Zurich (German: Zürich, Swiss German: Züri) is the largest city in Switzerland, with a population of some 400,000 in the city proper and 1.3 million in the metro area. Zurich is on Lake Zurich, where the lake meets the Limmat River, in the north of Switzerland. While Zurich is the country’s financial centre and has the busiest airport, Berne is the Swiss capital.
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.
Zurich is Switzerland’s largest city and a cultural center of German-speaking Switzerland. Despite it not being the administrative capital of any more than its Kanton, Zürich punches well above its weight in terms of major media and business headquarters and due to to it being at the heart of Switzerland’s excessively punctual and meticulously maintained train network and being home to Switzerland’s most important airport, it is often the first part of Switzerland that visitors get to see. Zürich is close to some excellent skiing resorts and many people headed for the Swiss Alps don’t spend much time in Zurich itself, but you’d be missing a lot if you don’t stay in Zurich for a couple of days at least.
While Zurich can be expensive, it is also clean, efficient and blessed with a high standard of living, which together with the high wages, explains why people bear with the high prices. Zurich has drawn people from the rest of Switzerland for centuries, but in the 20th and 21st century it has also begun to draw both people and companies from outside Switzerland and in some cases even outside Europe. This means that you will hear a lot more languages than just Swiss German and the overall atmosphere is a lot more cosmopolitan than you might think.
Zurich is home to ETH Zurich, one of the world’s leading technical universities, which has produced a number of Nobel laureates and numerous innovations and due to Switzerland’s long history of neutrality it also houses headquarters of the likes of FIFA or the International Ice Hockey Federation. Zurich is also home to a number of large banking and insurance conglomerates that grew on the fabled Swiss banking secret and still enjoy good reputations in the financial sector.
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.
Zurich has a four-season climate typical to central Europe. Temperature in winter is usually around zero degrees, which means that snow can linger or melt away. Summers are warm with temperature in the 20s and occasionally in the 30s. The nearby mountains are significantly colder than in the valley, with snow remaining well into spring.
History of Zurich
The city’s Latin name, Turicum, was used for a Roman customs station at the Limmat, which has some remnants today. The Alemanni, a Germanic tribe, settled in the 5th century.
While the Church used to rule early Medieval Zurich, the Guilds (Zünfte) took power in 1336, establishing Zurich as an autonomous republic. The Guilds have survived until today, though their role today is mostly ceremonial. Zurich became the fifth canton of the Swiss Confederacy in 1351, and has been its capital at times. However, Switzerland’s famous neutrality and stability is a modern thing, as many battles have been fought in and around Zurich. The canton lost the Old Zürich War between 1440 and 1446 against the confederacy, and was re-admitted in 1450.
Ulrich Zwingli led the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland during the early 16th century. As the Thirty Years’ War ended in 1648, the Holy Roman Empire lost its grip on Switzerland, which has mostly been independent since then.
The 1830s and 40s saw a series of revolts and war, including the Züriputsch, a revolt of conservative landowners of the canton, against the city of Zurich, and the 1847 Sonderbund War. In 1848 Switzerland adopted a constitution, which established the country as a federal republic. While the government settled in Bern, many federal institutions, including the new Polytechnic University (ETH) have their seat in Zurich.
The Zurich Stock Exchange was founded in 1877, and the city rose as a financial centre in the 20th century, as Switzerland remained neutral in the World Wars, and could maintain lower taxes on capital than the European great powers. Even though Switzerland has opted out of NATO and the European Union, Zurich is today one of central Europe’s most cosmopolitan cities.
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.
Inside, the Zurich Airport terminal is everything you’d expect – clean, efficient, elegant and quite expensive
Zurich Airport is Switzerland’s largest and busiest airport, handling roughly 20 million passengers a year. It is actually in the community of Kloten and it is 10 minutes by train from the main station. The trains depart about every 10-15 minutes, during the day, but less frequently at earlier or later hours. A single ticket to the Hauptbahnhof (Main station, a.k.a. “Zürich HB”) costs Fr. 6.80. Several bus lines connect to the airport and provide access to the Winterthur region near it. There is also tram 10 from Zurich terminating at the airport, a rather slow option, but it might be faster door to door for some destinations in Zurich.
Bahnhof Zurich Flughafen, the airport’s own train station, is right beneath the terminal – and actually very busy
Most major airlines fly to Zurich but flag-carrier Swiss is still the biggest player at ZRH and offers the widest range of connections. 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 offer several flights to Germany, the UK and Southern Europe.
If you are travelling without a Schengen Visa to another destination in Europe (via Zurich airport) and if you are not a 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) should you try to leave Europe via Zurich airport .
Zurich Airport offers free WiFi for all guests for a maximum of two hours. A mobile phone capable of receiving texts in Switzerland is required. 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 five-hour waiting period before you can access the next free hour.
Regular trains to and from other Swiss and European cities leave from and arrive at Hauptbahnhof, the main train station, 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 and ICE, France’s TGV Lyria and Austria’s Railjet with some direct connections reaching destinations as far in Eastern Europe as Budapest. While Switzerland itself does not have many high speed lines, Zurich is connected to the high speed rail networks of neighboring countries. The once extensive sleeper train network has been cut down a lot in the 21st century, but there are still some ÖBB Nightjets connecting Austria and Germany with Zurich.
Domestic train tickets within Switzerland are available through the SBB Website though there are few early bird discounts. International tickets can sometimes be bought through the SBB as well, but often you can get better offers through the DB website (German) the SNCF website (France) or the websites of ÖBB and Trenitalia for Austria and Italy respectively. All adjacent railroads have (sometimes significant) discounts for early booking on international trains, so if you know your plans far in advance, by all means book early.
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 and other events in the big entrance hall.
There are some 24-hour lockers in level B1 available for Fr. 6-9 per 24hr (maximum 3 days).
Just to the east of the train station on the Bahnhofbrücke bridge, there is a large Coop supermarket open Monday to Saturday till 22:00.
The region around Zurich has probably the highest density of highways in the country, which makes it very convenient to a access. A1 goes past Zurich just north of the city, with two feeders into the city centre. A3 and A4 end just south of the city. The regional highways A51, A52 and A53 all also lead to Zurich. While this makes it that there are many ways to drive into the city from every direction, it also means that there is a lot of congestions, especially during morning and evening hours. Parking is also hard to get by at affordable rates, so it might nevertheless be faster and more convenient to travel by public transport.
It is possible to reach Zurich by boat on the lake from Rapperswil (2 hours) or Horgen (45 minutes). However, this is more of a leisure boat and only offers a couple of trips each day.
Public transportation in Zurich
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 09:00, the “ZVV-9-UhrPass” is the best option. It is available as daily, monthly and annual cards, and will save you a lot of money compared to regular similarities, especially given that the 09:00 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 the ZVV home page linked to above.
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 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
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.
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 Fr. 100.
There are two types of boat-based public transport operated in Zürich: river buses and lake boats. 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 boats (including two historic restored steam ships) 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 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.
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.
Zurich is generally easy to get around by bicycle. There are bike lanes marked out in most parts of the city and if you don’t mind the hills, a bike might be a fast and cheap alternative to public transport. The city has an online map service, which can calculate routes for biking and also shows locations of bike parking and pumps. Many of the major intersections don’t have bike lanes due to space constraints, but it is generally possible to avoid those. Note that cycling on the pavement is not allowed. Cyclist are commonly fined for cycling against the traffic or ignoring traffic lights.
Züri rollt offers free bike “rental” around the city. To get a free bike, you have to register with your I.D. or passport and pay a refundable deposit of Fr. 20. There are seven stations. Two of them are located at the main station (North bike gate and south bike gate) and are operated year round. The rest are operated only from April to October. Two of them are located near the old town at Globus City and at Bellevue. The opening hours vary by station, but most of them are operated daily from 09:00-21:30.
O-Bike is a Chinese start-up bike sharing service that is new in town. It’s a free floating system with its bikes parked randomly all over the city. To unlock you need their app and a deposit of Fr. 130. After it lets you rent bikes for Fr. 1.50 per half hour.
Driving in Zurich is possible but it is painful as the city centre is not easy to navigate by car. It’s cheaper and more convenient to park outside the city and take a train.
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. Uber has gained popularity in Zurich but recently stopped their UberX service and now offers only the regular and UberBlack service.
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.
Most of the interesting sights are in the old town around the river and lakefront.
Bahnhofstrasse at the intersection with Urianastrasse
- Bahnhofstrasse. One of the busiest and best-known shopping streets in the world. Highly refined. Certainly a must-see for every tourist in Zurich! (see below).
- Lindenhof. The hill in the heart of the old town. A beautiful view of the city and one time location of a Roman fort.
- Lake Promenade (Utoquai, Seefeldquai). Especially during summer, the lake is a beautiful place to spend the evening or the weekend. Starting from Bellevue, the boardwalk goes for about three kilometers along the lake towards Tiefenbrunnen. About halfway from Bellevue there is a meadow where you will find thousands of people on a sunny day.
- Grossmünster, Zwingliplatz. November-February 10ː00-17ː00, March-October 10ː00-18ː00. Old Romanesque church, symbol of reformed Zurich, where reformer Huldrych Zwingli was appointed the people’s priest in 1519. Go up the tower for a great view of Zurich, though the stairs can be quite small and steep. Tower Fr. 4, Fr. 2 for students.
- Fraumünster, Kämbelgasse 2. November-February 10:00-17:00, March-October 10:00-18:00. Old Gothic church (former convent) with window paintings made by Marc Chagall. No photos or videos allowed inside. Fr. 5.
- Schanzengraben. A small canal that used to be part of the city fortifications between Limmat and Sihl. From the main station, go to Gessnerallee, find the stairways down to the tiny creek, and walk all the way to the lake.
- Langstrasse. Red light district of Zürich, with more drug dealers and police than usual, but interesting because even this most notorious spot in Switzerland is so clean and safe. The area is the most overtly multicultural spot of the town. In recent years, ateliers and stylish bars start to coexist side by side to the about 15 strip clubs.
- Friedhof Fluntern. cemetery with lots of famous people most notably James Joyce who lived in Zurich for quite some time, the writer Elias Canetti and a few nobel price winners are also buried there
- Zoo, Zürichbergstrasse 221 , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Mar-Oct 09:00–18:00, Nov-Feb 09:00–17:00. With the new Masoala Rainforest Hall, the Zoo is really worth a visit! Fr. 26 for adults (Fr. 19 for those under 25).
