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Zurich

Zürich is one of the hubs for Swiss Airlines (and the Swiss railway), and therefore is well connected to the rest of Europe. The biggest city in Switzerland, it has a charming old town with a number of interesting sights.  Consider staying near the train station (in the Altstadt ["old town"] or Niederdorff) so you can walk to all the major tourist destinations. Be warned, though: like much of the rest of Switzerland, Zürich can be very expensive.

Sights

  • Walk through Altstadt (Old City) - Rick Steves has a good itinerary in his Switzerland book; also check out this YouTube video from his show.
    • Niederdorf - east of the Limmat river, is now a bit touristy but if you venture a block or two off Niederdorfstrasse it is less so
    • Lindenhof/Schipfe - some of the oldest parts of the city; there are even some Roman ruins downhill from St. Peterskirche.
    • Bahnhofstrasse - this was once the western town wall, but is now wall-to-wall with shops
  • Grossmünster - where Swiss Protestantism started; you can climb the south tower for 4 CHF
  • Fraumünster - beautiful Marc Chagall stained glass
  • Swiss National Museum (Landesmuseum) - T-W,F-Sun 10-5, Th 10-7, 10 CHF admission, <16 years free, learn about Swiss history and government
  • Art Museum (Kunsthaus) - Sat/Sun/T 10-6, W-F 10-8, closed Mon, free admission on Wednesday, 15 CHF admission, <16 years free; they have a pretty wide range of art from various periods
  • Markthalle im Viadukt - covered market NW of the train station, near Dammweg train/tram stop, open M-Th 10-8, F-Sat 8-8
  • River or Lake Boat Ride - rides up and down the Limmat river are part of the public transport system; you can also take more touristy cruises around Lake Zürich, especially in the warmer months
    • some recommend the cruise to Rapperswil
  • Einsiedeln Abbey - beautiful pink/green/white church with a black Madonna; trains from Zurich HB take about 1 hour (change in Wädenswil). The abbey has a large horse stable that you can walk through, and there is some easy/nice hiking in the surrounding hills.
  • Uetliberg - the closest "mountain" to Zürich, which offers a spectacular view from the top.  Take the S10 (the Albis card is a good deal if you don't already have a ZürichCARD) to the end of the line and walk ~10 min to the summit.  You can also walk for another hour or so (a nice, mostly downhill walk) to Felsenegg (which also has a pretty view), from where you can take a cable car to Adliswil, so you can return on S4.  This (German) brochure includes a map.
    • ***Uto Kulm - restaurant at the summit; actually quite good (I liked their Züricher Geschneltzes, 39 CHF in 2012).  See this blogpost for photos.
  • Zürich Market at Bürkliplatz - Tues & Fri 6-11...other locations/times are on this site
  • Chocolate
    • Lindt - the most "generic" kind of Swiss chocolate, available easily in the US...however, it is available cheaply here, especially at supermarkets
    • Läderach - a more fancy Swiss chocolate company, they have a branch in and near the Train Station
    • Sprüngli - a large, touristy, but good chocolate company; their largest store is on Paradenplatz.  In the fall, they have cru sauvage ("wild vintage") chocolate, which is made from wild (uncultivated, in the forest) cocoa beans that have a unique taste.
    • Teuscher - famous for their champagne truffles...they have branches all over the world including San Francisco
    • Truffe - Schlüsselgasse 12 (near St. Peterskirche), 43-539-1885, T-F 11-6:30, Sat 11-5, run by Tuscan Elisabetta Capei, this tiny shop specializes in handmade chocolates for the true chocolate connoisseur.  Includes several cru sauvage offerings. --> alas, closed! ...but in its place is the excellent Max Chocolatier (Schlüsselgasse 12), which also has a branch in Luzern
  • Day Trips
    • Rheinfall (Rhine Falls) - one of the largest waterfalls in Europe; this is about 45-50 minutes north by train, right at the edge of the Zürich canton; if taking the train the destination is “Schloss Laufen am Rheinfall”; nearby town of Schaffhausen (where you transfer) is also nice (climb the Munot fortress/tower/hill for a nice view); see these expat blogs for good descriptions/info
      • If you have more time, the town of Stein-am-Rhein, a bit further east, is supposed to be very nice
    • Luzern (Lucerne) - beautiful old town on a lake, with beautiful views of the mountains/alps, less than an hour by train
      • also nearby are beautiful mountains like Mount Pilatus and Mount Rigi, both accessible via cogwheel trains
    • Bremgarten - nice town ~45 min west of Zurich
    • Bern - about 1.5 hours by train, see the main Switzerland page
    • St Gallen - about 1 hour by train, home to UNESCO World Heritage Site Abbey of Saint Gall, a medieval monastery with one of the oldest libraries in Europe
    • Liechtenstein - this tiny country is about 1.5 hours by train; check out the capital of Vaduz (although some say it's boring, with just a bunch of banks...the castle looks nice even though you can't go inside) or go hiking in the nearby mountains (e.g. some recommend the town of Triesenberg)

