dialect is called Züritüütsch. English and French are also widely spoken and often used in official publications and announcements alongside German. Any of these languages will work well for communication. Note that it's often wise to speak German rather than attempting to speak Swiss German; some people may think you're trying to make fun of their language.

Get in

By plane

Zurich Airport (IATA: ZRH) (German: Flughafen Zürich-Kloten) is Switzerland's largest and busiest airport, run with Swiss efficiency. It is actually in the community of Kloten and it is 12 minutes by train from central Zurich. The trains depart about every 10-15 minutes, but early morning and late evening connections are a bit less frequent, so if you travel at these times, make sure to check the schedule. A single ticket to the Hauptbahnhof (Central Station, a.k.a. "Zürich HB") costs CHF 6.20. Several bus lines connect to the airport and provide access to the Winterthur region near it.

Most major airlines fly to Zurich but SWISS is still the Swiss flag-carrier and covers the biggest part of the international traffic at the airport. Almost every large hotel in Zurich provides shuttle buses from the airport to your hotel. The stops for these buses are a short walk to the right from Terminal 1 arrivals.

Zurich Airport has high passenger costs due to several noise reduction and approach restrictions. Most no-frill airlines fly to Basel which is 1 hour away by train. EasyJet resumed its flights to Zurich in 2007 after a three-year absence, and Air Berlin offers several flights to Germany and Southern Europe.

If you are traveling without a Schengen Visa to another destination in Europe (via Zurich airport) and if you are not an European citizen, you must not stay in Europe for longer than 90 days — even if your final destination would allow citizens of your country to stay for more than 90 days. Failure to do so will lead to very high fines (around 8100 Euros) should you try to leave Europe via Zurich airport .

Since 1st January 2013 Zurich Airport offers free WiFi for all guests for a maximum of 60 minutes. Travelers have to connect to the "ZurichAirport" network and register their cell phone number. The user will receive the access code via text message. After the free hour, there is a six-hour waiting period before you can access the next free hour.

By train

Regular trains to and from other Swiss and European cities leave from and arrive at Hauptbahnhof, the main train station, conveniently located in the city centre at the end of Bahnhofstrasse, with easy access to mass transit. The Zurich Hauptbahnhof (HB) is served by the local S-Bahn commuter trains, InterCity (IC and ICN) connections throughout Switzerland, Italy, Germany's IC, France's TGV Lyria, Liechtenstein, and various other direct night train services to/from as far as Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Vienna and Belgrade.

For train times and tickets, visit the SBB or Deutsche Bahn websites, although you may not be able to book many international journeys online through these websites. If you are already in Europe, your local train station office should usually be able to book these trains. A rail pass may make your trip cheaper. For more long-distance international journeys, visit Seat61 for more information.

The train station and the connecting underground mall has shops, restaurants, and a grocery store which locals use when they need to do Sunday shopping, as it is not subject to the closing hours laws otherwise in force in the city. It also hosts a Christmas market around Christmas. There are some 24-hour lockers in level B1 available for 6F per 24h (maximum 3 days).

Just opposite the train station is a large supermarket open till late.

By car

Almost every highway in Switzerland leads straight into Zurich. This might be quite easy for tourists, but is also really painful if you have to cross Zurich on a daily basis.

By bus

The bus station is next to the main train station, near the confluence of the Sihl and Limmat.

Many buses arrive from other European cities, mainly southern destinations such as the Western Balkans or Spain. There is a bi-weekly bus to Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina (look for "Cirih").

By boat

As Zurich is located at the end of lake Zurich, it can be reached by boat from other lake villages, e.g. Rapperswil at the upper end of the lake.

Get around

Public transport

Zürich is famous for its highly efficient, clean and safe public transport system, owned and managed by the Zürcher Verkehrsverbund (ZVV) which covers the entire canton of Zürich as well as Rapperswil-Jona in the canton of St. Gallen and Pfäffikon SZ in the canton of Schwyz. The network includes trams, buses, S-Bahn (suburban trains), cable cars and boats. The size and complexity of the network may be daunting at first, but you will soon realize that there are dozens of ways to get from one place to another and following any of them will still be efficient.

