Zurich, one of the most popular destinations in the country, was the first place that we visited in Switzerland. It's quite small and charming and has a unique atmosphere more of a town rather than a city. As it happened many times before, although Zurich was very nice, it was my least favorite destination in this Alpine country. Just like with Ljubljana in Slovenia or Bucharest in Romania. If you want to see the real Swiss paradise, you must go out of the popular cities such as Zurich or Geneva.
How expensive is Zurich
Switzerland is known to be one of the most expensive countries in the world and that's true. The prices are significantly higher than in the neighbouring states - especially the cost of transportation and accommodation. For example, a one way tram journey in Zurich will cost around 6 CHF (5 EUR/6 USD). To save money, buy a daily or return pass - if you need it. The prices in normal supermarkets can be as much as three times higher than in Germany - with the exception of Lidl that can be found in the city centre of Zurich. Soon I've written a post about the tips on how to travel on a budget in Switzerland where you can find more details on dealing with high costs in Switzerland.
Where to shop and how to save money in Zurich
I'm not talking here of high end experience, but about the basic grocery shopping. There are a couple of supermarket chains in Zurich - such us Coop or Migros. If you want to save some cash, I would recommend that you shop in Lidl or Aldi - they are the cheapest and the quality is good, nevertheless. The good thing is that one of the Lidl supermarkets is located right in the city center of Zurich - next to the city's main attraction - the Fraumünster Church.
When you book accommodation, try to look for an apartment/hostel with a kitchen rather than a hotel - if you cook your own meals - it will be considerably cheaper than eating out in Zurich's extremely expensive restaurants. For a fast food meal (the lowest quality) - you will have to spend at least around 10-12 CHF. But even of you don't cook - Lidl has it's own bakery where you can buy some warm, simple foods - such as pizza bread, croissants, etc. When you do groceries in Switzerland, you must be careful about the time - most of the supermarkets close very early (around 6 pm) and they are entirely closed on Sundays. The only place where you can do shopping after hours and during holidays is the central train station. Surprisingly, the train station has also a good range of low cost restaurants that offer quite a good quality - so if you're on a budget, you can also get a quick meal there.
What to see in Zurich
Zurich is small, so if you don't want to break the bank, book your room a bit outside of the city center. The accommodation prices tend to be lower and it's not difficult to reach the city - the public transport is excellent. Although it's expensive - it will still be way cheaper than staying in the city center.
To be honest, the only part really worth seeing is the Old Town area with beautiful buildings, tiny streets and churches (and maybe the Fifa World Museum if you're interested in football). The Old Town resembles a German town, however it does have a bit of a French and more southern - Italian touch. But in Zurich, the Italian influence is very slight. The more south you get, the more the architecture changes. Switzerland, because it's a combination of three cultures is very diverse. This is one of the main reasons you should explore it more rather than just staying in Zurich.
Train Station and the National Museum
You can easily start visiting the city from the main train station. The building is very large and spacious, but the surprising thing is that you come across lot of people smoking cigarettes inside. That came as a shock because in Europe smoking inside stations is normally banned. At the station, you will find the main information point and currency exchange offices. Be ready to long in long lines - there are crowds of tourists as Zurich is often the first point in Switzerland for many.
Right beside the station you can find a very interesting building of the National Museum (number 1 on the map) which looks more like a medieval castle than a museum - especially from the courtyard inside - the entry is free of charge. Nearby, there's a little park where you can have some rest.
Bahnhofstrasse and Paradeplatz
From the main station, you can start walking down the Zurich's most prestigious and expensive streets - Bahnhofstrasse. It will take you all the way to the beautiful Lake Zurich. On the way to the lake, you'll see the Paradeplatz (number 5 on the map) with many grand buildings reminding of those in Paris. If you continue straight down, you will reach the Lake Zurich (number 8 on the map). But before you get to the lake, I would recommend that you get off the main street in Zurich and get lost a little bit in the city's Old Town area. For me, it was way nicer than Bahnhofstrasse which didn't impress me at all.
Old Town, Churches and Best Views of Zurich
The best point to enter the Old Town from Bhnhofstrasse is the Augustinergasse (number 2 on the map). Here, you can feel the Swiss atmosphere with the colorful old style houses and the iconic flags. It's a very delightful sight. The street will take you straight to the Munzplats Square and the Catholic Church of Zurich (number 3).
The next point in the Old Town is the charming Church of St. Peter (number 4 - the current building dates back to the beginning of the 18th century), the magnificent tower of which blends with the narrow streets nearby - it's a good spot for some medieval looking photographs.
Now, before you get to the very heart of Zurich and its main attractions - walk around and enjoy the little, winding streets. The layout is somehow similar to the Italian towns, however, the buildings are different. The next stop is one of the two main churches - Fraumunster Church (number 6 on the map). The church is located at the Munsterbrucke bridge from where you can admire the emerald green and exceptionally clear river Limmat. On the other side of the bridge stands another church - the distinctive Grossmunster Church (number 7 on the map). It's not only the one of the most spectacular temples in the city but it also offers the very best, 360 degree views of Zurich and the lake from one of the towers. Don't miss it! It's definitely my favorite spot in the city - the panorama with the beautiful river in between the medieval buildings seen from a bird's eye perspective is so much better than from the ground. It costs only 5 CHF to enter which is really affordable for Switzerland.
To go back to the station, take another route - follow the river to enjoy the cozy waterfront - it's really nice. Having said all that, take a look at other towns we've seen in Switzerland in the Related Posts section below - such as Luzerne, Bern or Lugano - you'll see that they are even more attractive although less known!
If you liked this article, you can also download it via the GPSmyCity app - you will be able to gain access to the guide, which will direct you to all the attractions described above, even if you're offline. Download it here.
Author: Tom @ Adventurous Travels
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