Located in the heart of the Zurich Canton, modern Zurich blends old-world charm and avant-garde infrastructure. Every year, Switzerland's largest city draws thousands of visitors to its scenic splendors and beatific landscape. Breathe in the crisp Alpine air and the rich cultural heritage - though that is only the beginning! Historic museums and churches, friendly Zurchers (Zurich citizens, that is), and world-class architecture make this city one of the most frequently visited tourist destinations in Europe. The city is broadly planned into 12 Kreise (districts) arranged clockwise around the city center, making it quite simple for wandering tourists to read maps and follow directions.
Kreis 1: Altstadt
The Altstadt, Oberdorf and Niederdorf regions cover the historic core of the city. Stroll through medieval streets alongside the Limmat River and admire Marc Chagall's stained-glass windows at the
Kreis 2: Enge, Wollishofen & Leimbach
Located on the western shore of Lake Zurich, the second district is comprised of the Wollishofen, Enge and Leimbach quarters. The area is a tourist draw due to its lakefront location, historic castles and wild nightlife scene. As the main ferry terminal of Zurich, Enge bustles with tourist traffic at all times, while the famous
Kreis 4: Aussersihl
Aussersihl is Zurich's cosmopolitan district. Inhabited mostly by foreign citizens, this neighborhood lies in South Zurich and is a conglomeration of the city's diverse cultures and lifestyles. Zurich's increasingly liberal attitudes are on display at events such as the
Kreis 6: Oberstrass & Unterstrass
Kreis 6 is located north of Altstadt and is made up of the Oberstrass and Unterstrass neighborhoods. The
Kreis 7: Fluntern, Hottingen, Hirslanden & Witikon
The quarters of Fluntern, Hottingen, Hirslanden and Witikon are positioned in Zurich's eastern periphery and constitute the city's Kreis 7. Residents of Kreis 7 enjoy a high standard of living, and the neighborhood is hence promoted as the traditional upper-class district of Zurich. One popular tourist destination is the
Kreis 11: Affoltern, Oerlikon & Seebach
The northernmost district of Zurich originally enveloped the Affoltern, Oerlikon and Seebach quarters. Kreis 11 was later reorganized in 1971, at which point Schwamendingen developed into an independent district. Today, prestigious events like the Zurich Open take place in this region. Every year in December, this district also hosts the city's biggest Christmas market during the
The history of Zurich began about 2000 years ago when the Roman customs station Turicum (Zurich) was founded. With its population of 360,000 in the city and almost one million in the suburbs, Zurich is Switzerland's biggest city. As the city center is relatively small, most of the attractions are within walking distance. There is also a very convenient bus and tram system allowing you to get around quickly and relatively cheaply. Day tickets are available at the main railway station or at most tram stops.
Landesmuseum (Swiss National Museum)
A walk through the city's unique Old Town, which is extremely picturesque, is quite a pleasure. Begin your day with a stroll alongside the Limmat River. You will eventually make your way to both the Grossmünster and the Fraumünster churches where you can admire Chagall’s beautiful stained-glass windows. Some time should also be set aside for a visit to the Niederdorf district in the evening. While in Kreis 1, make time to visit a museum or two. Not to be missed are the Landesmuseum (the Swiss National Museum) and the Haus Konstruktiv museum of conceptual and constructive art. The many bars and restaurants here give the area a lively, welcoming atmosphere. For tasty Chinese food, try Chop Chop and for an exotic cocktail, don’t miss Sugarlounge.
People who want to observe the city from a height should visit the Uetliberg. The view from its summit is excellent, and on a clear day, you can see the Alps to the south and the city with its lake to the north. The Uetliberg (871 meters/2857 feet above sea level) is only a short train ride away from the Main Train Station. You can also climb the mountain yourself. Many of the routes stop at the Triemli (trams 9 or 14 to Triemli). The walk is easy and takes about one and a half hours, depending on how fit you are. It should, however be noted that the route can be rather steep at times. While in Kreis 3, visit the Friedhof Sihfeld (Cemetery Sihfeld). This beautiful serene place is the resting place of many famous personalities. Also make your way to the Papiersaal. This former paper mill has been converted into a unique cultural center often hosting art exhibits, DJs and musicians. Dining options in this area include Korea Pavillon, one of the city’s top Korean restaurants and Zurlinden, the perfect place for a date.