Restaurants

*** = especially recommended by Luke

Western Altstadt (near Bahnhofstrasse, Kreis 1)

  • ***Boucherie AuGust - Rennweg 7, open all afternoon, nice salads, sausages, etc. and also other dishes (great geschnetzeltes although one time the röstli was salty), awesome crusty bread, Michelin Bib Gourmand...associated with the fancy/nice Widder Hotel & Restaurant (also rec'd Michelin). Not rec'd for vegetarians.
  • ***Restaurant Schützengasse - Schützengasse 32, closed Sat lunch, Sun, near train station, *very* nice restaurant with high-quality ingredients, basically fancy Swiss food with an Italian twist, "the in restaurant in Zürich" says one Googler, a bit expensive
  • Hiltl - Sihlstrasse 28 (but also other locations), open every day, one of the better vegetarian restaurants in town (it's supposedly the oldest in the world!); features a buffet that is heavy on Indian specialties; rec'd by the New York TimesTime Out, Rough Guide, Rick Steves, Lonely PlanetFodors, this blog says their chocolate mousse is great (Luke tried it in 2016, not bad)
  • Kaufleuten - Pelikanstrasse 18, seasonal organic food next to a club, Michelin Bib Gourmand...we tried it in 2016, it clearly had nice ingredients but wasn't anything to write home about
  • #Café Milchbar - Kappelergasse 16 (near the Fraumunster), coffee shop/restaurant/hotel, rec'd by this blog, fondue rec'd by Harrysding
  • Rôtisserie - Weinplatz 2, rec'd Michelin
  • Tapas Bar - Schützengasse 5, less-formal eatery associated with haute cuisine Sein restaurant, Michelin Bib Gourmand (Sein has 1 Michelin star)
  • Kindli - Pfalzgasse 1, closed Sun, in hotel, a bit upscale, rec'd by Fodors, Michelin
  • Glogge Egge at Hotel Glockenhof - Sihlstrasse 31, closed Sun lunch, Swiss cuisine
  • Heugümper - Waaggasse 4 (near Paradeplatz), closed Sat lunch, Sun, SE Asian-inspired dishes, rec'd Züritipp, Michelin
  • Restaurant Reithalle - Gessnerallee 8, closed Sat/Sun lunch, 44-212-0766, former horse stables have been converted into a nice Swiss restaurant, rec'd by Lonely Planet
  • Wühre Café - rec'd spottedbylocals for small meal/snack
  • Luigi's Piadina - in Train Station every Wednesday, rec'd by Gourmet.com
  • Manora - rec'd Rick Steves for "good and fast" affordable food
  • Lindenhofkeller - old restaurant in 14th-century building, rec'd Michelin, #4 restaurant on TripAdvisor, CremeGuides, InYourPocket, Girlfriend Guide
  • Kaiser's Reblaube - rec'd Michelin
  • Metropol - East Asian (including Japanese dishes, sushi, sashimi), rec'd Michelin
  • Expensive
    • La Soupière - expensive (>79 CHF/person) place near train station, rec'd Michelin
    • Hummer- & Austernbar - Michelin says "A real Zürich institution", mostly for seafood
    • Bü's - Mediterranean influence says Michelin
    • Tao's - Euro-Asian, rec'd Michelin, Girlfriend Guide
  • (Veltliner Keller - Schlüsselgasse 8, therealpickygourmet says it's a classic place "to take your grandmother to", but underwhelming, rec'd Michelin)
  • (Zeughauskeller - in the old Zeughaus (Armory) of Zürich; while it's fun (you can get "flaming beer" and a sword wrapped in meat) the food was a bit ho-hum (e.g. the Züricher Geschneltzes were dull compared to others we had, and served with soggy Röstli).  Rec'd by Rick Steves, Lonely Planet)
  • (Restaurant Zum Kropf - In Gassen 16, closed Sun, traditional Swiss fare, small restaurant, rec'd by FodorsLonely Planet likes the Leberknödl (liver dumplings)...went here in 2016, liver/blood sausage dishes were nice and the decor is fantastic, but the food seems very "tired", including röstli that was a dried-out puck.)
  • Zunfthaus zur Waagtherealpickygourmet loved the mousse [this website also says it's great] but said the Röstli was horrible, 11:30-2/6-10
  • Cantinetta Antinori and Bindella (related restaurants, 2nd is Venetian) - has gluten-free pasta
  • La Piazzetta - has gluten-free pasta

