* Prices may differ from that shown
My first experience of the city of Zurich was the central railway station, or Hauptbahnhof, and it did not endear me to it. I arrived on a train from the airport at an underground platform and was to meet my son and his partner somewhere on the station, but I didn't know where. I decided to follow the signs for those who wanted to catch a bus or a tram, but ended up in a street to one side. Going back inside the station, I was surprised how crowded it was; it was just after 5pm, but apparently it's always packed with people. I headed for the main entrance past an open market. I thought I'd better ring my son to see where they were waiting, but there was a man playing an accordion and I didn't think I would be able to hear. Making my way just outside the entrance, I quickly made the phone call and just managed to hear my son telling me they were beside the 'information bubble' when a police car came past, sirens blaring. Back inside I went, unable to spot the so-called bubble. Phoning once again, I said I would wait underneath the main departure board. A couple of minutes later, we found each other. I wondered what madness had brought me to such a noisy, crowded place, but fortunately my first impression of Zurich was not a lasting one.
From the railway station, the famous Bahnhofstrasse runs right down to the Burkli Platz, a square by the shore of Lake Zurich. On this street you can shop, do your banking, or take a break at the Sprungli Cafe. I merely stood at the doorway of a shop where chocolate was actually being made and was hit by the aroma; it was no good buying anything there as it would immediately have melted in the heat. The traffic on this bustling street is not as heavy as I would have expected for such a city, but there are trams as well. I couldn't quite fathom why there was often a zebra crossing on one side of the road but not the other, but crossing over was much easier than, for example, in a city such as Bristol.
Unless you are a shopaholic, I would recommend leaving the Bahnhofstrasse behind in favour of some of the narrower streets. It is easy to spot the spire of St Peter's Church, below which is the largest clock face in Europe. The interior of the church with its central pulpit is worth having a look at; I was surprised to see white net curtains at the upper windows. I believe the church is often used for concerts of classical music.
Many of Zurich's streets are cobbled, so a good pair of walking shoes will make sense if you want to enjoy the old town. Not far from St Peter's Church, up a rather steep winding way, is the Lindenhof. This is a kind of park that is popular with both locals and tourists. It's so high up that there are wonderful views of the River Limmat and the Niederdorf district on the east of the river, above which the twin towers of the Grossmunster or cathedral are ever dominant. The Lindenhof's trees offer welcome shade on hot, sunny days; people come to relax on a seat or the outer wall, and local men play chess and boules here. It is worth the climb up.
Heading back south, the Fraumunster or Church of Our Lady is the outstanding building to take a look at. Its spire is a distinctive green, and like St Peter's Church, it has a sizeable clock face. The cloister is now an open area with modern frescoes by Paul Bodmer - I made the most of the fact that photography is allowed in this area as it is prohibited inside both the Fraumunster and the Grossmunster. The modern windows by Marc Chagall inside the church are a joy to behold in their rich colours.
Equally impressive are Giacometti's windows in the Grossmunster or cathedral on the east bank of the River Limmat. I also loved the organ, which is decorated with golden angels. The smaller windows of plain glass were in the process of being replaced with more colourful ones at the time of our visit. It is worth going down the stone steps to the crypt, although the atmosphere is extremely musty and I wouldn't have wanted to stay down there for long. The frescoes are very faded, but there is a heavy fifteenth-century statue of Charlemagne with his gold crown. I wasn't able to climb the stairs in the towers that dominate Zurich's skyline, but if you can do so you will be rewarded with wonderful views of the city.
Zurich offers a huge choice of eateries, from oriental to traditional Swiss to other types of European cuisine; I even saw an advertisement for a Mongolian barbecue. The vegetarian buffet of the Hiltl had been recommended to me; we decided however on the Zeughauskeller, a busy and reasonably priced beer hall specialising in sausages and rosti but offering many other choices too. The following day we had a salad lunch at Cafe Wuhre, right beside the River Limmat. There are of course many higher-priced establishments than these, such as the Zunfthaus zur Waag on Munsterhof.
In the Niederdorf on the east bank of the River Limmat, there is again an enormous number of cafes and restaurants. My son and his partner had enjoyed Swiss sausages and cheese fondu one evening at Swiss Cuchi before my arrival. I can recommend the coffee at Cafe Henrici, where we sat outside in the morning sun. Had anyone shown me the rickety old metal chair I was to sit on there before I travelled, I would have avoided the place like the plague, but when we did sit down it didn't seem to matter. Henrici certainly seemed to be a popular place, and the interior was very stylish in comparison. I went down to the ladies in the basement and noticed a door with several dates on it, the earliest of which was from the fourteenth century. Henrici is actually a hotel but I cannot comment on it as we stated at the Helmhaus, just south of the Grossmunster. It was pricey but I would wholeheartedly recommend it.