Bürkliplatz Flea Market
During the summer, a relaxing boat cruise on Zürich Lake will compliment any visit, and you can enjoy splendid views of the surrounding mountains. Most of the boats have restaurants which serve excellent food. The city's port is at the Bürkliplatz and can be reached in about 15 minutes by foot from the railway station or by tram (2, 5, 8, 9 or 11 to the Bürkliplatz). The Bürkliplatz Flea Market is the biggest in all of Zurich. It is one seriously popular destination on Saturdays. After a morning of shopping take some time to visit the Johann Jacobs Museum. This unique museum traces the history of coffee, one of the world’s most popular beverages. While getting your fill of coffee and culture, be sure to catch a glimpse of Le Corbusier Centre. This monument was the last creation of the famed architect Charles-Edouard Jeanneret, aka Le Corbusier, before his death. While in this neck of the woods, try Riesbächli for some fantastic French cuisine.
What better way to enjoy a beautiful sunny afternoon than to stroll through the park. Bäcker Park is considered one of the most beautiful and lush in all of Zurich.. Once you have had your fill of the outdoors, head to the very interesting Indianermuseum tracing the history of the Native American culture. For a different type of culture, head on over to Langstrasse, Zurich's red light district. As dusk falls, stop for a drink at Long Street Bar or get in a few laughs at Volkshaus Zürich comedy club.
European Walking Tours (+41 637 42 58)
Walk & Ride (+77 434 31 12 / http://www.walkandride.eu/)
RIDE Bike - Tours Christoph Schweizer (+43 211 38 19?)
Zurich & Surroundings City Bus Tour (http://www.zurichtours.net/tours/tourDetail.cfm?tour_id=10314)
Bootsvermietung Lago (+44 262 22 20 / http://www.zuerich.com/en/page.cfm/information/boattrips)
Most cities have modest origins, and Zurich is no exception. The Roman garrison of Turicum stationed in the area in 15 BCE near the present-day Lindenhof, and in 370 CE, just 30 years after the Romans had left, a small fort sprang up on the same site. In the following centuries Alemannic and Frankish tribes settled in the area, marking the place where this great city would later flourish.
The foundation of the Fraumünster cathedral was laid down in 853 by Ludwig the German, a grandson of Charlemagne, and the first recorded mention of the city dates back to 929. In the following years, Otto the Great reunited Italy with Germany, thus reinforcing Zurich's important strategic position as a bridgehead between the two states. German emperors frequently came to the Lindenhof to discuss their policies in Italy. In 1098 the imperial province of Zurich came under the rule of the Zähringer dynasty. After that line died out in 1218, Zurich became a free city, albeit still part of the kingdom. Two years later the first city council came into being. After the founding of the Swiss Confederation in 1281 Zurich allied itself with the other cantons against the Habsburgs, who defeated them and lay siege to the city. In 1336 the knights and wealthy merchants lost their preeminent position in the city council as political rights were extended to poorer craftsmen and artisans, who organized themselves into powerful guilds. Zurich formally joined the Swiss Confederation in 1351, where it remained despite various conflicts and upheavals.
In 1519 Huldrych Zwingli, a central figure in the European Reformation, became a minister at the cathedral. Battles over iconoclasm raged and by 1525 the Reformation was complete. In 1648 Zurich was expelled from the German Empire. The old confederate system came to an abrupt end in 1798 with the onset of the Napoleonic wars and the advance of the French armies. The following year, Zurich became the fulcrum of the war and was variously besieged by French, Austrian and Russian forces. After the restoration of peace, Zurich blossomed and enjoyed an unprecedented economic boom. The University, to this day Switzerland's largest and most prestigious, was founded in 1833. Fourteen years later, the first railway line going through Zurich was constructed. With the conglomeration of 11 hitherto self-contained districts, the city's population swelled to 120,000. During both World War I and II Zurich was a haven for refugees fleeing authoritarian regimes. German author Thomas Mann lived here for a while, as did Albert Einstein and Lenin.
