Zurich has both a modern and an old town. The modern town contains the business district and main shopping precinct while the old town which overlooks the modern town has a fantastic vibe to it giving visitors a real feel for Zurich.
To get to the old town from the central Hauptbahnhof Station turn left once exiting the main entrance onto Bahnhofbruck street, cross the river and on your right is the car free and cobblestoned Niederdorfstrasse Street. Niederdorfstrasse Street runs directly through the old town. It is very narrow, long and winding and lined with fashion boutiques, trendy shoe shops, art shops, antique shops, music stores and loads of bars, cafes and restaurants.
The old town has a great atmosphere with street concerts, live band performances and festivals taking place regularly. Friday and Saturday nights see sections of Niederdorfstrasse Street full of party goers with the bars, restaurants and nightclubs packed to the rafters.
Take some time to explore the old town. Turn off Niederdorfstrasse Street and wander up some of the ancient narrow alley ways with architecture dating back to the 14th century, some of which are still being lived in today.
Niederdorfstrasse Street winds all the way down the hill and along the banks of the River Limmat where it links with modern cinemas, supermarkets and more boutique shops.
Be sure to stop for lunch and dinner and sample some of Zurich’s gastronomic diversity. Try a schnitzel with mushroom sauce and potato rosti or a cheese fondue. Street vendors sell tasty bratwurst sausages where you buy the sausage and the bread roll then get your choice of tomato sauce, mustards or mayonnaise as dipping sauces – they are delicious and definitely worth trying.
In the modern town shoppers should head directly to the Bahnhofstrasse which heads down from Hauptbahnhof Station. It is the main shopping strip housing all the top international and local designers as well as all the major department stores. The latest fashions are always on show - the fashion conscious will just love it!
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and has a very strong cultural presence. It has over fifty museums, one hundred art galleries, churches and auction houses to explore. The soaring church spire and the modernistic stained glass windows at the Fraumunster (The Church of our Lady) is a must see as is a walk past St Peterskirche (St Peter Church). It is one of the oldest churches in the city and home to the largest clock face in Europe.
The Museum of Art displays works from the 16th century as well as modern art. Guided tours are also available at the Zurich Opera House which was built on the shores of Lake Zurich in 1891 and is still world renowned for its top ballet and opera performances.
There are many cinemas in Zurich and unlike many other cities in Switzerland most of the films are shown in their original language. If you go to the cinema and a flim has a ‘VO’ listed directly after its title it means it is shown in the original version. It will be in English with both French and German subtitles. Many of the cinemas still stop for a ten minute intermission half way through so the locals can pop outside for a quick cigarette!
The best way to explore Zurich is both on foot and by bus. The buses and streetcars (like trams) cover the area fast and promptly and are cheap to use. ZurichCARDs are available for purchase from Hauptbahnhof Station. They cost around $USD15 for 24 hours giving free access to all local trains, trams, buses and boats as well as free admission to many museums and food and drink discounts in some local restaurants.
Zurich International Airport is just twelve kilometres from the heart of Zurich where international flights regularly arrive from over 150 global destinations. Buses depart from the airport to ski resorts within Switzerland.
Once at the airport you can choose to catch a taxi to your hotel or catch the train to Zurich’s central station; Hauptbahnhof Station. The train ride only takes about ten minutes. If you are travelling light a good way to save money is to catch the train as taxis tend to be very expensive.
Hauptbahnhof Station is a central hub for trains leaving throughout Switzerland and the rest of Europe. The station may feel familiar as it has been featured in many movies, the Bourne Identity being just one of them. Local S-Bahn trains leave every fifteen minutes from Hauptbahnhof Station. Local buses and trams depart from the station every few minutes also.
If you have not pre-booked hotel accommodation there is a tourist office located at Hauptbahnhof Station with a hotel board showing the location of certain hotels and a direct telephone to reception so you can call and check prices and availability. Like any city there are a lot of hotels to choose from with varying prices and style of accommodation.
The Hotel Bristol is in a handy location about a five minute walk from Hauptbahnhof Station and on the edge of the old town. The cost for a double room with ensuites per night is around $USD170 including breakfast. (Be warned the hotel is at the top of a steep hill so if you don't want to pay a ridiculous taxi fare for a 1 minute drive be prepared to drag your bags up the hill!)
Zurich is an enjoyable and engaging city and whether you choose to wander the streets and explore on your own or choose to go on guided tours you will be bound to have fun. The language barrier is rarely a problem as most Swiss tend to speak excellent English.