By four o'clock in the afternoon we were sweltering and delighted to find that Cafe Kantorei in Neumarkt offered bottles of apple juice that were considerably more generous than the 200 ml servings of fruit juice that most restaurants seemed to offer. Kantorei has quite extensive outdoor seating, and our waiter there was British. He chatted about how expensive Zurich was but assured us that salaries were relatively high too.
My visit only lasted twenty-four hours, but I was able to fit in a boat trip on Lake Zurich. You could choose whether to have lunch on the boat or to sit outside, admire the view and take photographs which is what we did. The cost was ten Swiss Francs for a trip that lasted an hour. If you have more time you could, for example, take a boat to Rapperswil on the eastern shore and spend some time there.
A great part of Zurich's attraction for me is that it has something of everything: a lake, a river, a mountain, wonderful old buildings, museums, eateries, shops: the list goes on and on. Admittedly I was very lucky with the weather, but even if I hadn't been, I could have visited one or two museums or gone on a bus tour of the city rather than walking round. I was struck by the fact that it seemed perfectly acceptable for single people, women included, to go on a boat trip or have a meal out on their own. The city is very clean and we were surprised that there was relatively little traffic. Cycling is definitely encouraged. Although it is expensive in some ways, plenty of things are free, and there are a few places to stay that don't cost the earth. I would gladly go back for a longer stay.
Also to be posted on other sites, with photographs on igougo.com and ciao.co.uk .
WHY ZURICH? Ah, well
I lived in Zurich more than ten years ago, and as a student, which has obviously coloured my impressions of the place, possibly in more ways than one
For the purposes of this review, however, this means firstly that if youre looking for accounts of its most luxurious hotels, its Michelin-starred restaurants, or for gushing tales of sprees along the gilded collection of Haute Couturiers and jewellers that constitutes the celebrated Bahnhofstrasse
my advice would probably be to read no further. Ive been back to Zurich many times since, but most of my favourite haunts are probably still those that I first encountered as a student.
ANARCHY & SWISS FRANKS: I first arrived in Zurich as a naive seventeen year old. It was 1992. Smells Like Teen Spirit had just come out, and the youth of Zurich were in the throes of a full-blown grunge epidemic. The same was pretty much true the world over, but in 1992, Zurich was Grunge Central, mainly by virtue of the Park at its very centre, the infamous Platz Spitz. This was the Needle-Park, so-called not because of some valuable collection of conifers or pines, but because it had been completely and utterly taken over by the cities heroin addicts, dealers, prostitutes, pimps, and tramps. I was warned to avoid it from the moment I arrived, so obviously, it was one of the first places I set out to explore... Picture Hyde Park as being, to all intents and purposes, shut off to the public altogether. Picture lawns un-mowed, shrubbery overgrown, trees un-pruned or dying, and the sordid detritus of Class-A drug use; needles, lager cans, condoms, over-bent spoons, scattered in all directions and clumsily concealed beneath every bush. Well, thats what the Platz Spitz was like, when I first arrived in Zurich, and it was a pretty terrifying spectacle. It was also symptomatic, of a much larger schism in Swiss society. The park may since have been cleaned up, the dealers jailed, the addicts hustled along onto the Langstrasse or shepherded into re-hab, but most of the underlying problems still remain. So too, however, does Zurichs thriving cultural and underground scene; a vibrant and anarchic melange which proves theres more to the Swiss than just cheese and timepiece efficiency.
HISTORY: Zurich (then known as Turicum) was founded as a Roman customs post around 15BC. It remained something of a backwater until the latter part of the 19th Century, when political reforms lead to a boom in its Banking and manufacturing sectors. Swiss neutrality during the two World Wars resulted in Zurich playing host to a glamorous array of expatriate dissidents, including Lenin, who plotted the Russian Revolution from there. James Joyce penned Ulysees in a little garret behind the University, and died there in 1941. The Dada movement originated in the city, finding its spiritual home in the now infamous Cabaret Voltaire, opened in 1916.
In many respects, Zurich is Switzerlands unofficial capital. Some imagine the capital to be Geneva, with its UN and WHO credentials, and general reputation as a repository for all things sane and neutral. The real capital, of course, is Bern, a quaint, medieval town that houses the Swiss Parliament and boasts a rather unsettling and decidedly un-PC bear-pit at its centre. But Zurich has an unrivalled position at the countrys cultural, intellectual and financial heart.
