At a Glance
When to Go
The concrete, steel, and glass–clad Flughafen Zürich, also known as Zurich Kloten Airport, offers a microcosm of what to expect in the city you’re about to enter: Everything is pristine, with advertisements for watches everywhere. Zurich’s main train station, Hauptbahnhof, is just eight miles south, and a number of trains will take you there in as little as 12 minutes. The number 10 tram takes 35 minutes but might be more convenient if your destination is on the northern edges of town. Taxis are insanely expensive—about 50 Swiss francs or $55 to the heart of the city—and should be avoided unless you have lots of baggage.
It’s no exaggeration to say Zurich’s public transportation system is the most punctual and reliable in the world. Like practically everything else in this city, it doesn’t come cheap: a one-hour ticket costs 4.20 Swiss francs. But a day pass, at 8.60 Swiss francs, is a relative bargain considering it allows for travel on any of the city's various modes of public transportation, be it train, bus, tram, funicular, cable car, or boat, during any given 24-hour period. The most popular, and efficient, is the city’s iconic blue tram. A fun alternative is to tour the city on two wheels with Züri rollt, the city’s popular—and free—bike-share program. Also, considering Zurich’s relatively small size and pedestrian-friendly Altstadt, it's possible to reach many of the city’s most interesting sights entirely on foot.
Food and Drink
Where there’s wealth, there’s art. This is a city brimming with cultural institutions. The venerable Kunsthaus, which holds Zurich’s most important collection of modern art, should be on every art lover’s itinerary, as should the lesser-known "Löwenbräu brewery-turned-arts complex, home to Kunsthalle Zürich and Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, two of the most important museums for contemporary art in the city. If you never step foot inside a museum, you can still get your fill of great art: Fraumünster church has stained-glass windows by Marc Chagall and Augusto Giacometti, several hotels have sizable art collections (the Widder even commissioned a Rauschenberg), and for high-rolling diners, Kronenhalle serves veal steak and wiener schnitzel amid pieces by Picasso, Matisse, and Mirò.
For a small city, Zurich has a packed celebratory calendar. With time-honored, tradition-bound festivals such as the Sechlauten in the spring, raucous blowouts like Street Parade in the summer, and numerous cultural events like the Zurich Film Festival in the fall, there is no shortage of events around which to plan your vacation.
What the Locals Know
Ratha Tep is a freelance journalist who writes about travel, food, art, design, and culture for print and online publications including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Food & Wine, Travel + Leisure, T Magazine, and Budget Travel. For seven years, she was an editor at Food & Wine magazine, where she wrote feature stories, edited sections, and had the pleasure of interviewing top chefs around the country, talking bacon with Thomas Keller and high-tech gadgets with Grant Achatz. In 2010, she chucked her life in New York City to move to Switzerland, where she currently lives with her husband and baby girl nestled in between an urban sheep pasture and Lake Zurich.