City guide: Zurich, Switzerland | Private jet charter
Switzerland’s largest city enjoys a stunning location on Lake Zurich. Renowned for its outdoor lifestyle, Zurich also boasts a fascinating Old Town with Renaissance and medieval architecture that’s within walking distance of the major sites.
Trendy living spaces and galleries now inhabit former industrial sites, giving life to the city’s rich historical legacy. The city’s eclectic restaurant and nightlife, alongside its rich cultural scene makes it a popular year-round destination.
Top five must-see sights and attractions
The perfect base for your stay in Zurich, its Altstadt cobblestone streets and alleys rise up from both sides of the Lammat River. Start early in the morning with a visit to the main tourist information centre located opposite the Church of Our Lady (Fraumünster) by the lake. Identified by its soaring blue spire, the 13th-century church was founded in 853.
Other unmissable Old Town attractions includes Grossmünster, St Peter Church and the Swiss National Museum. For luxury shopping in the area, Bahnhofstrasse is your destination. The Old Town is Zurich’s nightlife area centred around Niederdorf and the Limmatquai promenade which comes alive at sunset.
Bürkliplatz and Lake Zurich boat rides
Zurich’s lakeside and riverside location are perfect for strolls along the promenade. Head to the Bürkliplatz boat dock – the starting place for lake cruises – for the best views across Lake Zurich. This lakeside park area with the charming Quaibrücke has a vegetable market twice a week and a popular flea market on Saturdays.
Stroll farther along to Zürichhorn and you’ll reach the beautiful Chinese Garden with its temples and pavilions. A gift from the town of Kunming it even has a small palace.
Cruises on Lake Zurich generally last for 90-minutes but day trips are also available. Alternatively, a cruise on the River Limmat begins and ends at the Landesmuseum. From the water you’ll have fabulous views of the Altstadt before sailing out into Lake Zurich.
The Zurich Kunsthaus is a world-renowned fine-art museum on Heimplatz and home to works by Giacometti, as well as Van Gogh, Monet and Chagall which are displayed on the top floor.
Reigning supreme here are the Impressionists, Post-Impressionists and the Modern schools of art, including Manet, Corot and Delacroix. Look out for Manet’s two beautiful water lily canvases, as well as pieces by Cezanne and Van Gogh.
Flemish Masters are also represented here with work by Rubens and van Dyck. If your artistic preference is more cutting edge then visit the Kunsthalle, a superb gallery located in the former Löwenbräu brewery.
Shopping on Bahnhofstrasse and West Zurich
Connecting Lake Zurich with the city’s railway station, Bahnofstrasse is lined with fashion stores. Its luxury brand outlets are located at the Bürkliplatz and Lake Zurich end of one of the world’s most expensive shopping streets. Give the plastic a break at Café Sprüngli and when the labels wear thin, head for a mooch in the charming Altstadt via Rennweg and Augustinegasse.
In summer Zurich plays host to many weekly markets selling local specialities as well as fruit and veg. The Christmas markets are especially popular.
For an edgier vibe head to Zurich-West, the former industrial heart of Zurich, which has been transformed into a major tourist attraction. The main focal point is the Viadukt, a selection of bars, restaurants and shops in the archways of the former railway viaduct between the Limmat and Hardbrücke station.
Best views in Zurich
The Jules Verne Panorama Bar in the Lindendorf district. Reach the bar via the lift inside Brasserie Lipp. The bar is just below Urania Sternwarte – the 164-foot public observatory. For outdoors views of Zurich city and the lake, head 2,850 feet above sea level to the city’s very own Uetliberg mountain.
Restaurant Die Waid at Waidbadstrasse 45 offers gourmet cuisine with superb views over the city and the nearby forest, while Charles Tower (Karlsturm) in the Old Town has tantalising city views from its lofty platform. You’ll have to climb 187 stairs to reach it but the views are well worth the ascent.
Zurich Airport is just a ten-minute train ride from the city centre. Alternatively take a taxi (15 minutes) or a shuttle bus (30-40 minutes). There’s also a tram (Line 10) which takes 30 minutes. Buy a Zurich Card lasting 24 or 72 hours at the airport, at tourist information offices and at ticket machines at the major Swiss railway stations. This visitor’s pass will give you reductions on attractions, as well as free travel by cable car, bus, rail and tram.
Getting around Zurich is easy. The Old Town is best explored by foot and can be covered in only a few hours. Taxis are plentiful – order at your hotel or hail them from around the main railway station, Bürkliplatz or Lake Zurich. Driving is easy but there are many parking restrictions so best to park in the designated ‘park houses’ not on the street.
Best time to visit
Plan to visit Zurich for its Festival (June), Long Night of Museums (September), Sechseläuten Spring Festival (April), Zurich Street Festival (August), or the festive Christmas markets.
Spring: Weather can be unpredictable – from sunshine to rain in hours. Bring layers and an umbrella.
Summer: July and August are peak tourist season in Zurich. Expect sunny and hot days especially in August but also be prepared for evening thunderstorms.
Autumn: The autumn colours are beautiful and although nights are colder, daytime tends to be sunny.
Winter: Zurich often has snow as early as November. Days and evenings tend to be cold so bring warm clothes. Tourist numbers are fewer but increase during the Christmas markets.
Zurich’s location at the centre of Europe makes it an ideal year-round destination. Perfect for outdoors enthusiasts, the city also offers visitors a rich cultural life with attractions for all ages. Zurich is blessed with a vibrant international English-speaking community, and an increasingly eclectic restaurant and nightlife scene, as well as some of the most renowned museums and galleries in the world.
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