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World > Switzerland > Zurich
City Guide Zurich
General Information
Zurich is considered to be a small and secret worldly city of Europe. It is the biggest city of Switzerland and the most important economical and social centre of the country. Thanks to its location on the Zurich Lake and the rivers Limmat and Sihl as well as the fact that Zurich is surrounded by mountains, makes the city to an interesting and adventurous destination with a charming atmosphere. With about 365.000 inhabitants and its sort of reserved character, Zurich spreads a small-town and rural aura combined with a Mediterranean character. The reputation as a business centre got lost over the last couple of decades but nevertheless the city developed to a European culture and leisure metropolis. Zurich was spared by attacks during both World Wars. For this reason the medieval city centre is still intact and shaped by old alleys and hidden squares from the period of promoterism. Nice buildings, such as the Frauenmünster and the St. Peter Church, as well as the medieval picture of the city create a special mixture of richness without pomp and a reluctant openness. Although Zurich already existed in Roman times, it was only from the medieval times that the city developed to the most important and also biggest city of Switzerland. Once in Roman times it appeared as important junction also regarding the see and its trade. During war times many people used the opportunity to come to Switzerland, especially to Zurich. That is the reason why still today there are many immigrants, especially from Italy. Every part of the city has numerous small shops, restaurants and cafés and spreads it own special atmosphere. So here is the place where idyll and reality meet each other.
Zurich lies in the temperate climate zone. Therefore the weather is relatively mild throughout the whole year. Nevertheless, there are often winds coming from the west resulting in rain and winds from the east and north which are responsible for cold air. The average temperature of the year is 9°C. The warmest period is during the summer months, which are recommendable for visiting the city. The average temperature during the summer is 20°C – 24°C. But also temperatures in spring, especially in May (around 15°C) are very mild and ideal for travelling.
The official languages in Switzerland are German, French, Italian and Rhaeto-Romanic. The inhabitants of Zurich speak Swiss German, a language of German origin with different dialects. The Swiss German language, however, is the official communication language in Zurich.
Due to immigration and the mixture of different religious groups during the 20th century the former stronghold of Protestantism has changed immensely. Today 33% are Catholics; about 32% are from the reformed Country Church and some Christian Orthodox. Around 17% consider themselves as non-religious. Zurich’s Jewish community is the biggest in whole Switzerland. And during the last couple of years there is a distinctive increase in the Islamic population.
The currency of Switzerland is Swiss Francs. Notes come in denominations of 1000, 500, 100, 50 and 20 Francs. Coins in use are 5, 2, 1 and 0,50 Francs as well as 20, 10 and 5 rappen.
Usually tips are included in the prices of the service. If the service, however is satisfying enough it is common to round up the sum.
The tax in Switzerland lies around 7,6%. Overnight stays are usually taxed with 3,6% and food, medication and books with 2,4%. Many fields like culture, insurances and health are excluded from tax.
The area code for Switzerland is +41 and for Zurich (0)1. Most of the public telephones can only be used with a telephone card. These cards (taxcards) can be purchased for the amount of 10 or 20 Swiss Francs at post offices, train stations or kiosks.
There are numerous internet cafés in Zurich, for example e dome: Heinrichstraße 241, 8005 Zurich (biggest Swiss game and internet), Paranoia City Buchhandlung: Bäckerstraße 9, 8004 Zurich, Acxess Computerstube: Schuppistarße 2A, 8057 Zurich, Cybergate-Stars American Bar& Bistro: Main train station, 8001 Zurich, Internetcafé: Hauptstraße 29, 8632 Tann (Zurich), ect.
Emergency numbers
Police, Tel.: 117 Fire Brigade, Tel.: 118 Ambulance, Tel.: 144 Doctors/ Dentist Ambulance, Tel.: +41 (0)1 2616100 First Aid, Tel.: +41 (0)1 3616161 Poisoning, Tel.: +41 (0)1 2515151 In case of an accident, Tel.: +41 (0)1 2551111 Vet: +41 (0)1 3651111 Breakdown service, Tel.: 140
Opening times
Banks in Zurich are open Monday to Friday 8.30 am – 4.30 pm and Thursdays until 6 pm. The bank at the airport is opened daily between 6 am and 10 pm. There is an exchange office at the main train station which is open from 6.15 am to 10.45 pm. Post offices are usually open from morning to midday and then again from the afternoon to the early evening.
Public holidays
New Year (1. January) Berchtold Day (2. January) Sechseläuten (3. Monday in April) Good Friday Easter Monday Ascension Day Whit Monday National Day (1. August) Knabenschießen (2. Saturday in September 1. Christmas Day (25. December) 2. Christmas Day (26. December)
Zurich is regarded to be a very safe city which finds preventive measures very important. Nevertheless there are usual crimes such as pick pocketing on bigger squares, at train stations or shopping malls. Directed campaigns and brochures make aware of the situation. Apart from this they use a video control system on public transport. During the night security people watch the city.
