Today I am going to take you through Zurich with my travel guide, a beautiful destination in the heart of Europe where I was lucky to have grown up. Zurich is the most populated city in Switzerland, however, it’s not its political capital. The population of the city is around 400.000. For such a small country it’s quite a big urban area.
Zurich is widely known as one of the financial centers not only of Switzerland, but rather of the whole world due to numerous bank headquarters which are located in this city. Therefore Zurich might not seem as a pearl for tourists, especially because there are many more attractive cities in Europe, but it definitely deserves a stop-by if you are traveling through Switzerland.
Zurich Travel Guide Contents
- Who Am I?
- Duration of Ideal Stay and Visiting Season
- How To Get To The City From Airport?
- Where To Accommodate?
- In City Transportation
- Suggested Budget
- Things To See and Do
- What To Eat/Drink At Where?
- Warnings, Tips and Tricks
- Tours/Sightsee/Hop-on & Hop-off Tours/Walk Tours
- Special Events
1. Who Am I?
Hello, my name is Kirill, I am 19 years old, currently living and studying in Zurich, Switzerland.
I moved from Russia to Switzerland in my childhood, together with my family. Therefore I speak fluently Russian, English and both the main official languages of Switzerland, German and French.
I loved traveling since I was small. Almost all my trips were together with my family so far so I can’t really distinguish a certain traveling style which I have but I’d rather say I’m a luxury traveler if I had to pick one.
Also, feel free to take a look at my Instagram page. There I post only travel photos which are all self-made from different cameras (from iPhone to semi-professional ones). However I wouldn’t say that I’m a Photographer due to the lack of practice, but you might still find some beautiful pictures on my Instagram account if you take a look at it.
Now, let’s keep on with our Zurich Travel Guide!
2. Duration of Ideal Stay and Visiting Season
From my experience, the best time to visit Zurich in terms of weather and the number of other tourists in the streets is, probably like for most other European cities, from the middle of May to the middle of June and throughout September.
However, tourists usually visit Switzerland mostly in winter to do winter sports in the mountains or in the summer, when they also usually go to the mountains and make a little tour through Switzerland.
In both cases people don’t spend much time in Zurich. They tend to use the airport as a hub and then leave the city for the Alps.
In any case, I would suggest to spend at least one whole day in Zurich, or even better, if you are looking for a weekend trip in Europe, the whole weekend, in order to feel the flair of a city located directly at a lake. I hope the following guide will convince you, dear reader, to take a closer look at this city.
3. How To Get To The City From Airport?
Zurich airport is located very close to the city, around 12 km, and offers flights to most European and some intercontinental cities, as it is the main hub of the national flag carrier SWISS.
Since the airport has a train station, you can reach Zurich in just 10 to 15 minutes or even other cities in Switzerland like Bern, St. Gallen, Geneva, Lucerne, etc. The ride to Zurich main station will cost you just around 4 francs, which is Switzerland’s currency, almost equivalent to US dollars.
Besides the train, there is also a tram connection, which also takes you to the center, but it’s got many stops so it’s a bit slower than the train.
Of course you can always use a taxi or an Uber, which is quite expensive in Switzerland, as almost everything in this country. A taxi ride from the airport to the center will cost you around 50 francs.
4. Where To Accommodate?
Zurich offers a big variety of accommodation types for different price categories. Just bear in mind that all prices in Switzerland are higher compared to other European countries. This applies also to hotels. So even if you are looking for cheap accommodation, it’s almost impossible to bargain on it.
For my travel guide, I will list hotels of different categories below, except for very cheap ones because I’ve never lived in that kind of hotel in Zurich, nor have any of my acquaintances.
- Park Hyatt
- The Dolder Grand
- Baur au Lac
- Eden au Lac
- 25hours Hotel Zurich Langstrasse
- Central Plaza
- Radisson Blu Zurich Airport
Airbnb is an option in Zurich as well but from my experience, there is very small availability in high season, which is the summer, and due to the high rental costs in the city for the owners, it’s not much cheaper when staying just a few nights.
5. In City Transportation
In order to see the whole center, you can just use your feet. The center is small enough to cover it just by walking. If you wish to go outside of the center or you just feel tired, you can use trams which are the most common public transport in the city and they cover basically the whole urban area of Zurich. By taking a tram you can reach any tourist attraction easily and quickly.
The tickets are available either some of the stops, or you can buy them in the public transport app of Zurich “ZVV” or in the app “SBB” which is responsible for all public transport in Switzerland. I would recommend to download the latter in any case because you can look up the timetable for your chosen route and buy tickets for all means of transport and any route within Switzerland.
Caution, you can not buy tickets on the tram, buy them in advance!
6. Suggested Budget
As mentioned above, Switzerland’s currency is the Swiss franc which is almost equivalent to the US dollar and Switzerland is a very expensive country(!).
If you don’t do much shopping in Zurich, which I would say is very wise, your main expenses are going to be food, transportation and entrance fees to several attractions.
You will most likely spend at least 50 francs on food per day per person if you are a budget traveler, including just lunch and dinner. Most likely it’s going to be closer to 100 francs but let’s be optimistic. Then I would assume that an additional 50 francs on different souvenirs and entry fees of excursions are going to be spent as well.