- China Garden, Bellerivestrasse 138. Apr-Oct daily 11:00–19:00. This small but beautiful Chinese garden was offered to the city of Zurich by the Chinese city of Kunming as symbol of gratitude after Zurich helped Kunming with technical knowledge. Fr. 4.
- Niederdorf. The old town offers beautiful alleys, restaurants and shopping mainly aimed at younger consumers. In the evenings, people visit the Niederdorf’s many bars.
- Zurich West. This modern quarter used to be an industrial one, but modern urban developments made it into a centre of vibrant night life.
- Landesmuseum (National Museum), Museumstrasse 2. Tu-Su 10:00–17:00 and most public holidays including M, Th until 19ː00. This is the place to go if you want to learn more about the history of Switzerland.There are permanent exhibitions on history, archaeology and art. Changing temporary exhibitions usually also turn around Swiss topics. Fr. 10/8.
- Kunsthaus, Heimplatz 1. Tu, F-Su 10ː00-18ː00, W-Th 10ː00-18ː00. Zurich’s most famous art museum. The collection includes works from many Swiss artists, such as the sculptures of Alberto Giacometti or the paintings of Ferdinand Hodler. There are also major works from international artists on display. The museum is building a new extension, scheduled to open in 2020 and thus parts of the museum might be closed at any given time. Fr. 16/11 for the permanent collection. Free on Wednesdays.
- Johann Jacobs Museum, Seefeldquai 17. Tu 16ː00-20ː00, Saturday to Sunday 11ː00-17ː00. A museum that describes the complex history of global trade routes and goods and the culture around them. Fr. 7.
- Pavillon Le Corbusier, Höschgasse 8 (near China Garden). W, F-Su 12:00-18:00, Do 12:00-20:00. This is the last building designed by the Swiss architect le Corbusier. The Pavillon was built after his death as a museum dedicated to his work. Access to the building has long been difficult and expensive, also due to a legal fight between the former patron and initiator of the building and the city of Zurich. Now it is however managed by the city and open to the public. The highlight of the museum is of course the building itself, but there are also yearly changing exhibitions on architecture. Fr. 12/8.
- Rietberg Museum, Gablerstrasse 15. Tu,Th-Su 10:00-17:00, W 10:00-20:00. Switzerland’s only museum specialising in non-European art. It showcases pieces of art from Asia, Africa and America as well as a collection of Swiss masks. The museum building itself is a neoclassical villa, which was once home to the composer Richard Wagner and which is surrounded by a lush park. Fr. 14/12 for the regular exhibition.
- Zoological Museum, Karl Schmid-Strasse 4. Tu-F 09ː00-17ː00, Saturday to Sunday 10ː00-17ː00. Showcases the zoological collection of the university of Zurich. The first floor has local fauna whereas the lower floor has animals from all over the world. Free.
- FIFA World Football Museum, Seestrasse 27 , ✉ email@example.com. Tu-Sa 10:00-19:00, Su 09:00-18:00. Explores the world of football and the FIFA. Fr 24/14.
- Take the Polybahn, Central 1. Operates Mon-Fri 06:45–19:15, Sat 07:30–14:00, closed on Sun and public holidays. A 19th-century funicular, up the steep hill for a fine view. Starts at tram station Central and goes up to the ETH. Nice terrace up there. During the week, the student cafeteria below the terrace is also open to the public. Fr. 1.20, free with ZürichCARD or a valid ZVV ticket for Zone 110.
- Letten. If you go to Zurich during summer take your swimwear with you. The clean river at the public river baths “Oberer/Unterer Letten” is used by the locals to cool down after hot days. Jump in upstream and the river will carry you down. Showers and free lockers are provided but you need to bring your own lock. Free Entry.
- Go skiing by train — Buy a snow’n’rail ticket (train & skipass) at the Hauptbahnhof during winter months, train out in morning, back in evening. Flumserberg is the closest large ski-resort, popular with people from Zurich, with a good range of runs for beginners and experts. Retreat to the right side of the resort if the rest gets busy.
- Take a trip on the Zürichsee. with one of the two old steam ships. There are a few different routes you can choose from, which will vary mainly in the distance. Journeys usually start from Bürkliplatz. Steam ships operate between April and mid-October. ZVV tickets valid.
- Rent a small rowboat or pedalo.
- Take a Limmat river cruise, Landesmuseum Pier, ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Offers views of the old town and Lake Zurich. Operates between April and October. Fr. 4.30, free with ZürichCARD or a valid ZVV ticket for Zone 110.
- Go up Uetliberg. A hill overlooking Zurich. You can hike up, or take a train from the “SZU” part of the main station. Enjoy the 360-degree view from a tall viewing tower (not for vertigo sufferers!) This is also the start of the Planetenweg (planetary walk), a 12-km (8-mile) walk along the ridge with models of the planets along the way. These are scaled down in true proportion to the solar system. To look at Zürich from the other hills, go to the Irchel (Tram station Milchbuck) or Käferberg (Bucheggplatz, walk up the hill and keep right of the forest). CHF 2.50 to go up the observation tower.
- Watch football ie soccer: the city has two teams playing in the Super League, the top tier of Swiss football. Both FC Zürich and Grasshoppers or GC Zürich play at Letzigrund, capacity 26,000, at 500 Badenerstrasse, 1 km west of the main railway station.
- Go club-hopping — Zürich has proportionately the largest number of clubs per capita in Europe – take a look at Usgang.ch for up-to-date listings.
- The Grossmünster sometimes has organ concerts in the evenings. Check the front door for notices.
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.
For shopping in Zürich there are three different areas in the centre:
- Bahnhofstrasse. Runs from the Zürich Train Main station “Hauptbahnhof” right down to the lake. Bahnhofsstrasse is famous for being one of the most exclusive and expensive shopping streets in the world. Here you can get anything from diamond rings to chocolate to fur coats. Globus and Jelmoli are two fiercely competitive department stores, both of which carry items from many high-end brands.
- Niederdorf. The Old Part of Zurich which expands from “Bellevue” by the Lake right to “Central” which is just over the River from the train station. The Niederdorf is more for young people. Aside from a lot of fast food places you will find a lot of trendy clothes stores here.
- Löwenstrasse. Runs west of Bahnhofstrasse from the main train station, has shops selling everyday items and a large branch of Migros, a department store chain.
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 Fr. 8 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:
- Swatch, possibly your best bet for a “cheap” Swiss watch (Fr. 40-100) and perhaps better suited for the younger generation. Available in their stores on Bahnhofstrasse and various other locations, or in department stores.
- M-Watch, based on both Mondaine and Migros and available in Migros Electronics stores such as the one on the 2nd floor of the Lowenplatz location. Also relatively inexpensive (Fr. 40-100). Do not confuse this with “M-Budget” which is an imported cheap watch.
- Mondaine is known for their use of the famous SBB railway clock face. You can buy a replica of the SBB clock as a watch or a wall clock in most major railway stations, among other locations. However, most of them do not replicate the hallmark smooth movement of the second hand for 58.5 seconds followed by the 1.5-second pause that is characteristic of real SBB railway clocks, but they do replicate the clock face. They are quartz, and the price may seem a little inflated to you (Fr. 130-180). The vast majority of SBB railway clocks are produced by Mobatime (Moser-Baer AG), not Mondaine, even though Mondaine’s name appears on some of the larger clocks such as the Treffpunkt in Zurich HB. Mondaine’s wall and desk clocks, however, are only of “Swiss design” and are manufactured in China and Taiwan.
- Mid-range brands (Fr. 100-500) can be found at clock and watch stores throughout the city. Just walk in and have a look if you’re interested.
- Upper-end watches and clocks, such as Rolex, are also sold, but you should probably do more research into them than you can find here. If you just want to stare at some of the most expensive watches for sale, take a look at the Bucherer store window at Bahnhofstrasse and see what a Fr. 25,000 watch looks like.
- Frey is not as well known abroad as other Swiss brands, but with a market share of roughly 35%, it is the most popular brand in Switzerland. It mostly produces for the Migros supermarket chain and is known as good quality chocolate at a cheap price. A big share of the production is also exported, mostly however under store brand labels for chains such as Marks & Spencer, Loblaw, Tesco, Coles. The factory is in Aarau (about 1 hour by train and bus), where there is also a visitor centre.
- Lindt is available at the Coop and other supermarkets besides Migros for Fr. 2-2.50, but Lindt chocolates are also sold at the Lindt & Sprungli Chocolate Factory Shop, which is accessible by taking the S-Bahn S8 to Kilchberg (12 min) and then bus 165 to the stop “Lindt & Sprüngli” (2-3 min). Hours are limited (Monday to Friday 09:00–17:00). The factory store prices are somewhat lower than supermarket prices (on the order of 10-20%), but there are some sale items, including factory rejects (for underweight chocolates, improper packaging, or filling showing through) that are sold for roughly half-price. The Lindt factory used to offer tours and free samples, but this is no longer the case.
- Chocolats Halba is the chocolate producer of Coop and responsible for most of their own sortiment, but it is also the producer of several Fairtrade chocolate products in other countries, e.g. the Alter Eco brand in France. They have a factory store called Schoggihüsli in Zürich located at Alte Winterthurerstrasse 7 which is 750 m from train station “Wallisellen”. There is a changing sortiment of very cheap factory rejects packages, each consisting of 1 kg chocolate at a price of Fr. 3-8.
- Läderach produces their signature “fresh chocolate” as well as confectioneries. They sell their products in a chain of stores in Switzerland. Multiple stores are located at the Zurich main station, and another one is located right at the entrance of Bahnhofstrasse.
The larger Coop supermarkets carry many brands, including Lindt, Camille Bloch, Goldkenn, and others, including all sorts of alcohol-filled chocolates.
- Teuscher. — An upscale confiserie that specializes in truffles. There are three stores in Zürich.
- Teuscher, Bahnhofstrasse 46.
- Teuscher, Storchengasse 9.
- Teuscher (GLOBUS), Schweizergasse 11.
