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krisek Zurich - A travel report by Krys
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Zurich,  Switzerland - flag Switzerland
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krisek's travel reports

Surprising and with so much potential. Zürich.

  5 votes
Page: 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
Switzerland's business power horse has a pretty side, too. It has old town full of structures from the Middle Ages packed along narrow cobble stone streets. Zürich can indeed be a great place to wander around and perhaps even party a little.

Zurich travelogue picture
The ancient Romans established Turicum between what is now Uetliberg and Lake Zürich. The settlement as a town was first recorded in 929, and it was already occupied by Christians. By the 14th century, the city would have been controlled by the guilds of Zürich. In 1351 the city joined the Swiss Confederation. Today, it is the country's centre of commerce.

The old town, between Hirschen-Graben strasse on the eastern bank of the river and Banhoffstrasse on the western bank, is packed with medieval houses lined along narrow cobble stone alleys. When I first visited Zürich a few years ago, on my way to Zug, I did not have time to explore the city. This time round, I made time to do so. I did not regret it. And I changed my opinion about Zürich, if only slightly.

I might have not known enough about the city and perhaps been too quick with judgment. I have not browsed specifically to learn more and I have never seen a dreamy, spectacular or at least dramatic picture from the place. So, my expectations have not been too high, I'm afraid.

After arriving at the main train station, I turned to the Tourist Service Office and enquired about the forms of transport to get to my hotel. They were very helpful. I had only three tram stops to go, so I decided to quickly check-in, drop my bag and then hit the town to start discovering Zürich properly.

Favourite spots:
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The Münster Bridge was my favourite spot. It offered great views to both cathedrals - the Grossmünster, Zurich's showpiece church (pictured at night opposite, together with the bridge), and the Fraumünster at the opposite side of the Limmat river. Plus the tower of the St Peter's Church and the grand facades of the Stadthaus, Rathaus and other mansions looked great there reflecting in the water. They looked fine day or night.

At night, the clever lighting made the bridge appear almost golden and some of the buildings, too. But during the day, on a good day, one could even see the mountains. And as they were covered with snow, they made a fantastic background. Yet, the mornings were quite spectacular, too. The river seemed to flow a little slower and the reflections of the buildings seemed like paintings.

What's really great:
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The pedestrianised zones in the old district made all the difference. This where I changed my mind about Zürich. Seeing the city on foot where no cars disturbed your rhythm was excellent. When I imagined a very important business centre of the country, I never expected to be wandering in dark alleys almost screaming with history. The little windows, the colourful wooden shutters, the various colours of the facades and the people, all looking for a good time! Instead of cars - a flow of people. Well, the alleys were not built for vehicles and were too narrow for traffic anyway. It was almost like stepping into times a few centuries back. Particularly at night, the zones emanated their magic enhanced by discrete street lighting.

I loved that people in the streets, be it Swiss or other, greeted you with a funny sounding 'grüezi'. Even the police officers. It made me feel almost special and definitely welcomed.

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Zürich is relatively small (370,000 people) and it did not seem that it could occupy an explorer for longer than a couple of days. Surely, there were fairly good museums (over 50) and galleries (over 100) but none of them were of a high profile or branded the top in the world.

My eye was caught by the little narrow alleys, striking towers of the münster churches, the in-river reflections of the chocolate box houses and mansions and the snow-capped mountains in the background.

The other street to wander about was Augustinergasse, which boasted picturesque crannies and nooks.

And if Zürich appeared to lack world famous palaces, castles, mansions, or cathedral, or even a train station, but the Opera House and the Schauspielhaus (Switzerland's largest theatre) were rather striking buildings. At least they were unique.

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The tourist offices at Zürich main train station (Hauptbanhof) was a great place to get last minute accommodation. They seemed to have all accommodation options in their database and often mentioned: "actually, we have rather great discount rates there, and you'd pay 20 francs less". Such rates were unavailable anywhere else.

I stayed at the Best Western Krone Unterstrass. I wish I had waited to arrive in Zürich and booked with the tourist office, as the CHF120 hotel was the cheapest I could find around the Internet, two nights before arrival. The Krone Unterstrass was a fine 4* but lacked character and my 'cheap' single room was tiny. In matchbox size terms that would be about 1.33 boxes. Anyway, the room was modern and tidy and the bathroom was squeaky clean. My rate excluded breakfast, of course, but the hotel offered a free drink on arrival.

There was no shortage of hotels in the city. On Zähringerstrasse or Hirschengraben it seemed each building was a hotel!

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The European Football Championships 2008 had transformed Zürich into a big party town. Many bars, clubs, cafes, pubs and lounges had opened and looked that would remain operating long after the football extravaganza would have finished. Almost as if the Swiss finally learnt that having more obvious entertainment spots and places to go out are not entirely evil. Surely, almost a third of Zürich population are foreigners, and I am not demonising the lovely Swiss nationals, but why was the night scene in such a low profile before?

Anyway, the centre for partying was the old town, of cource. I did not go into Havanna Club and alike (strip joints) but they were there and advertised their assets with photographs posted on large displays by their entrances. Other clubs were less 'in-your-face' and hidden in little alleys (gasse) off the main drags. And yet, it almost felt like there was just about enough. I looked for about 45 minutes to find a regular drink place with music. I did not fancy a lap dance or hardcore clubbing, or even an intimate venue for those in love of the other kind, and I almost struggled to decide. Perhaps because it was a cold night and doors to venues were closed, making them difficult to distinguish between safe-incognito place or 'will you buy me a drink, honey?' place.

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On the site where the ancient Roman fort had once stood (now partially excavated) there was a small river park called Lindenhof. It was a great place to linger on the benches among the tilia trees and contemplate the sound of the Limmat river and the views of the old town on the other bank.

For those panorama lovers, there was the Polyterrasse, which since 1889 had been equipped with a cable car, the terrace of the Federal Institute of Technology. It offered great views of the city below

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I tried the Chopstick China Restaurant along Niederdorfstrasse as I wanted Szechuan chicken. It set me back CHF17. It came really quick (under two minutes) and was nice. It would have been better if had been spicier. But I was happy.

Along the same street there were sixty other eateries or places to have a drink and snack. Some of them were barely larger than a wardrobe serving Middle Eastern fastfood, some were branded 'take away', had few tables and served mainly Chinese but some did Swiss dishes. And of course a few pricey places opened their doors there, too.

Zürich being a business capital of Switzerland did not surprise me with the number of super quality placed for fine dining. But I too see so many reasonable and so many below average eateries was not exactly what I expected. Yet, that meant that there were places to eat that would fit any budget.

Other recommendations:
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Zürich is one of the major cities with airports, which is a good gateway for Liechtenstein. The other one is Friedrichshafen in Germany. The train from Zürich Hauptbanhof takes about an hour to Sargans near the border from where regular twice-hourly buses (lines 11, 12, 36E) depart to Vaduz (CHF3.60, €2.30) some 18 kimetres away - right from the train station, and take just under 30 minutes.

I took it. The train passed through exceptional scenery, particularly near Mühlenhorn village. The Alps were covered with fresh snow and looked incredible! Absolutely everyone's heads were turned and then glued to the windows. No exceptions! Even in Sargans the mountains were great! I noticed that many people were flocking to the tiny Liechtenstein for a lazy weekend, to relax, sip coffee or the very rare Liechtenstainian wine and admire the scenery.

Published on Tuesday October 7th, 2008

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Thu, Nov 06 2008 - 03:55 AM rating by rangutan

Again, excellently done but not amongst your best reports. Perhaps the style of writing that is so effective for exotic destinations just doesn't work for a financial capital? Great anyway.

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