When walking through Zurich one might think they are in Heaven. The blue river Limmat combined with the blue sky and a skyline dominated by goth style cathedrals make you never want to leave.
I heard someone say once, Switzerland is a country where there are no poor people. And indeed, that is the case as you will learn more in this article.
- Travel to Zurich
- Where to Stay in Zurich
- Top things to do in Zurich
- Food and Drinks Highlights
- Closing Remarks
Zurich, pronounced [ˈtsyːrɪç], is the capital city of the Zurich Canton. It’s often believed it also serves as a second capital due to its role in the past hosting the Confederal Diet in two-year rotations however, believe it or not Switzerland doesn’t have an official capital. Yep, you read that right.
It’s generally accepted that Bern is the capital city as it hosts the seat of government.
Zurich has been permanently settled for the last 2000 years since Roman days. Nowadays, less than 450 000 souls call it home.
The official language of Zurich is German, but the main spoken language is Zurich German, the local variant of the Alemannic Swiss German dialect.
In speaking with some German acquaintances they’ve mentioned Swiss German in general is very hard to understand as the Swiss do have a specific accent and use different words depending on the context.
You could probably say the same for Scottish English vs. English.
Although Switzerland is part of Schengen, they have not joined the E.U. hence they don’t use Euros. Hence, within Switzerland, you will also need Swiss francs.
In a 2009 survey by CityMayors.com, Zürich was ranked 9th among the “World’s 10 Most Powerful Cities”. In the 2017 Global Financial Centres Index, Zürich was ranked as having the 11th most competitive financial centre in the world, and second most competitive in Europe after London.
Travel to Zurich
As a landlocked country Switzerland is mostly accessible by air or land transport. However, it might come as a surprise that from London flights are fairly cheap. Find out how to find cheap flights here.
The main airport in Zurich is Zurich Airport (ZRH). Once you land there are plenty of transfer options anything from Taxis to trains.
Talking of trains, that is one thing you will notice as the de facto way of moving not only around the country or canton but also in the main cities themselves. The rail network is fairly impressive and tickets are easy to procure.
Whilst many countries perceive a train ticket as a price per kilometre to the destination, here, in addition they have options based on how many minutes you want to travel within a certain zone. Got me confused the first time, I must admit!
Where to Stay in Zurich
In terms of accommodation, on this occasion I stood outside of Zurich at ibis Baden Neuenhof.
I would recommend booking your travel through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates.
Top things to do in Zurich
To get the most out of Zurich I would say to visit it between March through to September similar to Sofia, Bulgaria. Remember, this is a mountainous city and temperatures can go below -10°C during the colder months.
Even so, I would suggest having a light jacket on you as it can feel a bit cold in the evenings.
For this trip a weekend is perfectly fine from Friday night till Sunday or 2-3 days. You will notice that most of the attractions are within walking distance depending on where your hotel may by.
Landesmuseum (Swiss National Museum)
To get to know a country, I’d say it’s always best to start with the national museum. They offer a good impression of the heritage and history behind its people.
And the Landesmuseum doesn’t let down. It offers a good perspective of Switzerland as a whole, from history to culture the expositions tell the stories of the Swiss.
You might think Switzerland was well off since forever, but that’d be a wrong assumption. The Swiss were the “Poor man of Europe” for many years in the past. It wasn’t till WWII that the Swiss emerged as a prosperous nation.
This is known as the “Swiss miracle”, having supplied during the war all the neighbouring countries with weapons. I guess neutrality has its benefits.
Zürich’s Town Hall
The city local government occupies this stately riverfront building dating from the late 17th century. The building is fairly unique in architecture with two golden lions guarding the main entrance and ornate grilled first floor windows.
Weinstube zur Haue
Although you might not be ready for a lunch break just yet, I’d still recommend you visit this house as it features an almost Bavarian style façade with similar looking inner designs. I found the flags and overall aspect very typical and interesting.
I would say a definite stop should be the Quaibrücke bridge. Dating from the late 1800s, this bridge over the Limmat has lanes for cars, pedestrians & trams. Take a moment to look on both sides of the bridge and observe the piece and tranquillity this city exerts.
From Quaibrücke bridge head over in the narrow park of Quaianlagen. It offers ample places to sit and observe street performers with a spectacular background of the city itself mirrored by the lake Zurich.