- Sprüngli — A Zurich institution that offers a variety of sweet and savory goodies including a wide variety of chocolates, from handmade truffles to special chocolate bars. There are locations throughout the city, including Bahnhofstrasse and inside Zurich HB. Some specialities include the Luxemburgerli, a sort of soft macaroon resembling a hamburger in looks but is actually completely pastry and cream, and comes in a variety of flavors; the Truffe du Jour, a chocolate truffle that is made daily from raw cream and is meant to be consumed immediately; and the extraordinary Grand Cru Sauvage truffle, made from wild cacao beans from Bolivia. Most items are rather pricey but worth it. The flagship store on the Paradeplatz is a very popular spot for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. Try their berry-filled muesli, it’s like no other muesli you’ve ever had. There are two handy stores at the Kloten airport for last-minute gifts to bring home.
- St. Jakobs Confiserie. Badenerstrasse 41. The background organisation, Behindertenwerk St. Jacob, aims at providing jobs for disabled people.
- Schweizer Heimatwerk, Uraniastr 1 (on the Limmat river). Monday to Friday 09:00-20:00, Sa 09:00-18:00. Also branches at the Bahnhofstrasse 2 and the airport. Quality Swiss handicrafts and other Swiss-made products presented in a gallery-like setting. You won’t find many cuckoo clocks and the like here (cuckoo clocks are not really Swiss, they are from the Black Forest (Schwarzwald) in Germany!), the emphasis is on real traditional crafts and the work of modern craftspeople. You will find things like sleek modern hand-blown glassware and beautiful hand-carved wooden items from the Appenzell region. A worthwhile visit even if you just browse.
Swiss army knives
- Coop City in Bahnhofstrasse sells the Victorinox line at uninflated prices, although you won’t get additional bells and whistles like customized faceplates or engraving. Many other department stores also carry them.
- Any cutlery shop will probably carry both Victorinox and Wenger lines of products. However, do make sure they are not inflating the price. For example, a SwissChamp (possibly the most popular model) should be retailed around Fr. 78.
- Flohmarkt Bürkliplatz (Fleamarket), Bürkliplatz (in the Bellevue area near the Stadelhofen station). May-Oct Sa 06:00–15:30. Fairly relaxed yet large flea market with many interesting stalls.
- Flohmarkt Kanzlei (Fleamarket), Helvetiaplatz. Sa 08:00–16:00. A big flea market that hosts up to 400 stalls on busy days.
- There is an English language bookstore at the intersection of Bahnhofstrasse and Rennweg.
- Sihlcity (Tram S4 to “Zürich Saalsporthalle-Sihlcity”) , ✉ email@example.com. 09:00-20:00; Su off. A good old fashioned shopping mall, which is a 5-minute S-Bahn ride away from the main station. It comprises some 100,000 m² of rental space with a range of facilities, such as restaurants, a shopping center, a multiplex cinema, entertainment, health and fitness/wellness area, nightclub, a Four Points hotel and a chapel.
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.
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 similar to hash browns) 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. Swiss people usually eat those dishes at home and only during winter.
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 handmade 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, and 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.
- Baba’s take-away, Seeanlaga Utoquai. Part of the Restaurant Pumpstation is located direct at the lake promenade (south of Banhof Stadelhofen). From April–October, serves fresh grilled sausages, ribs, and chicken for about Fr. 6-10.
- Lee’s take-away, Preyergasse 8 (in the Niederdorf). Stand-up place serving excellent large portions of Asian food. Special student dishes under Fr. 10
- Pizzeria Molino, Limmatquai 16. Pizzas and pastas in a relaxed setting. Check website for more locations.
- Ah-Hua, Ankerstrasse 110 (next to Helvetiaplatz). Offers delicious Thai dishes to budget prices. Great pit-stop in a Langstrasse pub crawl.
- Gambrinus, Langstrasse 103 (near Helvetiaplatz). A typical Swiss restaurant with good food and cold beer. It is located in the Red Light District (Langstrasse) of Zurich and is not the ideal place to bring children or acquaintances. Gambrinus looks like a pub more than anything else, but the staff are friendly and speak English. Try the Zürigschnätzlets mit Rösti or the fondue (one of the best in town). From Fr. 14.
- Rheinfelder Bierhalle, Niederdorfstrasse 76 (at the beginning of the Niederdorf, near Central). In this huge and boisterous restaurant you get good value food and rich portions (only try the Jumbo Jumbo Cordon-Bleu when really hungry). Cheap beer. Service can range from very good to poor depending who is working that day.
- Millennium Restaurant, Limmatplatz 1 (Limmatstrasse at Langstrasse, right across the X-tra bar). Offers great pizzas, large hamburgers, spicy kebabs and other Italian and Turkish dishes at reasonable prices. Staff is very friendly and service is great. Perfect for lunch or a late-night snack.
- Sternen Grill, Theaterstrasse 22. Zurich’s most famous sausage stand near Bellevue tram stop. Red or white sausages for around Fr. 6, a piece of bread and (hot!) mustard is included.
- 1001. A nice Turkish place with remarkably good kebab, friendly service, and possibility to seat conveniently inside.
- St. Peter, In Gassen 10 (Enter the building and use the staircase to the 1st floor) , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Mo-Fr 11:15-14:00. A canteen, which is mainly frequented by employess of nearby banks and other office workers. 3 delicious lunch offers – one of them vegetarian – are offered. The price is unbeatable in the city center. Only Manora and the food courts described below are similarly low priced. On weekdays only. CHF 12-17.
- Manora, Bahnhofstrasse 75. Monday – Saturday 09:00-20:00. Restaurant on the top floor of Manor department store. Fresh buffet or daily menus. During the summer months it is possible to sit on a terrace with decent views. CHF12-20.
- Bank, Molkenstrasse 15. Restaurant, café, bar and bakery in old bank. Mostly organic and mediterranean food.
- Flavour Of India, Kalchengasse 12, Kloten , ✉ email@example.com. 08:00 to 01:00. One of the best Indian restaurants in Zurich. Also does takeaway and catering.
- The Migros and Coop supermarkets (several branches all over the city) are good places to assemble an inexpensive and delicious picnic lunch consisting of freshly baked bread, cheese or ham and fresh fruit. Migros Gourmessa is the ‘gourmet’ takeaway counter, available in larger Migros stores including the Migros City branch at Löwenstrasse. The Coop Bahnhofbrücke branch near the main station also has a small fast-food restaurant. The Migros branch in the main station is open on Sundays when most other stores are closed, and also until 21:00 on weekdays, whereas the Coop Bahnhofbrücke is open Monday – Saturday 07:00 to 22:00.
- Jelmoli, St. Annahof and Manor department store restaurant for a cheap buffet lunch, good salad and vegetable stands. All located at Bahnhofstrasse and open during the day
- Rosalys, Freieckgasse 7 (near Bellevue). Typical Swiss food including Älplermacrone (pasta with apple purée). Excellent cocktail bar, too.
- Commercio, Mühlebachstrasse 2 (near Stadelhofen station). Excellent pasta and a busy atmosphere.
- Commi-Halle, Stampfenbachstrasse 8 (near Central). Italian food served late.
- Swiss Chuchi, Rosengasse 10 (in the Niederdorf). A kitchy place serving up classic Swiss fare, mainly for tourists. Serves fondue year round.
- Zeughauskeller, Bahnhofstrasse 28a (near Paradeplatz). 11:30–23:00. Offers hearty sausages, stews, rösti potato, etc., in a Brauhaus-like setting. Touristy, but good and large portions. Housed in a historical building, built in 1487.
- Zum Kropf, In Gassen 16 (just down the street from the Zeughauskeller). Offers beer hall fare such as sausages and pork shanks in a somewhat refined setting. The restaurant features a beautiful painted ceiling.
- Globus Bellevue, Theaterstrasse 12. This relatively new branch of the Globus department store in the Bellevue near the Stadelhofen station is totally dedicated to food. There is a large eatery on the ground floor that serves various fusion-type foods (decent noodle bowl) and a passable sushi bar. The ground floor has a gourmet food market, and upstairs there are kitchen wares.
- Sprüngli Paradeplatz, Bahnhofstrasse 21 (1. Floor). The flagship store of the Sprüngli confectionery store chain has a beautiful turn-of-the-century style dining room upstairs that is extremely popular for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. Choose from the menu or from the gorgeous display case filled with beautiful cakes, tarts, open-face and regular sandwiches. Try the muesli! Great people watching too, since this is the place for an after-shopping snack for the rich ladies of Zurich.
- Masala, Stauffacherstrasse 27 (near Stauffacher). Tasty Indian cuisine.
- Hiltl, Sihlstrasse 28 (behind Jelmoli department store). The oldest vegetarian restaurant in Europe (from 1890).
- Tibits, Seefeldstrasse 2 (behind the Opera house). The fast-food outlet of Hiltl, Europe’s oldest vegetarian restaurant. Offers a nice self-service buffet of fresh veggies and fruit and a surprising variety. Try the freshly squeezed juices. Buffet: 3.60 Fr for 100g.
- Outback Lodge, Stadelhoferstasse 18 (at Bahnhof Stadelhofen). Unrelated to the U.S. Outback Steakhouse chain. Enjoy Aussie tucker like ostrich, kangaroo, and crocodile, as well as more conventional fare. Popular with locals as well as expats. Has a hopping bar scene (see Drink section). There’s also a branch in Winterthur.
- Iroquois, Seefeldstrasse 120. Tex-Mex food in the trendiest part of town, with the best margaritas in Zurich.
- Tiffin’s, Seefeldstrasse 61 (between Kreuzstrasse and Feldeggstrasse). Monday – Saturday. Great place for Asian food. Crowded.
- Lily’s, Langstrasse 197 (between the railway and Limmatplatz). Great Thai and other Asian food. The curries are particularly good and come in huge portions. Come before 19:00 or after 21:00 if you don’t want to wait.
- Manzoni Bar, Schützengasse 15. Morning till evening. Authentic Italian coffee and aperitif bar that offers clients over 20 different coffee specialties and a vast take away menu. The concept was created by the Manz brothers together with Francesco Illy, the most famous coffee brand in Italy.
- Nooba, Kreuzplatz 5. Pan-Asian noodle bar, a short walk up the hill from Stadelhofen station. Stylish setting, attentive and multilingual service and a broad selection of freshly prepared noodle, rice and curry dishes.
