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Zurich is the largest city of the Swiss Confederation (Switzerland) by land area and population. It is the financial centre of Switzerland and houses the stock exchange and the headquarters of a large number of national and international companies. National and international media agencies as well as most of the national TV channel companies are also located here.
Because Zurich is the central node of the Swiss-wide train network and also runs the biggest and busiest international airport in the country, it generally is the first place where tourists arrive. Because of the city’s close distance to tourist resorts in the Swiss Alps and its mountainous scenery, it is often referred to as the “portal to the Alps”.
Contrary to what some believe, Zurich is not the capital of Switzerland– that honor falls to Berne. Zurich has long been known for being clean and efficient. Due to this, it has been continuously ranked as the city with the highest living standard world-wide for many years. However, only for the last ten years has it truly become a fascinating and worthwhile travel destination. This is mostly thanks to the liberalization of the cultural, party and gastronomy sectors. An increasingly cosmopolitan population has helped, as well, though more button-down Geneva remains Switzerland’s most culturally heterogeneous city.
Zurich Airport (IATA: ZRH) is Switzerland’s largest and busiest airport run with Swiss efficiency. It is actually in the community of Kloten and it is 12 minutes by train from central Zurich. The trains depart about every 10-15 minutes but early morning and late evening connections are a bit less frequent, so if you travel at these times check the schedule. A single ticket to the Hauptbahnhof (Central Station) costs CHF 6.20. Several bus lines connect to the airport and provide access to the Winterthur region.
Most major airlines fly to Zurich but SWISS is still the Swiss flagcarrier and covers the biggest part of the international traffic at the airport. Almost every large hotel in Zurich provides shuttle buses from the airport to your hotel. The stops for these buses are a short walk to the right from Terminal 1 arrivals.
Zurich Airport has high passenger costs due to several noise reduction and approach restrictions. Most no-frill airlines fly to Basel which is 1 hour away by train. EasyJet resumed its flights to Zurich in 2007 after a three year absence and Air Berlin offers several flights to Germany and Southern Europe.
If you are travelling without a Schengen Visa to another destination in Europe (via Zurich airport) and if you are not European citizen, you must not stay in Europe for longer than 90 days – even if your final destination would allow citizens of your country to stay for more than 90 days. Failure to do so will lead to very high fines (around 8100 Euros) should you try to leave Europe via Zurich airport.
Most interesting sights:
- Grossmünster, Zwingliplatz. Old Romanesque church, symbol of reformed Zurich, where reformer Huldrych Zwingli was appointed the people’s priest in 1519. Go up the tower for a great view of Zurich, though the stairs can be quite small and steep.
- Fraumünster, Kämbelgasse 2. Old Gothic church (former convent) with window paintings made by Marc Chagall. No photos or videos allowed inside.
- Landesmuseum, Museumstrasse 2, ☎ +41 44 218 65 11. Tu-Su 10AM-5PM and most public holidays including M. The biggest Swiss history museum. You can also learn about the various traditions of the cantons comprising Switzerland. It’s currently undergoing major refurbishment works until 2009 though many exhibitions are still open.
- Kunsthaus, ☎ +41 44 253 84 84. One of the major Swiss art museums. Its specialities are modern sculpturer Giacometti and the surrealist 18th Century painter Fuseli, both Swiss. Entry is free to the main collection Wednesdays.
- Schanzengraben. A small canal that used to be part of the city fortifications between Limmat and Sihl. From the main station, go to Gessnerallee, find the stairways down to the tiny creek, and walk all the way to the lake.
- Rietberg Museum, Gablerstrasse 15, ☎ +41 (0)44 206 31 31. One of Europe’s best collections of Asian art (mainly Indian drawings).
- Langstrasse. Red light district of Zürich, with more drug dealers and police than usual, but interesting because even this most notorious spot in Switzerland is so clean and safe. The area is the most overtly multicultural spot of the town. In recent years, ateliers and stylish bars start to coexist side by side to the about 15 strip clubs.
- Zoo, Zürichbergstrasse 221, ☎ +41 44 254 25 05. With the new Masoala Rainforest Hall, the Zoo is really worth a visit!
- Lake Promenade. Especially during summer, the lake is a beautiful place to spend the evening or the weekend. Starting from Bellevue, the boardwalk goes for about three kilometers along the lake towards Tiefenbrunnen. About halfway from Bellevue there is a meadow where you will find thousands of people on a sunny day.
- Chinese Garden, ☎ +41 44 435 21 11. This small but beautiful Chinese garden was offered to the city of Zurich by the Chinese city of Kunming as symbol of gratitude after Zurich helped Kunming with technical knowledge.
- Le Corbusier House, (near Chinese Garden). A beautiful, modern villa planned by the famous Swiss architect. The visiting hours are very limited (i.e. one day / week only in the summer) and entry is expensive. Additionally, there is a legal battle between the city (owner) and the long time tenant.
- Lindenhof. The hill in the heart of the old town. A beautiful view of the city and one time location of a Roman fort.
- Niederdorf. The old town offers beautiful alleys, restaurants and shopping mainly aimed at younger consumers. In the evenings, people visit the Niederdorf’s many bars.
- Bahnhofstrasse. One of the busiest and best known shopping streets in the world. Highly refined. Certainly a must-see for every tourist in Zurich! (see below).
- Museum Buehrle, Zollikerstrasse 172, ☎ +41 44 422 00 86. A rich private art collection worth visiting – although a little less rich after a recent brazen robbery in broad daylight. Call ahead, as it’s currently not open during regular hours.
- Jacob Coffee Museum, Seefeldquai 17, ☎ +41 44 388 61 51. An original museum which describes the evolution of coffee and different aspects of the culture that has developed around it. The museum is closed for renovation until March 2013.
Zurich West. This modern quarter used to be an industrial one, but modern urban developments made it into a center of vibrant night life.
InfoSource: Wikitravel Under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.