Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and its financial center, with organizations and companies such as FIFA and Google residing there. The cosmopolitan city is home to many foreigners, making it a unique destination, and is also known for its food scene and its classical arts — opera, ballet, concerts and theaters. Many people come through Zurich as it has the biggest international airport in the country. Some make it their final destination, while others go on to explore other European countries or the nearby Swiss Alps.
The main sights of the city are located within the Old Town and include the churches Grossmünster and Fraumünster; Landesmuseum, a Swiss history museum; Kunsthaus, an art museum; Lathe lake promenade; Schanzengraben, an old canal; Jacob Coffee Museum; and Bahnhofstrasse, an expensive shopping street. Niederdorf is another shopping area, one that comes alive at night due to its many bars. If you want to see the whole city at once, journey up to Lindenhof, a high point that provides a view of the river and Old Town. It’s also historically significant — Charlemagne’s grandson built a palace on the site in the 9th century.
Zurich is known as the gateway to the Alps, and for good reason. Mountains surround the city, and tourists can choose one of many options to visit them. Mount Rigi, known as “the Queen of the Mountains” can be reached by cable car. Mount Pilatus, near Lake Lucerne is accessed via the world’s steepest cog rail. Junfraujoch can be reached by railroad and is so high you can see the summits of many surrounding mountains from the top of it. Or, Mount Titlis, about 1.5 hours south of Zurich, has the highest vantage point in the country. If you’re looking for a city getaway, venture to Lucerne, an ancient town just an hour away by train. The beautiful city sits next to a lake, Lake Lucerne, on which you can take a sightseeing boat trip. While there, make sure to see the 14th-century city walls and walk over the Kapellbrücke, a scenic covered bridge. You can also take a trip into the mountains from Lucerne if you’d like to combine the two day trips into one.
Zurich is divided into 12 districts, or “Kreise.” The majority of what you will be exploring is likely in Kreis 1, a central district that straddles the river and where the Old Town and Bahnhofstrasse reside. The other Kreise that are popular to stay in are 2, 4, and 5. Kreis 2 is the lakefront district that attracts a younger audience with its hostels and nightlife. Kreise 4 and 5 also have many clubs as well as art galleries. The two districts are connected by the Langstrasse through a tunnel underneath the railway tracks. Though it used to be the seedy area of the city, they now attract a young, hip crowd. If you want a more laidback vibe, Zurich Nord, or Kreis 11, is home to many businesses as well as houses and hotels to stay in.
Zurich has clean and efficient public transportation made up of trams, buses, trains, cable cars, and boats, meaning there’s often more than one way to get from place to place. Tickets give you access to any of these modes of transportation; cost depends on how many fare zones you cross during your journey. There are different daily and monthly passes you can get if you plan on using the system frequently during your stay. Though most of the service ends at night, there is also a nighttime network of buses and trains that operate within the city.
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