Eastern Altstadt (Niederdorff, Kreis 1)

  • ***Wirtschaft Neumarkt - Neumarkt 5, closed most Suns, M-F 11:30-2 & 6-mid, Sat noon-?, Rick Steves rec's for "healthy organic ingredients" and nice outdoor garden, we went here in 2016 and thought it was our favorite place in Zurich! ...quality ingredients, menu changes with the seasons, both innovative dishes and classics (including good rösti and Zürcher geschnetzeltes), rec'd Harrysding
  • ?#Baltho Küche and Bar - Marktgasse 17 (in Marktgasse Hotel), rec'd therealpickygourmet, InYourPocket, Harrysding, people mention the slightly-salted chocolate cake (also coq au vin, bang bang chicken...), open M-Sat 11-2/6-mid, Sun 11-2/6-10
  • ?#Kronenhalle (Bar) - Rämistrasse 4, open daily, 44-262-9900, rec'd by the New York Times, Time OutLonely Planet, Fodors, Michelintherealpickygourmet, old, fancy, expensive place popular with the "ruling class" of Zürich and celebrities...but with excellent, classic food (and apparently wonderful chocolate mousse); dress fancy if you can!
  • ?Zur Oepfelchammer - Rindermarkt 12, closed Sat lunch, Sun/Mon, old place where writer Gottfried Keller hung out, "Oeli", Gaststübe is more low-key/casual than the Stübli
  • ?Casa Ferlin - Stampfenbachstrasse 38 (across the Limat from train station), Venitian food including homemade pasta, rec'd Michelin
  • ?La Pasta - well-rated (on TripAdvisor, Google) Italian restaurant with gluten-free pasta options, M-F 11:30-2:30, 5:30-11, Sat 11:30-11, Sun 11:30-3:30, 5:30-10
  • Ristorante Positano - place Lizzie liked? (has gluten-free pizza & pasta)
  • Zunfthaus zum Rüden (Restaurant Gotischer Saal) - Limmatquai 42, closed Sat/Sun, 44-261-9566, rec'd by Lonely Planet
  • Zunfthaus zur Zimmerleuten - Limmatquai 40, open every day, old carpenter's guild building, nice people-watching from their Küferstube/terrace (which is a bit less expensive than the restaurant), in 2015 Luke tried their Zürcher Geschnetzeltes which were good but with somewhat disappointing röstli (hard on the outside, perhaps not quite enough butter?), popular on Yelp, rec'd by Fodors
  • Blockhus - Schifflände 4 (southern end of Niederdorff almost in Bellevue), closed Sun, small, seasonal restaurant with Swiss/Mediterranean mix, known for its tartare, popular with locals and tourists alike, rec'd InYourPocket, strange review from Therealpickygourmet, Harrysding, although Züritipp was disappointed at all but the tarte tatin
  • Café Zähringer - rec'd Rick Steves for "reasonably priced, healthy food", a bit hippie
  • Kantorei - rec'd Rick Steves for "modern Mediterranean cuisine with an Italian touch"
  • Conditorei Péclard at Cafe Schober - Napfgasse 4, historic Baroque building with old-fashioned decor (check out the red room one floor up); a nice (albeit expensive) place to get something to drink or a sweet, see this blog for more, lots of people love their hot chocolate with whipped cream
  • Café Restaurant Mohrenkopf - Niederdorfstrasse 31, various Swiss specialties and other bistro fare, the name of the restaurant is a kind of chocolate-covered marshmallow, rec'd InYourPocket, SpottedByLocals, Coffee Me Zurich
  • Bauernschänke - Rindermarkt 24, rustic tavern with traditional "grandma's" Swiss dishes, rec'd InYourPocket, lukewarm review from Züritipp
  • eCHo - Neumühlequai 42 (in Zürich Marriott, a bit north of Niederdorff), rec'd Girlfriend Guide
  • Thai: Ban Song Thai - rec'd Michelin
  • Wystube Isebähnli - wine bar with food, good Yelp reviews, expensive (145-185 CHF) tasting menus, rec'd Girlfriend Guide
  • Brasserie Louis - in Best of Swiss Gastro
  • (Adler's Swiss Chuchi - Rosengasse 10, 44-266-96-66, touristy, specializing in raclette and fondue; the fondue's not bad but a bit pricey.  Rec'd by Lonely Planet, Rick Steves)
  • (Le Dézaley - Römergasse 7, closed Sun, near Grossmünster, a place specializing in fondue and other Vaud region specialties, rec'd by Lonely Planet, Mark Davis...we went there in 2016 and it was OK but nothing to write home about)

