When you think of Switzerland what comes into your mind? Most likely you will picture banks, luxury watches, chocolates, cheese, skis, and mountains. A country with well diverse attractions and the reputation of being one of the most expensive travel destinations in Europe. But this shouldn’t stop anyone from visiting the beautiful country.
What was my impression when I first landed in Switzerland? I was completely amazed! I visited Zurich last April which was the start of the spring season. From the airport going to the city, I was quite impressed how organized, systematic, and clean the place is. What caught my attention, Zurich is a place of well-dressed people, private banks, and good-looking men. It is a great place with lots of places to eat too. There’s a lot of gourmet restaurants and less of fast food chains. High-end shops, top kind of restaurants, vibrant museums, historic buildings and art galleries are examples that the city has a good taste for beauty and sophistication. There are around 50 museums to check, 14 dedicated to arts. Zurich seems to have it all. The place is safe. Crime is almost non-existent. Zurich is easy to navigate either by foot or by tram. It is in some ways the best of the big city and best of a small town.
Here are some interesting facts that you may want to know about the city:
1.Zurich as Switzerland’s largest city is very well known as the center of global finance.
2.Around 400,000 people are living in Zurich. Despite being the largest city, only two-thirds are Swiss citizens. Germans and Italians are the next most major population groups. The city speaks four main languages: German, Italian, English, and French. But German is the most common spoken language.
3.Train timetables are very accurate. If a train is due to leave at 2.03pm, then it will leave at 2.03pm. So don’t make any mistake of being late if you want to catch the next train. Take note of the connections and be ready to move quickly.
4.There are 1200 drinking fountains in the city where you can drink. Almost every street corner has a fountain. Some fountains are plain and simple, but others have an artistic design. The water is fresh. A bottle of water costs 7 USD/ 348 PHP/ 2.6OMR in a restaurant. Around .97USD/48PHP/.370 OMR in grocery stores.
5.These are some of the Swiss brands that you might not aware of, like Credit Suisse (banking), Novartis (pharmaceutical), Lindt and Sprungli (chocolates), Swatch (watches), Nestle (food).
6. The home of the University of Zurich and Federal Institute of Technology which has produced 21 Noble Prize winners in its 150- year history
7.Switzerland uses Swiss Francs, not Euro.
Zurich is a fascinating city with numerous things to do. Here are the list of activities you can try:
1.Visit Old Town (Altstadt)
The medieval houses in the narrow alleys with shops, bars, and clubs all around the old town makes it a popular place for visitors and locals. It is a place to find everything that you need in one location. You will also find several museums such as Swiss National Museum and hotels around the area. Make sure to visit Muhlesteg Footbridge which is famous for its love locks.
2.Indulge yourself with chocolates and sweet pastries
Lindt, Sprungli, and Laderach are some of the top-quality chocolates to be tried. Sprungli is probably the most famous and expensive chocolate in Switzerland. Aside from the chocolates, there are a lot of variants of sweets to try on such as their signature macarons called “Luxemburgerli” and cakes. Someone told me that Sprungli makes better macarons than France. Well, it is yummy and fluffy.
3.Enjoy the View from Lindenhof
Lindenhof is a hill and a public square in the center of Zurich. The place is peaceful and best spot to take a photo of the city. Due to its location, it requires a short uphill climb. Once at the park, you can have picnic lunch to enjoy the park trees. There are no facilities at the park, but there are a lot of restaurants and bars near the area. You can reach Lindenhof by foot or tram. The nearest tram is Rennwegg which is only blocks away from the park.
4.Try Cheese Fondue
When you think of Swiss cuisine, it is common to think of cheese and chocolates. There are a lot of Fondue restaurants in Zurich, but the one I tried was in the Old Town. The name of the restaurant is Swiss Chuchi which is in the heart of Niederdorf in the Old City. I can’t say if it was excellent since the one I ordered was with cherry liquor, but the restaurant is popular with both locals and tourists. For more information here.
5.Check Opera House
Stop by at the Opera House located on the riverbank at the Sechseläutenplatz which is the home of Zurich Opera since 1891. You can just take a photo from the outside or buy tickets if you wish to watch.
6.Take a Cruise on the Zurich Lake
Take a stroll along the lake, watch the swans and the people relaxing along the lake. There are various things to do with the availability of shops, restaurants, garden and park along the lake. Or you can take a boat trip with plenty of sightseeing opportunities. The boat journeys I took costs CHF 8 extra CHF 9 surcharge. The shortest lake cruise lasts 90 minutes and longest 4 hours. For more information here.
7.Visit the Grand Church (Grossmunster)
The Grand Church is one of the pride of the city. It is in Grossmunsterplatz in Old Town. The legend claims that the church was built on the graves of the city’s patron saints, Felix and Regula. The stained-glass windows by Sigmar Polke, bronze door by Otto Munch and the Reformation Museum are just some of the highlights to see.
The church is open every day. It is free of charge. You have the option to can climb the 187 steps to the top of the Grossmunster Tower and get a panoramic view of the city but with a small charge.
Though it is outside the city, going to Uetliberg is worth it. The mountain gives a panoramic view of the city, lake and the Alps. There is an observation tower to get a better view of the surroundings. There is no charge to go up the mountain. You can hike going up or take a train which is the easiest and most convenient way to get to Uetliberg Mountain. There is a direct train that departs from Hauptbahnhof.At the top; there are restaurants, hotel, and clean toilet facilities.
9.Chill out in Zurich West
The neighborhood where used to be abandoned warehouses and factories turned into galleries, museums and boutique shops are getting attention from its impressive artistic revival. The main attraction is Viadukt, a stretch of shops, bars, and restaurants that run between the bank of the river of Limmat and Hardbruke station.In general, Zurich has an active nightlife offering something for every taste.
10. Window shopping in Bahnhofstrasse.
If anyone looking for branded Swiss items, this is the place to be. Bahnofstrasse is Zurich’s main street. It is one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world with its luxury stores all over.Bahnhofstrasse features high-end shops like Gucci, Dior, Hermes, Chanel, Prada and a lot more. If you do not wish to buy luxury items, you can still walk around and enjoy the top restaurants and cafes around the area. It is easy to visit Bahnhofstrasse using the tram system; it stops at two stations – Bahnhofstrasse and Rennwegg.
Have you been to Zurich? What are the things you love about the city? Share in the comments below.