LOCATION: Extending along both sides of the River Limmat, with hills and mountains rising up around it in all directions, Zurich is set in a spectacularly scenic, almost alpine location, which belies its status as Switzerlands largest city. Its actually possible to take a train from the Hauptbahnhof & be travelling through the countryside, cows, fields and all, within ten minutes. The Zurich skyline is dominated by four spires, with the dual towers of the Grossmünster on one bank, and the towers of the 13th Century Fraumünster and the church of St.Peter on the other. On one of the hills above the city, and locally referred to as its crown, is the enormous, early 19th Century University Then theres the lake. Suffice to say, the mountainous, lakeside setting, combined with an eclectic array of architectural treasures, mean that Zurich really is beautiful all year round.
ALTSTADT: The locals refer to the old part of the city, located on the west side of the River Limmat as the Niederdörfli. It is an entrancing little district, a confused collection of twisted, cobbled, medieval streets. There are some fabulous places to eat, from beer halls, such as the Rheinfelder, which is basic but has real atmosphere, to restaurants, including two very popular fondue stuben. The one at the Hotel Adler was always my favourite, but Im not entirely won-over by its recent refurbishment. The Pinte Vaudoise on the Kruggasse is more atmospheric, set in a traditional, dark-wood den. There are some amazing boutiques and second-hand clothes & furniture shops, such as Time Tunnel, on Stüssihofstatt, which sells all things vintage & has some real gems. There are also some of the most charming antiquarian bookshops youll find anywhere, all interspersed with a few seedy, red-light peep-shows, some decent kebab takeaways, and plenty of bars. My favourite is probably BabaLu, which has been a Zurich staple for years & also has some good bands.
LANGSTRASSE: Zurichs most infamous squat, the Wohlgroth, once stood on this site. Actually, the Wohlgruth was really much more than a squat; it was an artistic collective, a theatre, a gallery, and a live venue. Above all it was an impossibly bohemian and exciting place to be. The squat owed much of its notoriety to a sign they painted on the old roof, a mockery of the Swiss Rail signs, using the Swiss Rail font, and rendered on such an enormous scale that it was patently un-missable to anyone arriving in Zurich by rail. It said, simply, Zureich, in other words, Too rich. The authorities tried to close it down for years, perhaps unsurprisingly given the commercial value of such an enormous chunk of prime real estate, but they failed & failed again. I was desolate when I discovered, a few months after leaving Zurich, that the inevitable had finally happened, and I cant take a train into the city, even now, without looking to my left and feeling a little empty inside. Ironically, though, the space has now been re-claimed, and the Langstrasse has become home to an almost mile-long stretch of converted factories housing alternative boutiques, galleries, live venues, bars and indie film theatres. However despite some pretty draconian behaviour on the part of a lot of Zurichs police, the illicit drug scene & attendant prostitution are still very much in evidence, especially here.
BAHNHOFSTRASSE: Whilst Zurich is divided into various quarters, one principal boulevard, the Bahnhofstrasse, is at its centre. This ends at the shores of Lake Zurich and begins at the main train station, or Hauptbahnhof. The HB is a spectacular19th Century edifice, filled with about 200 shops, a stylish 1920s tearoom, and a public bathroom with incredibly clean and well-designed public showers. Walking up the Bahnhofstrasse, youll pass Globus, Zurichs famous department store, set beyond a small park on the right hand side. This is definitely worth a visit. The food hall, located in the basement, is sumptuous, almost on par with the one at Berlins KaDeWe. A good place to buy truffles, by all accounts, or cheese, but whatever you buy it will probably be beautifully packaged. Further up along the Bahnhofstrasse, theres an array of gob-smackingly expensive designer shops and massive banks, Credit Suisse, UBS and so on, generally housed within pompous 18th & 19th century monoliths. Blonde matrons of indeterminate age, generally dripping in jewels and in winter, enveloped in the longest and most suspiciously exotic-looking of furs (endangered species, anyone?), promenade along with little dogs on strings. Theres also no shortage of beggars, slumped bleakly against the inch-thick glass of shop frontages, many bearing little homemade signs outlining their HIVstatus
THE LAKE: The Zurichsee, Zurichs own eponymous lake, is located at the end of the Bahnhofstrasse, and is so clean, the local authority has actually certified it safe to drink In summer, it is a delightful place to be, with little paddle-boats dotting the water, and large sun-bathing lawns, restaurants and open-air cafés lining its banks. A brilliant flea-market is held near its banks every Saturday, not quite in the same league as Genevas, but still well worth a visit.
