Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the Zurich canton. Although the population of Zurich is a bit over 400 000 people, it is one of the world’s largest financial centers. The official language spoken in Zurich is German, and the official currency is the Swiss franc.
The climate in Zurich is a combination of continental and oceanic climate with warm summers and cold winters. The warmest month is July when the highest average temperature is 24°C and in winter, temperatures often drop below zero. Zurich weather is typical for the seasons, from cold and snowy winter to sunny summer days. However, that is why you can visit Zurich anytime, since it has all four distinct seasons.
If planning to visit Zurich, we present you a guide with all the necessary information about the city that will help you organize your trip in detail!
Table of Contents
Getting to Zurich
Zurich is a highly developed city, therefore it is a hub for nearly all means of transport. It is well-connected to other cities in Switzerland, as well as the rest of Europe. Here is how to get to Zurich by different means of transport.
Zurich Airport is the largest and busiest airport in the country. Also known under the name Kloten, the airport is located 10 km north of Zurich city center. It serves as a hub for Swiss International Airline, and there are numerous other airlines that provide flights to and from the airport, such as British Airways, easyJet, Vueling and Turkish Airlines. You can easily get from the airport to the center by using public transport (train, bus) or airport shuttle bus.
Getting to Zurich by train is easy as it has a developed railway system and Zurich train station (Zurich HB) is the largest and busiest in the country, making the city a railway hub. It is located in central Zurich, at the northern end of the city core. From the main train station there are connections to other cities across Switzerland, as well as connections to other European countries such as Germany, Austria, France and Italy.
With train being the most efficient way of intercity and international transport, bus transport is less popular. Still, Zurich is connected to numerous cities across Switzerland (Basel, Lausanne, Geneva) and to almost every country in Europe (Milan, Vienna, Munich, Ljubljana…). Zurich bus station (Shilquai) is located 1.5 km from the city center, north of the main train station.
Switzerland Visa Requirements
Switzerland is a member of the Schengen Area, meaning that all EU visitors can enter the country without applying for a visa. If you’re a citizen of a country which is not a member of the Schengen Area, you will need to apply for a visa regarding the purpose of your travel. If travelling as a tourist you can apply for a short-term visa (Schengen visa) up to 90 days. For all other travelling purposes for non-Schengen Area citizens read the visa requirements.
Public transport in Zurich
Exploring Zurich is the best on foot as the city is not that big, but in the case of bad weather or any other conditions that require quick and safe transport, Zurich public transport consists of buses, trams, trains and boats. All public transportation companies belong to Zurich Transportation Network (ZVV), a well-developed city system, making the cars more of a burden to get around in Zurich.
There is a network of bus lines in the canton of Zurich but they are mainly used in areas where trains are not operating. Buses are not operating in the city center of Zurich but they start in peripheral areas and take you to locations outside of the canton. Check the map of routes
Tram is the main way of transport in central Zurich, being supplemented by the Zurich S-Bahn, buses and trolleybuses. Trams are mainly operated by Verkehrsbetriebe Zürich (VBZ). Check the map of routes
It is good to mention that there is no subway or metro in Zurich, although there is a part of the railway that passes through the tunnel. Zurich S-bahn covers the entire canton of Zurich with some connections to areas around. Train service is divided into 1st and 2nd class, and it is important which class ticket you buy because if travelling in the wrong class, you will get fined.
Since Zurich is situated on the Zurich lake, boats are also a part of the public transportation network. Boats will surely give you an entirely different perspective of the city, so taking a boat trip can be a great addition to your trip.
Check the entire ZVV Transportation Network here.
The whole Zurich transport system is divided into zones, so it is recommended to buy tickets for zones rather than rides. Zurich city belongs to the Zone 110, tickets are bought at the stations, from the ticket machines and you can choose between a 1-hour ticket and a Day Card that lets you travel countless times within a zone, within the given time frame.
If staying in Zurich for a longer period of time, consider buying a Zurich Card which allows you to travel freely within the zones 110, 111, 121, 140, 150, 154 and 155. Besides that, the ticket also includes the transfer between the city and the airport, as well as trip to Uetilberg.
There are also other tickets for different travel needs such as Zone upgrade, Night supplement and other tickets you can buy to save some extra money.
NOTE: Have in mind that zones are not circular, so some locations such as the airport do not belong to the Zone 110. We suggest you always check in which zone is your desired destination and always bring your tickets with you since the controls are often and strict.
You should also have in mind that all public transport in Switzerland is free and unlimited when possessing a Swiss Travel Pass. The pass is allowing you to enjoy the rides without additional payments, gives you discounts for visiting certain locations and offers free entrance to museums. Moreover, children are allowed to travel for free.