Timetable information for Switzerland is available on sbb.ch or can be obtained using the SBB Mobile iPhone or Android App (requires a working internet connection). The free Wemlin App on iPhone and on Android gives you offline access to timetable information and network maps for the canton of Zurich area without internet connection and is therefore ideally for on the go usage in case you don't want to use data roaming.

The system is divided into numerous fare zones, with the city centre and innermost suburbs being in zone 110 and the outer suburbs located in other zones (Winterthur is in zone 120, for example), and the more zones you pass through, the more you'll have to pay for your journey. There are single tickets, day cards, monthly cards and annual cards. The monthly and annual cards are collectively referred to as ZVV NetzPass.

Tickets must be purchased from a ticket vending machine before boarding or from one of the ticket selling kiosks. The ticket vending machines are in German, English, French and Italian and offer almost all regular tickets available (not personal tickets though). You select the zones you wish to pass through upon buying the ticket, with a zone map on every machine as well as clear instructions coming to your aid, so feel free to choose! Once you've got your ticket it gives you access to all modes of transport.

If you're staying for a longer period, consider a monthly ZVV NetzPass, because even though there are no regular tickets valid for something between 1 day and a month, it takes only 10 zone 110 day cards for a zone 110 monthly card to be cheaper. When travelling in all zones, it takes only 8 day cards for the monthly card to be cheaper. A 24-hour ticket for zone 110 costs just the same as two single rides.

If you don't mind starting your travels after 9:00, the "ZVV-9-UhrPass" is the best option. It is available as both daily, monthly and annual cards and will save you a lot of money compared to regular similarities, especially given that the 9:00 rule does not apply on weekends.

There are also so-called Z-passes, which can be used not only in Zürich, but also in one of the neighbouring cantons (Aargau, Schaffhausen, Schwyz, Zug, St. Gallen or Thurgau); however, only one additional canton is possible, so if you're not going to one neighbouring canton more often than the others you are probably better off with just a normal all zones Zürich monthly card and buying single ticket from the last valid station to your final destination. The Z-pass system also has its zones, even in the neighbouring cantons. It is only available as monthly and annual cards and can not be bought from ticket vending machines.

For all details regarding fares, see (in German) or (in English)

The Swiss Travel Pass (not to be confused with the SwissPass) is valid on all public transport in Zurich and, if you are a tourist visiting most of Switzerland, this may be your best way to saving both money and time spent trying to figure out zones, routes, and fare options. Eurail passes are valid only on the S-Bahn and boats. Interrail passes are valid on the S-Bahn (although the ZVV website claims a "reduction" for other routes for Interrail holders). Nevertheless, you may find you don't need the trams and buses if you don't mind walking around a little.

By tram and bus

Trams in Zurich

Several tram lines, trolleybuses and buses cover the city at street level. Like all other public transport in Zurich, you must purchase and validate tickets before boarding, or risk a fine if they decide to spot check. You can find a timetable at every stop which is usually accurate to the minute, however delays do occur due to heavy traffic, rerouting, or other factors.

By rail

The 'S-Bahn' is Zürich's convenient and fast suburban rail system which covers nearly all suburbs of Zürich and beyond. Zürich's S-Bahn system provides convenient and fast service throughout the region. All lines except the rural ones pass through the Hauptbahnhof. The ZVV offers directions for a series of excursions on the S-Bahn.

You must have a validated ticket before you board. If you do not have a ticket you will be liable for an on-the-spot fine of 80CHF.

By boat

There are two types of boat-based public transport operated in Zürich: river buses and lake steamers. The river boats operate in the summer months only and the lake boats operate on a much reduced schedule during the winter.

The river buses operate between the Landesmuseum (near the Hauptbahnhof) along the Limmat River and out in the Zürichsee (Zürich Lake) to Tiefenbrunnen. There are several stops along the Limmat River.