CULTURE: When I was a student, the most scornful word in the lexicon of my Swiss friends was Fiddlyburgher, a term referring to Switzerlands spoil sports, the moral middle-classes, that large and vocal body which holds sway throughout most of German Switzerland, especially in its smaller towns. Well, Zurich may be very clean and very efficient, but the Fiddlyburgers certainly dont hold sway here, and culturally speaking, Zurich is both varied and exciting.
The Rote Fabrik, another subcultural former-squat near the lake, has a gallery & theatre, excellent cheap food, and is one of the most best live venues in Europe featuring both bands and big-name DJs. The August Street Party is an enormous, unmissable, and slightly hedonistic event, taking place over three days. Zurich also hosts various other festivals throughout the year, such as Fasching, in February, and the Sechselauten, to celebrate the end of winter, which includes a rowdy street parade, and culminates in the burning of the boog an effigy of a snow-man, which is filled with explosives & set alight. Obviously, there are a number of very good museums, and the main one, located behind the HB, is very comprehensive, containing treasures such as Napoleon Bonapartes fob watch, amidst more salubrious collections. The Kunsthaus Gallery is first rate, with artists such as Picasso & van Gogh represented. Zurichs Opera House is one of the leading opera and ballet venues in Europe. Zurich is home to Switzerlands oldest and most prestigious university, and its Stock Exchange, founded in 1877, is now the forth largest in the world.
MY ZURICH: Grunge was probably always a middle-class affliction. We tirelessly bewailed our poverty, but somehow always found enough money to fund the latest CD, or third-world trinket, or those summer train tickets to Amsterdam. We always railed against the evils of commercialism, but a lot of my old friends from the Wohlgroth days have since sold their souls to Ernst&Young anyway. Perhaps we were just pretending to be poor, or disenfranchised, all along, but its easy enough to feel poor in a city like Zurich, where conspicuous, ridiculous wealth is well, so ridiculously conspicuous. It was easier to identify with the addled junkies than the fat cats on the Bahnhofstrasse, especially when rifle-bearing police-men stopped you & demanded an ID card at every opportunity, just because you were young, surly and dressed in black.
When I visit Zurich now, my old friends arent the same cynical philosophy students anymore. Mostly, theyve become photographers, artists, bankers or even television presenters, and they take me to newer, more grown-up places, where all & sundry is charged to some sickeningly-slick Black Amex. And yet somehow, against all odds, the vibe is still the same. At any rate, for my money (and such as I have any!) Zurich still remains one of the most exciting cities in Europe
Id never been to Switzerland before you know!
How thrilling it was to feel that boyish excitement about visiting a new county, exploring new sites, tasting new cultures.
Being the inquisitive kind of chap that I am, I insisted on reading as many reviews as I could find on both Dooyoo and good old fantasy Ciaoland. Yet I could feel myself brimming up with outrage and horror at the standard of the reviews and also the information that was within these somewhat half-hearted attempts to describe what I can only say was one of the most romantic, laid back and enjoyable citys I have visited in my life.
Yes, I know it does not have the mood of Paris, the atmosphere of Amsterdam or the art of Barcelona, but none of these three citys have ever made me feel comfortable the moment I set eyes upon them.
The fantasies I heard about Zurich, including that of my own mother would you believe, but I do not let her write on here as the chains on here bed do not allow her access to the computer. I read it was expensive and a bit cold in aura rather than temperature, but this was far from the truth.
I flew into Zurich airport and had my bags collected and with my little love bug Sherry next to me, boarded a free shuttle bus to the Moevenpick Hotel in Regensdorf, some 10K outside of Zurich City centre. Now people are very polite in Switzerland, in fact it is a bit squeaky clean to start with, until you get use to the fact that sarcasm is taboo and that they are genuinely nice people. It was a ten minute journey to the hotel but in darkness, so I could not really share any info about it, other than it was a bit hilly. I will mention the fact that when you come into land at Zurich, the City lights are an absolutely breathtaking sight and worth the push to get a window seat at all costs.
I wont dwell on the hotel too much as I may well do a review of that another boring afternoon. I will mention the fact that we went for a drink at the bar shortly after arriving and I was more than pleasantly surprised by the prices. The purpose of our visit by the way was to go to a wedding of Sherrys long term friend, Rosemary, a Swiss/Italian. Sherry once worked for Zurich insurance, hence how they met and have kept in touch ever since. Rosemary is lovely and as wild as they come, her Italian influence far outweighs her Swiss reserved charm. So anyway, the relevance of telling you that is so that you know when I tell you the accommodation was booked for us rather than I choosing it, why we stayed where we did. Savvy?
