I spent three days there. All I remember is that the place was littered with tram lines (the trams were from the seventies), there were hardly any young people, and everything cost an absolute fortune. Yes, it is tidy, but its not particularly scenic. Even in the old town, I saw nothing particularly special. Zurich (and Switzerland in general) is caught between worlds. It seems to combine the worst of the Anglophone and Continental European worlds -- the money-grabbing impulses of the Anglos and the snooty, superior attitudes of the continentals.
Go up to Utileburg to get the best view of Zurich.
Zürich is a great city.
After a month traveling in Europe, I came home to the U.S. via Zurich. I am so glad I did! Zurich is beautiful and very clean. Very organized. It was very easy to get around by train. I stayed at a very reasonably priced hotel near the airport that provided a free shuttle service, although it was easy enough to take the train. The train runs from the airport to the town of Zurich. Apparently, the "nightlife" is in the Neiderdorf (one side of the river) opposite the Haptobahnhoff (Rodeo Drive of Switzerland). The biggest tip I can offer you is buy your chocolate to take home from the Coop -- same chocolate as the Merk but much less expensive.
Zurich is a beautiful city. There is so much to do and the food is delicious. Shopping on Bahnhofstrasse is a must!
Zurich is boring. What the heck are you doing there? Well, now that you are there, this is what you do.
Is it hot and sunny? If so, pack swimming stuff. Is it raining? Go anyway if it's not too bad. No matter the weather, wear your walking shoes.
Ok: Go to the main station, walk up to one of those ticket computers, click the button that says, "English," and buy a ticket to Walenstadt.
(hot tip: If it's a weekend and you plan to ride the train a lot, buy this thing from the ticket booth called a "weekend halbtax." Half price tickets all weekend, even on the mountain railways.)
Take the express train that stops in Ziegelbrucke and ends in Chur. Get off in Ziegelbrucke and get on the train to Walenstadt. It also goes places like Murg and Sargans, if Walenstadt isn't a listed stop for this train. Marvel at the stunning lake to the left of the train. This is where you will spend your day, on the pristine deep blue Walensee under those dramatic cliffs, both of which no photographer can ever hope to capture. (I know, I've tried to find a photo. There are none that do it justice.) Get off in Walenstadt.
Walk from the train station to town, and then through town, past the Infantry school, and to the boat dock. In town, you may want to buy a picnic lunch at the Migros. Upon arrival at the boat dock area, you have options.
If it's sunny and you want to swim, go past the dock area along the lake to your right. You will find a big lawn with some fire pits, shade trees, and a rope swing. I spent a few days just sitting here, swimming with friends.
If you want to hike, walk the same way, looking to your left for the little yellow hiking trail sign that says "Quinten." Quinten is the little town you saw across the lake from the train tracks. I never actually did this hike, as I got lost the time I tried it. I did, however, find a neat abandoned mine you could probably camp in, like I saw some guys doing. There is even water up there, flowing from the rocks.
If you are lazy, you can take a boat down the lake and stop at Quentin or Au. In Quentin, there is a restaurant that specializes in fish from the lake and the Quentner wine made from the vines of that tiny little winery over there. It is probably the rarest wine in the world; you can only buy it there. You can take the boat to one of the towns along the train tracks to shorten your ride back to Zurich: these towns are named things like Murg and Weesen.
I cannot emphasize enough how awe-inspiring, dramatic, and beautiful this lake is. It's also ecologically unique because of the way it is oriented, but I won't get into that here. The water is simply the most stunning blue I have ever seen, and the cliffs... I am out of the practice of writing this kind of stuff. I have been studying a technical field for far too long. All I can say is thatI have never seen the beauty of this place captured in a photograph.
If you don't want to go straight back to Zurich, you still must take the train to Ziegelbrucke. Then, take the train to Uznach and Rapperswil. Get off at Rapperswil, it is the endstation. Walk around the town, check out the castle and its charming medieval streets. Marvel at a COWBOY STORE, and see if the owners have parked their glorious Chevy and Dodge 3/4 ton pickups nearby. Even though I hate driving and often curse and drivers and cars for their choking exhaust while I ride a bike, it brings a tear to my eye. It also has Switzerland's Polish museum, is the home of its circus, and a really ugly tech school. (I went there for a semester and think it's great, but really, rusty orange steel? Come on now, guys. The East Germans pulled it off with the Volkspalast, but you didn't. Sorry!) There is halfway cheap gelatto, and if you look hard for the Nautic pub, you can eat for the low low price of six francs. That is about as cheap as you will find in CH. You probably should have eaten a bigger picnic when you had the chance. Also, the waitress with black hair is really good-looking. Anyway, back to the town. Walk along the waterfront (Quai in Swiss-German), walk all around. Watch the sun set up on the Castle hill park thing. On the back side of that, kind of past the deer, there is a really long playground slide. It's fun. If you want to go to a bar, go to Baren. It's youthful and casual, with a cute waitress and a jukebox that is great by swiss standards! For you yuppie jerks, there is one above the mall that has Tower Sports, but if you spent all day hiking and swimming, you are not dressed well enough to fit in. When the day is over, just take the S5 train (faster) or the S7 train (along the lake) back to Zurich.
If you want to stay in either of these places, check out youthhostel.ch for the Rapperswil-Jona hostel or the hostel in Filzbach, which is a bus ride above the train station in Muhlhorn, one of the dinky towns along the south shore of the Walensee. It supposedly has a really long summer bobsled track, which is a metal slide that is a mile long down which you ride on a roller sled.
Zurich is a weird place. It's a very very quiet and very very clean city. The touristy stuff can be seen in one day easy, so don't stay long - head out around the lake or to other parts of the country, which are picturesque and beautiful.
When I visited Zurich for a weekend with a friend, we couldn't figure out where the young people (twenty-somethings) were - but I can tell you they definitely weren't in the Irish and English bars that we checked out that the guidebook had recommended!! I liked it ok enough, but I wouldn't plan on staying more than a day or two.
Go out on the Marktgasse. Bars close early, so start early. Clubs can be located within reach. Zurich is a great city, enjoy it and be respectful.
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and is located on Lake Zurich. Even though it's the largest Swiss city, it is quite compact and can easily be explored by foot. It does not really matter which of Zurich's several suburbs you choose for your stay since public transportation is abundant and efficient, and Zurich hostels are all conveniently located.
It is nice to stay in a Zurich hostel close to the Limmat river (in which you can swim during summer) or on Lake Zurich even though these will be the most expensive options. Be aware that Zurich is generally a very expensive place to stay, both in terms of accommodation and living cost.
Getting from any of Zurich's hostels to almost anywhere you'd like is easy, just walk or take a tram or a bus. Public transport is always on time (the Swiss get angry if a train is more than 30 seconds late) and very efficient. You can get to almost every Swiss city within 2 hours from Zurich Hauptbahnhof (main station) if you are interested in traveling within Switzerland. If you are planning on traveling around a lot, get a “Halbtax Billet” which allows you to travel for half price on all Swiss trains.
We also highly recommend taking a boat cruise around Lake Zurich. You can visit the neighboring city of Kusnacht and enjoy the picturesque scenery on your trip. Do not forget to eat some of the legendary Swiss cheese while you are there.
Hi, I'm Mona,
the Hostelz.com local expert for Zurich hostels. Welcome.