Bellevue/South of Niederdorff/Seefeld (Kreis 8)

  • ***Sternen Grill - right on Bellevue square, this place has awesome bratwurst; pick some up with some bread and mustard and dig in!  Rec'd by Lonely PlanetGourmet.comfoodandwine.com
  • ***Fischstube - beautiful spot on the water (closed in winter), delicious perch and other seafood
  • ??Stefs Freieck - Wildbachstrasse 42 (Seefeld), Swiss/French, dinner only, rec'd Michelintherealpickygourmet ("one of my favorites"), FoodieHub (although they don't recommend it for vegetarians), open Tues-Sat 6:30-mid
  • ?##Restaurant Tüfi (Tuefi) - Dufourstrasse 154 (Seefeld area), open M-F 11:30-2, 6-11, closed Sat/Sun, regional, fresh, organic produce
  • Restaurant Obere Flühgasse - Flühgasse 69 (Kreis 8, not too far from Tiefenbrunnen stop on trams 2/4 or S6/S7/S16), closed Tues/Wed; 44-381-111-10, rec'd by foodandwine.com for its traditional Swiss fare, although therealpickygourmet says that despite being cute and having good food in general, its Geschnetzeltes were not the best, FoodieHub says it's "old-school" like a mountain chalet --> we went here in 2016, and really enjoyed the food (especially liver, geschnetzeltes, and rösti) but it wasn't necessarily worth the schlep up the hill...but recommended if you want the "rustic chalet" experience/ambiance
  • Blindekuh - Mühlebachstrasse 148 (Seefeld), open for dinner every day, open for lunch on Thurs/Fri, 44-421-5050, the "Blind Cow" restaurant, one of the first "pitch-black" restaurants where you are encouraged to use your non-sight senses; all the staff are vision-impaired.  Rec'd by New York Times, Rough Guide, Lonely Planetspottedbylocals
  • Le Cèdre - in Bellevue, Lebanese, rec'd by Mark Davis, good for groups (we went there with a large group)...although the one on Badenerstrasse gets better reviews
  • Blaue Ente - Seefeldstrasse 223, closed Sat lunch and Sun, Swiss food in an old industrial mill/brewery, rec'd by Michelin, Time Out, Mark Davis (although he says that as of 2016 it's inconsistent) 
  • Quaglino's - nice French place, Mark Davis likes (especially for foie gras)

N of Train Station (Kreis 5 and 6)