Anyway, the bar prices were 10.80 Swiss Francs (They do not use the euro although most shops will take them) and at an exchange rate of approx 2.2 to the £, this made it about £2.50 for a glass of wine, far cheaper than the scaremongers had made me feel it would be. We met our friends in the swing swing bar (titter) and I found out beer was only £3 a glass, about 330ml at a guess, so no big scare there either. So our first night in Switzerland eased our fears of price hikes.
The morning arrived and we were being picked up from the Hotel at 1 for the wedding ceremony, so we decided to miss breakfast stay in bed until a bit later, luxury. I went to the supermarket located next door (Sherry sent me, I did not volunteer.) and I purchased 6 1.5 litres bottles of water, 4 croissants, some fruity things, a lemon and a large packet of Paprika crisps for a total some of 9 SF, or £4 so again, prices seemed to be reasonable here.
Right, Zurich itself.
We arrived in the centre of Zurich at a huge Roman Catholic Church, at about 1.40. The streets are fairly quiet, even on a Saturday lunchtime, which surprised me for a major city. I think I would fine it quite easy to drive around this place to be honest. People seemed to be fairly forgiving and the only congestion was made up by other drivers stopping to let people out at almost every junction, something I am certainly not accustomed to over here. I read somewhere how clean the streets were. No litter or dog muck, which was sort of true, but not totally accurate. Most places where there was a space were covered in graffiti. Seemed to be a national thing though, almost an upsurge in poor street art.
Now unlike the southern European cities, the shops appeared to be open all day, but the restaurants did shut around the church at 2.30pm as we found out as we were parched and searched for a bottle of water. TIP. Finding still bottled water in Zurich appeared to be an art and one I never mastered. Although a sparkling water, it was not as harsh as the likes of Perrier, but more a subtle hum on your tongue when sipped.
Anyway, moving on we boarded the coach and it took us to a magical viewpoint above the city, a restaurant on the Kaferberg. Here we sampled some delicious Swiss delicacies such as a Swiss cheese and ham pastry wrap, sesame seeded pork rolls and miniature spinach flans. But it was the views over the city that caught my attention as my eyes drifted from mountain to lake and the mist beyond. You could see the famous green spires and the largest clock face in Europe, which was situated near the guildhall, our next stop off for the evening reception.
The Zunfthaus zur Schmiden Guildhall is situated next to the River Limmat, and the upstairs banqueting suite can be booked at a price I would not even start to guess. The meal was 7 courses, Antipasto, Consommé with ravioli, Risotto, Calamari, veal, Cheese and biscuits, Cake. Fantastic!
The guildhall is littered with suits of armour, stained glass windows and we were welcomed by candles lining the stairs that led to the venue. Before we went in, we had a scurry around the old town square at the tall church spires, clock towers (There is lots of them) and a shop that sold cases from a couple of hundred quid a shot!
The thing that really stood out, unlike a lot of European cities, is the way that Zurich had been unscathed by the years. Of course, no bomb damage from WW2 and the fact she has not been raised to the ground, plundered or pillaged for longer than I can remember. (I think Zurich was some kind of Roman control point as a pass in the Alps or something similar, but I am sure there are people out there who know better than I.)
The architecture itself is a remarkable indication of the value that Zurich holds, with her cleanliness and uniformity; she masks any feeling of restriction well and allows modern thoughts to mingle with resolution amongst her ancient streets.
After the meal and a little bit of Angus boogie, we were taken back to our hotel room at 01.30, shattered.
Sunday was exploring day and we took full advantage of the 8 hours or so we had before flying back home. The train station was only a 10 minute walk from the hotel, and you can get a 24 hour train ticket for 10.8 Swiss franks, or £5 if you like. It is about a 15 minute journey from our hotel into the centre, and it is nice to take in the scenery rather than sit in a taxi. (I am tight). When you arrive at the train station, that is when you get the biggest surprise of Zurich. The station is an undercover hustle and bustle which you will not see elsewhere. There and loads of small shops, bakeries and cafes buzzing like a city within a city. Lots of bargains to be had here and one of the supermarkets had a cheese selection that I could have spent hours tasting and mulling over. Being a Sunday, it was also the only place open for shopping, which probably accounted for so much of the activity.