- Nooch, Heinrichstrasse 267 (opposite the Cinemax movie multiplex). Yet another Pan-Asian noodle, rice and curry joint. Also has a sushi bar.
- Ristoranto Toscano, Schmidgasse 3. Monday – Saturday. A very good Italian restaurant in the old part of the city (Niederdorf). You should try the Spaghetti al Bacio!
- Restaurant Eisenhof, Gasometerstrasse 20. Has the warm feel of an old pub. The house specialty is horse steak, served on a hot stone with fries.
- Blinde Kuh, Mühlebachstrasse 148. Restaurant in complete darkness, served by blind people. An amazing experience.
- Bebek, Badenerstrasse 171. Breakfast until 16:00. Meze dishes and bar in the evening.
- White Elephant, Neumühlequai 42 (5 walking minutes from Zurich HB (Main Train Station)) , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Mon-Fri 12pm to 2pm, Sun-Thur 6pm to 10pm, Fri – Sat 6pm to 11pm. Original Thai Food. Since 1991 it offers an authentic cuisine with the full scope of original spices.
- eCHo Restaurant, Neumühlequai 42 (5 walking minutes from Zurich HB (Main Train Station)) , ✉ email@example.com. daily 6 pm to 10.30 pm. Traditional Swiss cuisine. Everything is prepared according to original recipes, and all products originate from the region.
Grossmünster seen from the quai of the Limmat river
- Mesa Restaurant, Weinbergstr. 75. Tu-F 11:45-15:00 and 18:30-00:00; Sa 18:30-00:00. Traditional kitchen with Catalan influences as one of the best restaurants in Zurich
- Kronenhalle, Rämistrasse 4 (at Bellevue). 12ː00-24ː00. The city’s most famous restaurant where all the glitterati go to see and be seen. Good Swiss food and heavenly chocolate mousse are one reason to go, the opportunity to dine among original artwork by famous Swiss and European artists (who paid in paintings instead of money) the other. Dress nicely, and treat yourself to a drink at the classy bar before or after your meal. Mains Fr. 30-65.
- Widder Hotel, Rennweg 7. High-class food in a cool setting. The hotel has a trendy bar, great piano music, cool red leather decor, and halogen lighting. Mains Fr. 20-50.
- Zunfthaus Zur Waag, Münsterhof 8. Very authentic Swiss high-end restaurant. To ensure your meal does not get cold, they split your order into 2 plates and bring you one at a time. Mains Fr. 25-50.
- Le Dezaley, Römergasse 7 (Near the Grossmünster Cathedral in a street connecting Limmatquai and the Niederdorf). Traditional French-Swiss food from the French-speaking Kanton Waadt (Vaud). One of many fondue restaurants in Zurich. Mains Fr. 25-40.
- Blaue Ente, Seefeldstrasse 223 (at the far end of tram 2 and 4 near Bahnhof Tiefenbrunnen). Romantic cuisine in a beautiful building.
- Coco Grill & Bar, Bleicherweg 1A (next to Paradeplatz). Mo-Fri 10:00–14:30 & 17:00–00:00, Sa 17:30–00:00. Grill restaurant that offers set menus for lunch and a menu surprise for dinner (either fish or meat). Also has a good wine selection and very nice in the summer due to a small garden
- Da Angela, Hohlstrasse 449. Authentic Italian food.
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.
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.
Zurich has a lot of places to go out. There are a lot of clubs, restaurants, cafés, bars but also many museums and theatres. 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).
- Bar & Lounge 42, Neumühlequai 42 (5 walking minutes from Zurich HB (Main Train Station)) , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. daily 9 am to 0.30 am. New York in the middle of Zurich. Exclusive whiskey rarities, unique cocktails, premium liquors, snacks, a homemade gin and an elegant smoker’s lounge with a broad selection of cigars.
- Bierhalle Wolf, Limmatquai 132 (At the northern end of the old town, facing the river) , ✉ email@example.com. A lively beer hall often with live music. In addition to the beer selection, they serve great local food.
- Edi’s Weinstube, Stüssihofstatt 14. nice wine bar in Niederdorf where you can get the cheapest okay wine in Zurich
- Federal, Main Station (Tram 3,4,6,7,10,11,13,14, Bus 31, Main Station). A big brasserie-like bar inside the Main Station with a choice of 100 Swiss beers.
- Nachtflug, Stüssihofstatt 4 (Niederdorf). Stylish, coffee and some snacks during the day, large choice of drinks at night.
- James Joyce bar, Pelikanstrasse 8. Where the writer used to drink. Now mostly frequented by bankers.
- Oliver Twist, Rindermarkt 6. An Irish/British pub with a good atmosphere, and many English-speaking foreigners. Has English ales on draught.
- Öpfelchammer (apple chamber), Rindermarkt 12. Not a real pub or café, they only serve wine or water. But if you succeed in climbing over the roof beams, you get a free glass of wine to drink hanging upside down and you can mark your name into the wood afterwards.
- Widder Garage, Widdergasse 6. By far the best stocked whiskey bar in town, with a separate whiskey menu containing 250 single malts. In the famous hotel of the same name.
- Corazón, Zähringerplatz 11. A Spanish-themed bar with a good selection of wines and excellent service.
- Bohemia, Klosbachstrasse 2 (at Kreuzplatz, just up from Stadelhofen) , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Trendy place popular for its coffee during the day and an even better nightlife. Usually a popular place for college students.
- Barfussbar, Stadthausquai 12 (a 3 minutes walk from Bürkliplatz along the Limmat river) , ✉ email@example.com. W Th Su 20:00–00:00, summer only. During the day this is a public bath for women only. But at night (after 20:00) men are also allowed. It is a beautiful place to spend a warm summer night with a great view of Zurich.
- Rimini, Badweg 10 (Go down Badweg from Talstrasse). 19:30–00:00, Sa 17:00–00:00, only in summer and only when it’s not raining. Another open air bar. This one is at the men’s public baths. Really cool atmosphere because of the nice colored lights and the straw mats and pillows.
- El Lokal, Gessnerallee 11 (on the Sihl). Bar, restaurant, and intimate gig venue attracting alternative crowd, “soccer vs elvis vs che guevara” themed.
Kreis 2 (Wollishofen)
- Shamrock Irish Pub, Studackerstrasse 1 (end station of the 7, Wollishofen). Open to midnight everyday. Irish pub with regular event & good crowd (food served)
Kreis 4 (Langstrasse)
- Xenix, Kanzleistrasse 56 (by Helvetiaplatz). Small art house cinema with a busy beer garden in summer. There’s a mixture of students, bohemians, and bicycle messengers posing with their fixies.
- Total Bar, Tellstrasse 19 (a block east of the Langstrasse). Tiny bar serving a range of Zurich’s microbrews. There’s always good music.
- Kasheme, Neugasse 56 (near Langstrasse), ✉ INFO@KASHEME.COM. This bar is all about good music. It features sometimes world famous DJs doing small mostly vinyl only sessions of funk, soul, disco and of course electronic music.
- Riffraff, Neugasse 57 (near Langstrasse). Cinema bar attracting a largely alternative crowd.
- Mars Bar, Neufrankengasse 15 (Langstrasse). Bar frequented mostly by the leftist youth of Zurich.
- Acid, Langstrasse 67. Hip café and bar.
Kreis 5 (Zürich West)
- 4. Akt, Heinrichstrasse 262 (near Escher-Wyss Platzfor). Teens and tweens love this place.
- Frau Gerolds Garten, Geroldstrasse 23/23a (near Bahnhof Hardbrücke). huge open air bar with urban gardening and little shops inside. great during summer but also offers a couple tables inside during winter
- Aya Bar, Hardstrasse 260 (near Escher-Wyss Platz) , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Mo – We: 06.30 – 01.00; Th: 06.30 – 02.00; Fr: 06.30 – 04.00; Sa: 10.00 – 04.00; Su: 11.00 – 01.00. A roof lounge on top the Cinemax complex. Older crowd, very expensive, but stylish.
- Moods, Schiffbaustrasse 6 (near Escher-Wyss Platz). Jazz club in the Schiffbau complex, concerts on Saturdays.
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. Most of the clubs are located around the Langstrasse and Hardbrücke.
- X-Tra, Limmatstrasse 118. Big club with events and concerts, the famously have a weekly goth (dark scene) party. Can be trashy depending on the party, check beforehand
- Hive Club, Geroldstrasse 5. Many rooms to wander through and listen to DJs from Switzerland and abroad. Sometimes offers nonstop parties during the weekends. Focus on Techno and House.
- Helsinki, Geroldstrasse 35. Small Bar and Club with nice atmosphere especially in summer when the outdoor area is open. Also features live concerts. Good spot for Sunday evenings when “Trio from Hell” is performing their weekly concert.
- Zukunft (Zukki), Dienerstrasse 33. longstanding techno club that books djs and live acts from all over the world while trying to keep its underground vibe. Mostly techno and house music. Door policy can be pretty unpredictable.
- Gonzo, Langstrasse 135. A basement club that generally plays no electronic music. Can be lots of fun but the queues are long and the door is pretty strict. Great on Wednesday (Hip-Hop) and Thursdays.
- Klaus, Langstrasse 112. Member only club that is mostly frequented by the local “scene”. Features mostly local DJs but is the new place to be. Befriend a local to get in.
- Kauz, Ausstellungsstrasse 21. underground club with great drink and cocktail selection.
- Exil, Hardstrasse 245. small club and concert venue in Kreis 5, there’s always party on Tuesday with Afrotunes and Hip Hop
- Friedas Büxe, Friedaustr. 23. small underground club with techno and house music, beloved by the local scene
- Space Monki, Limmatstrasse 275. new club with a weird name but apparently an amazing soundsystem. mostly techno. opens already at 5pm most days
- Kaufleuten , Mascotte and Plaza are the fancier clubs in Zurich where you get champagne, lounges and all that jazz.
Gay and lesbian travellers
- Rathauscafé, Limmatquai 61. Coffee and a croissant in the morning, moving over to sparkling wine in the afternoon and early evening. Nice terrace in the summer. Mixed crowd, friendly service.
- Cranberry, Metzgergasse 3 (opposite Rathauscafé). Very crowded on Fridays and Saturdays 20:00–00:00, before the boys head to the clubs.
