What you need to know before traveling to Zürich

Welcome to Zürich, a beautiful city nestled in the heart of Switzerland. As a Swiss-Italian content creator I’ve traveled the world, but always feels most at home in the Alps. Zürich is for me the perfect mix of Alpine closeness and tranquility with a buzzing city life, which is why I’ve lived here for over 10 years.

Before you pack your bags and head to this beautiful Swiss city destination, let’s dive into what you need to know.

Get local insight on destinations all over the world with our weekly newsletter delivered to your inbox. Retailer of Christmas chocolate smiled behind the a counter full of chocolates in Switzerland You can’t leave Switzerland without indulging in some chocolate treats © Anton_Ivanov / Shutterstock

1. Planning your trip to Zürich

When planning your itinerary keep in mind that Zürich is a a comparably small city that can be easily explored in two to three days. However, if you plan on visiting other parts of Switzerland, I recommend staying here for at least a week.

Book your accommodation in advance, especially during peak tourist season. If you feel that staying central is not your main focus, you can easily find hotels a little further out on the lakeside, or even in direction Oerlikon (in the northern reaches of Zürich) which are much more budget-friendly and quieter. In general, you can get to the city center within 30 minutes by public transport, so choosing a more economic accommodation is not going to cause you any major delays. 

If you’re looking for a unique experience, try visiting a traditional restaurant. A good recommendation is the classic Kronenhalle which serves fine-dining versions of local home-style cuisine and drinks. Bookings can be made online via their website, but as Zürich is a very international city and most people speak English, feel free to give a quick call to book a table.

It’s not just cliché: the chocolates, Luxemburgerli, and other sweet creations at Lindt & Sprüngli, are a must. I always bring my friends to the store at Paradeplatz because the experience is exquisite. And if you might think Luxemburgerli is just a copy of the famous macarons, they’re not. They’re smaller and lighter than macarons and come in a unique bite-size form.

Aerial view on beautiful river Limmat and city center of Zurich, SwitzerlandZürich is a relatively compact city and easy to get around on public transport © Olena Znak / Shutterstock

2. Transportation in Zürich

As for transportation, the easiest and cheapest way to get from the airport to the city center is by train. You can purchase a ticket at the airport station or via the SBB mobile app. Ideally buy a day pass so you can hop on and off as many times you want on Zürich’s trams and buses.

Note that the transport is always precisely on time. If it says departure at 10:15, it is exactly that and not a minute later or earlier.

If you are coming from Europe mainland, consider taking a train to Zürich instead of a flight. Overall, it doesn’t take longer and you can relax and enjoy the incredible landscape along the ride.

3. Etiquette in Zürich

Switzerland is known for its punctuality, and Zürich is no exception. If you have a scheduled appointment or reservation, make sure to arrive on time.

It’s important to realise that Swiss people are rather reserved which means they may seem aloof at first, but they are friendly once you get to know them. Also note: when first greeting someone use their last name with the appropriate title (Mr. or Ms. for example).

Dress code in Zürich is typically smart casual, but in summer a dress and sandals, or shorts and flip-flops, are perfectly fine.

Finally, tipping is not mandatory, but rounding up a bill is appreciated when you eat out in a restaurant.

Industrial and urban buildings in the modern town part district 5 of Zurich at evening of July 4, 2015. Zurich is the biggest city in Switzerland.District 5 is one of the up-and-coming neighborhoods known for its street art © Oscity / Shutterstock

4. Where to stay in Zürich

If you’re looking for a vibrant neighborhood to experience the local culture, I recommend staying in Kreis 4 or 5 (these are abbreviations for districts in Zürich). These areas are known for their street art, bars, and diverse food scene.

On the other hand, if you prefer a quieter neighborhood, Seefeld and Enge are excellent options. Both areas have beautiful parks, lakeside views, and charming cafes.

5. Health and Safety in Zürich

Zürich is a safe city, but as with any destination, it’s important to take precautions. Petty crime, such as pickpocketing, can occur in crowded tourist areas, so keep your valuables close to you. In case of an emergency, dial 117 for the police and 144 for medical assistance.

And finally, Swiss tap water is safe to drink, so there’s no need to buy bottled water.

Zürich is a city that offers something for everyone, whether you’re a history buff, foodie, or nature lover. So pack your bags, and get ready for an unforgettable trip.


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