  • ?##Alpenrose - Fabrikstrasse 12 (near Sihlquai, Kreis 5), closed Sat/Sun lunch, Mon/Tues, 44-271-3919, locavore pan-Swiss (favorites from around Switzerland made with quality local, often organic, ingredients), "very Swiss", rec'd by Lonely Planet, Fodors, Time Out
  • ?##Frau Gerolds Garden - Geroldstrasse 23 (just N of the train station), home-style cuisine made from produce grown on the property, see this blogFoodieHub
  • ?4 Leone - Luisenstrasse 43 (near Limmatplatz, Kreis 5), Swiss outpost of Oltrarno Florence restaurant 
  • ?Kreis 6 - guess which Kreis this is in?, closed Sat lunch/Sun, market-driven French/European cuisine, rec'd Time Out
  • ?Les Halles - Pfingstweidstrasse 6 (NW of train station, Kreis 5), closed Sun, fresh, organic ingredients, moules frites (mussels & fries) is popular, rec'd Fodors, Lonely Planet
  • ??Drei Stuben - Kreis 6, near Limmat, closed Sat lunch/Sun, Michelin Bib Gourmand (but still rather expensive), rec'd Züritipp, 18th century building, cozy environment with international/Swiss cuisine
  • ??Stapferstube Da Rizzo - Kreis 6, Culmannstrasse 45, closed Sun, Bib Gourmand, "Italian Feel" says Michelin Bib Gourmand
  • ??Restaurant Bistro QuadrinoGermaniastrasse 99, Kreis 6 up the hill in Rigiblick, closed Mon, seasonal, fresh menu with Italian style, Michelin Bib Gourmand
  • ??MarkthalleLimmatstrasse 231, Kreis 5, modern Swiss, rec'd InYourPocket, fresh ingredients every day
  • Restaurant zum Alten Löwen - closed Sat lunch/Sun, trendy restaurant with Italian-inspired dishes, "Tavolata" is a good deal for 55 francs a person, rec'd by therealpickygourmet and spottedbylocals
  • ?Chäsalp - way up at the top of Zürichberg (with nice views), closed Sun dinner, the Economist says this is "[a]rguably Switzerland’s hippest cheese restaurant", kid-friendly
  • Maison Blunt - Moroccan/Middle Eastern, rec'd Time Out
  • Rosso - Time Out says it's the "best pizza in town"
  • Die Waid - at top of hill with great views (actually Kreis 10), rec'd Time Out
  • (Restaurant Eisenhof - interesting, almost "dive bar" atmosphere, you can get grilled horsemeat, nothing to write home about though, rec'd by therealpickygourmet)

Zurich West / SW of Train Station (Langstrasse/Kreis 4)

Sihlfeld / Wiedikon (Kreis 3)

Near Enge (Kreis 2)

  • Seerose - Seestrasse 493, way SE on Lake Zürich, lakeside terrace, seasonal dishes, rec'd by Fodors
  • Belvoirpark Restaurant - Seestrasse 125, rec'd by therealpickygourmet
  • Bürgli - Kilchbergstrasse 15 (pretty far S of Enge, on Lake Zürich), fun place with fun menu, Entrecote Cafe de Paris rec'd by FoodieHub

Outside Town

  • ##North, near Oerlikon (near S3 or 7 line, ~20-25 min from train station): La Fonte - pizza/Italian restaurant, #1 on TripAdvisor for all of Zurich! ...also has gluten-free pizzas & pastas, closed Tues, open M/W-F 10:45-2/5-11, Saturday dinner only (5-11), Sun 12-2:30/5-10
  • Küsnacht (~17 min on S16/S6 SE of city center, just beyond Zolikon): Rico's - 2 Michelin stars, fancy spot
  • Restaurant Sonnenberg - still in Zurich but a ways up the hill to the East, The Economist says it has "the best view over Zurich"
  • #Meilen (SE of city center): Restaurant Alpenblick - Toggwil (up the hill from Meilen, which is on S6/S7/S16...then transfer to bus 922, which leaves at the top of the hour every hour between 9 and 7...or 5 on Sundays), 44-923-04-02, the realpickygourmet claims that this place has the best Geschnetzeltes and Röstli
  • #Erlenbach (SE of city): Zum Pflugstein - cozy, historic Michelin Bib Gourmand
  • Oerlikon (N of center of town): Giesserei - Birchstrasse 108, rec'd by Lonely Planet 
  • Stäfa (SE of city): Gasthof zur SonneSeestrasse 37 (on Lake Zurich), Michelin Bib Gourmand
  • Fislisbach (way NW of Zurich, near Baden): Linde - Niederrohrdorferstrasse 1, Michelin Bib Gourmand
  • Adliswil (S of Uetliberg): Restaurant Krone - Zürichstrasse 4, a mix of southeastern Swiss specialties and more modern fusion dishes, Michelin Bib Gourmand
  • Kloten (near airport): Restaurant Rias - Gerbegasse 6, Michelin Bib Gourmand
  • Olten (Solothurn canton): Rathskeller Olten - rec'd by MyGirlFriendGuide
  • Wangen (~20-30 min NE of town by train/bus, near Dübendorf): Gasthof Sternen's Gaststube, rec'd Michelin, relatively inexpensive (20 CHF lunch!)

