Situated in the north central area and seated upon the river Limmat, Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and is also the capital of the Canton of Zurich. The city itself has just under 400,000 inhabitants and often features in most desirable cities to live in polls due to the high quality of life. Zurich is often believed to be the capital of Switzerland, but this is not the case; the capital of Switzerland is actually Berne.
Founded by the Romans almost 2000 years ago, it was named Turicum and this is the origin of the name Zurich. Within the Middle Ages Zurich emerged as a center for religion and economics and earned the status of imperial immediacy. While remaining part of the German Empire, the 13th Century saw Zurich move towards their self-governance and they joined the Swiss Confederation in 1351.
Innovative and always up to date with new developments, Zurich was a strong part of the Swiss Industrial Revolution in the 19th Century. Many creative people were attracted to the city within the 19th and 20th centuries and the Cabinet Voltaire in the early 20th Century brought forth the Dada art movement as well as many artists, writers and composers flocking to the popular city.
Zurich is a cultural hub with many stunning art galleries, theatres and museums. A city of rich history and one of the biggest financial centers in the world, Zurich is home to many of the great banking companies and a center for research and development. The official language of Zurich is German.
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Best Time to Go
Deciding on when to go to Zurich really depends on the activities planned and the expected weather. April is the perfect time to see Zurich slowly waking from the winter months and some of the surrounding higher peaks will still be topped with snow so it can be very picturesque. The winter months are particularly good for winter sports holidays.
For warmer weather in Zurich, the best time to visit would be between June and August as the summer temperatures are pleasant but this means that there will be more people visiting and potentially higher prices (and it’s not cheap to start with). The Theaterspektakel takes place in July and August and this performing arts and theatre festival can be a spectacular show making these months more popular for visitors.
For a less crowded break in Zurich but with potentially inclement weather, visiting in September or October is advised and the prices for accommodation may be lower.
Getting Around in Zurich
Zurich is well known for having an excellent public transport system – clean, efficient and secure. The system is run and owned by ZVV (Zürcher Verkehrsverbund) across the whole of Zurich along with Pfäffikon SZ in Schwyz and Rapperswil-Jona in St. Gallen.
The public transport system is simplicity itself with a range of buses, trams, S-Bahn trains, boats and cable cars. Travel prices are by zones and Zurich city centre and the close surrounding area is zone 10 with the outskirts sorted into various different zones.
There are tickets on sale at vending machines all over the city but absolutely must be purchased before undertaking the journey. If a ticket is purchased for a particular zone, it can only be used for that zone. Single tickets, day passes, monthly passes and annual passes are available and vending machines display a range of language options.
Trams and buses run along the streets of Zurich and the timetables are generally highly accurate. The S-Bahn stretches over the suburbs of Zurich and is a highly efficient system. The day service on the buses, trams and S-bahn ends just after midnight and at the weekends a night service runs.
Bicycles can be hired throughout the year at the central train station and during the summer months, in other locations around the city. River boats and lake steamers can be a relaxing way to travel along the Limmat River and there are a number of trips for tourists exploring the area with themed cruises and many people take a trip to Rapperswil to admire the castle.
Driving a car around Zurich is possible but with the high quality of the public transport systems and the ability to get to many places on foot, a car will not be necessary in the city centre.
Main Attractions, Sights and Things to Do
There are a number of attractive sights in Zurich with museums, churches, theatres and stunning walks along the river.
The Landesmuseum, Museumstrasse 2 is the largest museum of Swiss history and for a museum with a difference, why not try Jacob Coffee Museum, Seefeldquai 17? A trip to visit Grossmünster, a Romanesque church, can be a great way to see the city from a height and Lake Promenade can be a dazzling stroll down the boardwalk from Bellevue heading towards Tiefenbrunnen.
When it comes to astonishing scenery, the Chinese Garden is a simply beautiful location to spend time and the Lindenhof gives a fantastic view of the city so is well worth taking a look.
There are many activities that can be enjoyed locally or a short distance can be travelled for skiing: Travel up on the Polybahn, visit the Rhine Falls which is the largest waterfall in Europe; enjoy a trip up Uetliberg on foot or on the train or visit a theatre to take in a show. There really is a wealth of activities available in Zurich
Kunsthaus Art Museum
One of the most highly regarded art museums in the whole of Europe, the Zurich Museum of Art houses works from as far back as the Middle Ages as well as more modern collections. With works from artists such as Edvard Munch, Henri Rousseau and Swiss artists Ferdinand Hodler and Johann Heinrich Fussli, the museum has a wide range of pieces to delight any art lover. The museum can be easily reached by many forms of transport. On the trams and buses, the stop to aim for is also named Kunsthaus. If travelling to the museum by car the best place to park is on the Rämistrasse in the Parkhaus Hohe Promenade.