- Barfüsser, Spitalgasse 14. Once Europe’s oldest gay bar, it has now been converted into a fancy and large lounge and sushi place. Has a relaxed atmosphere and mixed crowd.
- Sunday Trash, Schiffbaustrasse 3. Gay and lesbian party in Labor Bar, Schiffbaustrasse. Place to be on Sunday night, 21:00–03:00. Fr. 10 cover charge.
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.
- Street Parade. The biggest open air techno rave in Europe. It happens one day each year on the second Saturday of August, during which trucks which function as mobile soundsystems (“Love mobiles”) start driving along the lake side, starting from the east at Utoquai and ending at the west at Hafen Enge. Every year this event attracts nearly a million visitors who dance in the streets to the music which you can hear from anywhere in the city. After the Street Parade the party doesn’t stop, there are open air parties along the route until midnight and club parties at various locations in town until late the next day, to keep the party going. Don’t be surprised if the city’s cleanliness isn’t up to its usual standard the next day. Check out Lethargy festival that happens during the same weekend if you’re into less commercial electronic music.
- Swiss national day. August 1st — Celebrations are carried out in many cities in the evenings and fireworks are launched at night. Watch them over the lake, or if you’re experienced with safely launching fireworks yourself, you can buy them in the days leading up to the national holiday and have fun. The display over the Rheinfall, one hour away by S-Bahn, is also extremely popular.
- Sechseläuten. Around mid-April, the guilds of Zürich celebrate their traditional spring festival with the burning of the snow man (Böögg). A procession of several hundreds of people with historical guild costumes and horses takes place in the centre of the town.
- Caliente Festival (Around Helvetiaplatz). The largest latin festival in Europe. Held every year in early July. Try all types of Latin American food and listen to samba, merengue & co. Huge crowds.
- Züri Fäscht. A weekend festival celebrating Zurich, which occurs every 3 years (last held 1-3 July 2016, next 2019). It is visited by around 2 million people.
- Zürcher Theater Spektakel. A festival for the performing arts. Held along the lake near Rote Fabrik and features a number of free performances. Usually in August.
Shows and theaters
- Opernhaus, Falkenstrasse 1 (Tram stop Opernhaus, or take the S-train to Stadelhofen). The Zurich Opera house shows frequently changing productions of world famous operas. As with the Schauspielhaus, students get a big last-minute discount. The best seats costs Fr. 45 for students.
- Rote Fabrik (Red Factory). An old silk factory converted to a centre of youth culture and art in the 1980s. The Red Factory became one of the most exciting parts of cultural life. An artists’ coop, a couple of kilometers south, form along the west bank of Lake Zurich. They have a variety of events, including music, film, and theater.
- Theater am Neumarkt, Neumarkt 5. Closed Summer. Closer to downtown.
- Schauspielhaus Pfauen, Rämistrasse 34 (Tram stop Kunsthaus). Zurich’s Schauspielhaus is one of the most important theatres in the German speaking part of Europe. The Schauspielhaus has several locations, the most important one being the Pfauen. Students can get really cheap last minute tickets (10 minutes before the show) if they show their student ID. The best seats, if available, cost Fr. 20 that way.
- Cinema Arthouse Le Paris (Arthouse Le Paris), Gottfried-Keller Strasse 7 (Tram stop Stadelhofen, or take the S-train to Stadelhofen). Frequently changing arthouse movies; students get a discount.
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.
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), 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.
Gay and lesbian travelers
Zurich is the favourite place to live for Switzerland’s (German-speaking) gays and lesbians. The Canton of Zurich was the second canton, after Geneva, to allow registered partnerships for same-sex partners for example. The city of Zurich is probably the place in Switzerland that offers the most open environment for gays and lesbians. Gays and lesbians need not take special precaution for their safety on the streets. It is always possible for random homophobic behaviour to happen, though.
Telecommunications in Zurich
The bigger railway stations around the city (including the main station and Stadelhofen) offer one hour of free wireless internet per station per 3 hours. You will need to be able to receive a text message for a one-off registration.
- Urania Internet Cafe, Uraniastrasse 3 (Close to Bahnhofstrasse and above a car park.). PCs, printers, and a selection of snacks.
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 Fr from the machine and validate it before boarding. On work nights, there is no public transport at all after about 00:30 (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, Enge and Stadelhofen stations, and at the airport which remain open.
Avoid reaching/visiting Zurich on 1 May. The city is on a Labour 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.
Some interesting destinations nearby:
- Baden — This town is known for its castle ruin and the thermal baths. It takes 15 minutes by train to get there from Zurich.
- Greifensee — A lake and village next to the nearby town of Uster. The village of Greifensee is within a conservation area and very untouched.
- Lucerne — Probably Switzerland’s most popular destination. Go there to see the famous chapel bridge or the impressive transport museum.
- Rapperswil — Located at the opposite end of lake Zurich. A small, picturesque town, good for a stroll. It is possible to go there by boat from Zurich in summer.
- The Rhine falls — Europe’s largest waterfall. It is located near Schaffhausen, which has a nice old town in the Renaissance style.
- Winterthur — Around 25 minutes from Zurich, this city is worth a visit on a rainy day to visit some of its many museums. Technorama is the most popular one, an interactive science centre.
A bit further away, but also worth a day trip:
- Appenzell — As close to the stereotypical image of Switzerlands with wooden farm houses and traditional clothes as it gets. An interesting visit is the cheese factory, where the Appenzell cheese is made.
- Augusta Raurica — Close to Basel, this is one of the best preserved Roman sites north of the Alps.
- Bellinzona — Since the opening of the new Gotthard tunnel in 2016, the Italian speaking part of Switzerland is less than two hours away by train. Go to Bellinzona to see its three castle, which are inscribed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
- Biel — Traditional watch making town. Visit the Omega factory to learn more about the watch industry.
- Chur — Not only a nice city, but a good hub for hiking or skiing in the mountainous Graubünden region.
- Fribourg — Home town to the famous Swiss fondue. A good choice if you want to make a short trip into the French part of Switzerland.
Already eleven Corona Infections at the Pope’s Swiss Guard
In the Vatican, seven other members of the pope’s Swiss Guard tested positive for the corona virus . This increased the number of demonstrably infected guardsmen to eleven, as the Swiss Guard announced on Thursday. All infected people had been isolated, the message said. The brightly uniformed guards protect Pope Francis and his residence.
A major corona outbreak among the guards could therefore also be dangerous for the Pope, 83 years of age belongs to the risk group. The Argentinean pope had part of his right lung removed at the age of 21 due to severe pneumonia but he is considered relatively healthy for his age.
The Catholic media platform “Vatican News” reported in early October that the guardsmen had been asked to “be careful when dealing with the Pope” because of Corona. Face mask and social distancing are required, however a young man who was interviewed about his recruit swearing in (October 4th) said that Francis had already shaken his hand.
More than 1000 new corona infections in Switzerland
The number of corona infections has skyrocketed in Switzerland. After an average of 500 new infections in the past week, the Federal Office of Public Health reported 1077 infections within 24 hours for Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
The day before there were 700 new cases.
The number was last in April at more than 1000 cases.
Switzerland counts the infections in the small Principality of Liechtenstein. However, only three new infections were reported there. Only ten of the 26 cantons and half cantons require a mask to be worn when shopping. In the past two weeks, 5.3 percent of all tests had a positive result.
Bern Coronavirus Cases Covid-19 Outbreak
Although Berne (German: Bern) is the seat of most of the institutions of the Swiss confederation, this is only a small to medium sized city with a population of about 130,000 in the city proper and roughly 350,000 in the urban agglomeration. It sits on a peninsula formed by the meandering turns of the river Aare. The remarkable design coherence of Berne’s old town has earned it a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It has 6.4 km (4 miles) of arcaded walkways along streets decked out with fountains and clock-towers.
There are Tourist Information Centres outside the main railway station, and in the Old Tram Depot next to the Bear Pit.
Bern is the capital of Switzerland. It was founded by Duke Berthold V von Zähringen in 1191, and formed part of the Holy Roman Empire. It later became the largest independent city state north of the Alps. It joined the Swiss Confederation in 1353, and in 1848, it became the capital of Switzerland.
It has managed to successfully retain a lot of its historic features, and its Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Swiss government sits here, and the Houses of Parliament are open to visitors the majority of the time.
The town grew up around the Aare River on hilly ground, and so the city areas are on low ground along the river, and it spreads out onto higher ground. Bridges have been built across the river over the years to allow for expansion of the city.
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The city center has a unique mediaeval atmosphere and contains old fountains, narrow streets, and sandstone facades. The ancient bastions and entrenchments drop steeply down to the river.
The central location of Bern offers easy access to trips throughout Switzerland; but Bern itself offers more than enough to keep a holidaymaker busy.
Bern was founded in 1191 by Duke Berthold V von Zähringen and was part of the Holy Roman Empire. It was made a free imperial city by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in 1218 after Berthold died without an heir.
In 1353 Berne joined the Swiss confederation. After conquering several rivals, Berne became the largest independent city state north of the Alps. It was occupied by French troops in 1798 during the French Revolutionary Wars, and was stripped of a large part of its territory. The city became the Swiss capital in 1848.
Bern was one of the eight host cities in the 2008 European Football Championships.
Best time to go
The best weather in Bern is between April and September. Late spring brings long days and good weather. The summer temperatures in August are pleasing. The summer weather is unpredictable though, so take your warm clothes. As the temperature peaks, so does the rainfall, so be prepared. But the rain is short-lived, and you can go about your visit after a short period. From July to mid-August are their holiday periods, so some of the smaller restaurants may be closed.
Getting Around in Bern
Situated in the middle of Switzerland, Berne is easy to reach from all parts of the country.
Fly to Berne
- Bern-Belp Airport (10 km south of the city, off Hwy 8 west of river Aare). This airport is a small affair. Skywork used to be the main operator, with twin-prop flights to London City, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Berlin-Tegel, Munich and Vienna, plus summer holiday destinations around the Med; however, it declared bankruptcy in August 2018.