We walked out of the Station and crossed the main road, dodging trams and pedestrians and onto the main shopping street of Zurich, Bahnhofstrasse.
An oasis of designer venues, and certainly the place to take someone if you have a spare couple of grand to buy a cheap watch or outfit for your beloved. It was such a shame they close on a Sunday as I really wanted to buy Sherry that 10K Cartier watch she liked. (Please take that with a pinch of salt.) Other big shops included Rolex, Bvlgari and Tiffanys. I was amazed at seeing 10K watches and 2K fur coats, but was so glad that it was a Sunday and we had all the time in the world to window shop.
Following the main road, you come to Lake Zurich and a melody of buskers and street entertainers. Here you can grab a boat to nearby villages and towns, or just take the tourist boat around the lake and up the river a bit. These boats resemble the barges in Amsterdam as the need to be shallow to get under the low bridges that cross the river Limmat. The boat trips take about 40 minutes and cost just over £10 each, nice but we chose to give it a miss and walk instead. Crossing the river by the top of the lake, there is a nest of restaurants and cafes, as well as art, music and speciality shops, including a porn cinema and sex shop would you believe? It was here (not the porn cinema!) that we stopped for a bite to eat and once more to test the theory of high prices. The restaurant we chose was called the Paparazzi and my panini with Swiss cheese and pepperoni and a large cup of coffee cost just over £4. I was shocked. That would have cost me over £5 in Bournemouth never mind London prices.
The sun beat down on us and despite it being October, we found ourselves sitting in our shirts and carrying our coats most of the day. This made it even more enjoyable as we window shopped for Britain. Due to the time scale, we chose not to visit the museums, although I would have hit the Swiss national museum if I had a chance, due to Switzerlands diverse culture the varied exhibits couldnt fail but to encapsulate the most critical onlooker. There are some good art museums strewn around Zurich as well. Picasso and Dali examples can be found loitering with intent to enchant. In fact, the culture of Zurich reflects all aspects of Europe with the battle for dominance mainly being contested by the French, German and Italian strains, but mark my words, this is o physical battle, but more a cunning game of chess with a small aperitif to whet the appetite.
The small streets with their tall, dominant buildings just added to the charms of Zurich, and her flirtatious mood, tranquil setting yet vibrant feel seduced me until I became putty in her hands. We eventually wound our way back to the train station and shopped a bit, drank a bit and caught the train back to our hotel. There we had a goodbye drink with our friends and sadly said our goodbyes to both them and Zurich, longing to have had those extra few days to flirt with her treasures.
Even as we flew away from Zurich, the lights enchanted me until they were merely a glistening horizon and my neck could not be strained no more to view Switzerlands jewel.
Asta Luego Zurich, I will be back.
I'm meant to be working at this time; not that I should be unless I want to turn into one of those hated workaholics (it's well past midnight, in case you're asking). Really, though, I can't complain as I've been having my fair share of hols over the past year or so... so much so, in fact, that I haven't kept up with me dooyoo-writing. Shame on me, lad ("lad" metaphorically speaking)... Of course, being in this category I'm meant to be writing about Zurich "in general"... I'd gladly have written about some specific part of the city but there were no further sub-categories to the Zurich cat - oh well! Zurich, though not the capital of Switzerland, is - together with Geneva - referred to as synonymous with Switzerland. It's the postcard version of "money, money, money, honey", and being home to the all-powerful all-dancing all-singing Swiss mega-banks this comes as no surprise. The Bahnhofstrasse, first mentioned in any travel guide on the place, is the gentlemen's club of Switzerland, as it were - lined with the headquarters of all the aforementioned banks, and interspersed with all the ultra-expensive fashion outlets that make you bleed any bank account you might have in the neighbourhood. This doesn't, needless to say, deter all sorts of tourists (including meself) from having a saunter up and down the street, pretending to window shop as if this were really "our kind of shopping experience". Ahem! At one end of the Bahnofstrasse is Lake Zurich (which is a pretty sight though nothing like, say, Lake Lucerne), while at the other end stands the main station. Now THIS is a sight - an old, majestic high-ceilinged building having more airs of a library than a station. We arrived in Zurich by air, however I can imagine the impression the station gives to those getting to it by rail. The fabled cleanliness and reserve of the Swiss is all there. On the ot