Parking in Zurich
As already stated, getting around Zurich by car is not the best option since the public transportation network is really strong. Of course, if your desire is to be mobile and explore the area on your own, the best option is to rent a car while staying in Zurich.
Regarding the parking in Zurich, have in mind that parking regulations are very strict and if you don’t follow them, you can expect big fines. Finding a parking lot might be a challenging mission, but it is not impossible. Parking places are divided into categories and you will recognize them by their color. White zones generally let you stay up to 4 hours from Monday to Saturday, between 8:00 am and 7:00 pm, but not the entire city has the same rules. Blue zones let you park 1 hour for free from Monday to Saturday, between 9:00 am and 8:00 pm. Parking in blue zones requires having a ‘parking disk’ in your car. You can also park in 1 of 10 park-houses in Zurich.
Remember that parking between 9:00 pm and 8:00 am is basically free anywhere.
Zurich is a financial hub but it doesn’t lack the cultural and historical side every tourist wants to meet in the city. There are many locations where you can learn how Zurich became the largest economic center and a neat and efficient city with a high standard of living. Here are the biggest Zurich attractions you shouldn’t miss during your stay.
Zurich Old Town is situated around river Limmat and is an ideal starting point to begin with sightseeing since it contains many remarkable sights. The main street is called Banhofstrasse, a center of fashion and art with all the luxurious shops and boutiques. Here, you will also find Paradeplatz, the Swiss banking center. Two more important streets to stroll are Augustinergrasse and Rennweg.
One of the most special places in Zurich is Lindenhof, a place in the heart of the city from where you can see the entire Old Town and its sights. Once, it was a Roman fort, today is a favorite gathering place among both locals and tourists.
Church of St. Peter in Zurich is one of four main churches in the city, recognizable by its tower with the largest church clock in Europe. The church was primarily a fire watch tower and the first mayor of town, Rudolf Brun, was buried in it.
Fraumunster Church is one of Zurich landmarks famous for its green steeple. This former abbey was home to many noblewomen, today is a remarkable piece of architecture with its significant glass windows by Marc Chagall and Augusto Giacometti.
Grossmunster is also one of the four ‘must-see’ churches in Zurich and another landmark. The legend has it that the church was built on the graves of the city’s patron saints, Felix and Regula.
The last one of the ‘big four’ is Predigerkirche Church, once a Romanesque church, later a Basilica. The church has a recognizable tower which is the highest Gothic structure in Zurich.
Zurich museums are the best way to get to know the rich heritage of the city. You can start with Swiss National Museum located in the city center with large collection of art that takes you all the way from prehistoric times and ancient civilizations, over the Middle Ages to the modern times.
Kunsthaus Zurich is another art museum that hosts one of the most important art collections in the world, from the Middle Ages to the modern times, focusing primarily on the Swiss fine art.
Football lovers can enter the paradise called FIFA World Football Museum with more than 1000 exhibits that stretch all the way back to the first World Cup tournament which took place in Uruguay in 1930.
For something different and new head to Rietberg museum displaying art from non-European areas such as Africa, Asia and America. It is the third-largest museum in Zurich, and it is located near Rieterpark, a central park in Zurich worth visiting.
For stunning photos of the entire city and the lake visit Uetliberg mountain. This can be a good activity if you decide to hike all the way up, but you can also get there by train from Zurich HB. During the winter, the hiking trails are turned into sledding runs.
City bustle can be exhausting, so take a pause in one of several Zurich Botanical Gardens located in the central parts of Zurich. Turn on all your senses and enjoy the peaceful atmosphere full of colors and scents.
Zurich Lake is the main component of Zurich so use the opportunity to experience it. Take a boat tour for a brand new perspective and a splendid view of the city. The coast of the lake contains many swimming places and the water is very clean.
Zurich Opera House or Opernhaus Zurich is among the smallest opera houses in the world but it has a rich and various programs. Check it out prior to your arrival to Zurich and experience the city’s cultural side.
Zurich Zoo is one of the best European zoos, so if this is your kind of amusement, definitely pay a visit to it. Although there are many interactive elements and playgrounds, this place offers more than just fun. Here you can get to know more than 380 animal species held in near-natural habitats.
If visiting Zurich during the winter holidays, Christmas market in Zurich is the largest indoor Christmas market in Europe, so hide from the cold and enjoy the most wonderful time of the year.
Zurich is a city with plenty of options when it comes to outdoor activities and events. No doubt you will find your ideal fun, so here are some of the things to do in Zurich.
For those who would like to remain active while on holiday, Zurich has various offers, from water to mountain activities. Lake Zurich offers more than a boat tour across the lake. The shoreline is full of swimming spots, lush green areas and walking paths. Besides the lake, there are outdoor natural river-pools open throughout the summer. On the other side, hike up to the nearest mountains like Uetilberg and Mt. Pilatus or decide to do a bike tour for a more intense workout.
