24 hours in Zurich
Written by Denise Pulis Illustration by Fernando Volken Togni
Zürich’s international fame is largely tied to its status as a banking and finance hub rather than its touristic virtues.
Overshadowed by this austere reputation, it has so far been spared throngs of visitors and crowd-clogged streets, but in truth it has everything a traveller could want: an effortlessly beautiful medieval town with a glimmering river flowing through its heart; a long, elegant lake bordered by leafy promenades, set against a backdrop of snow-sprinkled mountains; an industrial outer district which has become the place where young and talented artists and designers set up workshops and open stores; and a generous expanse of forest atop its two flanking ridges, where locals enjoy refreshing walks and sweeping vistas.
But that is not all. Chocolate shops dot Zürich’s streets, scrumptious dishes are prepared in its restaurants, the city’s art and culture scene is varied and vibrant, and one of the most efficient transport systems in the world allows locals and visitors to enjoy it all. Given Zürich’s location at the heart of Europe, it is also the perfect gateway to an entire continent, to be explored via trains that depart from its 19th-century Hauptbahnhof (Main Station).
Taxis are to be found in front of the Hauptbahnhof, but trains and trams are so frequent and reliable that there is hardly any need to use them.
Most of the old town is closed to traffic, giving pedestrians plenty of room to wander, and the river and lake promenades are a joy to stroll along.
Ride for free around the city. Pick a bike up at Velogate (Swiss National Museum), or Bike Station South (Sihlpost), showing ID with a small deposit of CHF20.
A comprehensive network of tram routes takes you to every corner of the city, and as far as the airport without worries of traffic-related delays.
Most of Zürich’s points of interest are spread between the Hauptbahnhof and the northern tip of Lake Zürich, with the 1.2km-long Bahnhofstrasse linking point to point. Because this area is flat and compact, walking is not only possible but also particularly pleasant, as is cycling on the uncluttered pavements. To the west of the main station lie Kreis 4 and 5, the most multi-cultural parts of Zürich where the young and beautiful socialise in fashionable cafés, clubs, and bars; and beyond, to the west and east, the forested ridges of Uetliberg and Zürichberg, which can be reached by train and tram/polybahn respectively.