Zurich Travel Guide

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Hilda Osinga

Zurich (better: Zürich), located 409 meters above sea level at the northern end of the Lake of Zürich on the Swiss central plateau, is charming and multifaceted. Its well-preserved Old Town lies on both banks of the River Limmat, which flows out of the lake in a northerly direction. With a population of 370,000, Zürich is the largest city in Switzerland. The canton of the same name hosts 1.3 million inhabitants and is thus the country's most densely populated canton.

Zürich was founded as a Roman customs post (Roman name: Turicum) on the site of what is now Lindenhof in the year 15 B.C. From the 10th century onwards, it enjoyed the status of a town, and in 1218 was granted the rights of a free city. Rudolf Brun introduced a guild constitution after the downfall of the government in 1336. In 1351, the city joined the Everlasting League of the Confederates. After that, it grew increasingly in importance, especially under the rule of Mayor Hans Waldmann (15th century). 1519 saw the beginning of the Reformation under the leadership of Ulrich Zwingli.

During the 19th century, Alfred Escher transformed Zürich into a trade and business centre (machine and textile industry, banks, insurance companies, tourism), not in the least because of the founding of the Zürich Stock Exchange in 1877. This gave the city the fourth rank on the world's list and made it into what it still is: Switzerland's most important business centre and the world's gold trading centre.

The Old Town consists of narrow streets which can be easily explored on foot. Along the riverside, you can find baroque guildhouses that tell their own version of the city's past. Winding streets that show a nostalgic Zürich or maybe even expose the city's fringe - just give way for the enthusiasm this inspirited and colourful (both with houses and people) city appeals. You will find a myriad of small boutiques, antique shops, bars and cafes in the Old Town on the left bank of the Limmat.

The main shopping area is concentrated nearby the main train station ('Hauptbahnhof'). Stroll down the famous 'Bahnhofstrasse' - one of the most beautiful shopping streets in Europe - towards 'Paradeplatz' and the lake. Here you will find all sorts of elegant boutiques, department stores and specialist shops with a rich selection of high quality goods. When you feel like it, take a tour on the river so you can lay eyes on the nice skyline of Zürich.

If you are on a budget, you do not have to avoid the city. Try doing just the windows shopping on Bahnhofstrasse, but move over to the other side of the river Limmat for your catering needs. The Niederdorf offers plenty of cheaper places to buy, eat and drink. Although considered Zürich's most touristy area, you still find some pretty genuine places here - just wander through the narrow lanes with their old houses, many of which date back to the 14th century.

Besides being a business centre and a shopping paradise (for the wealthy, that is), Zürich is known for 'culture': Old Churches, such as the 'Grossmünster' and the 'Fraumünster' with stained glass windows by Marc Chagall; art galleries with the finest collections, amongst them Chagall, Miro and Picasso and museums for all sorts of tastes. Try to stay at least two days. This will give you the time to explore not only the city by daylight but also Zürich's exciting and varied nightlife, ranging from jazzy bars and popular discos to cabaret performances in smokey clubs.

If you plan to stay over night, Zürich offers a wide variety of amusements. There is not only the famous Schauspielhaus (which kept German drama alive during the 2nd world war), but some small but fine theatres with less well known ensembles that offer exquisite drama. As for a small city of less than  400,000 inhabitants, Zürich also has excellent movie theatres (for a price, though). Unlike in Germany, movies here are not dubbed and mostly shown in their original language with German and French subtitles - and usually you'll see good copies.

However, if you want to get in touch with the aboriginals here, you have to make your way into areas like Aussersihl (Zürich's still very lively working class district with plenty of good foreign restaurants and an astonishing diversity of people from all kinds of nations) or the newly developped center ('Zürich West') around Escher-Wyss Platz , which was the former inustrial area of the city. Here you find the "in" places: bars, restaurants, clubs, all of which are frequented by the locals and offering a more insider sight of the richest city in Europe.

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if you got some good weather and an afternoon and night spare, get a city and public transport map and do this:

(this is an advice from a local here to a visitor/friend coming over for a weekend)

Start off at station 'Feldeggstrasse' (Tram 4 from 'Bellvue' or Tram 2 from 'Opernhaus'/Train Station 'Stadelhofen') and head down towards the lake. Down at the lake boarder turn left towards 'Zürichhorn'(little land-nose in the south) and enjoy a nice walk. Just behind the Restaurant at 'Chinawiese'/'Plattnerwiese' is the Boat/Ferry landing place (Zürichhorn Casino) which Brings you back up to the central north.

Get off the boat at 'Bürkliplatz' to go straight ahead north to the 'Bahnhofstrasse' and see Zurichs famous Bank and Highlife shopping area.

Having a good view from above the City during night falling in and start exploring the old town (we call it the 'niederdörfli') with its bars and places, you might to want to go to 'Polytherasse', which is just infornt of 'Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule' (ETH, quite a famos Technical University):

to get there either walk/tram all the way up through the ~1.5Km Bahnhofstrasse up to the Main Train Station ('Hauptbahnhof') and over the Bridge to 'Central', or stay in the boat and cruise the river 'Limmat' along the Niederdörfli, and get off at 'Landesmuseum' (which is just behind the Train Station).
From 'Central' (btw. just the north end of 'Niederdörfli') there is either the Cablecar 'Polybaehnli' next to the Starbucks which takes you up to the Polythreasse, or Tram 6 up to 'ETH'/'Universitätsspital'. (the Tramstation is just on the opposite of the building with the dome, so just walk around it).

Bus/Train/Boat should all be covered by the same City/Zone 10&11 Ticket, but anyway ask at the station for a map and timetable infos about the boat and maybe the Cablecar. If possible let yourself highlight the places mentioned above to get a feeling of the distances, Zurich is quite small :).

(whoever finds typos might keep them)

Part or or all of this text stems from the original article at: local advice

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April 22, 2007 change by anders.zh

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