her side of the Station, we get to the Old Town which, as any European-city goer will know, often offers the best part of any city. And here indeed we spent the most of our time in Zurich. Not a huge Old Town, I might qualify, however well worth the visit and meandering. Relatively quiet streets all over, and interestingly scores of not-so-bohemian cafes and nightclubs and restaurants and peep shows... yes, quite unusually for an Old Town this part of Zurich once served as the racy red-light district. Mostly gentrified nowadays, of course, although the peep shows and late-night cabarets survive! It's curious to see a would-be raunchy nightclub sharing street frontage with its next-door wholesome family-oriented pizzeria (complete with Italian flag and misspelt Italian pizza names and ingredients). Some of the shops here are worth a visit too, especially if you mouth watered during your walk down Bahnhofstrasse. The prices are much more reasonable here, and while definitely not a steal by any definition (except Queen Bessie's, perhaps), there are some worthwhile buys to be made. There's even an Apple Mac dealership! One other trove of Zurich is the plethora of antique bookshops around - the Old Town especially is dotted with them! There are some high-quality and mint-condition antique books to be found, including respectable collections of English-language books. I actually found two excellently-preserved titles: a collection of Byron poems and a lavishly-illustrated Gulliver's Travels first edition... Further up into the Old Town, the two cathedrals of Zurich are interesting buildings, though nothing to write to dooyoo about when compared to Italian and French masterpieces: the Fraumunster and the Grossmunster. Further afield, the Kunsthaus was one of the most diverse art museums I've seen in recent years - I spent a fascinating morning there in the company of the likes of Picasso (to whom a whole room is dedicated
), Kl ee, Monet, and including an impressive photographic exhibition. Zurich would be well worth a visit just for this museum, believe me! Overall, Zurich city centre isn't such a huge place - and in fact I spent just the couple of days there before heading to Lucerne and the mountains. Yet I have to admit that Zurich was way different from what I'd expected, yet special in many ways. I definitely recommend a (short) stay there. [As you might have realised, I've refrained from commenting about the Swiss themselves - there's a reason for that: I was less than impressed or amused by the snottiness of the few Swiss, mostly working in the tourist business, I met. However I wouldn't like to generalise so I'll keep mum about that aspect...] PS. Oh, by the way, there's some pretty decent nosh to be had in the Old Town, too - just (as always) avoid the blatantly tourist places and you'll do just fine. Bye bye
Just give me three good reasons to go to Zürich. No litter, no graffiti, no children. ‘Nuff said? I hope not! Zürich is a place that greatly rewards you for a little research either by getting a guide to the city before you go or, the method I chose, repeated visits to the city where you build up your own feel for the place. I was living relatively nearby in Böblingen, Baden-Würtemburg in the Southwest of Germany about two hours by car. I believe it is better to discover places for yourself rather than following the well-trodden path. So, in a sense I am ruining that opportunity for you. But if you don’t have the option to travel there often then this may be of help to some for you first or only visit so you don’t miss the must see sights. If you don’t speak German not to worry neither do the people in Zürich. A little unfair really but the Swiss German speaking folks understand regular German – you may have to repeat the word a couple of times or do the charades thing and speak English trick as most people outside the UK can speak, to a greater or lesser extent, more than just their own language. If you arrive by car and don’t plan to stay overnight, there is a large underground car park close to the centre of town – use it. The price may seem high in price SFr45 (£15) but the parking fines are fantastic SFr250 (£85). Your hotel may arrange parking if you are staying the night. TIP don’t sleep with the window open if your room if it overlooks the street as these are brushed clean by scaled-down road sweepers and, depending where you are in the city, they can pass as early as 05:30! Zürich is not cheap but that’s not to say you can’t enjoy a good meal with a bank loan. The Niederdorp is a pedestrian road in old part of town on the east bank of the River Limmat, as is populated by little bars and restaurants. I took my parents to a trendy and s
tylish eatery with great food and service, which cost only SFr90 (£29) for the three of us. One couple seemed to do even better after explaining they had left their wallet at home were allowed to leave after supplying their address. They’re that honest in Switzerland. Another time, three mates and myself went to a pasta restaurant, which had three or four plate menus we couldn’t all sit together, but it was cheap SFr15 (£5) for a filling yet basic meal. Afterwards we retired to a couple of English-style bars. Sights – all on the west bank of the Limmat - Lindenhof – site of Roman fortress accessible by the narrow streets between Bahnhofstrasse and the River Limmat. Now go south to see the huge clock on the tower of the Peterskirche (Mon–Sat 8am–6pm). Another church Fraumünster (Mon–Sat 9am–12.30pm & 2pm–6pm), an ancient church which began life as a convent, hence the name, and have some stained glass by Marc Chagall. From their head to the Münsterhof, then cross the river using the Münsterbrücke back to the Niederdorf. Sit down and either have a beer or an Ice cream and then discover your Zürich. I may see you there!
