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Zurich Travel Guide

Zurich Photo info
christine.zenino/Flickr

A fairytale city, Zürich is set on the banks of both a river and a lake, with the snow-topped Swiss Alps rising in the background. Clean cobblestone streets hug a hilly terrain and medieval church spires reach heavenward. Despite its reputation for being the center of old-school international banking and a capital for frou frou chocolate confections, Zürich is also a very modern city that chooses to meander coolly through life at an ... continue»

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When to Visit Zurich

The best time to visit Zürich is between the months June and August when average temperatures, which reach into the mid 70s, make swimming in the lake possible. However, summer's hospitable climate also makes it the most expensive season to visit. But even in the winter off-season, hotel rates still remain high because of the nearby skiing on the Swiss Alps. If you visit in the spring or fall shoulder seasons, you might be able to find some reasonable room rates, but they'll be accompanied by chilly weather.

Best Times to Visit Zurich»

Zurich Temperature (F) Zurich Precipitation (in)

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Getting Around Zurich

Zurich Neighborhoods

Zürich is located in northern Switzerland and sits along the banks of the picturesque River Limmat. The city is made up of 12 Kreise (the German word for districts), but you'll find that most of the attractions huddle in Kreis 1, with the others scattered amongst Kreise 2, 4, 5 and 8. According to Frommer's, "In a system that developed during the Middle Ages, all Swiss cities, including Zürich, begin their street-numbering system with the lowest numbers closest to the center of town. In Zürich the center is the Hauptbahnhof. All even numbers lie on one side of the street, and all odd numbers are on the other."

Kreis 1

Accessible via Trams 3, 5, 8 and 9.

Centrally located Kreis (District) 1, which straddles the River Limmat as it flows into Lake Zürich, contains much of Zürich's storied history. Swiss bankers, historically called the gnomes of Zürich, work in imposing banks on the western bank of the river. On the opposing side, you'll find Old Town and its weaving alleys. If you stroll along the peaceful river, you'll walk by the blue-spired Fraumünster church, which has vivid stained glass by the famed Marc Chagall. A second church, the twin-towered Grossmünster is done up after the Romanesque style. Shop through windows or for real along Bahnhofstrasse, a street devoted to retail and one of the reasons why Zürich is called "the most expensive city in the world." But even if you don't drop a single franc, Bahnhofstrasse provides a glamorous backdrop for a casual stroll. Note that the fabled stacks of gold and silver, stashed under the street, have been relocated.

The Kunsthaus Museum -- which contains art by Picasso, Degas and Kandinsky, as well as a number of Swiss artists, such as Ferdinand Hodler and Johann Heinrich Füssli -- is also highly recommended.

Lindenhof is a favorite among Zürichers. Complete with dozens of Linden trees, a giant-size chess set and beaucoup benches, this raised city square provides spectacular views of the River Limmat and Zürich's east bank. Yahoo! Travel says literary fiends might want to visit the graves of Irish writer James Joyce and Swiss author (and Nobel Prize winter, too) Elias Canetti, who are buried in the district's Friedhof Fluntern (Fluntern Cemetery).

Kreis 2

Accessible via Bus 70.

This lakefront district, located southwest of central Kreis (district) 1, is known mostly for its picturesque setting, as well as for the young, fun-loving clientele it attracts. A cluster of hostels and vibrant nightlife options also takes to the shore, so if you're searching for a more serene stay, book accommodations elsewhere.

Kreise 4 & 5

Accessible via Trams 4, 11, 13 and 14.

"For a clean break from the sometimes overly packaged Zürich of cobbled alleys, medieval guildhalls and glitzy shopping, you need to head west," says Rough Guides.

Kreise (districts) 4 and 5, located northwest of Kreis 1, comprise the former red light district, which are now termed up-and-coming Zürich West. Bursting with energy and imagination (and some residual seediness), many of the city's contemporary art galleries cluster in Kreis 5 on Langstrasse, along the River Limmat's west bank. You can also explore the Landesmuseum (or the Swiss National Museum), which contains a number of artifacts saved from across more than a millennia of history. You'll also find a techno-pulsating club scene, as well as a number of eclectic eateries. This is also where the gay pride event, Christopher Street Day, is held.

Kreis 8

Accessible via Trams 2 and 4.

This southern district is perhaps most famous for its 19th century villa-turned-art museum, the Stiftung Sammlung E.G. Buhrle. Inside this ivy-covered museum is an array of famous (mostly French, 19th-century) works, including Renoir's "Little Irene" and Degas' "Little Dancer."

Safety

Zürich does not see very much tourist-directed crime. Generally -- like most Swiss cities -- it's a very safe destination, but you should watch out for pickpockets.

Wikitravel does ask visitors to note one precaution: Be careful when biking. Zürich is riddled with tram tracks, which can be a hazard when biking around downtown, especially if your bike catches in one and sends you hurtling into traffic.

The best way to get around Zürich's interesting neighborhoods is on foot or by bike. If you get fatigued, you can take the city's efficient tram system. From Zürich International Airport (ZRH), you can also take a cost-efficient Federal Railways train the 7 miles into the city or you hop into a very expensive taxi (for the equivalent of about $60 USD). Because of too few parking spots and too much traffic, driving is not recommended.     

Getting Around Zurich»

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