We result in a 100-150 daily budget if you are a rather economy-tourist. Be prepared to spend more than that, as usual. The budget excludes hotel costs.
The best places to change money are at the airport or at the main train station which lies directly in the center.
7. Things To See and Do
Now we get to the most important part of this travel guide for Zurich!
What are the main attractions of Zurich?
For my Zurich travel guide, I am going to list the main attractions by category and tell something additional about each one.
Places in the centre:
Zurich is located directly at a lake which is called the lake of Zurich. This location allows tourists to enjoy time directly by the water together with numerous swans, looking at the beautiful mountains far away and being in the center of a city at the same time. I like to spend there my lunch break myself when it’s warm and sunny, however, you might not be the only one to enjoy the lakeshore. It is usually the most crowded place in the city together with…
The most expensive street in the world! Yes, this short street, connecting the train station with the lakeshore is the most glamorous street in Switzerland and one of the most in the world. Many tourists wander this street up and down in the summer and it’s usually full of people. With many boutiques on it, it offers not only shopping opportunities, but also leads you through the bank district around the Paradeplatz square, which Zurich and whole Switzerland is famous for. This is the place of the famous bank secrecy and financial business.
This is a hill located in the middle of the pedestrian center giving you a beautiful view over the old town and the Limmat river.
Museums and cultural attractions
This is the main fine arts museum in the city. It is of course not as popular and widely known as the Prado, d’Orsay, Louvre or the British Museum, but it’s worth a visit if you like arts.
The entrance fee for adults is 26 francs.
Located in a 19th-century villa inside a big park, this small museum will give you a unique experience of exotic art, including Asian and African masterpieces and artifacts. This is a must-visit place if you’re looking for a contemporary transmission of an uncommon direction in art. This is personally my favorite museum in Zurich.
In Zurich, there is quite a big zoo for such a small city. Located on a hill a bit outside of the center, just beside the FIFA headquarter, it is easily accessible by tram number 6 and offers a great variety of different local and exotic species of animals. The highlights of the zoo are the elephants, a real rainforest inside a large hangar, and a soon to be opened open-sky savannah with all native animals included. If you have a spare afternoon, the zoo is definitely a nice place to visit.
Üetliberg is a mountain that overlooks the city and which you can visit by taking a short train ride from the main station. You will end up at the top of a mountain in a forest. Take a short hike to a panorama platform and enjoy a breathtaking view over the city and the lake. Also you will see much more of the snowy Alps if you visit this place.
8. What To Eat/Drink At Where?
Traditional Swiss food served inside a former arsenal storage in a perfect location, just at the Paradeplatz square. Therefore almost always crowded and loud. But the food is delicious. One of the best places to try Rösti and typical Swiss sausages. Quite pricey.
A delicious Italian-cuisine restaurant located on Augustinergasse, a beautiful little street in the old town.
A cult restaurant. One of the oldest and the most famous restaurants in the city. Many popular Swiss people were regular guests in this restaurant, like the famous book author Dürrenmatt. Best place to try Zürcher Geschnetzeltes, sliced meat Zurich style.
A modern Burger restaurant, one of the best places to try delicious burgers and burritos for a low price.
Heidi & Tell
Another burger place which is very popular among locals and students. Quite cheap as well.
Best vegetarian/vegan buffet-restaurant in town. Not a single meat dish. Very popular and usually crowded for lunch but if you are in for meat-free food, then it’s a must-visit restaurant. Not very expensive.
- Boréal coffee shop
- Babu’s Bakery & Coffeehouse
- Confiserie Sprüngli (Paradeplatz)
9. Warnings, Tips and Tricks
Zurich is a very safe city, just like Switzerland is probably the safest country in the world. You should however always stay awake when going through crowds or sitting in a crowded place because obviously general cautiousness is always recommended, but you definitely shouldn’t be scared to walk through the streets at night or avoid some districts. Unless you’re looking for a place to get drugs from, you will not find a place in the city where you’d feel at least slightly uncomfortable.
I don’t recommend doing shopping in Switzerland, unless it’s a souvenir or something which is really crucial for you.
For general shopping like food and clothes you can go to Sihlcity, a shopping mall not far from the center, but still on the border of the city, and, as always in Zurich, easily accessible by tram (number 13 or 5).
To buy souvenirs or authentic Swiss goods of good quality like a real cowbell or traditional Swiss clothes, go to Schweizer Heimatwerk stores. There are several of those in the center and also at the airport.
11. Tours/Sightsee/Hop-on & Hop-off Tours/Walk Tours
Never experienced a bus tour in Zurich, also because the city is small and you don’t need a bus excursion to see the city.
12. Special Events
If you decide to visit Switzerland in summer, try to be on the 1. of August in Zurich. This is the national day of Switzerland and in Zurich, you can witness an amazing firework performance just by the lakeshore and the beautifully decorated streets with Swiss flags.
The Sechseläuten is the traditional holiday of the city. It occurs in April and the quintessence of the feast is the burning of a large statue which symbolizes the end of winter. Also you can visit the parade of different traditional guilds of the city and their workers. A very colorful and unique event, which is worth going to Zurich in April.
You can read more about different events in Zurich and other regions of Switzerland on the official tourism website of the country: myswitzeland.com.
Hopefully, you liked my travel guide about Zurich. Please don’t forget to leave your comments and thoughts!