After the upheavals of 1968, Zurich saw further student protests, which reached a climax in the early 1980s. The city also earned notoriety for its harm-reduction approach to drug policy, its liberal party atmosphere, especially the Street Parade, and for its position as the center of offshore banking. Zurich, with its 360,000 inhabitants, undoubtedly sets the standard in banking and finance, service industries and culture. It is considered a "world city" and earned recognition in 2006 for having the best standard of living in the world.
Zurich's Kreis 1 encompasses Switzerland's most expensive shopping center (the Bahnhofstrasse), the Old Town, the entertainment district of Niederdorf, and the banking and financial pulse of the city (on the Paradeplatz). In addition to all these things, it is also home to the city's widest selection of hotels at diverse prices. There are also other affordable and luxurious hotel options just outside the city center.
Kreis 1: Altstadt, Oberdorf & Niederdorf
The City Backpacker, whose name aptly reflects its clientele, is cheap, clean and central - qualities that also characterize the ZicZac Rock Hotel, a favorite with famous musicians. The Wellenberg, also located in the bustling Niederdorf quarter, is in the middle price bracket. An unassuming façade makes the striking and innovative design of the rooms inside all the more surprising. The Hotel Kindli interior, by contrast, is pure Laura Ashley (cozy and romantic English-style designs, that is). The Florhof, located near the art museum, boasts a lighter and more contemporary design. A short distance away in the Oberdorf, two inexpensive hotels stand out in the crowd: Hotel Otter, not recommended for fussy customers or light sleepers, and the Hotel Rössli, still one of Zurich's best-kept secrets. Try it before the word gets out! On the opposite bank of the Limmat lies the Hotel Zum Storchen, unique among Zurich hotels in its location right on the river bank. Three luxury hotels are situated on the same side of the river: the Baur au Lac, the Savoy Baur en Ville and the Widder. All these enjoy a towering reputation beyond the confines of the city and have played host to many an eminent guest. While the first two are long-established, the Widder is the junior partner in the triumvirate, opened as recently as 1995, and has quickly consolidated its reputation among the rich and famous.
Kreis 2: Enge, Wollishofen & Leimbach
Naturally there are plenty of hotels outside of Kreis 1 that are worth the extra trip away from the hustle and bustle of downtown. The Splügenschloss in Kreis 2 is a neo-classical structure not far from the lake. This area offers many luxury accommodations including Park Hyatt Zurich, Belvoir, and Dolder Grand Hotel
Kreis 3: Wiedikon
Although a fair distance from the center of town, the Hotel Uto-Kulm, situated on Ütliberg Mountain in Kreis 3, offers spectacular views of the city. It's strictly no frills, with rooms that small but clean. The Waldhaus Dolder, in Kreis 7, is also highly recommended for its many amenities and stunning vistas. Dolder Grand Hotel is an exclusive establishment in art nouveau style, offering the visitor breathtaking views of the Alps.
Kreis 4: Aussersihl
The St. Georges, located in picturesque Kreis 4, is a small, affordable establishment with a cozy family-run atmosphere. easyHotel Zürich is another good bet for those on a tight budget. For more upscale accommodations, the Hotel Krone Unterstrass and the Greulich are awaiting you.
Kreis 5: Industriequartier
Within easy reach of the station in Kreis 5, Hotel Walhalla is popular with business executives and busy travelers alike. Deluxe options include Swissotel Zürich and Coronado
Kreis 8: Riesbach
If your priority is to quickly get back to your room after a night at the opera, the Hotel Opera is the place to stay. Not far away is the equally elegant Hotel Seegarten which, as its name suggests, lies a short distance from the lake. The Eden au Lac, separated from the lakeside by a busy street, is an imposing structure with an opulent interior and a variety of enticing amenities.