To reach the city take Bus 334 or 160 to Belp railway station (10 mins). Frequent S-bahn local trains connect Belp to Bern’s main station, 40 min altogether. The bus runs every 30 minutes between 05:10 and 23:10, with the first and last buses of the day running directly to Bern railway station. The transfer is free if you have booked accommodation in Bern, just show your confirmation letter; otherwise Fr. 7 each way.
A taxi to the city is about 40 Fr and takes 20 mins.
For better choice of flights, fly into Geneva , Zurich or Basel then take the train to Bern.
Travel by train to Bern
Berne is at the hub of the Swiss Federal Railway network. Express (InterCity) trains connect twice per hour to Geneva, Basel and Zurich as well as Zürich and Geneva airports. Hourly express trains connect to most other cities, including Interlaken, Brig, and Lucerne.
Bern Railway Station. In a mall surrounded by cafes and other shops. The info kiosk and main bank of ticket machines are at the back, beneath the big departures board.
For timetables and connections see Swiss Federal Railway. For best travel deals see the Swiss Travel Planner – walk-up full fare tickets are expensive.
Travel to Bern by car
Bern is easily reachable with the national motorway network from all directions and has several exits from motorways A1, A12 and A6.
Eurolines and Flixbus connect Bern to several European cities by bus.
Bern has a world-class public transportation system, with a choice of buses, trolleybuses, trams, and trains.
In the city center, on foot is the best way to see the sights close up, and for shopping and eating at the restaurants. Outside of the city center the tram is the best.
You can hire a bike for 4 hours for free, and thereafter pay a small fee per hour, from the main train station, or Zeughausgasse or Hirschengraben. You’ll need your passport or ID.
By train you can travel to the suburbs, and to other cities such as Fribourg or Biel, should you want to explore a little further.
If you have a car, be aware that free parking in the city centre is rare to find, and that the paid parking is quite expensive. If you’re visiting the city centre, it’s best to park at a ‘park and ride’ and take public transport into the centre, and walk to wherever you like from there.
If you prefer to take taxis, there are stands at the main train station, and some stands in the city centre.
Berne has an excellent public transportation system, with frequent local city services provided by trams, trolleybuses and buses, together with an S-Bahn rail system for longer journeys into the surrounding suburbs. Tickets are valid for all modes of transport within a given zone and time. The suburbs of Berne, Biel and Solothurn form a common public transport network named “Libero-Tarifverbund”. Tickets can be purchased as single ticket, saver ticket with six rides, day pass as well as weekly, monthly or yearly passes.
Tickets can be bought at vending machines at most stops, or with a smartphone using the SBB mobile app. They are valid for all modes of public transport within the zones they encompass. A ticket valid in the central urban zones (101, 102) for 60 minutes costs Fr. 4.60 (May 2016).
Since June 2014, all hotel accommodations in Bern include the “Bern-Ticket”, which allows the free use of public transport within the city (zones 100 and 101) for the duration of the stay, including the Gurten funicular and transfer from and to the airport.
The city centre of Berne is easily accessible by foot. The relatively small old town and the area around the main train station is best explored by walking.
By tram and bus
The bus and tram lines operated by Bernmobil are complemented with yellow Postauto bus lines connecting to the suburbs. Almost all lines are linked together at the main train station, and operate at intervals between 5 to 30 minutes.
- Bernmobil. Operator of the local tram and bus services, and provides timetables and other information on its web site or by telephone.
Berne’s S-Bahn rail system will take you to many places in the suburbs and to nearby cities like Biel, Thun, Fribourg or Solothurn.
- S-Bahn Bern. Web site in German only.
By car or motorbike
Like in most Swiss cities, parking space is rare and expensive. There are several paid parking stations, including at the main train station. As the city centre is quite small and all of the major attractions are within walking distance, it’s a good choice to park in a “park and ride” and take public transport to the centre of town. Using the car in the old town is very difficult and not recommended.
Motorbikers will find free dedicated parking spaces in several places around the perimeter of the old town, including near Waisenhausplatz and at the main train station.
Berne is a bike-friendly city, and most thoroughfares include dedicated bike lanes. There are a few challenging spots where bike traffic interweaves with motor traffic, but motorists are used to sharing the road with bikers and will normally pay attention. Because of the city’s topography, some stamina may be required, or an electric bike.
The local branch of the Swiss-wide bike sharing Publibike charges CHF 3 for the first 30 minutes. The formerly free local bike-share “Bern Rollt” has been terminated.
Several taxi companies operate in Berne, including Nova Taxi (+41 31 331 33 13), Bären Taxi (+41 31 371 11 11) and Taxi Bern (+41 31 333 88 88). Taxis can be booked by phone, or at the main train station.
Major Attractions and Sights
There are 114 Swiss heritage sites of national significance in Bern, so it’s hard to miss a couple of them. The Old Town in its entirety is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A few outside Old Town include: the Eidgenössisches Archiv für Denkmalpflege, the Kirchenfeld mansion district, the Swiss National Library, and the Historical Museum.
While strolling around, you’ll find eleven 16th century fountains. They are charming, and their colorful sculpted figures that adorn them are proof of the prosperity of the town in the Middle Ages. As recently as a hundred years ago, people gathered at them to gossip; today their crystal-clear water offers welcome refreshment to locals and visitors alike.
Be sure to visit the Zytglogge, or Clock Tower. Built around the turn of the 13th century, the animatronic technology is astounding for those times. Every hour on the hour, is displayed what the locals proudly tell you is the longest running act in show business. A few minutes before the hour, a song plays, accompanied by a jester drumming. On top of the hour, an old bearded king and some bears join in. The clock is so detailed that it also tells the day, the month, the phase of the moon, and the sign of the zodiac! You can take a free guided tour inside the tower to look at the mechanisms working from the inside. Book the tour at the tourist office.
In 2008, Old Town was given a new entrance, called the Baldachin. Reminiscent of the glass pyramid at the Louvre, the Baldachin is a steel and glass construction, featuring an undulating glass roof, through which the Holy Ghost Church and the Citizens’ Hospital can be viewed whilst keeping the aesthetics.
The Rosengarten (rose garden) is a park that offers a great view over Old Town, and is a popular place for locals to go at lunchtime.
The bear is Bern’s heraldic animal, and legend goes that von Zähringen named the town for the first bear caught there. They take pride in the bear pit (Bärengraben), which has been there since the 16th century. There are currently four bears in an open-air enclosure. The facilities have recently been upgraded, and the bears can even swim in a section of the river. In summer the opening hours are 8am to 5.30pm, and 9am to 4pm in winter.
The Gurten Hill is just outside the city. It has a park, from where you can view both the city, and the Bernese Alps. It’s popular with the locals who like to play football, do a spot of sun tanning, or barbeque. It has hiking paths, a playground, and a restaurant. Entrance is free.
Swimming in the River Aare on a hot summer day is great recreation. There are public pools along the river which are free, so you can ‘land’ at one of them to have a shower afterwards.
If you’re into gambling the Grand Casino Bern offers black jack, poker, roulette and over 300 slot machines.
- Berne Historical Museum, Helvetiaplatz 5. Tu-Su 10:00-17:00. Large historic museum, combining under one roof one of the country’s most important ethnographic collections together with the Bernese historical collections from prehistory to the present day. Adult Fr. 13; Fr. 18 including Einsteinhaus.
- Bundeshaus (Federal Palace of Switzerland; Curia Confoederationis Helveticae), Bundesplatz 3. Inaugurated in 1902, the Swiss Parliament building is a great dome separating the two chambers: the National Council and the Council of States. Free guided tour when Parliament is not in session (German Tu-Sa, English only Sa 14:00, book online). In session there are 25 spaces in the spectators’ gallery, no advance booking. For either, you need your passport. Free.
- Zytglogge. It has been a guard tower, and a prison for women convicted of having sex with priests, but since the 15th century, it’s been a clock tower with an elaborate astronomical clock. Hourly throughout the day, it puts on a great display of early animatronics. The show starts a few minutes before the hour with a little song and some drumming by a jester on top. On the hour, bears and an old bearded king get into the act. As well as the time, the clock shows the month, day, sign of the zodiac and phase of the moon. There are guided tours inside the tower that will let you have a look at the clockwork while the show is displayed outside. It can be booked at the tourist office and is definitely worth it if you love mechanics. Free.
- Einsteinhaus, Kramgasse 49 , ✉ email@example.com. Feb-Dec 10:00–17:00, closed Jan. Suppose a Bern Tram passed you at the speed of light, with Einstein peering out the window. While your own watch ticked on, his would appear stationary, and the tram’s mass and dimensions would distort. Most of us would just shrug at this and await the next tram. But Einstein realised that the same occurred if you were aboard the tram looking back at the tourist standing at the tram-stop. There could be no absolute reference point: all was relative. He also inferred an equivalence of acceleration and gravity, and of mass and energy, that totally rewrote the laws of what till then was a Newtonian universe.
Einstein rented this flat 1903-05 with his first wife Mileva, during his years working at the Swiss patent office. (The day job helped, as many inventors were exploring telecomms, and the problem of synchronising processes many miles apart.) Their son Hans Albert was born here in 1904; their illegitimate daughter Lieserl (b. 1902) was given up for adoption and her fate is unknown. But above all Einstein’s special and general theories of relativity were born in this flat, which now displays photos and original documents from his life, work, and speeches. His writing desk overlooks the bustling street: trams rumble by, and the clock-tower tick-tocks, with a Swiss regularity that we now know to be deceptive. Adult Fr. 6, concessions Fr. 4.50.
- Invasion of Berne – successful!. As you explore, you may notice these small graffiti mosaics, in the style of Taito’s “Space Invaders”. There are some 29 in Bern, the work of an “Unidentified Free Artist”. They’ve appeared on the walls, bridges and roofs of many cities around the world, including Basel, Geneva and Lausanne. And still they come: “Game Not Over”. Consider buying a map and doing the space invader tour – though in midsummer 2018 the Invader’s online shop is closed.
- Kunstmuseum (Museum of Fine Arts), Hodlerstrasse 12. Tu 10:00-21:00, W-Su 10:00-17:00, closed M. Huge collection including Pablo Picasso, Ferdinand Hodler and Meret Oppenheim, and all the big names over eight centuries. Adult Fr. 10 permanent collection.
