Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland, with a population of some 364,500 in the city proper and close to 1 million in the metro area. Zurich is on Lake Zurich, where the lake meets the Limmat River, in the north of Switzerland.
Zurich is the largest city and the financial centre of the Helvetian Confederation (Switzerland). It is an airline hub and has the country’s busiest airport.
he climate of Zurich is continental, and temperatures are modified by winds off the Atlantic Ocean. Winters are cold, while summers tend to be hot and sunny. In January, temperatures can range between 14°F (-10°C) and 41°F (5°C) and in July, temperatures can range between 59°F (15°C) and 86°F (30°C). The wettest time of year is from June to August.
The largest city in Switzerland is a major art and shopping destination. Important artworks are displayed in the Kunsthaus and the Rietberg Museum. Those who consider shopping an art can hone their skills along Bahnhofstrasse and Niederdorf. Zurich’s clubs and bars pulse with life ’til the early hours. This city on Lake Zurich has excellent public transit.
Zurich is famous for its highly efficient, clean and safe public transport system. The network includes trams, buses, S-Bahn (local trains) and even boats for the lake and river. The size and complexity of the network may be daunting at first, but you will soon realize that there are dozens of ways to get from one place to another and following any of them will still be efficient.
Tickets must be purchased from a ticket machine before boarding or from one of the ticket selling kiosks. The ticket machines might be intimidating at first glance, but simply get a “Tageskarte Zone 10” (day card valid for 24hr) by pushing the green button for a single ride. The ticket covers the city and should be enough for most tourists’ needs, except perhaps the Uetliberg, which is not in Zone 10. This ticket is valid for all trains, trams, buses, boats and cable cars in Zone 10, so take a trip on the lake or river with the same ticket! If you are not sure whether your destination is in Zone 10, possible destinations (with their respective code) are listed at each vending machine. Punch in the code and the price will be displayed.
The Swiss Pass is valid on all public transportation in Zurich, and if you are a tourist visiting most of Switzerland, this may be your best way to saving both money and time spent trying to figure out zones, routes, and fare options. Eurail passes are valid only on the S-Bahn and boats. Interrail passes are valid on the S-Bahn (although the ZVV website claims a “reduction” for other routes for Interrail holders). Nevertheless, you may find you don’t need the trams and buses if you don’t mind walking around a little.
There are many other special offers on tickets for tourists so ask at the tourist information center, your hotel or visit the Zurich Public Transport Authority (Zürcher Verkehrsverbund ZVV). The ZVV is a regional agency that coordinates fares and schedules for the region’s different transit companies. The ZVV’s website has maps, links to transit providers in the Zürich area, and trip planning information.
Several tram lines and buses (some electrified) cover the city at street level. Like all other public transport in Zurich, you purchase and validate tickets before boarding, or risk a fine if they decide to spot check. The most surprising thing about trams and buses in Switzerland is that they are also extremely punctual and you can find a schedule at every stop accurate to within a couple of minutes.
The S-Bahn is Zürich’s regional rail system, used mainly by commuters but also a good way to get to many destinations outside the city centre. Zürich’s S-Bahn system provides convenient and fast service throughout the region. Most of the lines pass through the Hauptbahnhof. The ZVV offers directions for a series of excursions on the S-Bahn. One popular destination (not mentioned on the ZVV website) is Stein am Rhein, a restored medieval village on the river Rhine which can be reached using the S-Bahn number 29 from Winterthur.
There are two types of boat-based public transportation operated in Zürich: river buses and lake steamers. The river boats operate in the summer months only and the lake boats operate on a much reduced schedule during the winter.
The river buses operate between the Landesmuseum (near the Hauptbahnhof) along the Limmat River and out in the Zürichsee (Zürich Lake) to Tiefenbrunnen. There are several stops along the Limmat River.
The Zürichsee Schifffahrtsgesellschaft (ZSG) operates lake steamers which leave from Burkliplatz (at the end of Bahnhofstrasse). The ZSG’s website provides information on destinations and ships. The ZSG offers a variety of tourist-oriented trips (including Jazz Brunch, and historic restored steam ships), and a popular trip is to Rapperswil at the south end of the Zürichsee. The town has a beautiful castle overlooking the lake surrounded by a medieval town.