Explore Zurich

Zurich Travel Guide

Zurich is a rich and luxurious city in every way, from the elegant boutiques along Bahnhofstrasse, to the unimaginable treasures that are lying in underground vaults in the famous Swiss banks, and not to forget the wealth of its historical and cultural significance to the world. Zurich is the world's banking capital, but as well as being a city of fat cats parading in pin-stripes, glued to their mobile phones and swinging patent leather briefcases, you'll also discover that this is the city that gave birth to the avant-garde Dadaist movement, and where James Joyce wrote Ulysses. The city's Museum of Fine Arts houses one of Europe's most extensive collections, from 15th century religious iconography to the modern art works of Dali, Arp, Hockney, Cezanne, Monet, Gaugin, Munch and Picasso.<br /><br /> Visitors can spend days exploring Zurich's cobbled streets, wandering through its museums, exploring its flea markets or walking away with free gifts from its chocolate factories. The quays, with their promenades, are made for walking, especially along the shores of the lake. Zurich also lays claim to an active restaurant and café culture that's ideal for people-watching, and a lively, multi-ethnic population to rival any other major European city. The exacting order of the Swiss, with their passion for neatness and precision, may create an impression of rather a prim and staid society, but visitors will discover quite the opposite when exploring Zurich more intimately.<br /><br />

Fraumünster Church

Address: Am Münsterhofplatz Zurich

Of the church spires that characterise Zurich's skyline, the thin blue spire of Fraumünster is the most graceful. Overlooking the historic old square of Münsterhof, the former pig market, the church was founded in 853 and its convent inhabited by German noblewomen until the 13th century.<br /><br /> Important architectural features include the Romanesque choir and the enormous elaborate organ, but its chief attractions are the five beautiful stained glass windows designed by Marc Chagall in 1970.<br /><br />

Swiss National Museum

Address: Museumstrausse 2 Zurich

A fascinating exploration of Swiss national history, the Swiss National Museum has an impressive and varied collection of ancient artefacts, providing visitors with a richer understanding of Swiss life and consciousness through the centuries. Housed in an exquisite castle-like building, with a distinctive tower, the permanent collection contains a comprehensive anthology of artefacts from the Stone Age to modern times.<br /><br /> First stop is the archaeology exhibit where tools and articles dating back to before 800BC are on display. Highlights at the museum include the Celestial globe of Jost Bürg (1594), a groundbreaking symbol of European thought, religious reliquaries from the 13th to 16th centuries and ancient wheels, considered to be among the earliest ever found. Another major drawcard is the Armoury, where historic Swiss weaponry used in combat between 800 and 1800BC can be found. Expect to see crossbows, swords and suits of armour.<br /><br />

Kunsthaus Zurich (Fine Arts Museum)

Address: Heimplatz 1 Zurich

Devoted for the most part to 19th and 20th century artwork, the Kunsthaus Zurich (Zurich Fine Arts Museum) is a cultural drawcard for any art lover. Holding one of the largest collections of works by Edvard Munch outside Norway, as well as works by renowned modern artists such as Chagall, Picasso, Monet, Rothko and the Expressionists, Kokoschka, Beckmann and Corinth to name a few, there is a whole host of quality artwork at which the visitor can marvel.<br /><br /> Visitors can also view the creative talents of cutting edge Swiss artists such as the sculptor and painter Alberto Giacometti, and well-known Swiss duo Fischli/Weiss. Situated in a sophisticated building with contemporary exhibitions, a trip to the Kunsthaus Zurich makes for a very rewarding cultural day out.<br /><br />

Polybahn and Rigiblick Funiculars

Address: Polybahn: Central station (Hauptbahnhof). Rigiblick: Seilbahn Zurich

Trains, buses, trams and bikes are common ways of getting around Zurich. To get above the bustling streets and cobbled walkways, hop onto either the Polybahn or Rigiblick Funicular for panoramic views of the city and Lake Zurich. The traditional Polybahn was first opened in 1889 to solve the transport problem of students travelling from central Zurich to the University of Technology, which is situated on the towering Zürichberg hill.<br /><br /> Recently renovated, the Polybahn has maintained its classic Swiss appearance and continues to haul students and tourists to the Polyterasse viewpoint. Serving an attractive neighbourhood north of Zurich, the Rigiblick Funicular rewards travellers with a sweeping panoramic view of the city and the unmistakable Mount Rigi (1797m).<br /><br />

