Zürich is a stunningly beautiful city that circles around the northern end of Zürichsee (Lake Zurich), from which the Limmat River flows, bisecting the city. In the distance, magnificent snow-clad peaks overlook the waters of the lake, and the shores are dotted with stately 19th century mansions.
Its charming Old Town, comprising a substantial part of the city center, is filled with beautifully restored historic buildings and narrow, hilly alleys.
The city is crisscrossed by lovely, low bridges. On the left bank are the Altstadt (Old Town); the Hauptbahnhof (the main train station); and Bahnhofplatz, a major urban crossroads and the beginning of the Bahnhofstrasse. The right bank constitutes the livelier older section, divided into the Oberdorf (Upper Village) and the Niederdorf (Lower Village).
Zurich is said to have begun at the Lindenhof, which is where many begin their orientation to the city. This square is the architectural center of historic Zurich. From there, you can look out over the city as it rises on both banks of the Limmat from Bahnhofbrücke (Brücke means bridge) to Quailbrücke.
Below this square runs Bahnhofstrasse, one of the most elegant and expensive shopping streets in the world Old Town, or Altstadt, was developed during the early medieval period . It expanded to Weinplatz, the oldest market square, and Strehlgasse. By the 11th century, the city continued its development on the right bank with such centers as Kirchgasse and Neumarkt.
State-operated “Heimatwerk” shops present a high-quality selection of ‘cottage industry’ goods including wooden, hand carved objects and lace.
Zürich has a free bicycle rental program. For a small, refundable deposit and your passport, you can borrow a bike. More than 300 bikes are available. The most central pickup points are at Platform 18 of the Hauptbahnhof, the Globus department store on the Bahnhofstrasse, and at Theaterplatz/Stadelhofen. Bikes are available from the train station year-round; the other locations distribute bikes May through October. A great place to bike is the path along the river starting at the Hauptbahnhof and running along the left bank of the Limmat, downriver.
Zürich’s tram service, VBZ-Züri-Linie, is rapid and on time. It runs from 5:30 AM to midnight, every six minutes at peak hours, every 12 minutes at other times. All-day passes can be purchased at the stops that post maps and sell one-ride tickets. Free route plans are available from VBZ offices, located at major crossroads.
Switzerland is rich in natural attractions, which seems to make it a ‘natural’ for families with children. Exploring the mountains and lakes provides endless hours of enjoyment.
Getting around is likely to be as much an attraction as the destination. The train, bus, boat and mountain transport infrastructure are usually very attractive to children. They’ll find steam trains and steam ships, and mountain lifts of all sorts: large cable cars, four person cable cars as in Disneyland, chairlifts, and many ancient funiculars.
Zürich is a central point allowing one-day excursions almost anywhere in the country. Luzern and Bern are only 75 minutes away. The Rhein, the medieval village of Stein, and the Rhein Falls are also close.
Swiss cooking deserves its reputation of being delicious, clean and wholesome. The Swiss National Dish is Rösti: a sort of Swiss-style hash browned potatoes, which cannot be imagined until they have been tasted. There are many regional variations on Rösti (with eggs, cheese, bacon, onion, etc.), especially in the mountains.
One of the most popular excursions out of Zürich starts with a train ride to Uetliberg. From there, there is a panoramic two-hour Planetary Path (Planetenweg) running along the mountain ridge overlooking the lake to Felsenegg. En route you pass models of some of the planets in the solar system: These and the distances between them are on a scale of one to 1000 million.
Along the shores of Lake Zürich, concrete walkways give way to trees and lawns in the Arboretum on the west bank, making the area perfect for strolling. Designated areas for outdoor swimming and sunbathing are open May to September. Well-known spots are Utoquai on the east shore of the lake and Mythenquai on the west shore. There are also various free swimming spots, such as the one just north of the confluence of the Sihl and Limmat Rivers.
A day in the Jungfrau region is easily arranged through tour services in Zurich. It is an incredible experience. Travelers are given a range of choices as to stops and activities. One option is to buy a Jungfrau pass and plane to spread the experience over several days. That allows time to stop for an afternoon in the alpine village of Grindalwald and just relax and revel in the beauty of the mountains and the quiet beauty of the village.
A second day can be spent taking the tour of the glacier farther up the mountain. Both are experiences to be savored and enjoyed at a relaxed pace.
Switzerland’s largest city is surely among the most beautiful in all of Europe. Even today, Zurich retains much of its 19th-century charm. Zurich is also considered to be one of the best shopping destinations in the world. The city is both large enough to offer all amenities to its visitors and small enough to make the visitor feel at home.