What first thoughts come to your mind when you think of Switzerland? Even without travel guide to Zurich you will surely think of cheese, watches, banks, chocolate and crazy prizes for everything. Swiss people are also famous for their precision, perfectionism and punctuality. What else would you expect from people who produce watches?
While planning to go to Switzerland many people choose Zurich as Nr.1 city worth visiting and need a travel guide to Zurich. In my humble opinion, you might see most of the city in one day, but if you came for a weekend or more, be ready to pay double price for the same accommodation you would find in another European city.
So, what does Zurich look like? Every city has its own atmosphere and Zurich is a city of business. People in suits with leather bags and expensive shoes seem always to run somewhere. You might find a lot of hipsters there too, but even they look perfect and neat. Parks and public places to relax are very clean and seem a bit unnatural as for me because of it’s aristocratic look.
What to see in Zurich: a small travel guide
If you arrived by train, you might want to walk through this street to Old town, there are a lot of brand stores like Rolex and boutiques in here.
Flea market “Rosenhof” in Weingasse
It’s open every Saturday and there are a lot of nice things to buy as a souvenir. E.g. a real “Viktorinox” Swiss Army knife for 5CHF (4.5 Euro).
There are plenty of them everywhere and you might do a little experiment comparing a Swiss chocolate from a boutique for 15 CHF with a chocolate from nearest supermarket for 5 CHF.
Frau Gerolds Garden
By warm weather many people come here to chill for BBQ parties, relaxing atmosphere and very nice decorations. Good place to try a traditional Swiss cheese fondue.
Many tourists feel an obligation to visit a church in every city there are in. In Zurich you have 3 options:
- Great Minster church (Grossmünster);
- and Wasserkirche.
On the promenade you will find Fraumünster. It was a female monastery for aristocratic ladies possessed considerable power in the city and even had the privilege of printing money. The two towers who proudly rise at any picture of Zurich, belong to the main cathedral – Grossmünster, built in the 12th century. According to legend, the Grossmünster was founded by Charlemagne, whose horse fell to his knees at the tomb of Felix and Regula – patron saints of Zurich. The tower of the Great Minster church – it's a great place to make beautiful pictures of the old center.
Close to the lake the church Wasserkirche was surrounded by water (from whence the name), but subsequently built promenade Limmatquai connected the church with land. In Reformation times Wasserkirche was the first public library of Zurich in 1634. Having become a «place of knowledge» the Church thus made a significant contribution to the formation of the University of Zurich in the 19th century.
Museum Kunsthaus (free on Wednesdays)
If you like art, you might love this museum which contains a collection of classical and contemporary art, including several paintings by Salvador Dali, Monet, Picasso, Marc Chagall.
Thermalbad Zurich: from an old brewery to a bathing sanctuary
After a difficult day and if you have 3 free hours, you would love this SPA. What is special here is that there is a heated open-air swimming pool on the top of it from where you can enjoy panorama of Zürich by any time of year.
After sightseeing Zurich take a train to Lucerne (40 mins) and you will be surprised of the contrast from business to romantic city. Lucerne is a city of art. It can indeed inspire you to write a sonnet or to paint a picture. Somehow it happens that while most of Europeans and Americans walk the paths of Felix and Regula in Zurich, most if not all Asians go to Lucerne. Which might be good for you: follow an Asian person to see all the nicest sightseeings in Lucerne. The city is really small, so you won’t need a special travel guide to Lucerne.
What is there interesting in Lucerne?
Lion of Lucerne
It commemorates the Swiss Guards who were massacred in 1792 during the French Revolution, when revolutionaries stormed the Tuileries Palace in Paris. Mark Twain praised the sculpture of a mortally-wounded lion as «the most mournful and moving piece of stone in the world».
You haven’t seen Switzerland if you were not in mountains!
Take a ship from Luzern to visit Swiss Alps, e.g. Mount Rigi. You can hike, snowboard or ski from up there or enjoy spectacular views of the Alps at 1,800 metres above sea level. The cogwheel railway leaving from Vitznau is Europe's first mountain railway.
Slideshow: the Alps
What to recommend to visitors of Switzerland?
Swiss speak German, but in a Swiss way. So, when you cannot understand what they are talking about, simply ask «Entschuldigung, könnten Sie bitte langsamer sprechen? Deutsch ist nicht meine Muttersprache» (Sorry, can you please speak a bit slower? German is not my native language). However, everyone can speak English there.
You should definitely try Swiss Raclette: it’s better to see once rather than to describe.
Video: cooking the Swiss raclette
Talk to natives and don’t judge a nation by one person.
Swiss might only seem too cold and a bit arrogant, but when you take your time to read about their mentality and try to be polite and courteous, you get to know them better.
And remember, small is beautiful !
Based on my article written for AEGEE, European Students' Forum: Travel Guide to Zurich.