Museum of Design Zurich

Address: Ausstellungsstrasse 60 Zurich

Known for sophisticated designs such as the internationally recognised symbol of the Red Cross, it is no wonder that Switzerland has a museum dedicated solely to design. With three separate collections, visitors can indulge in the designs of the Poster Collection, Design Collection and Graphic Collection, spanning the past century or visit one of the temporary exhibits where works of acclaimed industrial designers, photographers, graphic artists and architects are regularly shown.<br /><br /> Designed by the progressive Swiss architects Adolf Steger and Karl Egender as a Functionalist manifesto, the Museum of Design Zurich is a great example of modern architecture in Switzerland and is a gallery not to be missed.<br /><br />

Niederdorf

Address: Niederdorfstrasse Zurich

Situated in the old town, across from central station, the narrow lanes of Niederdorf wind through towering 14th century buildings revealing small plazas where restaurants spill onto cobbled streets and buskers entertain diners and passers-by with miscellaneous music. This charming district has an interesting array of fashion stores, bookshops and antique dealers as well as superb independent cheese, wine and pastry shops.<br /><br /> In the evening the area transforms into one of Zurich's buzzing nightlife venues with a wide selection of bars, restaurants and clubs to be explored.<br /><br />

Zurich Zoo

Address: Zurichbergstrasse 221 Zurich

Unlike the dubious reputation of zoos worldwide, the Zurich Zoo is refreshingly dedicated to nature conservation, maintaining ecosystems and protecting animal species, with many projects of reintroduction into the wild. Offering guided tours and in depth information tools, the Zurich Zoo does its best to educate the public. With over 260 different species and 2200 animals, visitors will get the unique chance to view endangered animal species such as snow leopards and red pandas.<br /><br /> Recreating ecosystems from exotic Madagascar to the rugged Ethiopian Highlands and housing the various animals in spacious enclosures, a visit to the diverse Zurich Zoo is a pleasurable and invigorating excursion. Visit the website to see feeding times and which new pups have been born.<br /><br />

Centre Le Corbusier

Address: Hoeschgasse 8 Zurich

The final work of the renowned Swiss architect who pioneered modernism and laid the foundation for Bauhaus, the Centre Le Corbusier in Zurichhorn Park is the epitome of modern design. A conglomeration of his life's work, the Centre Le Corbusier and Heidi Weber Museum unify Le Corbusier's architecture, paintings, furniture, sculpture and writings, all in one space.<br /><br /> Created in the 1960s, the contemporary building strong references to Mondrian and is a jumble of cubic structures made of coloured panels, glass and steel, protected by a detached angular roof. Initially designed as a private house, the many spaces of the Centre Le Corbusier have fared well as an exhibition and learning centre. On your way to this illuminating masterpiece, take a stroll alongside the Limmat River in picturesque Zurichhorn Park and keep a look out for the sculptures of Jean Tinguely and Henry Moore.<br /><br />

