Zurich, Switzerland

Guide for the rail traveller

Information

CurrencySwiss Franc
Local languageGerman / French
Country Switzerland

Introduction

Mistaken by many as the capital of Switzerland Zürich is arguably the financial and cultural center of Switzerland whilst the city of Berne (Bern) is in fact its federal capital. The largest city in Switzerland, Zürich is situated in the Kanton Zürich in north-central Switzerland, at the northern tip of the Zürichsee (Lake Zurich). The concentration of wealth here is apparent the minute you arrive; in a land full of bankers Zürich is the banker’s capital, as well as being a world center for industry and commerce. As a visitor however, you will simply be faced with a beautifully laid-out city with a magnificently well preserved Old Town (Altstadt) at its medieval center.

One of the most satisfying pastimes is to sit in one of the elegant lakeside cafes and enjoy the view of Lake Zürich crisscrossed by several bridges, with mountains in the background. The city is bisected by the Limat River with the Altstadt, the main train station and Bahnhofplatz on the left bank, and the younger and more vibrant section with Oberdorf and Niederdorf as well as Belevueplatz being located to the right.

Although officially the largest city in Switzerland, Zürich’s population is only about three hundred and fifty thousand. Small by European standards the city center is easily covered by foot.

Going to Zurich?

Use our Trip Planner and start your trip here.

Things to do

Most of Zürich’s sights are located within a compact area on either side of the River Limat. Much admired in Zürich are its churches, Grossmünster Cathedral, the largest in the city is on the east bank facing the Limat River. Meanwhile almost opposite on the other side of the river is Fraumünster, particularly noted for its elegant spire dating back to the seventeen thirties. St Peterskirche is the city’s eldest church and boasts the largest clock face in Europe. All of these lie within close distance of each other near the Limat River.

Zürich’s most important art gallery the Kunsthaus (Fine Arts Museum) situated on Heimplatz, has a great collection of modern art, and includes a couple of Monet’s Water Lilies. Meanwhile the Schweizerisches Landesmuseum (Swiss National Museum) is on Museumstrasse alongside the main train station.

For something different visit the Zürich Zoo housing some fifteen hundred animals. Take tram five or six to ‘Zoo’. Similarly the Botanischer Garten (Botanical Gardens) is a great place to get away from the city and inside which you will find over one million plants. Another option for some fresh air is the tallest point in Zürich namely Uetliberg, which offers some fantastic views over the city and its lake. The journey there on the ‘Sihltal Zürich Uetliberg Bahn’ (S 10) is a pleasure in itself.

Fine dinning is something the Swiss are renowned for and Zürich can offer this in abundance, be it alongside River Limat on the Quay or up on a rise overlooking the lake. Lastly, for some luxury shopping go to Zürich’s Bahnhofstrasse, the equivalent to New York’s Fifth Avenue.

Local transport

As you would expect when in Switzerland the public transport system is highly efficient and simple to use. The network consists of rail (S-Bahn), trams, buses and funiculars. Tickets must be purchased prior to boarding from the ticket machines located at the stations. A good value option is the day pass allowing unlimited travel within the city. Don’t neglect the other means of getting around that is to say hiring a free bicycle from the Hauptbahnhof on Zollstrasse.

Day trips

Switzerland is just over two hundred miles from north to south and less than one hundred and forty miles east to west, which means that your options for day trips are virtually limitless depending upon what you are after. Furthermore, Zürich is located very centrally; a train journey of just over an hour takes you to Switzerland’s capital city, Berne (Bern). A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city displays a sticking medieval appearance whilst also being a very cosmopolitan center. Attractions include the city’s famous clock tower (Zeitglockenturm), the Old Town, numerous museums and vast shopping arcades.

Another alternative lies in the picturesque city of Lucerne (Luzern), which at under an hour away by train is extremely popular with visitors and rightly so. Situated at the northwestern end of Lake Lucerne the lakefront set against a backdrop of the almighty Alps is a truly unforgettable sight.

Plan your trip to Europe

European Trip Planner

Use our trip planner to put together your list of destinations to visit on your trip.


European Rail Passes

Compare rail passes and point to point tickets.


Travel Articles

Find inspiration in our travel articles and journey suggestions.