Open 365 days a year, Zurich Zoo houses many fascinating animals from all over the globe. A visit to the zoo is a family friendly day out with play areas for children and lots of sites for picnics. In some areas of the zoo, there is the opportunity to get close to the animals and even pet or feed them. There are restaurants for refreshment and shops to enjoy as well as the animal attractions.
Shopping in Zurich
When it comes to high end designer shopping, the Bahnhofstrasse has it all – Prada, Cartier Tiffany & Co – the range of exquisite shops stretches along the street. Whether window shopping or investing in a designer purchase, the Bahnhofstrasse has a great deal to offer.
For a lively and vibrant shopping experience, the Niederdorf holds many exclusive boutiques within the area and with restaurants and cafes, there is always somewhere to stop and relax after all that shopping. Niederdorf is situated in an old section of Zurich, stretching from Bellevue to Central, near the train station.
Situated west of Bahnhofstrasse, the Löwenstrasse has a vast branch of department store Migros and a series of reasonably priced shops to go looking for supplies and trinkets.
Eating Out in Zurich
There are many places to eat in Zurich and a range of local and traditional dishes. A traditional Swiss dish of Zürigschnätzlets, veal in a cream and wine sauce, can be enjoyed in many locations as well as sausages (Wurst), potato pancakes (Rosti) and noodle dumplings (Chnöpfli). Although many people may consider fondue as traditionally Swiss, the tradition comes from western Switzerland, not Zurich but fondue is widely available in many eateries mainly aimed at the tourist trade.
Bread and bratwurst is considered extremely scrumptious in Zurich and is a must try for any visitors. Zopf is plaited bread that is often served on Sundays, and the smell of baking bread can be found all around Zurich tantalizing the senses and urging visitors to try many of the choices available. Supermarkets in Zurich stock a vast range of dairy items and the butter, cheese and cold meats are particularly favored due to their high quality.
Pastries and chocolate are on offer in many places within Zurich and there are plenty of cafes to enjoy a local delicacy or two. Sold by the confectionary company Sprüngli, macaroon like sweets named Luxemburgerli are an essential treat when visiting Zurich; with delicate flavors and soft cream sandwiched between sugary cases, Luxemburgerli are delectable for those with a sweet tooth.
Vegetarian food is easy to find in Zurich but vegan food may be harder to find in restaurants as there is a large amount of dairy on menus.
Some of the notable restaurants worth visiting when staying in Zurich are
With a range of well priced hamburgers, kebabs and pizzas, the Millennium Restaurant can be the ideal way to relax and refuel after a busy day and the service is reportedly very good.
Traditional and offering simple dishes in a sophisticated environment, this mid range restaurant presents tasty fare at reasonable prices while still retaining the air of class. With an intricate blend of Zurich and Bavarian cuisine, the menu is filled with delights for the senses, and with stunning decor this is a feast for both the body and mind.
For Michelin star restaurant food, Mesa Restaurant is the place to go as it is considered one of the best restaurants in Zurich. Delicious food prepared carefully and in sophisticated surroundings. Perfect for a special occasion or for a well deserved treat.
Food Courts – Coop and Migros
There are several food courts around the city and can be found in Migros within Löwenstrasse and the Coop in Bahnhofbrücke for a series of snacks and lunch items.
Nightlife in Zurich
With over 70 clubs and around 500 bars, Zurich is a place with a busy and eclectic nightlife – it is believed that Zurich has the most clubs of any European city, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a vibrant club to suit your mood. The vast proportion of clubs are located in District 5, Zurich West and here there are parties almost every night, so experiencing some of the local atmosphere will make the holiday a lot more memorable.
As well as authentic Zurich bars there are also many international bars and theme bars so there are a range of drinks on offer. Most people in Zurich drink beer and wine when it comes to alcoholic beverages, with some people enjoying a drink of champagne after the working day. There are several small regional breweries to create authentically Swiss beer and add to the collection of delicious drinks so it is well worth trying the local beers where possible. Local wines are available and many are cultivated and consumed within the city so enjoy a glass or two of the local fare.
At night, the shopping area becomes a youthful and exciting place with many restaurants, clubs and bars. Parties go on until the early hours, and there is always something interesting happening; the ideal place for party animals.
For live music while you drink, the Bierhalle Wolf is a wonderful beer hall that also sells great food. With the motto “come as a guest, leave as a friend”, a warm welcome is guaranteed and the beer hall has a number of rooms for private functions so any special occasion can be catered for.
Anything of Local Interest
Each April, a spring festival takes place and the guilds of Zurich head a procession through the city wearing historical costumes and the festival involves the burning of the snow man (Böögg). The festival has its origins in medieval times and signals the beginning of spring with the burning of winter in the form of an effigy.
A huge open air rave on the second Saturday within August, visitors and residents dance in the street to techno music and it is believed that around a million people flock to the city for Streetparade. Music is played everywhere for one day each year with parties that go on until the next day.
One of the most important performing arts events in Europe, Zurich hosts a very full program of shows and performances for 18 days over the last two weeks of August every year. Many of the events are in the open air, and some have open access.