Switzerland has a long and cherished history of being one of the world’s premier Mountain Tourism destinations and the city of Zurich with its scenic and rather cultured setting - lavish lifestyle, incredible shopping outlets and a cosmopolitan ambience offers today’s jet-set travellers with a rare tourist combo pack, which is too hard to ignore.
Being Switzerland's largest city, Zurich also happens to be a financial nerve center and culturally very pulsating. In spite of its “Expensive City” tag, I can vouch for the fact that no other city in the world combines creativity and nature in such a harmonious manner as Zurich. Thus, it comes as no surprise when the United Nations recognised Zurich as one of the world’s most liveable cities.
As an Indian, it felt so good to see the presence of the large Indian community in Zurich and the average Swiss’ admiration for the Indian Prime Minister - Narendra Modi, which is worth going miles to see. A visit to the office of the Indian Association of Greater Zurich (IAGZ) revealed their endeavour to promote cultural understanding between India and Switzerland. I was told by Atit Patel, President of IAGZ that the Festival of Lights - Diwali has become an integral part of the city’s festival calendar.
Your discovery of Zurich starts the moment you touchdown at Zurich Airport. Yeah, I am talking about Observation Deck B where visitors are offered a peek into the intricate aviation activities that takes place 24/7 at Zurich airport.
From the airport tower you can marvel at the sight of how the pilots perform at the cockpit, or you can take your kids on a discovery tour. There is also a mini-airfield that offers visitors to explore the high tech world of Swiss aviation. If you are travelling with family and kids, there is an innovative Swiss Kids’ Tour where kids are offered a mind blowing 12 electrifying stations to visit.
As a lakeside city with panoramic views of the Alps, Zürich offers an incredible mix of adventure, culture and nature. To get the most out of your visit to Zurich, try to coincide your trip to the city during the annual festivals like Street Parade, the Zurich Festival, the Weltklasse Zurich and the New Year’s Eve Magic organized by Zurich’s hoteliers. First time visitors to Zurich would do well to get in touch with the Tourism office in Zurich and request for the Events Calendar and plan their holidays accordingly.
Zurich and Water is ubiquitous The city is well spread out on the banks of River Limmat and the sparkling Lake Zurich, which extends all the way to the Old Town that offers a befitting Mediterranean ambiance. There is no shortage of pure drinking water as the city is blessed with a mind boggling 1,200 public fountains. The mandarins of the city have with great dexterity tapped the city’s watery potential ranging from Europe's mightiest waterfall, the Rhine Falls, to lure visitors with a bewildering array of water sport activities.
Historically too, Zurich offers an array of fascinating monuments and churches. I was taken aback when the local guide informed me that one-third of the edifices in Zurich were built before 1931. What is more, Zurich with its collection of 25 “Badis” (riverside bathing bays) happens to be a city with the maximum concentration of bathing facilities in the world, which I found rather hard to digest as an Indian - I thought Varanasi was the first!
The Old Town in Zurich has history written all over and embarking on a Guided Walking Tour is by far the best way of discovering the city’s rich virile past. Zurich Tourism offers Guided Walking Tours that starts from Zurich Main Station, which is inclusive of the world famous “Niederdorf”. As you walk leisurely through the quaint old town, the city´s past unravels itself like the veil slipping out of the head of a beautiful woman - secret alleyways, charming squares, the mysterious Bahnhofstrasse, procession axis - all of which transports visitors to an altogether different world.
Switzerland and Zurich in particular is blessed with many luminaries - people who have left indelible marks on humanity through their creative and scientific minds. Three famous persons of the stature of Einstein, James Joyce and Wagner have all been past residents of Zurich. Such is the class and sophistication of this one-of-a-kind city.
As we ambled past the city square, we were captivated by the commentary from our well informed guide on the Reformation movement of the 16th century and how Zurich became the centre point of this movement under the able leadership of Huldrych Zwingli and his successor, Heinrich Bullinger. Zurich is by far one of the best places to discover the growth of Christianity and the city’s churches in particular are so very receptive towards international visitors who come in search of holiness. Bear in mind, this year (2019) the city will celebrate its 500th anniversary of the Reformation movement.
Zurich is not just about history. In fact, the city is at the crossroads of cutting edge scientific research with revolutionary scientific minds of the stature of Reto Knutti and Christian Bartsch contributing their innovations in domains like Climate Change and sustainable lifestyle products. The later in particular has developed sustainable products that are made out of edible oil!
Urban Zurich, on the other hand is not just fashionable but truly pulsating. The Kreis 5 Quarter in particular, where machines once clattered has transformed itself into a hub of shopping, high-end fashion and fine dining. The one feature that stands out is the city’s obsession for quality, be it nature, recreation, health, lifestyle and what have you...
If you happen to be in Zurich during the Christmas time, the whole city comes alive with all guns blazing - cherry lights everywhere, aroma of cinnamon and wine, carols being sung in the churches and city squares... The festival reaches its crescendo with a spectacular fireworks display by the Hotel Association of Zurich.
Zurich is a shopper’s delight and visitors are stunned by the easy availability of international luxury brands at every nook and corner of the city’s urban conglomeration. These days, hats off to Swiss ingenuity! Zurich shops are flooded with fresh products that are 100% sustainable.
The beauty of shopping in Zurich is that every neighbourhood offers its own inimitable shopping experience. For the finest Swiss chocolate, jewellery and watches - Bahnhofstrasse is the ideal stop. For local Swiss products, nothing quite compares to the Old Town. Try out the weekly markets in Zurich that sell vegetables, flowers and second-hand antique products. Many visitors love to amble past the shops that have sprung up on the banks of the River Limmat, mixing shopping and the surreal watery backdrop to the hilt.
Traveller’s Fact File
Local Transport: Trams, buses, train, boat and cableways are the chosen modes of transportation in Zurich. Get hold of the Zurich Card that entitles you with a host of benefits like unlimited 2nd class travel on trams, buses, train, boat and cableways, free or discounted admission to 40 museums. Validity ranges from 24 hrs to 72 hrs.
Accommodation: The best way to book hotel accommodation is through Zürich Tourism, ranging from youth hostels to luxury hotels. Ideal hotel locations are the neighbourhood of Lake Zurich, largely due to the panoramic views of the lake and the Swiss Alps and the Rapperswil area. Renowned Lakeside Hotels of Zurich: Hotel Baur au Lac, Fischers Fritz Campsite, Gasthof Hirschen am See, Hotel Eden au Lac, Hotel Belvoir, Hotel Marina Lachen etc...
Reaching There: Almost all major international airlines fly to Zurich Airport (ZRH), which happens to be one of the busiest in Switzerland. In terms of frequency, SWISS International Airlines, being the official flagship airline overshadows all others.