Hotels

Western Altstadt (near Bahnhofstrasse)

  • Widder Hotel - expensive but beautiful/historic
  • Walhalla Hotel - nice location on the Limmat river, rec'd by Rick Steves, modern
  • Herzkammer - looks like a cute B&B, great location

Eastern Altstadt (Niederdorff)

  • Boutique Hotel Wellenberg - nice, not too expensive (by Zurich standards) hotel with a good location
  • Hotel Adler - exposed beams, historic
  • Marktgasse - very nice rooms/aesthetics
  • Hotel Florhof - uphill (so a bit less central), historic building

Near Enge

  • B2 - nice spa/pool (although you have to pay extra to use them even if you're staying at the hotel, daily charge is 25 CHF hotel guests, 55 CHF non-hotel guests)
  • Seehofstrasse

Events

  • Sechseläuten - spring festival, held the 3rd Monday in April, celebrates the end of winter with parades and blowing up a snowman (!)
  • Zürich Festival (Zürcher Festspiele) - June/July
  • Zurich Tourist Office Event Listing - lists a number of events going on in Zürich
  • Züritipp - the best source for event information; in German
  • Christmas Markets - Zurich's are fantastic; the largest is indoors in the train station. Enjoy a mug of mulled wine (glühwein) - with a shot of amaretto or brandy - while perusing the dozens of little shops.

Transportation

Like most of Switzerland, Zürich has a fantastic public transportation system.
  • From the Zürich Airport take the SBB (Swiss Rail), which gets you into town in about 15 minutes for 6.40 CHF (a bit more than 6 USD)...a pass that lasts you all day on public transit costs 12.80 CHF.  From the train station, you can get everywhere quickly by Tram (or, if you're close enough, walking).
    • If going to Enge, S-2 takes you there without having to change trains (it does make a stop at the main train station)
  • If you're doing a lot of sightseeing, consider the ZürichCARD, which covers all transportation in the area near Zürich, which includes transport to and/or from the airport (fare zones 10, 11, 21, 40, 50, 54 and 55) and free admission to all museums...it's 20 CHF for 24 hours or 40 CHF for 72 hours.
    • e.g. if you're going to both the National and Art Museums in one day, it's already paid for itself (unless it's Wednesday when the Art Museum is free)...even more savings if you're heading to/from the airport or Uetliberg on the same day
  • Zone/Time Based Tickets - apply to all trams/S-bahns (local trains)/busses in the Zürich region; buy before you board (be sure to save change! many machines don't accept bills/cards).  Within the main city, short public transit journeys are 2.60 CHF and a day pass costs 8.20 CHF.
  • If you want to leave the city center there are a few options:
    • Albis Day Pass - good for going to Uetliberg, since it covers all of zones 10, 50, 51, 54 and 55.  It 16.40 CHF; dial *131 on a ticket machine to get one.
    • 9 O'clock Day Pass - if you're staying relatively close to Zürich get the ZürichCARD (which is 4 CHF cheaper and includes museums), but this card could be better if you want to go anywhere in the entire Zürich canton (e.g. to the Schloss Laufen station on S16 to see the Rheinfall); it also covers the night busses.  It costs 24.00 CHF and is good from 9 AM until 5 AM the next day; dial *141 on a ticket machine to get one.
  • Night Owls: If you're partying all night long, note that Night Busses running between 1 and 5 AM require an additional 5 CHF supplement in addition to normal fares (unless you have a 9 o'clock day pass).

Guidebooks and Resources

Here are some Zürich guidebooks, and other websites:

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