Uster is both a district and capital city in the Canton of Zurich. Being number three on the list of largest cities in the Canton, Uster has just over 30,000 people living there so the place is not that big. It is right on the lake called Greifensee so there is plenty to do in and around the water.
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History and Geography
Uster was first mentioned in the history books in around 775 with the castle – the Burg Uster – mentioned in the thirteenth century. It has quite a bloody history with mass executions and such, which were considered to be the cruelest form of punishment of its day.
In late 1830s, the male residents of the Canton of Zurich massed near Uster and lobbied for a new constitution. This is recognized as the pivotal event in the birth of the Swiss Federal State.
Half of the area is made up of agricultural land while about a quarter is forested. There are glaciers, mountains and rivers here too as well as the lake as already mentioned. In the distance, snow capped mountains are very evident so there is not much traveling involved if skiing or winter sports is on the menu.
Best time to go
June is quite a wet month with an average of 137 mm of rainfall. In general, expect at least thirteen days with rain. The driest month falls in October with just half that amount of precipitation but this still means about thirteen days where rain will appear. Of course, December and January are the coldest months.
Getting Around in Uster
Taxis in Uster are considered to be some of the most expensive in the world, so ordinary tourists will not find this very economical. However, there are two train stations with one being right in the center and the other one being on the border of Greifensee. Those who want to go to Zurich Hauptbahnhof can do so in just under fifteen minutes on the fastest train.
The bus depot is situated right next to the train station in the center of the city. Buses connect to the trains as they are also run by the ZVV network. One great way to get around on holiday is to hire a bicycle and there are plenty of outlets that hire them for a day or more.
Major attractions and Sights
Uster has its own small, but very beautiful, little castle that overlooks the lake and it is a great place to take photographs from.
The Uster Brewery has a great steam engine within its walls. Although it no longer produces beer, the steam engine is still quite a tourist attraction. Now it uses compressed air instead of steam and the shed which houses the locomotives has room for five engines. It also has a turntable where trains were turned around and this line previously served the Zurich Oberland route. There are occasional day trips for people to enjoy but these are advertised locally.
Hiking is a great idea when the weather is good and there are many routes that can be experienced. Local trails include the Uster-Bauma route which allows people to see how industrialization affected this area. Although the area was full of farmers on small parcels of land, they also had cottage industries in the manufacturing of textiles to make up their earnings. When industrialization took over, farmers turned to working in factories. With more goods to shift, transport was needed and this is how the railway came to Uster. Visitors can split this hike into two parts for a much easier trip although it is classed as an easy walk.
Most visitors would consider Uster lacks a few things to do and attractions, but it makes up for this by being an excellent base from where to enjoy the lakes and associated activities, to have easy access to snow sports in winter and probably the most attractive option, to explore Zurich, which is only 11 kilometers away.
In Zurich, the Zoological Garden is a lovely place to spend the day. It is on the eastern side of the city and sits on a hill. It has a good number of exhibits, including mammals, and cool aquatic creatures in its collection. The zoo is spread over a massive ten hectares so this will stand several visits to see it all. There are more than 2,000 animal exhibits, including Indian lions, Amur leopards and pandas et al. Also look for the extremely rare snow leopards.
Again, not far from Uster is the Kunsthaus. It is an art museum which houses some of the most important pieces in Switzerland in its collection. Opened in 1910, it sits right on the tram stage of the same name so visitors can find it quite easily.
One place that most people like to visit is the Opernhaus Zurich which was built in the early nineteenth century. The opera company moved into the building in 1891 and has a seating capacity of around 1,100 people.
Zurich also has several free museums for people to visit since it is a university town. The Zoological Museum is a great one to take the kids to because of the style of exhibits. There are furry games to get involved in, a giant giraffe and stuffed birds to inspect. However, most people like going here because of the transport. It is a Polybahn which travels from the tram station directly to the museum. This is a wonderfully restored old form of transport which the kids will simply love.
Another interesting old building is the Fraumunster which was built in the time of King Louis, the German, in 853. According to history, the church passed into the hands of the city of Zurich in thirteenth century and was home to members of the female aristocracy up until then. People visit here just to see the magnificent stained glass windows.
Not to be missed is the Bourbaki Panorama which is the forerunner to the virtual reality that we see today. Robert Blake, the Scottish artist, first thought of this great idea way back in 1787. Panoramas were not widely accepted at first, but once rotunda buildings came into being, circular dome shaped paintings seemed to make sense. They became extremely popular in the nineteenth century which is probably why there are so many rotundas around the world today.