Discovering Zurich
As Zurich was spared throughout both World Wars the buildings of the medieval city centre are very well preserved. Houses without pomp, winding alleys, nice squares and historical buildings create a village atmosphere and compose the special charm of the “little big city”. Regarding its size Zurich is a manageable and contemplative city. Most of the sights are close to each other and therefore easily reachable by foot. Due to the less ornaments and decorating elements the atmosphere of Zurich presents a gentle reticence. During the centuries, however, many buildings were decorated with pompous elements in the inside such as many guild houses and the city hall which give a new drive to the city. On the Zurich Lake and both rivers Limmat and Sihl many boat trips are offered, especially with the paddle-steamer. This is a great and recommendable option to see the attractions and a necessity for every tour trough the city. Zurich is considered to be a very innovative city in which sub cultures and high cultures live next to each other peacefully. Especially this charming mixture makes Zurich to one of the most beautiful cities of Switzerland.
Since 1445 this small winding alley is called Augustinergasse. After craftsmen and factory owners settled down the alley way was embellished during the 17th century with bays. Today most of the restored buildings are architectural monuments which are provided with information boards on the houses history. The narrow and winded street opens out in the square St Peterhofstatt.
Train Sation Stadelhofen
The train station Stadelhofen is a modern and unconventional building from the 1990s. It was built by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava which used Boton as a nice material. Below the train station many passages were built which host a lot of nice shops.
At the end of the 19th century the architectural changes turned Zurich from a small town to a bigger city. The train Main train station was opened in 1871 and after that the 1 kilometer long Bahnhofstraße was built according to the example of the French boulevards. It is used as a direct connection between the train station and the lakes and is one of the most expensive streets in Zurich. The living houses that were built first were exchanged by newly constructed business buildings which nowadays define the appearance of the street. The Bahnhofstraße is considered to be one of the most beautiful shopping streets in Europe where many elegant fashion shops, department stores and various other shops of detail and quality are located.
The Bauschänzli is connect to the „main land“ with a small bridge and was used as a fortress against enemies since 1660. It is one of the last relicts of the baroque city fortification. Today this small island is mainly used for entertainment such as the Oktoberfest or is used as a location for the circus “Conelli”. Recently the whole area was rebuilt and renewed. Now a nice park with special trees was created. Furthermore there is a great restaurant, a bar and the biggest Biergarten of the city.
The historic square of Zurich has and the oldest and most original paving. The Münsterhof, north of the Frauenmünster, is a big irregularly built construction from the 13th century. By then it was the only presentable square in the city centre. Since then it had many different functions, for example as pig market of the 13th century, as a common market place and as a fair until the end of the 18th century. A part of the Münsterhof was used as a graveyard. By and by some guild houses were built at the location. Still today it is a demonstrative place and a good starting point for a tour through the city.
St. Peter''s Church
The famous St. Peter’s Church is the oldest parish church in Zurich. The late romantic–gothic watch tower whose clock has the biggest clock face of Europe, the choir from the 13th century, the baroque nave and many other elements characterise the architectural picture of the St. Peter’s Church. The inside of the hall church is determined by impressive galleries. The church is located at the idyllic St. Peterhofstatt, a yard looking over the Old Town, which gives a great view over the city.
This once very important women convent was first mentioned in 853 when King Ludwig the German gave the Frauenmünster to his daughter Hildegard as a present. The big medieval building and the gothic style was built over six construction periods. At that time the convent owned huge estates and had the right to mint and issue its own coins. After the closure of the convent at the time of the reformation only the church and the cloister survived. The speciality about the Fraumünster is the window at the East side which was designed by Marc Chagall, the Zion window and the 11 m high window of Christ. All of them were made in 1970.
The Grossmünster is a plant about which only few information are available. The building is a square form in the late romantic style and an inventive block window. The constructions started at the beginning of 12th century and ended about a hundred years later. Outside a horse riding statue of Charlemagne, a horn blower and a horse are displayed. The inside is characterised by a Lombard and Catalonian style. So to speak, the Grossmünster features an interesting style and ornamentation from the inside and the outside.
The Bauschänzli is connect to the „main land“ with a small bridge and was used as a fortress against enemies since 1660. It is one of the last relicts of the baroque city fortification. Today this small island is mainly used for entertainment such as the Oktoberfest or is used as a location for the circus “Conelli”. Recently the whole area was rebuilt and renewed. Now a nice park with special trees was created. Furthermore there is a great restaurant, a bar and the biggest Biergarten of the city.
This beautiful park is located close to the Zurich Lake, between the Mythenquai and the General-Guisan-Quai and is one of the most popular green sports in the city. The Arboretum 1882 was built by the engineer A. Bürkli and about 100 years later it was announced as the first historical park in Switzerland. The idea was to design a cultivated and richly equipped park and that is the reason for the development of an area with a collection of many different foreign woods and a collection of stones in a breathtaking panorama of the Alps. The aim was to combine science and beauty of nature which was nicely implemented by the architect. In summer the nostalgic wood bath can be visited.
The about 900 m high Uetliberg is easily reachable by using the Uetli Mountain railway. It is a car free zone and is also called Zurich’s home mountain. The nice recreation area spends a great view over the city, the lake up to the Alps.