Zurich Switzerland’s largest city

Zurich is Switzerland’s largest city, and, according to some sources, is one of the world’s most livable cities.  Although boasting a metropolitan population of about 1 million, Zurich doesn’t seem to be that populated and still holds much old world charm thanks to its traditional architecture.

Zurich is situated on the northern end of Lake Zurich, quite near the Swiss Alps and sits astride the Limmatt River.  It is a clean and tidy city, it is divided into the Old Town and the New Town; the latter is mainly composed of suburbs and surrounding townships which were formerly independent but which now are united with the Old Town. In the Old Town many houses still exist that are historically and architecturally interesting. The New Town has some very fine streets, notably the street leading to the railway station, which is considered one of the finest in Europe.

Despite it having a reputation for being a rather staid and conservative banking city, Zurich does have quite an active nightlife with many clubs and bars operating.  Because it is an international banking city accommodation can be quite expensive as much of it is geared towards the business traveller.  Switzerland is not a cheap country, by European standards, anyway, and costs in Zurich can be higher than in other parts of Europe.

Having said that, Zurich is certainly well worth a visit, particularly as it very easy to get around.  I had the experience of arriving in Zurich to meet a friend.  I had never been in the city before, and only had the address of an apartment as my guide.  I arrived by train, and consulted a large map at the railway station on which it was relatively easy to find the street I was looking for, and the nearest tram stop.  Within 20 minutes of arriving in Zurich I was meeting my friend at the address he had given, thanks to the efficiency of the Swiss system, it was that easy.

I happened to arrive in time to enjoy the Sechselauten Festival, for which the guilds of Zürich celebrate their traditional spring festival with the burning of the snow man (Böögg). A procession of several hundreds of people with historical guild costumes and horses takes place in the centre of the town.  It was a very colourful and friendly occasion and I felt very welcome to be part of it.

There is some interesting sightseeing within the city.  The Bahnhofstrasse is one of the busiest shopping streets in the world.  It’s a pedestrian mall containing exclusive boutiques and department stores.  At the bottom of the Bahnhofstrasse is the Burkliterrasse from which you get glorious views over Lake Zurich to the Alps. You also will find numerous boutiques and antique shops on the left side of the Limmatt River in Augustingasse in the Old Town.    

Zurich also has a couple of prominent churches, the Grossmunster and Fraumunster, the latter of which contains stained glass windows that were designed by French artist Marc Chagall.  There are also many museums for those who enjoy learning about a city’s cultural and social history.

Zurich is a transport hub in Switzerland, having a very efficient airport and railway station, and being accessible to all parts of Switzerland and many parts of Europe.  The city itself has a very efficient public transport system, and it is easy to get anywhere using the buses and trams.  You can also cruise Lake Zurich on interesting vessels.

3 comments to Zurich Switzerland’s largest city

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  • The SNCF (French national railway authority) [6] operates practically all trains within France excluding the Eurostar to St Pancras, London [7] , the Thalys to Brussels and onward to the Netherlands [8] and Germany [9] , and some low-cost services such as iDTGV and Ouigo (although they are owned by the SNCF, they are considered as different rail companies). There are also a few local lines of high touristic interest which are privately owned. All SNCF, Eurostar and Thalys tickets can be bought in railway stations, city offices and travel agencies (no surcharge). SNCF does not directly sell tickets online, this is only done by travel agencies (Capitaine Train, Carrefour Voyages, Sélectour, Voyages SNCF; be careful with Voyages SNCF, you will need the card used to pay the tickets to retrieve the actual tickets, card without a chip will not work to retrieve the tickets!). You can book and buy tickets up to three months in advance. There are significant discounts if you book weeks ahead. Reduced ticket prices are different for each day and each train and can be used only on the train the reservation is for. Surprisingly, round trip tickets (aller-retour) with a stay over Saturday night can be cheaper than a single one-way ticket (aller simple). Trains between Paris and south-Germany (Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Munich) as well as the Marseille-Frankfurt TGV are jointly operated between SNCF and Deutsche Bahn, but each of the two operators will sell tickets at its own price! Make sure to check the price offered by each operator before you buy, or use Capitaine Train since they automatically compare SNCF and DB prices.

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