If the family is on holiday together, one of the best places to take the kids to get them to let off steam is the Alpamare Water Park in Zurich. Said to be the largest in Europe, this park is a great place for adults and kids alike. There is a huge 4,900 feet water slide to visit, some rather scary tubes to shoot through as well as wave pools, swimming pools and anything water related available. Parents can relax in the spas and solariums while the kids are letting loose since they won’t be far away.
Shopping in Uster
In the station at Uster, people can find just about anything they need in the many shops there. There are tobacconists, supermarkets, small kiosks, chemists, restaurants and fast food joints as well as anything to do with beauty routines. This is a great way to pass an afternoon if only for the window shopping.
For those who want anything other than the normal, run of the mill, shopping outlets, it is better to head over to Zurich since it is not far away. There, find some great designer stores that sell just about every fashionable label that is around. Expect to pay high prices though since Switzerland is renowned for its expensive clothes and jewelry etc.
Some of the best buys, apart from the usual tourist style things that we all buy, try some of the most excellent chocolate, the ubiquitous cuckoo clocks or some rather lovely watches and jewelry to take home as gifts or as mementos of the trip. Cheeses are a great idea too and make for ideal gifts.
Eating Out in Uster
There are a whole host of different eateries in Uster with the usual worldwide fast food joints being very popular with kids. For the parents, there are Chinese restaurants, or perhaps for something that little bit different, Han’s Mongolian Barbecue. There are several different meat meals with vegetables and sauces which are made fresh every day. For the budget conscious, try taking the main meal of the day at lunch time when menus tend to be a little cheaper.
For the hearty eater there are ‘all you can eat’ joints as well but the starting price for these are not very economical. Unlike the US, Swiss restaurants err on the side of overcharging rather than taking the risk that people will be small eaters.
Nightlife in Uster
Again, there are some local bars in Uster, but most people will want the bright lights of Zurich for a really great night out. Here find things like karaoke Sundays at the Acapulco in Neugasse 56. This place is really trendy so young people will love it.
The Barfusser in Spitalgasse 14 has a sushi restaurant and a rather unusual interior of fish swimming around the walls thanks to a projector hidden somewhere. There are outside areas to lounge in and a café next door. Most people from these venues just love to people watch while they are relaxing.
The Jules Verne Panorama Bar on Uraniastrasse 9 has a great observatory that looks out over the entire old town area. One downside here though is that there are not many seats so when it is crowded expect to stand for a while. Entry is through the Brasserie Lipp where there is a lift to the top of the building.
The Odeon on Limmatquai 2 is perhaps the most popular place in Zurich. So much so that it is classed as an institution, so to speak. It has been here since 1911 and serves up coffee and drinks and is the place where people come to see and be seen. For those who love to pose a little, expect to be ogled when walking by as the audience discusses the fashion trends that the visitor is wearing etc.
The Seerose is quite stunning as it sits right on the lake. A dock sticks out into the water in front of a glass infrastructure that has a deck going all round it. There is a bar, a lounge with the appropriate kind of seating plus a rather formal dining area too. Some people draw up from the lake side in their own boats for a quick meal or drink.
The Widder Bar on Widdergasse 9 is also a rather odd place since it is full of statues of men showing off what they were born with! However, the place is decked out in wood, leather and glass and has a selection of whisky that any Scotsman would be happy with. For those who love live jazz, this is the place to be.
Lastly, the Xenix bar on Kanzleistrasse 52 is right next door to the Kino Xenix movie house. All kinds of locals gather here so it is a great place to mix with people from the neighborhood.
Anything of local interest
Although there are several smaller functions going on in and around Uster, most people go over to Zurich to enjoy something a little larger.
At the end of the year, the Swiss Christmas Experience is a must. There is a lovely show of acrobats, music and acting as well as an interpretation of the Christmas Story. All this takes place under vast tents at the Offene Rennbahn racecourse. This event goes on at Zurich-Oerlikon and features many Swiss stars in the line up. Food and drinks are on sale in several places so this is really a great winter festival to look forward to.
Another Christmas treat not to be missed is the Singing Christmas Tree event. Choristers nestle in amongst a real Christmas tree and sing carols to the enchanted crowd below. This takes place at the Christmas Market at Werdmuhleplatz.
At the end of August, look for the Niederdorf Old Town Festival. This is a great multi-cultural style village festival which has bands, performances and great food. The city band also plays to open the concert in general.