Winter brings new excitement and probably the most popular one is skiing. Switzerland skiing resorts are among the best and most popular ones in Europe. Just within the 3-hour ride of Zurich you can find more than 200 ski resorts. Amden, Flumserberg and Rigi are within an hour drive from Zurich.
Although the next thing sounds like the complete opposite of ‘activity’, it certainly is a kind of activity you won’t regret doing. Remember that you’re in Switzerland, and that means in the home of the finest Swiss chocolate. Forget about your diet and head to Lindt & Sprungli Chocolate Factory in Kilchberg, 20 min drive from Zurich. Besides trying an endless selection of chocolate, attend a workshop and become a chocolate maker for a day.
Zurich has a rich cultural and art program, so no matter what time of the year you decide to visit Zurich, there is always something going on regarding events. Here are just a few of the annual events in case you find yourself in the city when they’re taking place. For music concerts check out the schedule prior to your arrival to Zurich.
Zurich Street Parade – The most attended techno parade in the world is definitely the largest annual event in Zurich and visiting it is ‘a must’ if in the city. The parade is a demonstration of love, freedom and tolerance taking place every second Saturday of August. Join millions of people on the streets sharing peace and tolerance.
Zurich Marathon – If you would like to be a part of a huge sports event, come to Zurich in spring when the most famous marathon in Switzerland takes place. Both experienced athletes and amateurs are welcome to this city run.
Zurich Open-Air – Every August is reserved for a multi-genre music festival that celebrates rock, indie, hip-hop, pop, electronic etc. The festival is held on three stages presenting the most celebrated artists in the world. Besides the music performances, you get to see various circus acts and try different cuisines.
Zurich Film Festival – The purpose of this festival is to present the wider audience with young filmmakers from all over the world. It is usually held by the end of September and the beginning of October. There is also a portion of movies appropriate for kids.
Jazznojazz Festival – This music festival tries to combine jazz music with different genres, presenting it in a different way. Usually held in late October, the festival hosts numerous well-known international jazz artists.
Day Trips from Zurich
Spending your time only in Zurich during your stay is perfectly fine. But some of you might want to expand the area and discover interesting and stunning places in Switzerland. Here are some ideas where you could go for a day trip from Zurich.
Rhine Falls – The largest waterfall in Europe is a ‘must-see’ attraction if visiting Switzerland. The waterfall is situated in Neuhausen, near the city of Schaffhausen. During May and June the amount of water is the highest, so visiting then would be the best. You can see the waterfall from the distance or directly from a boat which is highly recommended.
Get to Rhine Falls from Zurich: The easiest way to get there is by taking a train directly to the waterfall. There are two stations, ‘Neuhausen Rheinfall’ and ‘Schloss Laufen’, both right next to the waterfall. The journey lasts within an hour.
Lucerne – The central Swiss city is less than an hour ride and an ideal day trip since it can be explored in a day. You can discover the main sights on your own or book a guided tour, Anyway, try not to miss the picturesque Old Town, old City Walls, oldest covered Chapel Bridge, the Jesuit Church and more. If having enough time, do the Lake Lucerne cruise.
Get to Lucerne from Zurich: There is a bus connecting Zurich and Lucerne with several departures per day. The other option is to get there by train. There are plenty of departures throughout the day and the journey in both cases lasts around an hour.
Heidiland – Among the top day trip destinations in Switzerland is Heidiland, a home of Heidi from the children’s books. Situated on the eastern part of the country, on the border with Liechtenstein, you can visit both in less than a 2 hour ride. Experience everything Switzerland is special about; clear air of the stunning Alps and deep, blue lakes, along with the story of the most popular girl of the Alps.
Get to Heidiland from Zurich: To get to Maienfeld take a train from Zurich HB, the journey lasts around 2 hours. Once you get to Maienfeld, we suggest you ask at the counter for further directions to Heidiland.
Rapperswil – This small, charming town is situated on the shore of Lake Zurich. Although small, you can spend hours exploring its historic city core, beautiful architecture, lovely streets and plenty of interesting shops and cafes. Children will love this place, especially the zoo.
Get to Rapperswil from Zurich: This town can be reached by train or boat. The train is surely a faster option with a journey of around 40 minutes, but boat gives you an opportunity to see the entire shore of the lake within a 2-hour ride.
Walensee – To simply enjoy nature and beautiful surroundings, decide for a day trip to lake Walensee. Here you can combine a good workout with the ultimate relaxation. Go for a hike around the lake or do a bike tour, find your perfect swimming spot. On the other hand, relax on a boat cruise across the lake and enjoy the Swiss nature.
Get to Walensee from Zurich: Weesen is the closest town on the lake, but you have to get to Zieglbrucke by train first and then continue by bus to get to Weesen. You can catch a ferry to get to other places by the lake such as Muhlehorn, Quarten and Walenstadt.
