Zurich is the largest city of Switzerland, although Bern is the capital. The city lies in the northern part of Switzerland, situated along Lake Zurich, at the mouth of the Limmat River. Zurich is the country's main commercial and cultural center. It is also an important financial and banking center. Its stock exchange is the fourth largest in the world.
The city is a cosmopolitan place with numerous cultural, gastronomic and entertainment venues. The historic center, taking up most of downtown, is packed with beautifully restored buildings, narrow alleys, pleasant cafés and music bars. The city is also rich in culture and art. The most notable art collection is to be found in the Kunsthaus, while historical artifacts dating as far back as the Stone Age, can be admired in the Swiss National Museum. The major churches are Grossmünster and Fraumünster, the towers of which define the city skyline. Luxurious boutiques line Bahnhoffstrasse. Entertainment in the evening can be found in Niederdorf in the old city center where the best restaurants and clubs are to be found.
Zurich has a continental climate. Temperatures are mild because of the humid winds coming off Atlantic Ocean. Winters are cold and usually last from the end of November to April with temperatures reaching from -10°C to + 5°C. Summers are sunny and hot. The hottest month is July when temperatures reach up to 30°C. June, July and August are the wettest months.
January average temperature 0 deg Celsius, 61 mm rainfall February average temperature 1 deg Celsius, 60 mm rainfall March average temperature 5.5 deg Celsius, 68 mm rainfall April average temperature 7.7 deg Celsius, 85 mm rainfall May average temperature 13 deg Celsius, 101 mm rainfall June average temperature 15.5 deg Celsius, 127 mm rainfall July average temperature 18 deg Celsius, 128 mm rainfall August average temperature 18 deg Celsius, 124 mm rainfall September average temperature 15 deg Celsius, 98 mm rainfall October average temperature 10 deg Celsius, 83 mm rainfall November average temperature 4 deg Celsius, 71 mm rainfall December average temperature 1.5 deg Celsius, 71 mm rainfall
Zurich International Airport is the largest and busiest airport in Switzerland. It is located 10 km north of the city center and handles both domestic and international flights. www.zurich-airport.com /
Train: Trains leave the airport every 10 – 15 minutes. A direct line to Zurich Hauptbahnhof takes 12 minutes. Bus: Several hotels offer a free shuttle service from the airport to the hotel. The airport shuttle, however, costs around 22 CHF and leaves every half hour to several of the downtown hotels. Taxi: Taxis are very expensive in Zurich. A ride to the downtown will cost you from 50 – 60 CHF.
Zurich ’s public transport is highly efficient, clean and safe. The network includes trams, buses, S-bahn and even boats covering the lake and river. Tickets can be obtained from ticket machines or kiosks. www.zvv.ch/en /
Zurich has two kinds of public boat transports: River buses and lake streamers. During winter the river boats stop operating, while the lake streamers have a reduced schedule.
Bikes can be rented free of charge from 7:00 am to 9:20 pm every day, from May to October. The bike gates are located next to the central train station, next to the ‘Globus City’ shopping center and next to the Opera House.
Taxis are extremely expensive and simply unnecessary as there is a wide variety of options available from the public transportation system.
Swimming and sunbathing in the lake is allowed in certain designated areas and is open from May to September. The best known are Utoquai and Mythenquai.
You can buy a ski&rail ticket at the Hauptbahnhoff during the winter. The ski resort closest to Zurich is Flumserberg. The train takes you there and brings you back in the evening.
PANORAMA ON UETLIBERG
On a sunny day you can hike up this 840m hill or take the electric train. The view overlooks Zurich, the lake and the Alps. The beautiful natural surroundings and great panorama make this an ideal picnic spot.
This is Zurich’s largest cathedral and also the city’s symbol. It has iconic twin towers which dominate the city’s skyline. The church’s crypt dates back to 11 th century and is the largest in Switzerland. Archeological digs have uncovered a Roman cemetery underneath the church. The church highlights also include the stained glass windows by Augusto Giacometti and the Kalstrum Tower.
Address: Am Münsterhofplatz Phone: (01) 211 4100 Open: May – September: 9:00 am – 6:00 pm; November – February: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm; otherwise: 10:00 am – 5:00 pm Access: Tram 4 (City Hall) Admission free
Fraumunster church is a beautiful church dating from 13 th century with magnificent stained-glass windows by Marc Chagall. The windows are 10 m high and the artist completed them in 1970, at the age of 80. They are stunning works of art and are one of the highlights of Zurich.
The city’s most important art gallery houses a collection of paintings and sculptures by Swiss and international artists. The works date from the medieval period up to the 20 th century. The highlights include two of Monet’s ‘Water Lillies’, the largest collection of Munch’s works outside Norway, a large number of Giacometti’s stick statues and important works by Expressionists like Kokoschka, Bechmann and Corinth. There is also an important photography collection and an extensive library.
SWISS NATIONAL MUSEUM
Address: Museumstrasse 2 Phone: (01) 218 6511 or 65. Web: http://www.musee-suisse.ch/ Open: Tuesday–Sunday: 11:00 am – 5:00 pm.
The museum is housed in a castle-like building with a tower, and yields a fascinating glimpse into Swiss culture. The collection covers a period from the Stone Age up to the present day. There are prehistoric artifacts, including weapons, bowls and armor, to the more modern collections of clocks, toys, costumes and more.
