On the surface, Zurich, Switzerland, is known for banking and finance — but those who dig a little deeper discover just how enchanting the city really is. With its high-end shopping and dining, gorgeous views of the Swiss Alps, world-famous chocolate, historic streets, and versatile cultural attractions, Zurich could be described as a modern fairytale. Luckily, United Airlines recently launched a new route that takes travelers from San Francisco to Zurich. During our trip with United, we visited some of the city’s most popular attractions. If you have the opportunity to visit, check out some of our favorite spots in this charming, upscale city.
ENJOY THE VIEW
As a lakefront city, Zurich has something to offer to a wide range of travelers — and Lake Zurich serves up one of the country’s most scenic environments, perfect for a relaxing walk. But it’s also a great location for having a picnic, sailing, and enjoying water sports. To refuel after your lakeside adventures, head to one of the area’s various restaurants — we recommend Seerestaurant Quai 61 or Fischers Fritz — where every meal comes with a side of delightful views.
Also located along the lake is the city’s police building, which is home to a collection of famous murals. The vibrant paintings that adorn the structure’s ceilings were created by Augusto Giacometti and completed in 1925. The floral designs illuminate the building, which was an orphanage before it was transformed into the police building. Although entry is free and open to all, you’ll need to show a picture ID. To catch a glimpse of these iconic works, visit the building between 9 and 11 a.m. or 2 and 4 p.m.
DISCOVER WHERE PAST MEETS PRESENT
Shopaholics will find everything they’re looking for (and probably more) in Bahnhofstrasse, a shopping street that connects Lake Zurich with the city’s main railway station. Home to an array of boutiques and department stores, Bahnhofstrasse presents countless opportunities to wander and soak in the surrounding sights.
Though this stretch is now the most popular shopping area in the city, this wasn’t always the case. If you venture off of the main thoroughfare, you’ll have the chance to explore Augustinergasse and Rennweg Street, which served as the city’s most significant streets during the Middle Ages. At that time, Rennweg Street was the main shopping street in the city (and the city’s widest public road), and today, it is still a popular area filled with boutiques — though the historic, pastel buildings are now the street’s biggest draw. Augustinergasse has also shifted in its significance over the years and is one of the narrowest streets in Zurich, but its historic features have been well preserved, making it one of the most picturesque locations in the city.
For a closer look at Zurich’s history, visit one of the city’s most famous landmarks: the Grossmünster Cathedral. Located in the Old Town of Zurich, this evangelical Protestant church dates back to 1100. If you walk through its doors and take the stairs up to one of the building’s two towers, you’ll be greeted with views of Zurich with a bit of a different perspective, overlooking the city’s lake and rooftops.
Another famous church within the city is St. Peterskirche, which is the oldest church in the region. It was built in the ninth century and displays the largest clock face in all of Europe, measuring 28.5 feet (8.7 meters) in diameter. The tower also features five bells dating as far back as 1880. In addition to appreciating and photographing the clock tower, which is what the church is famous for, visitors can explore the church’s simple yet historical interior, which features remnants of a medieval mural.
TASTE THE TRADITIONS
Of course, a visit to Switzerland would be incomplete without indulging in the chocolate, and Zurich’s famous confectioner Confiserie Sprungli is like a dream for travelers with a sweet tooth. Creating treats made from Swiss chocolate for more than 175 years, the shop sells handmade desserts ranging from truffles to cakes.
Another foodie favorite is Zeughauskeller, a locale that serves traditional Swiss cuisine and local beers. Built in 1487, the Zeughauskeller is also known for its historical significance — originally, the building was used to store weapons. However, it has been a welcoming, social spot — with weapons merely acting as decorations — since 1926. As an added bonus, the menu is traveler-friendly, as it is written in eight different languages, but still includes Zurich specialities like zürcher geschnetzeltes (sliced veal in gravy) and rösti (Swiss hash browns).
BASK IN BEAUTY
After taking in the stunning sights that Zurich has to offer, you might want to view them from another perspective. One opportunity to do so is by embarking on a Limmat River Cruise. While riding on a motorized boat along the Limmat River, you’ll pass by the quaint features of Old Town and Lake Zurich — so be sure to bring your camera along. A round-trip river cruise lasts about 50 minutes and costs 4.40 CHF (roughly 4.43 USD) for adults, operating between April and October. Regardless of the time of year, though, you’ll discover various ways to experience what Zurich has to offer.
Merging history, finance, art, and breathtaking scenery, Zurich is a thriving city with much to explore. What part would you explore?