The Zürichsee Schifffahrtsgesellschaft (ZSG) operates lake steamers which leave from Burkliplatz (at the end of Bahnhofstrasse). The ZSG's website provides information on destinations and ships. The ZSG offers a variety of tourist-oriented trips (including Jazz Brunch, and historic restored steam ships), and a popular trip is to Rapperswil at the south end of the Zürichsee. The town has a beautiful castle overlooking the lake surrounded by a medieval town.

On foot

The main train station, old town and the lake promenade and all nearby tourist attractions are easily walkable. You may find that you don't need transport for most of your tourist needs once you get into the city.

By bike

You can "rent" bikes, skateboards etc. for free from 7AM-9:20PM daily May-Oct at several places in Zurich and year-round at the central train station. All you need is your passport and a CHF 20 deposit as guarantee. This offer is called "Züri rollt (German only)". You can get and return the bikes at several locations: the bikegate just next to the central station, next to the "Globus City" shopping centre, next to the opera, or at the Swissotel in Oerlikon. If you can't find these places, don't hesitate to ask some locals, they should know at least the bikegate at the central station. The Zurich Transit Company, VBZ also provides information about these bikes in English . Nevertheless, you shouldn't count on it because sometimes the "rent" spots run out of bikes.

By car

Driving in Zurich is possible but it is painful as the city centre is not easy to navigate by car.

By taxi

The taxis in Zürich are very expensive compared to New York, London and other major cities. Most of the taxi-drivers are unfriendly and uncommunicative. Better travel by tram, bus or s-bahn.

See

St. Peter Church from Lindenhof
Grossmünster in Zurich


Most of the interesting sights are in the old town around the river and lakefront.

Buildings on Lake Zurich

Do

Events

Shows and Theater

Buy

Shopping districts

Bahnhofsstrasse

For shopping in Zürich there are three different areas in the centre:

Swiss clocks and watches

You may be disappointed to know that most of the cheap watches and clocks in Switzerland are imported from China and Japan for their cheap quartz movements (including most of the wall clocks and alarm clocks sold at department stores, for example). Don't purchase a "Migros Budget" clock for 8CHF thinking it is a Swiss clock! Nevertheless, real Swiss-made clocks are still well known for their quality and reliability, and intricate mechanics. The following are true Swiss-made watches:

Swiss chocolate

Brands

The larger Coop supermarkets carry many brands, including Lindt, Camille Bloch, Goldkenn, and others, including all sorts of alcohol-filled chocolates.

Confectioneries

Confiserie Sprüngli

Swiss handcrafts

Swiss army knives

Markets

Other

Eat

Zürcher Geschnetzeltes served with rösti

The quintessential Zürich dish is Zürcher Geschnetzeltes (Swiss-German: Zürigschnätzlets), sliced veal in a cream and wine sauce. Various kinds of grilled Wurst (sausages) are also popular. These are most often accompanied by boiled potatoes, Rösti, a Swiss potato pancake (grated potato, formed into a pancake then pan fried until crisp in butter or oil) or Chnöpfli, in German sometimes called Spätzle, (small noodle dumplings).

Veal is still very popular, though the use of turkey and other meats as a substitute is growing.

While Fondue (melted cheese in a central pot, dip bread into it) and Raclette (cheese melted in small portions, served with potatoes and pickles) are not really local to Zürich (they come from the Western Switzerland) they are commonly available at restaurants aimed at tourists.

The bread available in Zürich is generally delicious. There are many varieties, and your best bet is to go to a bakery or a supermarket in the morning or just after work hours, when most people are doing their shopping and bread is coming out fresh.

Try grilled Bratwurst from street stands, served with a large crusty roll of sourdough bread and mustard, or sandwiches made with fresh baked Bretzeln (large, soft pretzels). A typically Swiss bread is the Zopf, a braided soft bread that is commonly served on Sundays (the other name for it is Sonntagszopf).

