Zurich is picture perfect. Set on the banks of a clear, blue lake, its cobblestone streets wind between medieval churches, and it’s framed by the snow-capped Swiss Alps. The city is famous for finance, but it also has a thriving cultural scene. You’ll discover a wide range of arts and entertainment options including the opera, classical concerts, ballet, theater and more than 50 museums within the city limits. New nightclubs, restaurants and bars continue to pop up around the city.
Finance generates a quarter of all jobs in Zurich, which is home to the fourth-largest stock exchange in the world. Low tax rates attract a range of international companies, with biotechnology and life sciences firms expanding rapidly.
Getting to and from the airport
Zurich Airport is 13 kilometers (8 miles) north of central Zurich. The airport has excellent public transport links to the city and beyond. Input your destination on the airport’s online scheduling tool to find the best route and mode of transport. You can purchase a ticket from the countrywide integrated public transport system at ticket machines in customs halls 1 and 2. Taxis are an expensive option, but you can find airport taxi ranks in front of arrival halls 1 and 2. A one-way trip to the city center costs around 70 Swiss Francs (US$72.36 using the exchange rate US$1 to 0.97 CHF).
Getting around Zurich
Swiss cities have superb public transportation systems; Zurich is no exception. Buses and trains run on time, and the network of destinations is extensive. A ZurichCard gives you unlimited access to public transportation, as well as admission to museums and coupons for shops, restaurants and activities. The 24-hour card costs 24 CHF (US$24.81), and the 72-hour card costs 48 CHF (US$49.62). Day passes and single ticket prices vary depending on the travel zone. Buy tickets from automated machines and validate them before you take your first journey.
The city is easily navigated on foot, as well. Old Town, the lake promenade and several other attractions are within walking distance from one another. Getting around on bicycle is also a good option—especially since the city operates a free bike rental program called “Züri rollt.” Bikes can be picked up at six locations in the city with the presentation of a valid ID and a deposit of CHF 20 (US$20.68).
Where to stay
For luxury and upscale accommodation, try Steigenberger Bellerive au Lac (Utoquai 27, Zurich 8008; Ph: +41-44-254-4000), Hotel Schweizerhof Zurich (Bahnhofplatz 7, Zurich 8021; Ph: +41-44-218-8888), Swissotel Zurich (Schulstrasse 44, Zurich 8058; Ph: +41-44-317-3111), NH Zurich Airport (Schaffhauserstrasse 101, Zurich 8152; Ph: +41-44-808-5000) or Courtyard Zurich North (Max-Bill-Platz 19, Zurich 8050; Ph: +41-44-564-0404.)
Midscale and economy options include Four Points by Sheraton Sihlcity Zurich (Kalandergasse 1, Zurich 8045; Ph: +41-44-554-0000), Radisson Blu Hotel Zurich Airport (Zuerich Flughafen, Zurich 8058, Ph: + 41-44-800-4040) or Ibis Zurich City West (Schiffbaustrasse, Zurich 8005; Ph: +41-1-170-5277).
Things to see and do
Don’t leave Zurich without a stroll through Old Town, or Altstadt. The historic heart of the city is filled with charming 19th century buildings, winding cobblestone walkways and contemporary cafés and shops. The area is also the center of Zurich’s nightlife—take your pick from the many bars and nightclubs that come to life when the sun goes down.
From Old Town, you can access many of the city’s principal tourist attractions, including two famed churches. Fraumunster Cathedral is known for its striking stained glass. Five large windows, each with a different dominant color, line the abbey. You can visit from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The twin towers of Grossmunster Church are local landmarks. Make your way up the south tower for a view overlooking the Limmat River. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Art enthusiasts should put the Kunsthaus Zurich Museum of Art on their itinerary. Works from the Middle Ages to today include pieces by Picasso, Monet and Chagall, although the focus is on Swiss art. Admission is CHF 25 (US$25.84). It’s open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and stays open until 8 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday. It’s closed on Monday. The Swiss National Museum contains an exceptional collection of pieces significant to Switzerland’s culture and history. You’ll find weapons, flags, textiles, jewelry and paintings. It’s open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday-Sunday; hours extend to 7 p.m. on Thursday. It’s closed on Monday. Admission is CHF 10 (US$10.34).
Uetliberg Mountain towers over Zurich, providing beauty and recreation. Well-marked hiking and biking routes convert to sledding trails in winter. The mountain is easily accessible; it’s a 20-minute train ride from the city center.
Another way to experience the natural beauty of Zurich is by boat. The Lake Zurich Navigation Co. offers a selection of routes and tour lengths. Board the ships at Mythenquai 333, 8038 Zurich. Plan to cruise at sunset for a particularly scenic trip.
Where to eat
Michelin-starred Pavillon shines, even in a city with high culinary standards. Head chef Laurent Eperon combines traditional Swiss ingredients with modern techniques. The knowledgeable wait staff can help you navigate the 49-page wine list to find the perfect pairing to your meal, which you’ll enjoy with magnificent views of Lake Zurich and the Swiss Alps. Find it at Talstrasse 1, 8001 Zurich; Ph: +41 44 220 50 22.
There are several exclusively vegetarian restaurants in Zurich, including Tibits. The overflowing buffet is the focal point at this lively establishment. Try the Thai tofu salad, Arabian tabouli or eggplant Cordon Bleu. You pay by weight, and takeaway is slightly cheaper. Find it at Seefeldstrasse 2, 8008 Zurich; Ph: +41 44 260 32 22.
For a taste of multicultural Zurich, check out My Kitchen, a cozy spot that prides itself on the authenticity of its Malaysian dishes. It’s at Franklinstrasse 6, 8050 Zurich; Ph: +41 43 810 06 78. Certo Ristorante Bar is a good bet for traditional Italian fare. Find it at Strassburgstrasse 5, 8004, Zurich; Ph: +41 44 241 04 04. And Brasserie Lipp offers fine French dining—think beef tartare and coq au vin. It’s at Uraniastrasse 9, 8001 Zurich, Switzerland; Ph: +41 43 888 66 66.
Stop in at Conditorei Schober, a stylish café in Old Town, to sample the high-quality chocolate that Switzerland is famous for. Mugs of rich hot chocolate are prepared with thick whipped cream. Premium chocolate bars, macaroons and truffles will satisfy your sweet tooth. Find it at Napfgasse 4, 8001 Zurich; Ph: +41 44 251 51 50.