- Swiss Alpine Museum (Alpines Museum), Helvetiaplatz 4. Tu-Su 10:00-17:00. A museum describing all aspects of the Swiss mountains: geology & tectonics, glaciers, weather, wildlife, agriculture & settlement, and alpinism and winter sports. With a large collection of artwork, e.g. paintings by Ferdinand Hodler. Adult Fr. 16.
- Zentrum Paul Klee, Monument im Fruchtland 3 (Trolleybus 12 to the end of the line). Tu-Su 10:00–17:00. The Centre is a modern building formed of three waves. The ground floor is a rotating exhibition drawn from some of Klee’s 4000 works – to Oct 2018 this is “Cosmos Klee”. Downstairs are other artists – to Oct 2018 this is Etal Adnam. Klee was celebrated for his “child’s view” of the world and his work is so accessible and fun, eg his wacky glove-puppets. A short walk across the adjacent park brings you to his grave. The Centre is included on the “Berne card” so you’ll recoup the Fr. 20 straight away. Adult Fr. 20, students Fr. 10, children 6-16 Fr. 7, families (1 adult + children 6-16) Fr. 27, families (2 adults + children 6-16) Fr. 40.
The view from Gurten Hill
- Bear Pit (Bärengraben & BärenPark), Grosser Murisalder 6 (Foot of old town at Nydeggasse Bridge; trolleybus #12 towards Zentrum Paul Klee). Always open, but the bears hibernate Nov-Mar. Run as an outstation of the city’s Dählhölzli Zoo, the bear pit has a tunnel through to a bosky enclosure along the steep river bank, around which the bears can roam and swim. There are three: Finn (b 2020) is Daddy Bear, Björk (b 2020) is Mummy Bear, and Ursina (b 2020) is their daughter. Björk has been sterilised so there will be no more cubs: “More space for fewer animals” is the zoo’s motto. These are Eurasian brown bears, Ursus arctos arctos, with a round head and yellow-brown fur; they remain common in the wild in Central & East Europe.
A second smaller pit is bare of bears but describes the history of the pits. Next to this is the Old Tram Depot, see “Eat”. Free.
- Tierpark Dählhölzli (Zoo), Tierparkweg 1 (Bus 19 from main station to Tierpark). Mar-Oct 08:30–19:00, Nov-Feb 09:00–17:00. Berne’s zoo is along the Aare river, with many outdoor enclosures that incorporate the river. Adult Fr. 10, child 6-15 Fr. 6.
- Gurten. The Gurten is a lovely hill just outside the city. It features a park and great view over the city on one side and a nice panorama of the Bernese alps on the other. The park is visited heavily by locals to play ball, to barbecue or to just lie in the sun. Tourists are not an unusual sight, though this little attraction is missed by most of the many that visit the city. Hiking paths lead in all directions and you will almost certainly stumble across some cows when walking around. A wooden look-out tower allows an even better panorama than that you would already have. If you get hungry or thirsty, a good budget restaurant service and self-service provides you with all you need. Families with children should not miss the cool playground. The Gurten can be easily reached with tram number 9 from the railway station in Berne in direction Wabern. Exit the tram at station Gurtenbahn and walk a few steps up the hill. Then take the Gurtenbahn, a panorama train that will bring you on top in just 5 minutes, round-trip tickets are Fr. 9 for adults or Fr. 4.50 for children (BernCard is valid), departure usually every 20 minutes depending on daytime. A club called up-town features various cultural events on weekends and once a year in summer national, European and a few international music stars (among others Alanis Morissette, Skin, Moloko and Jimmy Cliff in 2020) visit it for the Gurtenfestival, an open-air music festival. Gurten is a must see for everybody visiting the city for longer than a day. Free.
- Rosengarten. Little park with a splendid view over the old town. Situated close to the bear pits (follow the path that goes up the hill opposite the bear-pit-roundabout. Quite popular (and populated) during lunchtime. The Rosengarten can be easily reached by bus number 12 from the railway station in Berne in direction Zentrum Paul Klee.
- Watch football soccer at BSC Young Boys, who play in the Swiss Super League, the top tier of Swiss football. They play at Stade de Suisse, capacity 32,000, 1 km north of city centre.
- SC Bern. The SCB is Berne’s ice-hockey team. The stadium is the second largest in Europe and is regularly sold out, producing an impressive atmosphere in the arena. It is also mentionable that the SC Bern boasts the highest average attendance outside the NHL. To get there, just take Tram Nr. 9 towards Guisanplatz and get off at the terminal stop.
- Swimming in the river Aare. On hot summer days, let yourself drift for a few kilometres in the river Aare. Good (and safe) stretches are between the Kornhausbridge and the public pool of the Lorraine (old fashioned swimming pool just next to the river) and between the Eichholz and the public pool of the Marzili. Other stretches such as swimming the bend around the old town (starting at the “Englische Anlagen” to the Lorraine) or the “Bremgartenschlaufe” are only to be done by good swimmers accompanied by experienced locals. Entrance to public pools is free of charge. This makes it a good idea to choose a swim that ends at a public pool so you can have a shower afterwards.
- Gurtenfestival. In July the Gurten hill is host for an open air festival with many national and international music acts. During these four days you will find a party crowd of up to 25,000 people on the hill day and night. 1-day pass: Fr. 75, 2 days: Fr. 115, 3 days: Fr. 155, 4 days: Fr. 195.
- International Jazzfestival Bern. A jazz festival with international reputation is held in Berne every year since 1976.
- Buskers Bern. Since a few years the annual street musician festival is taking place in the picturesque old town streets. You don’t need to buy a ticket but are encouraged to buy a festival pin or give donations to the musicians which come from all around the world.
Berne is home to the prestigious University of Berne which enrolls 17,431 students (2020). In addition, the city has the University of Applied Science also known as Berner Fachhochschule. There are also many vocational schools and offices of the Goethe Institute and the Alliance-Francaise (German and French cultural institutes).
Shopping in Bern
Bern boasts six kilometres of arcades, which represent the longest weather-sheltered shopping promenade in Europe. Westside shopping centre has 55 shops, restaurants, a cinema and a spa. There are other malls too, for all the regular merchandise.
At Beck Glatz Confiseur you can buy the Mandelbärli, or almond bear, which is a great Bern souvenir, and a speciality of the confectioner.
Bucherer is a world renowned jeweller founded in 1888. This traditional company specialises in the finest watches, clocks and jewellery.
On the Bundesplatz you’ll find the vegetable, fruit and flower markets, on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and daily in summer. On the first Saturday of the month there is a craft market in front of the cathedral.
As with most other cities in Switzerland, store opening and closing hours in Berne are strictly regulated. All stores, including grocers, close by 18:30 or 19:00 from Monday to Friday, except on Thursdays when they remain open until 21:00. Aldi supermarkets are an exception, closing at 20:00 during the week. On Saturdays everything must close by 17:00. On Sundays, all stores are closed, except for those in the main railway station, which are open 7 days a week until about 22:00, and which include Migros and Coop supermarkets.
Rathausgasse and the streets parallel to it have any number of cute shops with an amazing range of handicraft and luxury goods. This is not the normal range of Swiss souvenir stuff, but really interesting things. There are a couple of worthy examples below, but the real pleasure is in spending a few hours (or days) exploring the arcades and vitrines.
- Yamatuti, Aarbergergasse 16-18. M-W F 10:00–18:30, Th 10:00–21:00, Sa 10:00–17:00. Unique toys and kitsch collectibles pack the walls of this cramped space.
- Krompholz Music, Effingerstrasse 51, 3008 Bern (Visit website for which tram lines to take and the stops.) , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Monday – Saturday 10:00–17:00. The thing that makes this shop special is its huge collection of sheet music and English language music instruction materials. Pretty good CD section with lots of Swiss artists, both pop and folk.
There are several used book stores that carry cheap books in German, English and French:
- Bücherbergwerk Monbijou, Monbijoustrasse 16 (on the street through which tram line 9 descends from Hirschengraben near the main station, in the basement of the building marked SWICA). Tu-F 10:00–17:00 and Sa 11:00–15:00. The used bookstore of the Swiss Workers’ Aid Society.
- Bücher-Brockenhaus Bern, Rathausgasse 34 (in the old city between the Zytglogge and the Rathaus). Tu-F 14:00–18:30, Sa 09:00–12:00, 14:00–16:00.
Eating Out in Bern
If you’re on a budget, the Beaulieu on Erlachstrasse is recommended; it’s a traditional restaurant that offers classic Bernese and Swiss cuisine at great prices. Its proximity to the university means it’s popular with the students, and is also popular with the local working population. If you prefer local to a tourist trap, this is the place to go and rub shoulders with the Bernese.
Equally good value is to be found at Suan Long, underneath the main train station. With fast service and a big variety of Chinese dishes, together with a wide vegetarian selection, this is the ideal eatery; especially if you’re waiting for a train.
For middle-of-the-road costs, try the Kornhaus, on the Kornhausplatz. This beautiful restaurant, as you can probably deduce, is in an old granary. It serves mostly Italian food, and your eyes will be wandering all around the restaurant, as it is covered with frescos of traditional Swiss scenes and historical events.
Also in the medium range is the Restaurant Muesmatt, on Freiestrasse. It was built in 1891 to service the steel workers at the Von Roll steelworks in Bern. The Von Roll buildings were converted into university lecture halls, and the brownstone houses around it now house students. This eatery offers fresh local organic produce, and has an outside terrace you can sit on, with great old oak trees offering shade. They serve the local Burgdorfer beer, and wifi is available.
If you prefer a scenic meal, try the Casino Restaurant on Herrengasse. It’s on the Aare River, and offers great views of the river and the mountains. The recommended dish is the pasta with mushrooms, and there’s a range of meat and fish dishes too.
If you’re in the mood to splurge, the place to be seen at is the Bellevue Palace, on the Kochergasse. It’s pricey, but if you go whilst parliament is in session, you might just come across the Swiss president eating his lunch there.
Also in the high price range is the Restaurant Rosengarten, which offers great views of the city.
Eating in Berne (or almost anywhere in Switzerland for that matter) can be an expensive proposition for foreign tourists. Be sure to “shop around” before deciding on a restaurant as many of them cater to foreign tourists (especially those serving traditional Swiss food) and have inflated their prices accordingly. Most Bernese natives prefer Italian, Asian, or other non-local cuisine so finding a traditional Swiss restaurant with acceptable prices can often be a daunting experience. Be patient and you will persevere without breaking the bank.