Swiss Alps

Address: Zurich

The Alps contain some of Switzerland's most dramatic landscapes, in a country already well endowed with spectacular scenery and fabulous alpine vistas. Situated at the heart of the Alps, Switzerland shares the mountain range with France, Italy and Austria and provides winter and summer time enjoyment for skiers, snowboarders, walkers and climbers. Switzerland boasts the first ever ski resort, and since then over 200 first class resorts have attracted thousands of Swiss and international downhill and cross-country skiers as well as snowboarders. The tradition of skiing goes back two centuries. Today, with more than 1,700 mountain railways and ski lifts, renowned ski schools and instructors, the best ski equipment in the world, and outstanding slopes and facilities catering for all levels of ability, it deserves to be called 'Europe's winter playground'. The ideal resort for beginners or families is Grindelwald in the Jungfrau region, while intermediates and snowboarders head for the twin resorts of Davos and Klosters, with miles of excellent ski terrain and acclaimed to be one of the top snowboarding destinations worldwide. Expert skiers can enjoy the challenge of 7,200 ft (2,700m) vertical drops on the Klein Matterhorn at Zermatt, and the ski valley of Verbier is ideal for shoulder-season skiing as its location provides early snow that lingers late into the spring. The stylish resort of St Moritz offers the most energetic and varied nightlife out of all the Swiss resorts. The ideal ski season runs from January to late March, but is most crowded during the Christmas holidays and the month of February. Climbers and walkers head to the Alps between June and September when the weather is warmer and more settled. There are more than 40,390 miles (65,000km) of well-marked and maintained hiking trails as well as longer treks across the country that will reveal miles and miles of unspoiled beauty. Grindelwald has long been the capital of summer hiking in the Bernese Alps, and more recently added a network of groomed trails for winter hikers. Climbers have long been lured by the challenges of the Matterhorn and there are some memorable hikes up to the cliffs below the summit. The Swiss Alpine Club (SAC) is the best source of information on mountaineering. The most accessible and visited alpine area is the magnificent Bernese Oberland region in the centre of the country with classic Swiss scenery - picturesque peaks, quaint wooden chalets and charming mountain villages, green pastures, lakes and the tinkle of cow bells. This is a fabulous area for walking and provides exceptional winter sports.<br /><br />

Zurich Festival

Where: Various,Zurich

When: 30 June - 2 July 2017

Zurich's Festspiele (or Zurich Festival) is an annual celebration of classical music, art, theatre, opera, and dance that presents local and international artists of world renown status in venues around the Swiss capital. Special concerts, exhibitions and performances are held throughout the city in venues such as the famous Opernhaus Zurich, Kunsthaus Zurich, Theater am Neumarkt and some stunning open-air venues.<br /><br /> Be sure to grab a programme so as not to miss some of the cultural highlights of the year.<br /><br />

Street Parade

Where: ,Zurich

When: 12 August 2017

Every August in Zurich, the most colourful house and techno music parade in the world fascinates hundreds of thousands of dance fans from every continent around the world. Around 30 Love Mobiles, brightly decorated trucks packed with giant music systems, DJs and party people, drive at walking pace through the crowd of people around Lake Zurich.<br /><br /> In addition to these 30 mobile platforms, seven large stages along the route round off the contemporary electronic music selection with top DJs, live acts, multimedia and dance animations. Be sure to dress the part, in all kinds of colourful attire, to make the best out of your Street Parade experience.<br /><br />

Warmer Mai

Where: Various,Zurich

When: 1 - 31 May annually

Zurich's gay and lesbian event of the year, Warmer Mai is one of the city's first summer festivals and hosts an action-packed month of festivities. Aimed to showcase the cultural products of the gay and lesbian community, the festival showcases many entertaining theatre pieces, art exhibitions, film nights, talent competitions and sporting events over a 30-day period.<br /><br /> Enthralling themed parties hosted at various bars and clubs throughout the city keep the spirit of the Warmer Mai festival alive, as visitors dance and celebrate into the early hours of the morning.<br /><br />

Rico’s Kunststuben

Address: Seestrasse 160, Küsnacht Zurich

Food Type: French

Widely considered to be one of the finest restaurants in Switzerland, even perhaps the whole of Europe, maestro chef and owner Horst Petermann's award-winning reputation attracts the wealthy gourmets of Zurich and boasts a celebrity list that includes the Swiss president, singer Tina Turner (who lives nearby) and the emperor of Japan. The restaurant is in the lakeside town of Kusnacht, about 15 minutes from the city, housed in an elegantly decorated building that was once an art gallery. The menu changes regularly, and can include outstanding speciality lobster dishes or a number of other inventive dishes such as Tuscan dove, scampi lasagne in lemongrass sauce or stuffed squid with a fennel confit. All entrées, desserts and cheeses are of exceptional quality, as is the wine cellar. Open for lunch and dinner Tuesday to Saturday. Advance booking essential.<br /><br />