For breakfast, try a bowl of Müesli, which was invented as a health food in Switzerland. The Sprüngli confectionery store tea rooms serve a deluxe version of this fiber-filled cereal with whole milk, crushed berries and cream.

There are a huge variety of cheeses available at the supermarkets, specialty stores and markets, as well as all kinds of hams and dried sausages. Dairy products are generally delicious, especially the butter. Do not miss the supermarkets! You should take a thorough look through Migros or Coop and maybe even assemble your own lunch or dinner some time. Even the cheap, budget prepackaged desserts in the supermarket exceed the quality of what you may be used to.

For those with a sweet tooth, there's a huge variety of chocolates to enjoy, from the cheapest chocolate bar to individually hand-made truffles. (See the Shopping section above). The chocolate bar displays at the supermarkets will overwhelm you! Also enjoy pastries and cakes from the various Konditorei scattered around town. In pastry shops, you can also find special pastry from Zurich: The most famous of them probably is Tirggel, a rather hard pastry made of flour and honey. Although traditionally made and eaten during the Winter holidays, many pastry shops (including larger supermarkets) sell them throughout the year. Often, they've got sights of Zurich printed on the top, can be stored for months and thus make up a pretty good and cheap souvenir. Another famous type of pastry are Luxemburgerli exclusively sold by the confectionery chain of Sprüngli (part of the famous chocolatier Lindt & Sprüngli). A typical cake is the Mandelfisch, an almond cake shaped like a fish.

Like most European cities, Zürich abounds with cafés where you can enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee, glass of wine or other beverage, and watch the world go by.

There are many international dining options available too. The current hot trend seems to be pan-Asian noodle/rice/sushi places. However, due to the far distance to the sea and the lack of original, well-trained Chinese/ Japanese cooks, the quality cannot live up to that of the original countries. Instead, the Italian cuisine holds the highest popularity among the foreign restaurants. They can be found throughout the city and are relatively cheap. Turkish fast food restaurants are also a delicious, cheap option.

Vegetarian food is easy to find throughout the city. Vegans may have a little trouble because cheese is used generously in most food, but should be fine living off supermarkets at the very least. Hiltl, the first vegetarian-only restaurant in Europe, is also worth a visit. You choose from the buffet, where your meal is priced by weight or from a variety of à la carte menus, which are a bit more pricey, but include vegetarian/vegan versions of popular Swiss meals like Züri-Gschnätzlets or Beef Stroganoff amongst Indian food and classic vegetarian plates. Another vegan friendly restaurant is "Bona Dea", which is located directly at Zurich Mainstation.

Budget

Restaurant in Zurich

Food courts

Mid-range

Splurge

The restaurants at the top of the Uetliberg are great to combine a nice view of town (a hike in the summer) and some great food. It also has a cheaper self-service area.

Drink

Zurich has a lot of places to go out. There are a lot of clubs, restaurants, cafés, bars but also many museums and theaters. The most common drinks in Zurich include: Beer, Swiss white wine (e.g. Fendant), Swiss red wine (is delicious), and Spanish red wine (is generally good value here). At apéro time (after work), you will find many people drinking a Cüpli (glass of sparkling wine).

Bars

Centre
Kreis 2 (Wollishofen)
Kreis 4 (Langstrasse)
Kreis 5 (Zürich West)

Clubs

Zurich has proportionally more clubs than any other city in Europe. You will find anything from very "fancy" clubs to places you can just chill. If you want, you can go to a club every night. There is always a Club that has a party going and Zurich's young make sure to splash all their income on going out. A lot of clubs are located in the so-called Zurich West (District 5). The internet site usgang.ch is a good place to look up what's up.

Gay and lesbian travellers

Sleep

Zurich is the financial centre of Switzerland and most travellers come with an expense account. The hospitality sector focuses therefore mostly on the 4 and 5 star sector. Zurich is known for its superb hotels, but these won't come cheap. Best is to go on a company rate, because rack rates are sometimes ridiculous.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Camping

Zurich has numerous camping sites, in true Swiss style they are usually very clean, all the sites are the southern end of the city, normally in river valleys (for obvious reasons). Most campsites close for the winter.