- Suan Long, Rail City, underneath main station, Bern. Low-priced Chinese meals, wide variety of dishes, including good vegetarian selection. Quick service and ideal if you’re waiting for a train. Especially recommended if you enjoy spicy food! Fr. 17-25.
- Beaulieu, Erlachstrasse 3 , fax: . M-Th 08:00–11:30, F 08:00–00:30, Sa 10:00–22:00. Old-fashioned restaurant serving traditional Swiss and Bernese cuisine at very affordable prices. Popular among students due to its situation close to the university; equally popular among the local workers. Definitely not a tourist restaurant—go here if you want to meet the Bernese among themselves.
- Sous le Pont , ✉ email@example.com. Tu-F 11:30–14:30 and 18:00–00:00, Sa 19:00–00:00, Su 10:00–16:00. A nice restaurant in the Reitschule complex which serves excellent dishes.
- Wäbere, Gerechtigkeitsgasse 68 , fax: . Monday – Saturday 11:00–23:00. Excellent soups, a good rendering of Swiss standards, such as cheese fondue, and an decent number of veggie choices. Many items available in half portions. Fr. 14-24.
- Old Tram Depot (Altes Tramdepot), Grosser Muristalden (across bridge at east side of city centre, next to bear pit). 11:00-23:00. The trams used to terminate here: nowadays it’s a trolleybus route. Good, hearty Swiss food. Range of dishes from budget price rösti to higher-priced meat specialities. On-site brewery with traditional beers available. Bench seating with great atmosphere. Fr. 20-40.
- Café Fédéral, Bärenplatz 31. Stylish, modern atmosphere and international cuisine. Situated in front of the Bundeshaus, its popularity among politicians during the “Session” is legendary. Specializes in entrecôtes (a kind of steak), but has other dishes, including vegetarian ones.
- Casino Restaurant, Herrengasse 25 , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. At the shore of Aare river, with a view over the river and mountains on the South. Dishes include excellent pasta with mushrooms, fish, and meats, served throughout the day. . Fr. 25-45 a main dish.
- Kornhaus, Kornhausplatz 18 , fax: . The room alone is worth a stop at this fabulously appointed mostly Italian restaurant. As one might guess from the name, the building was built for grain storage, but now features fresco paintings of traditional Swiss scenes, events from local history, and related characters. Fr. 26-45 for the main dish. Fr. 9-14 for appetizers..
- Schmiedstube, Schmiedenplatz 5. Monday – Saturday 08:30–23:30. German, French, Italian, English and Spanish spoken. This traditional Swiss restaurant is well known for its typical dishes, such as Röschti, Cordon Bleu, Älplermakkaronen. It’s 90 m (300 ft) from the clock tower “Zytglogge”.
- Schwellenmätteli, Dalmaziquai 11 , ✉ email@example.com. Terrace open M-Su 08:00–00:00. A very nice restaurant at the side of the river Aare with a nice view on the Cathedral. Fr. 20-40 for a main dish.
- Bellevue Palace, Kochergasse 3-5 , fax: . Stylish hotel and restaurant; has its price. Go there when the Parliament is in session, and you may very well see the president of Switzerland having lunch.
- Restaurant Rosengarten, Alter Aargauerstalden 31b. Upscale Swiss restaurant with amazing view over the city
- Kursaal-Bern (Meridiano), Kornhausstrasse 3. Tu-F 11:30–14:00, 18:00–00:00. Sa 18:00–24:00. Sunday & Monday closed. The Meridiano is famous far beyond the borders of Bern for its welcoming hospitality. And for its innovative cuisine – prepared to perfection by Chef de Cuisine Markus Arnold and his team. The restaurant has been awarded 16 Gault-millau points and one Michelin star. Guests are offered fine views extending over Bern and the surrounding scenic countryside. Fr. 20-76.
Nightlife in Bern
You absolutely have to try the Bern Pub Crawl! It happens on the first Friday of the month, and it’s free. Well, except for your drinks. Bern has a vibrant bar scene, and there’s no better way to get around to seeing the local bars, and making friends in fun places. Every hour, the group moves on to a new bar. You’ll meet both locals, and international travelers like yourself, and have a ball. Google them for details.
The Liquid Club is a high-tech venue. From where you’re sitting in the lounge, you look down through the glass floor onto the dance floor, which has a revolving stage in the centre of it. The club is used alternately as a disco, a reading room, a concert hall, and a theatre. Its clientele is trendy and chic.
Le ciel opened its doors in 2010, with Bob Sinclair as the DJ. DJs from the VIP ROOM Paris and Mansion Miami have also played there. The 250 square meter dance floor hosts mainly house and RnB, with a mix of party hits thrown in. A great place for partying.
Next to the clock tower you’ll find Du Théâtre, nicknamed the DüDü by the locals, is a trendy club that has both a bar and a lounge. The lounge has comfortable leather chairs and sofas, a fireplace and a glass roof. Famous DJs offer the latest in music; whether you’re sipping cocktails in the lounge or partying to the music, a good time can be had by all.
The Bern Theatre, known as Stadttheater Bern, is an opera house and theatre that has seen many great performances. If you would enjoy an evening of high European culture, check their itinerary to see what is on while you’re in the city.
Many Bernese will tell you that nightlife in Berne is not exactly what you might call stunning, but they’re probably comparing it to Zurich or Paris. There are quite a few good spots to hang out.
For a drink or two, there’s a wide choice of bars all over town. However, you might be disappointed with most central options as they tend to be annoyingly conventional, though there are an ample number of exceptions:
- Du Nord, Lorrainestrasse 2 (across Lorraine Bridge from the city centre).
- Café Kairo, Dammweg 43, 3013 Bern. Another nice choice in the same area as Du Nord.
- Cuba, Kornhausplatz 14. With Latin-influenced Cuba Bar next door.
Most of the towns cooler bars are around the main clubbing venues though. In the ancient Matte neighborhood, which is well worth a daytime visit too, you’ll find nightlife options for almost every taste.
- Dampfzentrale, Marzilistrasse 47. In this former electricity facility you’ll find an excellent restaurant and bar, along with lots of cultural pearls. They specialize in urban, jazzy, electronic music and dance performances. Definitely a gem!
- PROGR_centre for cultural production, Waisenhausplatz 30/ Speichergasse 4. Close to the Reithalle and even closer to the city centre, you will find the PROGR. More than 100 artists, dancers, actors and musician have their studios here. It’s large courtyard with the CaféBar Turnhalle is a real oasis. From September to June, they offer a cultural program with exhibitions of experimental and contemporary art, theatre, performance, lectures and regular concerts on Sunday nights (jazz- connected, world women voices).
- Reitschule, Neubrückstrasse 8. Next to the central train station is Berne’s most important centre for alternative culture. The huge brick building is visible from far, easy to recognize by its abundant graffiti art on the façade and roof. Reitschule has the status of an autonomous cultural centre, which means in firm language that it’s a no-police zone. This of course gives it a bit of an anarchist touch, a touch of “anything goes”. And indeed, anything does go: Reitschule features a theatre, a cinema, a women’s room and two concert/dancing venues, all dedicated entirely to alternative culture. Concerts included rjd2, Metalheadz and DJ Babu. The centre as a whole is a unique experience and a must-see for anyone who has an interest in contemporary urban culture.
- Wasserwerk Club. This is one of Berne’s traditional clubbing and concert venues for urban music. It actually features two parts: Sportwerk The very welcoming, smaller “Sportwerk”, which is open all week and free of charge, offers drinks, music, pool, snooker, darts, table soccer and flipper games as well as sport events on TV in a laid back, greenish atmosphere. The bigger part of the club, the actual “Wasserwerk” is open on weekends and features excellent djs and live concerts.
Of Local Interest
March sees Museums Night, which heralds the coming of spring. Bern’s museum’s doors stay open until the early hours of the morning and thousands stream through the doors. It’s a novel experience.
From March to May is the Bern Jazz Festival – drawing visitors from all over Switzerland as well as abroad, to the capital. It’s one of the most important traditional jazz events, and has been running since 1976.
May sees the Grand Prix – Switzerland’s largest racing event, and a top-notch spectacle with this historic town as a picturesque backdrop.
In June, you can enjoy the Bern Dance Festival; devoted to all types of dance. There are workshops, discussions, performances and exhibitions.
July hosts the Gurtenfestival, which is held on top of Gurten Hill. It goes on for four days, and features artists from the international music scene; tens of thousands attend, so it’s quite a party, both day and night.
In August is the Buskers Bern Street Festival. It is held on the streets of the Old Town at around 20 stops. The street musicians play mostly cabaret. It’s free, but you are encouraged to give donations to the musicians from all over the world; or at least to buy a festival pin.
In the second week of November the Queersicht is held, which is a gay and lesbian film festival.
The 4th Monday in November brings the Onion Market to the squares of the city centre. People start pouring in in the early morning hours, and by the end of it the squares are strewn with confetti. The stall holders display their wares, which include onion tarts, and onions plaited together. It’s a colorful celebration, and worth going to see.
Stay safe in Bern
Bern is a very safe place with nearly no violent crime. However, as it is the capital of Switzerland, it sees political demonstrations every few weeks on a variety of subjects, occasionally leading to police intervention.
The central railway station often hosts drunks and vagrants at night, which is a nuisance but in general not dangerous.
There has been a slight increase in violence from young people. Try to avoid groups of drunk teenagers that look suspicious and you should be fine.
While police officers in Bern will happily help you out if you are in trouble or need information, 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 won’t have much trouble.
Embassies & Consulates in Bern
- Finland, Weltpoststrasse 4, 3015 Bern , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Monday to Friday 09:00–12:00.
- The Netherlands, Seftigenstrasse 7 , ✉ email@example.com. Mo-Fr 8.30AM-12.30AM/1.30PM-5PM.
Berne is an ideal gateway to the Bernese Highlands. You can make day trips to beautiful locations like Spiez, Thun, Interlaken, Grindelwald and all the way up the Jungfrau to Jungfraujoch. Other pleasant day trips are to Biel, Fribourg and Gstaad.
Geneva, Basel and Zurich can easily be done as day-trips but deserve a longer stay.
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