Kronenhalle

Address: Rämistrasse 4 (Right Bank) Zurich

Food Type: Local

One of Zurich's most famous restaurants, Kronenhalle is the place to see and be seen, and over the years has attracted celebrity greats such as James Joyce, Pablo Picasso, Richard Strauss and Yves Saint-Laurent. The interior is decorated with original works of famous 20th-century artists including Picasso, Matisse and Miró. The fare is traditional Swiss and includes huge portions of rösti, a delicious herring in double cream, veal steak and duck liver. Reservations are essential.<br /><br />

Zunfthaus Zur Zimmerleuten

Address: Limmatquai 40 (Right Bank) Zurich

Food Type: Local

Originally the carpenter's guildhall, Zunfthaus Zur Zimmerleuten is one of the architectural showpieces of Zurich. Up a flight of Baroque stairs, the elegant dining room serves up dishes that combine Zurich specialities with chef innovations, including the Lake Zurich fish soup with garlic rouille or the triple fillet accompanied with rösti and cream sauce. Reservations recommended. Open daily.<br /><br />

Zeughauskeller

Address: Bahnhofstrasse 28a, Paradeplatz (Left Bank) Zurich

Food Type: Local

The huge dining hall built in 1487, with thick stone pillars, wooden beams and a decorative ceiling, was originally the city's armoury, and the medieval character of the restaurant is highlighted by the décor, with weapons and paintings from the Middle Ages, and waitresses in old-fashioned costume. Known for its tasty traditional Swiss meals, the portions are hearty and served with local beer. Classic speciality dishes include the Zurich-style sliced veal and mushrooms and rösti potatoes. Zeughauskeller also offers a wide variety of different types of sausage. Open daily from 11.30am. Reservations recommended.<br /><br />

Blaue Ente

Address: Seefeldstrasse 223 Zurich

Food Type: Modern Eclectic

Situated on the site of a 300-year old mill, this slick modern restaurant draws trendsetters from the advertising and arts scene who are attracted by the modern approach to fresh ingredients and light cuisine. Duck ('blaue ente' means 'blue duck') is the house speciality and comes in various forms. Other dishes include fish and crustaceans, loin of lamb, vegetarian curry and pastas. Reservations recommended.<br /><br />

Veltliner Keller

Address: Schlüsselgasse 8 Zurich

Food Type: Local

Established in 1325 as a wine cellar and a restaurant in 1551, Veltliner Keller evokes a sense of history and charm in its detailed wooden panelling. Orginally used to store Italian-Swiss wines that were transported to Zurich over the Alps, this delightful restaurant offers wholesome, heart cuisine that will not disappoint. The seasonal menu includes Swiss and Italian dishes as well as the traditional Zurich dish, kalbsgeschnetzeltes (sliced veal and mushrooms in a white wine sauce).<br /><br />

Hummerbar

Address: Hotel St Gotthard, Bahnhofstrasse 87 Zurich

Food Type: Seafood

Located in the St Gotthard Hotel, the Hummerbar (Lobster Bar) is one of Zurich's top dining spots. The rich scarlet décor and dark wood creates the perfect setting for a romantic dinner. Fresh caviar, oysters and shellfish are flown in daily from Iran, and woven into the menu of classical French cuisine with a Mediterranean flair. Open Monday to Thursday for dinner and breakfast, lunch and dinner on weekends.<br /><br />

Café Bar Odéon

Address: Limmatquai 2 Zurich

Food Type: Café

This trendy cafe and bar, formerly a coffeehouse where the pre-revolutionary Lenin met intellectuals, has been transformed into a art-noveau eatery frequented by locals and tourists alike. Other celebrities to have dines here include the likes of Joyce, Einstein, Mata Hari and Mussolini. Nowadays it is the bourgeois chic crowd who like to dine on fine pasta dishes and other delicious dishes. This eatery remains open late so expect an eventful evening! Reservations recommended.<br /><br />

