City guide Zurich
The city of Zurich lies in the heart of Europe and at the center of Switzerland, on the northern shores of Lake Zurich. Its multicultural flair and the variety of leisure activities on offer attract guests from all over the world to this “region of short routes”. Zurich is quick and easy to reach, whether by train, plane or private vehicle. Its international airport has direct connections with over 150 destinations. Just a 10-minute train ride from the airport and situated right in the city center, Zurich’s Main Railway Station is regarded as a central European railroad hub. A total of 370,000 people live in this experience, science and business center. Thanks to its top-quality infrastructure set amidst natural surroundings, it is a popular place for study and research. For example, at Zurich University or the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH); built in 1855 by Gottfried Semper, the ETH Zürich is today associated with 21 Nobel prizewinners.
Some 150 years ago, part of the city’s fortifications was transformed into what is now arguably the most famous “Station Road” in the world, the Bahnhofstrasse. Zurich’s shopping mile has contributed largely to the city's reputation as an El Dorado for shoppers and is a top address for international fashion labels, jewelry and watches. However, it is just one of the places where you can find urban Zurich labels; whether in Zurich-West or in the Aussersihl quarter, you often come across local brands where you least expect them. They inspire the fashion-conscious and cause a sensation far beyond Switzerland's borders – as has, for example, the cult label Freitag, with its unique style of bags and accessories.
Zurich boasts the highest density of clubs in Switzerland – here, you can never turn up too late. From a house music party in the legendary Kaufleuten to Greatest Hits from the Eighties at the oldest club in the city, the Mascotte, to a gay event at the Labor Bar – parties really get going after 11.00 pm and continue into the wee hours of the morning. Here, there are no official closing times. In summer, nightlife can be found not only in the clubs, but also outside in the open air; the venues where visitors bathe and relax during the day are ideal places to flirt and dance at night.
Also for lovers of art Zurich has a lot to offer. The city alone is home to over 50 museums, some 14 of which are devoted to art. The museum of fine arts, the Kunsthaus Zürich, boasts a significant collection of paintings, sculptures, photographs and videos. In addition, it has an extensive collection of works by Alberto Giacometti. Another highlight is the Rietberg Museum, one of the leading centers of non-European art in the world. Just a stone's throw from Zurich's main station, the Swiss National Museum – housed in an over 100 year old building reminiscent of a fairytale castle – contains the country's most comprehensive collection of exhibits relating to Swiss cultural history.
The lively tradition of merchant guilds in Zurich is dating back to the Middle Ages. Equally impressive are their fine guild houses and guildhalls – such as the Zunfthaus zur Waag, open since at least 1303. Like the Grossmünster church, the Lindenhof square and the Öpfelchammer restaurant in the Niederdorf, these venues are now among the city’s cherished emblems.
Trend-setting Zurich is a shopper’s paradise and a metropolis of the arts, home to legendary nightlife. Nature is on the doorstep – and Zurich’s overall quality of life is frequently voted the best in the world.
- “Kunsthaus” – Switzerland’s most important art gallery contains a collection from all the important periods of European art – from the Middle Ages through to the present.
- Rietberg Museum – the museum houses non-European art, particularly from India, China and Africa.
- Bahnhofstrasse – the mile-long street of banks featuring exclusive fashion boutiques, department stores and street cafes invites passers-by to linger.
- Zurich Zoo – featuring a 11,000-square-metre ecosystem hall containing several hundred plant and animal species from the Madagascan Masoala Rainforest.
- Old town – with its art galleries, antique and book shops: an insider’s tip amongst art aficionados. In the evening, the old town is transformed into an entertainment quarter for an eclectic swathe of the general public.
- Sechseläuten – every year Zurich’s guilds and the population celebrate their traditional spring festival with great fervour (April).
- Festival Tropical Caliente – hot rhythms like salsa and samba and a diverse mixture of top acts and trendsetters in Latin music drive the hips of partygoers to sway and writhe (June).
- Streetparade – one of the world’s biggest techno events draws fans from throughout Switzerland and its neighbouring countries to the city on the Limmat (August).
- Zurich Festival – a festival offering a unique combination of operas, concerts, drama, dance and open-air theatre takes place annually in the summer setting of Zurich (June/July).