The number one Zurich dish is Zürigschnätzlets, veal in a cream and wine sauce. Grilled sausages (wurst) of all kinds are also very popular. Swiss national dishes are ‘fondue’ (melted cheese in a pot for dipping bread) and ‘raclette’ (cheese melted in small portions, served with potatoes and pickles). These are not local to Zurich but are available at restaurants more aimed at the tourists.
Switzerland is famous for its cheeses and there are a huge variety of cheeses available as well as all kinds of hams and dried sausages. Dairy products are generally delicious, especially butter. Swiss sweets are world famous, especially the chocolate.
There are numerous cafés in Zurich where you can enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee or a glass of wine, and watch the world go by.
You can find affordable meals in the following eateries:
Larger Migros supermarkets offer a Migros Gourmessa 'gourmet' takeaway counter, one is located at the Migros City branch at Löwestrasse.
The Coop supermarket near the main station has a small fast-food restaurant.
Rosalys (near Bellevue) offers typical Swiss food including Älplermacrone - pasta with apple purée; and also has an excellent cocktail bar.
Sterne Foifi is Zurich’s most famous sausage stand (located near the USB bank building at Bellevue) where you can get a red or white sausage for 6 CHF, bread and hot mustard is included.
Rheinfelder Bierhalle (at the beginning of Niederdorf; near Central) is a huge and smoky restaurant with good-value food, rich portions and cheap beer.
There are also many international dining options available.
Street parade is a huge techno music street party, modeled on Berlin’s Love parade. Every year thousands of revelers gather from all over the world for a weekend of love, peace, freedom and techno music. The city overflows with colorful floats, dancers and loud music.
This is one of the major cultural events in Zurich, presenting cutting edge theatre performed by international theatre companies. Shows are staged throughout the city as well as open-air shows at the lake.
Date: third Monday in April
This festival celebrates the arrival of spring and the end of winter. There is a parade with beautiful colorful floats, costumes, horses and music emblems. When the parade ends at 6:00 pm a colorful effigy of Böögg – the traditional Swiss symbol of winter – has been stuffed with firecrackers and is set ablaze. The belief is that the fastest the head goes up in flames the better the summer will be. The revelry continues into the night.
Zurich has a huge number of nightclubs. It has also become the European capital of electronic music with its Street Parade. The area of Niederdorf in the old city is the best known nightlife spot with bars, restaurants, lounges, clubs and many fashion shops.
A new spot is Zurich West District located in the vicinity of S-Bahn station Hardbrücke where you can find cinemas, music clubs, lounge bars, and caf és, as well as the city’s most important theatre Schiffbau.
The Zurich Operahouse - Zuricher Operhaus (www.opernhaus.ch/) is one of the most famous opera houses in Europe. The highlight of the year is the elegant Opernball, attracting the economic and cultural élite of Switzerland and such prestigious guests as the President of the Swiss Confederation.
Zurich began as a Roman tax-collecting point named Turicum in the first century A.D. However, evidence of prior settlement exists, dating to the Bronze Age. Zurich ’s expansion was slow but during the 11 th and 12 th centuries Zurich traders managed to accumulate great wealth mainly from the silk, textile and wool trade. In 1218 it gained the status of a free city under the Holy Roman Empire. In 1336 the merchants formed guilds and became increasingly powerful. They held onto the power until the 19 th century. In 1351 Zurich joined the Swiss Confederation.
Zurich truly blossomed in the 16 th century when it became the first Swiss city to embrace the Reformation. The city’s spiritual father was Huldrych Zwingly who preached in the Grossmünsterr from 1519 until his death in 1531. The Catholic mass was abolished in 1525 and this led to Zurich becoming a center of non-conformist thinkers from all over Europe. After 1549 a Calvinist doctrine was adopted and the city saw a slow decline. Zurich’s fortunes were returned with Alfred Escher who in late 19 th century reinvented the city’s tourism, banking and manufacturing industries.
MODERN (20 TH CENTURY)
During WW I Zurich remained neutral which again led to its position as a center of dissident thinkers. It was home to Lenin for a few months between 1916 and 1917. The Dada movement was born here, James Joyce was in Zurich, writing Ulysses and Carl Jung was developing his psychoanalytical theories. After the Second World War, Zurich re-emerged as one of the world’s most important financial centers.
Today Zurich is the foremost dealer in the market of gold and other precious metals. It is home to the world’s fourth largest stock market. However, despite all this wealth Zurich is not a flashy city and is recently re-inventing itself as a lively party and subculture town.
Most valued characteristics are honesty, hard work, cleanliness, punctuality, tolerance, sobriety, and responsibility. The Swiss are also very proud of their environment and take great proud in their neutrality and promotion of peace. As a general rule, be punctual, don’t litter, don’t put your feet on the desk and show respect for the elderly.
The Swiss take punctuality very seriously. Be on time whether for a social gathering or a business meeting. If you are delayed, you should call and explain.
Zurich , as well as Switzerland in general, is relatively safe. Switzerland has a much lower crime rate than other European countries. Nevertheless, practice general precaution and keep your eyes open for pickpockets, especially at the main station (Hauptbahnhoff), in the city center and on public transport. Keep your wallet somewhere safe; do not put it in the back pocket of a rucksack or your hip pocket. Be cautious on the overnight trains. The red light district ( Langsstrasse neighborhood) may feel a little uncomfortable to some, but it is considered generally safe.
July and August are the most popular months with the best weather, but also biggest crowds. Before or after summer is still a good time to visit – June and September are still warm, the hotel prices are somewhat lower and the crowds are smaller. Winters are cold but if you like skiing it is a great time to visit.