While being quite small in size this town has a lot to offer.
With cosmopolitan vibe, many night bars and marvelous nature, Zurich should be on top of traveler’s bucket lists. Located on the lake and near the Alps, there is plenty of fresh air to breath in if you had hectic time at work before your holidays. You can get by very easily with English because there are lots of Expats living and working here and the city is multilingual.
Use public transportation.
- To get to the city you can use a bus like FlixBus for about $15 round trip (from Germany and Italy) or Student Agency yellow buses from Eastern Europe. If you are coming from afar, fly into either Zurich Airport which is 30 minutes from the city center or to Basel Airport (easyJet) which is ca. 2 hours with a train. Trains are very expensive in Switzerland, so make sure to calculate the difference between flying into Zurich or Basel Airport.
- The trains are very efficient and always on time, plus they have amazing views if you travel outside of the city. (For day trips you can check out hikes around the city.) You can look up the trains through SBB App or check ZVV App for all the public transportation. Buy a Zurich pass to get more value out of your money because it includes museums, too. For 24H you will pay around 25 CHF or 72-hour for 50 CHF. Daily Tickets for town zone 110 will cost you 6.20 CHF which is better than buying one-way tickets for around 3.10 CHF.
- If you are planning to stay only in downtown most of the places are walking distance
- Rent a bike. You can stroll around the town with city bikes because this is quite a popular way of transportation also by the locals. You will have a pleasant experience. Check out their website for more info.
When to Go:
All around the year is great. I very much prefer summer with warm weather because you can swim in the lake or the river. Although it is not bad to go in the winter either. You can go skiing, cross-country skiing or just admire snow fairyland.
Summer time at the harbor.
What to eat:
- Swiss chocolate – Lindt. Visit Chocolate shop.
- Fondue – To get by cold winters in the past when fresh ingredients were limited, fondue came to the rescue. Using stale bread or potatoes with melted cheese Fondue become one of the most traditional meals in the region. You can try it in many places around town or even book a Fondue tour (available in the winter only)
- Rösti – Fried mass of potatoes is usually served with meat or just a salad. It is quite heavy so you might not need a dessert after this or flush it down with a big glass of local beer.
Where to Eat:
- Frau Gerolds Garten (Geroldstrasse 23) Enjoy a beer in vintage atmosphere
- Moudi’s Lecker Cafe (Kronenstrasse 48) Try Mezze platter
- Damas (Josefstrasse 151) Best hummus in town
- Delish Café Take-Out (Marktgasse 17) Great coffee
- Swiss Chuchi (Rosengasse 10) Raclette and Fondue
- Fribourger Fonduestübli (Rotwandstrasse 38) Cheese fondue
- Café Schober (Napfgasse 4) Famous for hand made nicely decorated cakes
- Schwarzenbach (Münstergasse 17) BIO coffee, teas, cakes and dried fruits with Harry Potter look and feel
- ViCAFE Bellevue (Theaterstrasse 14,) Espresso
Another option is to buy a small lunch in the supermarket nad sit by the water with many people from offices, enjoying the lunch break outside.
Sitting in the harbor with the lunch. People are hiding from the heat under the trees, after lunch, you can also rent a paddle boat right a.cross the small bridge.
- Fill up your drinking bottles in one of the town fountains. Not the decorative ones 🙂 Zurich has more than 1,200 drinking fountains around the city. And the water tastes really good.
- Check out Coop or Migros canteen restaurant. This place is more like a food court, located in the small shopping malls around town. The food is quite good and the price is much lower than other places around the town.
- Buy snacks before you walk around the city. (You can see what I usually bring with me in my post about healthy snacks.)
- I always look for viewpoints in every city, not only for my sake but because my boyfriend is obsessed with them. One of the best in Zurich is without a doubt view from atop Grossmünster.
- Another spot which photographers love is Lindenhof. This is an oasis where you can look over the old town. This place is a quiet area where locals come to drink or do picnic during the summer days and you can have a perfect view of the town, lake and if lucky with the weather, the mountains, too.
- If you feel like you need to see a bit of nature just hike up or catch a train to Utliberg . You can check out the weather through the webcam before heading up.
Artist in you:
- You will definitely appreciate Viaduct and West Zurich area. This place is more than just a cool neighborhood. It is filled with trendy bars and cafes and you can even rent a desk in creative shared office space. My favorite bohemian urban patio garden bar/restaurant is Frau Gerolds Garten. It is a hip open bar in the summer and fondue place with the tent in the winter. Check out availability on Frau Gerolds Garten website. In the summer, it has magical lights installed all over the place and plants growing everywhere. You can sit anywhere you like from benches, picnic tables, large cushioned stairs, garden chairs to giant flower pots. They even have live bands playing here many summer nights. Don’t miss out quirky shops where you can get special souvenirs.
- Visit Nordic home decor at Neumarkt 17 for nordic inspired accessories. I love the Scandinavian home style and I have a home full of it. This shop has a great selection of Scandinavian furniture and accessories so go go go!
- Previously a brewery this place has a charm. Löwenbräukunst transformed into a complex of museums and galleries.
- Kunstgriff offers coffee and you can check out art pages meanwhile.
- Check out meetup.com for art events or meet ups in the area
Summary of my Top 15 things to Do:
- Catch a boat ride on the Limmat River
- Walk around Altstadt (Old Town)
- Visit Lindenhof viewpoint
- Climb up Grossmünster
- Enjoy magical atmosphere at Frau Gerolds Garten.
- See Opera house
- Admire the Chagall stained glass windows inside Fraumünster
- Walk around Viaduct and West Zurich area
- Drink Absinthe where Dadaism was born
- Eat at the World’s Oldest Vegetarian Restaurant
- Climb up the Utliberg
- Go Inside the Glass Biodomes at the Botanical Gardens
- Swim in the crystal clear river (Schwimmbad Oberer Letten badi-info.ch)
- Smell and buy spices in Schwarzenbach
- Visit Löwenbräukunst
Good to Know:
- As mentioned before, don’t be afraid of drinking from the water fountains in the town or on the hike.
- If you need to go to the bathroom during your day in the town, and you have been to all the restaurants and cafes you wanted to visit already, there is usually free bathroom at the top floor in Coop shopping malls. Also if you travel by train for more than one stop, you can use free, usually quite clean toilets here. There are also paid bathrooms on many train stops for 1 swiss franc.
Get guides: Rick Steves guide to Switzerland or Swiss Watching book is a great insight to the Swiss nation and an easy read for the travel. If you are interested in what make Swiss Swiss definitely read this book!
Did you have a different experience? Would you like to see more ideas for TODOs? Let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear from you!