Zurich by night is very diverse and alive, especially on the weekends, but we cannot consider it the main party hub. Still, you will find both bars and clubs, from fancy to alternative ones, as well as a good deal of events with live music. Here are some places to go out in Zurich.
To gradually start the evening, bars allow you to sip drinks while chatting with your friends. Head to Andorra if up for a good selection of craft beers and cocktails with jazz atmosphere and occasional live band. To meet the locals, go to their favorite Frau Gerolds Garten for a beer and some snacks. If you want to enjoy the impressive selection of whiskeys, bourbons and other drinks, visit Old Crow and treat yourself with some of the finest drinks.
Zurich nightclubs offer all kinds of parties. Mascotte is doubtlessly the oldest place in town which brings famous names to perform. Restaurant by day, lounge and club by night, Kaufleuten serves delicious and fresh dishes but also becomes a favorite dance floor. Here you will find a rich program of different music genres and events. Among the favorite ones is definitely Hive where visitors can enjoy the well-known electronic tunes and simply dance the night away.
All alternative souls can check out El Lokal, a unique bar on three floors with great rock & roll music. As soon as you enter, you will understand why this is a favorite alternative gathering spot. If looking for a place that waits for a sunrise to close, Gonzo is a small, underground place, and a favorite spot for all night owls. The music is mainly electronic with pop and rock sounds, too.
Regarding the safety, Switzerland is a very safe country. According to SafeAround, it is on the 8th position in Europe with a high index of 88.4/100. Therefore, being on the streets of Zurich late at night is safe and there are no no-go areas in the city.
Zurich is one of those cities where shopping is ‘a thing’ since we’re talking about one of the most expensive cities in Europe. From random street shops of every kind to malls with everything in one place, shopping in Zurich is a unique experience.
The most famous shopping street is Bahnhofstrasse, no doubt, also referred to as the 5th Avenue of Zurich. The street is among the world’s most expensive ones with the most exclusive shops and top brands. Here you will also find a world-wide known Jelmoli, the largest premium department store. Another popular street that offers various shops (along with other content) is Europaallee together with Langstrasse. The Old Town is another great place for shopping as there are many interesting and traditional shops.
For fresh groceries check out Zurich markets with a long tradition. Chefs from all over Zurich come to these markets to find the best produce they are going to serve in their restaurants. Consider visiting a local farm in order to buy the best possible produce from the farm shops.
If you prefer shopping all at one place, then choose one of several Zurich malls. The closest one to the city center is definitely Bahnhof Stadelhofen with 22 shops underground of the Zurich railway station. Glatt is the most famous one and the one with the widest offer in around 100 stores. Sihlcity is another big mall with more than 80 different stores and other facilities.
In order to return home with authentic souvenirs, Swiss chocolate or cheese is always a delight, and a Swiss watch or clock can be an excellent gift.
Trying different cuisines is a main component of our travelling experience. Switzerland is home to many food traditions, and Zurich offers you a great opportunity to try the best of Swiss cuisine.
The most popular dish that arrived from Switzerland is – a cheese fondue! We all know a cheese lover (if not ourselves), so imagine the opportunity to try the original melted cheese with bread cubes in Zurich knowing the fact that the first recipe was written down – exactly here. The Swiss love cheese, obviously, so try another similar version of melted cheese, Raclette, this time with potatoes. Of course, trying any of the Swiss cheeses such as Emmentaler, Appenzeller or Gruyere is obligatory. Other traditional dishes you should seek in the restaurants are Zurcher Geschenzeltes, Birchermuesli, Zurcher Eintopf etc.
All that tasty food, but where to eat? Zurich restaurants have a wide offer of Swiss dishes prepared with fresh produce. For a fine dining in a Michelin star awarded restaurant, go to Ecco for some remarkable impressions. If you think cheese is the only ingredient in Swiss cuisine, head to Alpenrose and try the best of local cuisine – without cheese. For the best views on the city, go to a popular Waid. For some truly unique experience go to Blindekuh where you need to turn on all your senses – except sight.
In case you are a vegetarian, then Haus Hiltl is a place for you with a long tradition of serving vegetarian food and more than 100 specialties. When you get tired of local cuisine, Hato will serve you the best of Asian cuisine with vegetarian options, as well.
In the end, make sure you visit Cafe Sprungli for the most delicious desserts ever.
In Zurich, you will easily find various accommodation options; from hotels and hostels to private accommodation. Check them below:
Fire Department: 118
- Bahnhof Apotheke, +41 44 225 42 42, Bahnhofplatz 15, 8001 Zürich
- Bellevue Apotheke, +41 44 266 62 22, Theaterstrasse 14, 8001 Zürich