Zurich Pictures Guide, Switzerland

Limmat River lunch, Zurich, Switzerland

Lunchtime on the Limmat River east bank, Zurich, north Switzerland

Visiting Zurich

Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and has the highest living standard in the country, if not in Europe. But this comes at a price so Zurich is also the most expensive place in Europe, offering few major attractions but excellent night activity options and quite a few interesting lesser sights. The clumsy Grossmunster cathedral and stern Fraumunster (picture below) are often quoted as primary attractions but offer little of interest apart from Marc Chagall’s brilliant stained glass windows in the Fraumunster. The Swiss National Museum just north of the main rail station, however, is terrific. Zurich’s primary language is Swiss-German.

Limmat River, Fraumunster, Zurich, Switzerland

The River Limmat’s west bank, with Munster Bridge, the blue spire of Gothic Fraumunster (the Church of Our Lady), famous for its Chagall windows. On the right is St Peter’s church, sporting the largest clock face in Europe.

What to do in Zurich

What Zurich does well is eating, drinking and partying hard with the help of a massive selection of classical music concerts, opera, ballet, clubs, bars and restaurants of all kinds, ranging from classy traditional to off-the-wall innovations. The fact that 30% of the residents are affluent non-Swiss drives the spread of conspicuous consumption and diversity.

Zurich beach, Switzerland

Zurich’s ‘beach’ on Stadthausquai, west bank of the Limmat River.

All this is not helpful to normal, budget-minded tourists who will be more interested in the 50+ museums, 100+ art galleries and quirky sights such as odd building décor, street plant pots, shop displays and so on. The ambience in the Altstadt district which encompasses the old town on both sides of the River Limmat, east and west is particularly worth exploring.
We suggest that budget tourists arrive in Zurich by train as parking is a pricey nightmare and do Zurich as a day trip from one of Switzerland’s other neighbouring, less expensive cities. We traveled from Luzerne.

Kids can have fun in Zurich too, with pedaloes and solar boat trips on the lake, a zoo, children’s zoo, water park (Alpamare), Wildlife Park, Toy Museum and more.

The 3 kilometre lake promenade is a tranquil and pretty place to spend some time though not exactly overloaded with sights. Visitors can also rent a rowing boat or take a ride on an old steam ship.

Zurich National Museum glitter ball, Switzerland

The magnificent Swiss National Museum building, the Schweizerisches Landesmuseum.

Other fine museums are the Kunsthaus Zurich, housing one of Europe’s best art collections, the Museum of Design and Rietberg Museum, a superb collection of worldwide art set in historic buildings in a large park near the lake.

Getting Around

Lake Zurich lunchtime beside Zurichsee, Switzerland

A favourite summer lunch break spot where Lake Zurich, Zurichsee, meets the Limmat River.

Walking

On a sunny day walking around the key tourist target of the Old Town lining both banks of the river and the lake is a delight and no problem at all. In the summer months there is a ‘Free Walking Tour Zurich’ around the downtown area daily at 11: 00am, and weekends also at 1. 00pm. Meet in front of the UBS building at Paradeplatz or Zurich West.

Cycling

You can borrow cycles and even skateboards daily from May to October at Zurich Central Station for free, with passport and a small deposit. This system is known as Zuri Roll and also found at a few other locations such as the Globus City shopping center. You can return the bike to any of these bike rental spots. Beware tram tracks that can suddenly catch/divert your wheels and send you flying. Downtown is a particularly difficult area for cyclists.

Driving

Don’t even consider driving around Zurich. Nightmare navigation, heavy traffic and difficult/expensive parking!

Zurich views

Lindenhof hill and Limmat River, Zurich, Switzerland

A view across to Zurich’s east bank old town from the west section at the high point of Lindenhof hill, Altstadt.

Zurich, old town houses, Switzerland

Grand Old Town houses near the river on the east bank.

Zurich out door restaurant with naked woman, Switzerland

Summertime lunches on the east bank.

Grossmunster church doors, Zurich, Switzerland

Bronze doors showing Reformation scenes by Otto Munch – one of the few interesting features of the over-sold Grossmunster church.

The combination of university, proximity to the main rail station, medieval feel and number of creative people who have moved to this part of the old town has given Niederdorf the liveliest nightlife in the city.

Zurich Weather

The best months to visit are September and October with mild temperatures ranging from highs of 20C (68F) to 5C (41F) and a moderate chance of rainfall compared to the months June-August. August is the wettest month in Zurich.

The three winter months December – February are reasonably dry but cold with temperatures from – 4C to 5C.

Zurich, west bank, Banhof Platz fountain, Switzerland

The spectacular fountain sculpture outside Zurich’s lively main railway station, the Hauptbahnhof.

Trips out of town

Baden is just 15 minutes up the Limmat River and home to Europe’s most famous and Switzerland’s best mineral-rich thermal springs, along with more medieval goodies and a great range of cultural activities.

Zug, 25 minutes away, for the old town sunsets, caves, lakeside walks and the amazing railway station and its new art attack.

Luzern/Lucerne, less than an hour away, perhaps Switzerland’s #1 tourist destination and packed with old-town interest as well as a great lake and mountains.