Visiting Zurich – A City Guide
Zurich is so much more than a city of banking. It’s also home to a picturesque Old Town, 50 museums and 100 galleries, designer shops and the liveliest nightlife in Switzerland. All of that comes with an unbeatable setting beside Lake Zurich and – weather permitting – panoramic views of the snow-capped Alps.
Zurich: city layout
Zurich’s central Altstadt (old town) is bisected by the Limmat River. To the east is the largely pedestrianised Niederdorf, while Lindenhof lies to the west. Further west, the Bahnhofstrasse ‘shopping street’ marks the border with the City financial district. South of the centre, Seefeld is a wealthy residential district on the eastern shore of Lake Zurich. Northwest of the centre, Zurich West is a fast-developing business and residential area. Further north, Zurich Nord – Oerlikon, close to Zurich Airport (ZRH), is home to numerous businesses and the Messe exhibition hall.
What to see and do in Zurich
You can easily spend an afternoon wandering the medieval cobbled alleyways and squares of the Altstadt in Niederdorf, which are packed with restaurants and cafés. The landmark, twin-towered Grossmünster church faces its Fraumünster sister across the river, which has stained-glass windows by Augusto Giacometti and Marc Chagall. In summer the riverbanks become a laidback gathering place, while in winter a layer of snow transforms the narrow streets and ancient buildings into a scene from a fairy tale. Make time for a stroll along the shore of Lake Zurich, and a boat trip on the water.
The concierge recommends…
Hotels in Zurich
From historic hotels in the heart of the old town to luxury retreats in the surrounding countryside, Zurich has accommodation to suit most budgets. The city’s efficient public transport system means that even the airport is only a short train ride from the centre.
If you stay in the Altstadt you’ll be in the heart of the city, close to a high concentration of restaurants, bars and shops. Business visitors may prefer to stay west of here in City, Zurich’s financial district, while hotels in lakeside Seefeld often come with views of the water. Staying in Zürich Nord - Oerlikon puts you within easy reach of the airport, close to numerous businesses and near the Hallenstadion and Messe Zurich exhibition halls. If you have an early flight to catch, you can also stay right beside Zurich Airport (ZRH).
Eating Out in Zurich With around 1,700 restaurants and bars, Zurich caters to every palate and budget. You’ll find places serving traditional local and Swiss dishes, as well as global fare of every description. Don’t miss the chance to dip your crusty bread into the cheesy national treat, fondue.
The streets of the medieval Altstadt are teeming with restaurants and cafés, particularly to the east of the Limmat River in Niederdorf, between the Central and Bellevueplatz squares. West of the river in Lindenhof, you’ll find many more, including Hiltl, founded in 1898 and famous as the world’s oldest vegetarian restaurant. Zurich West is a fast-developing entertainment area with a growing number of places to eat, some in renovated warehouses. There are plenty more choices in Zurich Nord - Oerlikon, as well as in Seefeld, near the eastern shore of Lake Zurich.
The chef recommends...
Shopping in Zurich
If you have deep pockets and a taste for the exclusive, Zurich is a shopper’s paradise. The centre is packed with designer outlets. On the other hand, purpose-built shopping centres are modest in scale compared to other parts of Europe. Most shops remain closed on Sundays, except those in railway stations.
Start your browsing along Bahnhofstrasse (Station Street), one of the world’s most expensive and upmarket shopping boulevards. It has a reputation as the address for international fashion labels, watchmakers and jewellers. If you need something to help you digest the prices, it’s also home to some mouth-watering bakeries and chocolate shops. For more affordable Swiss fashion and urban designs, try the area around Langstrasse, in the city’s once notorious but now fashionable red light district. Riverside Limmatquai in the Altstadt is also a great place to look for both local and imported designer goods.
Top souvenirs from Zurich
Culture & Nightlife in Zurich
Zurich’s cultural scene appeals to young and old alike. For art lovers there are more than 50 museums, and after dark the city has the highest density of clubs in Switzerland. Official closing times in these are rare, and parties continue until morning. In summer the nightlife spills outdoors into the open air.
Zurich’s museums and galleries are evenly spread throughout the city, with a slightly higher concentration in the Altstadt and around the main station. After dark the old town transforms into a huge entertainment quarter. The area of Zurich West around Escher-Wyss-Platz has also become a major nightlife district filled with bars and clubs, many of them established in abandoned industrial buildings. Langstrasse is the centre of the recently rejuvenated and sanitised red light district, now transformed into an area of hip urban bars where young trendsetters come to party around the clock.
Live music venues in Zurich
Visiting Zurich with a Family
Zurich has plenty of family-friendly attractions to keep little ones entertained. From toy museums to wildlife parks, you’ll be able to keep them amused whatever the weather. When it’s time to eat, youngsters are welcome in most of the city’s restaurants, some of which offer dedicated kids’ menus.
Your children will love the short train ride to the top of Uetliberg, a hill with fine views of the city and lake. In winter its hiking trails turn into sledding runs. For a fun ride without leaving town, you can hop aboard the Polybahn funicular railway. It’s only a two-minute ride up from Central square to the university above, but you get to pass through a building along the way. You can also take to the water for a cruise on Lake Zurich. Trips start from the jetty at Bürkliplatz, and last from 90 minutes to four hours.
Best family attractions in Zurich