I found it quite relaxing to sit down on a bench and just watch pedestrians walk by whilst I enjoyed some swiss chocolate snacks.
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Benches and heritage architecture around a pedestrian square by Lake Zurich, hosting seasonal markets. It offers a good place for photos as from there you can even see the Zurich Opera House which opened in 1891, for classic and contemporary opera & ballet.
On a sunny day the square burst with white so, sun glasses will be very much welcomed.
Similar to the London West End or New York Broadway, Zurich has its Theaterstrasse. This is where you will be able to find cinemas and theatres for your weekend night out like a local. If not too much out of your way, worth checking out some of the local plays.
This is an iconic twin-towered Romanesque cathedral, where 1500s religious reformer Huldrych Zwingli preached. Huldrych Zwingli is known for leading the Swiss reformed movement in Switzerland.
The cathedral is very imposing and can be seen from all sides of the river Limmat. It’s also very close to the old city centre.
St. Peter Church
St. Peter is one of the four main churches of the old town of Zürich. An interesting thing is that the church clock of St. Peter is the largest tower clock face in Europe.
For centuries, the clock tower of St. Peter was Zürich’s ‘official local time’ and as such, all public city clocks had to conform to it.
Niederdorfstrasse is the main street that runs through Zurich’s Niederdorf district. It lies on the east bank of the Limmat.
It leads into the old city centre squares starting from the statue of the Swiss Soldier. It’s a good opportunity to buy souvenirs or that all important fridge magnet!
Zurich Train Station
This is Switzerland’s largest and busiest train hub that got high scores in the 2020 European Railway Index, ranking second after London’s St. Pancras station.
It serves as the main portal for commuters from around the canton to come into the city for work. It offers services to all destinations in Switzerland as well as local connections.
The architecture of the façade is formidable, worthy of a photo to say the least!
Food and Drinks Highlights
Any Zürcher will tell you that a good place to go and eat is a restaurant that serves traditional Swiss food. I found an interesting one, highly recommended in the old city centre.
At Swiss Chuchi Restaurant they serve all things Swiss. An interesting thing I found was that there are several types of fondue, not only cheese one.
Although I chose the classic cheese fondue, could be worth exploring the other ones also as they involve a form of live self cooking. Careful however, prices tend to be a bit on the higher end.
Another interesting thing with their food is that cheese and white sauces are predominant in their cuisine as well as cured meats. One such food was a stuffed cabbage sarma style food drenched in white cheese sauce.
It wasn’t amazing but not bad either – I suspect the magic was more in the sauce 😉 .
In general, most of the food resembled a lot Slovakian and German/Austrian cuisines which you can read more about.
In terms of drinks, as this is a beer drinking country much like Czechia, I would suggest to start from that. They have plenty of choices from wheat beers to blonde beers.
One thing I am going to say is, one does not simply go to Switzerland without getting themselves a few chocolates. They use pure Alpine cow milk, and high-quality cocoa beans to produce award-winning chocolates.
Switzerland is renowned for milk chocolate which contains cocoa butter that melts quickly at body temperature.
I found Zurich a very elegant and attractive place to visit. Although prices tend to be a bit on the higher end, making it a bit more expensive for tourists, Zurich has many things to offer.
Everything from picturesque lake scenery to beautiful Baroque and Romanesque architecture. It’s a perfect destination for solo/family travellers wishing to explore this superb Swiss gem.
Ready to book? Below are some recommendations to get your trip started:
- Flights – we use flight aggregators such as Skyscanner and Google flights to find the best options. You can find more information about finding cheap flights here.
- Flight compensation – Compensair or AirHelp for flight delays and cancellations.
- Accommodation – would recommend booking your accommodation through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates. We also use TripAdvisor to read reviews.
- Transport – consider Rentalcars.com for car renting or if you rely on public transport, you can use Omio for trains, coaches, ferries, airport transfers and even flights.
- Activities – a great option is GetYourGuide or Viator for tours, excursions, experiences and tickets to many tourist attractions.
- Travel money – we have Starling Bank accounts (UK residents only) with 0% fees on FX and a good Mastercard exchange rate. Revolut is another good option.
- Internet abroad – with Airalo you can access a wide range of eSIMs (digital SIM cards) available for different countries and regions.
- Luggage storage – if you need to store your bags whilst exploring the destination, you can use Radical Storage to find your closest luggage storage and enjoy your journey until the very end.
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