Chez Crettol

Address: Florastrasse 22, Kusnacht Zurich

Food Type: Local

A trip to Switzerland would be incomplete without sampling traditional Swiss fare. A country famous for cheese, most notably the tasty Gruyere variety, communal dishes such as Raclette and Fondue are commonplace in both Swiss homes and upmarket restaurants. Ideal for a wintery treat, head to Chez Crettol where these particular dishes are the speciality. With a selection of Fondues to choose from, patrons can while away the time dipping, twirling and eating and finishing off with a zesty local white wine. For those who can't handle more than a few mouthfuls of bread, opt for Raclette, which is a combination of boilt potatoes, pickled onions and gherkins, drizzled with melted cheese, which is scraped off a melting block. For a heart-warming Swiss evening, a warm crackling fireplace and an understated environment that looks characteristically similar to a Swiss dining room, Chez Crettol is the place. Open daily for dinner.<br /><br />

Seerose

Address: Seestrasse 493 Zurich

Food Type: International

With one of the best locations in Zurich, the Seerose offers a romantic element to Zurich dining. Situated on the vast lake, guests are surrounded by water, quaint boats, city lights and majestic snow-capped mountains. Whether you are looking for a sunny and crisp lunchtime venue or an evening out, with a European flair, the Seerose will fulfil your expectations. Reminiscent of a yacht on the Mediterranean with elegant beachhouse trimmings, the Seerose serves up fresh cuisine ranging from seafood to curry. Start with goat's cheese and honey on a salad bouquet or a Salade Noel, with chicory, nuts, fresh fruits and an Indian sauce. Popular mains include moule et frites and duck l'orange or for the more adventurous, a red beef curry. Open daily for lunch and dinner, booking recommended.<br /><br />

Not the conservative city it used to be, the nightlife and entertainment scene in Zurich has come into its own, but don't expect it to be rip-roaring wild either. With most clubs closing relatively early, it's best to get a head start with a few early evening cocktails at your watering hole of choice.<br /><br /> A good place to start is at one of the open-air bars for a relaxing drink before heading out to the trendy Zuri-West area where some of the city's hottest underground bars and nightclubs can be found. The Old Town is also worth checking out where Paradeplatz features a range of upmarket lounge and hotel bars.<br /><br /> The former red-light district of Langstrasse is the place to go for an edgier night where biker bars can be found alongside strip clubs and just about anything goes. Being more culturally oriented, concerts, theatre, ballet and opera dominate the scene here.<br /><br /> It's worth picking up a copy of or the the weekly supplement to the newspaper to see what's on when you're in the city.<br /><br />
Shopping in Zurich is a fantastic holiday experience. While traditional Swiss products may be watches, cuckoo-clocks and chocolate, there are also many upmarket boutiques and speciality stores (such as the one dedicated entirely to button sales). This city is charmingly devoid of shopping malls.<br /><br /> The main shopping street is Bahnhofstrasse, home to department stores Globus and Jelmoli, and jewellery shops like Bucherer and Beyer, as well as fashion shops such as H&amp;M. Fine Swiss chocolates (including Frey and Lindt), Swiss Army knives, embroidery, linen, Swiss watches, and handmade clocks are available from shops like Schweizer Heimatwerk and Confiserie Sprüngli. At Zurich Hauptbahnhof, Shopville is a subway shopping centre offering Swiss souvenirs and fine wines. Also close by, there's a flea market at Helvetiaplatz on Saturday mornings.<br /><br /> The Niederdorf district has trendy boutiques, 'modern' antiques and a few bookshops. Nearby, Schipfe is a street where artisans and craftsman offer quality and custom-made products. Elegant boutiques, department stores and speciality shops are clustered in the Old Town. International visitors may reclaim VAT but some conditions do apply.<br /><br />
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