Zurich is an extremely easy city to get to, located in the eastern German-speaking part of Switzerland. Even though the airport reduces to using only one runway much earlier than most other cities, due to noise pollution concerns of the city's inhabitants! If there are problems with any of the departures in the evening, delays can occur as flights out of the city stack up into the night. If you're hoping to use your school-learned German, you'll be disappointed - although all the signs are in the "High" German you learnt at school, everyone speaks Swiss German, a language different enough to lead to communication breakdown more rapidly than you'd think! Fortunately though, virtually everyone also speaks English. Zurich itself is a beautiful city, built on the river Limmat, and next to the Zurichsee lake. The two main churches, Grossmunster and Fraumunster (one on each side of the river), are both very attractive, and well worth a visit. The main street, Bahnhofstrasse, boasts a great many chic designer shops, and is (somewhat bizarrely) lined by a series of colourfully-painted papier-mache cows outside each shop. An excellent tram system runs throughout the city, which makes it easy and cheap to explore. Also, Zurich offers a great number of shops selling the ubiquitous Swiss army knives, in addition to a veritable armoury of swords, combat knives and guns! Another thing that you are guaranteed to notice in the city is the cleanliness of everything - there's no graffiti anywhere, and the streets always looked freshly swept. [This was my experience on my brief visit to the city, but as travelnotes points out in his commentary to this review, it's probably not as perfect as I've suggested!] The city is only a brief train journey from the airport, on double-decker trains(!) and is a convenient point from which to travel further east towards the Romansch-speaking Engadin basin of Switzerland, and
the skiing resorts of Klosters and St Moritz. I found Zurich to be a beautiful and welcoming city, and met some very pleasant Swiss people when I visited this area of Switzerland in 1997. A friend of mine has recently started studying for a PhD at one of Zurich's Universities, so I'm already planning to pay her a visit!
One of the first things to strike you is the degree of cleanliness of this city. Graffeti exists but not to the extent of many other European cities I have visited. The hub of Zurich has to be the Haptbahnhof (Main railway station) not only for transportation but also occasionaly for entertainment and definatly for the cheapest food to be found in any of the restaurants (take away can be more expensive than eat-in). Another good place to eat is the MOVENPIC on the main road BAHNHOFSTRASSE. Good, basic, filling food at reasonable prices. Public loos are of course available at the station and you do have to pay to enter them. If you decide to travel by train whilst in Switzerland you will find that your journey ticket from a to b will cover all means of transport for you to get there, this can be ferry, tram, bus or train. Switzerland as a country runs on trust and timing. Virtualy all means of transport interconnect and very infrequently will you find your ticket checked however, if it is and you are not within its boundries you will be FINED VERY HEAVILY by the transport police. Zurich has many churches and its cathedral GROSS MUNSTER with its twin spires. All churches are free to get into. They are not overtly pleased with you taking photos in the churches but all of them have postcards for sale. The lake of Zurich during the summer can be used for either boat rides or for swimming, the water is clean but cold. If you are an in-line roller skater Zurich seems to be the capital. Other siteseeing venues - any of the incrediable Art galleries, the Zoo, F.I.F.A headquaters, Susanberg Strasse (home of Tina Turner)and the Opera Cafe with its yellow umbrellas where you will rub shoulders with poets, painters and people who have poodle walkers.
what else do you expect? I have been to Zurich twice for holidays. As the city at the heart of Switzerland's economy, I had expected normal 'big city' rush and culture. To my pleasant surprise, Zurich is a city which combines work and play wonderfully. Next to high-rise buildings you have parks and lakes which transforms you to a different world altogether. I remember thinking, 'Wow, if I could work here everyday will be a holiday'. The people are friendly and nice, with the 'small town' friendliness you would not expect from any big city. Even though the living standard in Switzerland is undoubtedly higher than the rest of Europe, I would say that it is similar to what you find in London.
"Zürich is the largest city in Switzerland (population: 366,145 in 2004; population of urban area: 1,091,732) and capital of the canton of Zürich. The metropolitan population is around 1.3 million. The city is Switzerland's main commercial and cultural centre (the political capital of Switzerland being Bern), and is widely considered to be one of the world's global cities. According to several surveys in 2006, it is the city with the best quality of life in the world. The origin of the name is probably the Celtic word Turus, a corroborating reference to which was found on a tomb inscription dating from the Roman occupation in the 2nd century; the antique name of the town in its romanized form was Turicum."