Stay safe

Zürich, like all cities in Switzerland, is relatively safe. Nevertheless, be on guard for thieves and pickpockets. Carry your wallet or purse in a secure way, not in your hip pocket or a backpack outer pocket. In particular, thieves are known to operate around the Zurich main train station. Do not let your bags out of sight for even a moment.

In recent years, certain areas along the lakefront are frequented by young people who sometimes try to pick a fight when they are drunk. Do not let them provoke you, as they are likely to be there in numbers and will use any excuse to go at you. You may also notice many of said young people smoking something that isn't a cigarette - Switzerland is surprisingly lenient about such things - but it is hardly a cause for alarm.

Public transport is very safe. You can use it without any special precautions.

If you decide to bicycle in the city, understand that Zurich is a city of public transport . Beware of tram tracks which can get your wheel stuck and send you flying into traffic, of the trams themselves which travel these tracks frequently (and may scare you into getting stuck into the track as just noted), and the buses, which make frequent stops in the rightmost lane. In short, bicycling downtown should be only done by those experienced with cycling with such traffic.

Connect

Cope

Permanence Hauptbahnhof at the main train station provides urgent out-patient care for tourists without prior appointments. There is also a dentist downstairs at the station. For serious emergencies rush to "Kantonsspital", the university clinic which has a 24/7 emergency ward. Tram stop "Universitätsspital" (look out for the - inexplicable - golden boy statue in front of the building, then follow the red "Notfall" signs). They will not send away people with serious, urgent health problems. Ambulance phone number is 144 but the European 112 emergency number works as well.

If you're on a budget, don't stay out too late — the "N" night buses only run on weekends. When they run, they run only once per hour and you must purchase a Nachtzuschlag for 5 CHF from the machine and validate it before boarding. On work nights, there is no public transport at all after about 12:30AM (although expensive taxis still exist in case you're stuck).

Stores are generally closed on Sundays including all supermarkets in the city, except those in the main train station and airport.

On Sundays, there are supermarkets open at the following train stations: Zurich main station, Enge, and Stadelhofen.

Avoid reaching/visiting Zurich on 1 May. The city is on a Labor Day/May Day holiday. The trams don't run for half the day so getting around could be a problem. Also, there could be some minor violent outbreaks and damages to cars.

Zurich has two police departments, the Stadtpolizei Zurich which is responsible for the city area and the Kantonspolizei Zürich which is responsible for the whole region. With approximately 1'800 and 3'000 officers, these corps are the biggest in Switzerland. While police officers in Zurich will happily help you out if you are in trouble or need directions, they are also known for approaching "suspicious" persons in order to check their papers. This procedure is annoying but legal as you will probably have a hard time proving you were not acting suspicious. Carry a photocopy of your passport and your onward ticket with you, stay calm and polite and you're unlikely to have any trouble.

Go next

Short excursions from Zurich:

Other further away easy excursions from Zurich include:

Access to most other parts of Switzerland is extremely easy, thanks to the efficient and frequent SBB train system. Other locations easily accessible from Zurich worth a complete visit in their own right include:

The fastest route to Interlaken is taking an IC train to Bern and then another IC to Interlaken (this takes 117 min). However, if you have time to spare, try reaching Interlaken by taking an IR train to Luzern first and then taking another IR train from Luzern to Interlaken (Golden Pass or Zentralbahn, takes 171 min). It's a much more scenic route.

From Interlaken, take the Berner Oberland Bahn to Lauterbrunnen, then Wengernalpbahn to Kleine Scheidegg and finally the submountain railway Jungfraubahn (totally taking 137 min).

Zurich is also extremely well-connected to the rest of Europe by train, with direct trains to as far as Barcelona, Belgrade, Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Vienna, Budapest, Zagreb, Bari, and Rome, just to name a few.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, February 19, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.