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Zurich is mainly known for being a clean, cool city where it's all about the financial world. So why would you want to go there? As far as we are concerned, for lots of reasons. Yes, it is true: Zurich is Switzerland's financial heart, but it is much more than that. It is a trendy city, with cool clubs, excellent Swiss, but also international restaurants, and it is beautifully situated on a large lake with views of the Alps. Oh, and yes, it is also true that it is a clean city.
All streetcar routes come together on the Paradeplatz. Alongside this square runs the Bahnhofstrasse, the city's posh shopping street with jewelers, fashion houses and chocolate shops. This may well be the world's most expensive street. Many people will therefore have to stick to window shopping (and people watching).
In the historic center east of this street you'll find smaller boutiques and antique shops with more charm than those in the Bahnhofstrasse. The neighborhood is dominated by the Fraumünster, a Gothic church with beautiful stained-glass windows, made by Marc Chagall. On the other side of the Limmat River lies the Grossmünster, a Romanesque cathedral with two towers dating back to the twelfth century. One of the few things that is not expensive in Zurich: Climbing this church' tower. In the crypt you can see a statue of Charlemagne. You'll immediately notice that the atmosphere in the area around the church is more informal, perhaps even casual. This is Oberdorf, with to the north Niederdorf, predominantly a pedestrian area, just like the other side of the river. In addition to shops, there are many cafés, bars, restaurants and nightclubs. It is a cozy neighborhood, both during the day and at night.
Shopping in the Langstrasse, the city's multicultural heart, northwest of the center, will be a completely different experience. There is a bridge that runs from the Langstrasse across the railway lines to Kreis 5, Zurich's most trendy neighborhood. Over the past few years, this run-down urban district has been completely refurbished and it is now packed with galleries, bars, cafés, discotheques and nightclubs. A former brewery has been converted into a center for modern art with the Kunsthalle on the top floor and underneath Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst. The Schweizerisches Landesmuseum is housed in a castle-like building from the nineteenth century. Here you can see a huge collection of objects, from the Stone Ages to the present day: Costumes, furniture, the first watches, weapons and paintings. The
Switzerland's main art collection can be found in the Kunsthaus, in the Altstadt. Here you can see works by for example Van Gogh, Ruysdael, Matisse, Chagall, Monet and Munch, and it houses a huge collection by Alberto Giacometti.
In Zurich's former guild houses – Zunfthausen – you can often find (expensive) restaurants, but some have been converted into museums. For example take a look at the wine merchants' house, near the Fraumünster. This Zunfthaus zur Meisen has beautifully decorated ceilings and houses an extensive collection of ceramics.
One of the most popular daytrips from Zurich leads to Uetliberg. From a height of 871 meters you have a fantastic view of the city and Lake Zurich. In your rental car you can travel the Planet Path, which runs along the mountain ridge. You will often stop to enjoy the views. Do not forget your camera!
Schaffhausen is located north of Zurich. Its main attraction is the Rhine Falls, but the town itself is also worth a visit. It has for example an old fortress, Der Munot. Be prepared to climb steep staircases! Near the waterfalls you can rent a boat to get close to the falling water. On Switzerland's national holiday – August 1 – there is a large fireworks show.
Halfway between Zurich and Schaffhausen lies the medieval town of Winterthür. It houses an interesting museum – Sammlung Oskar Reinhart – with paintings by for example Monet, Rembrandt, Renoir, Rubens and Van Gogh. The Citystroll is a fun walking tour through the city with an English explanation and including a bar visit. In summer, every Thursday evening at 6 p.m.
At the other end of the Zürichsee, near the dam that separates this lake from the Obersee, lies Rapperswil. It is a beautiful medieval town with a castle from the thirteenth century. Children will enjoy the Circus Knie zoo.
Zurich is an expensive city. Eating out can weigh heavily on your wallet. To save some money for a day you can buy food and drinks at one of the large supermarkets (Migros or Coop) or at one of the many take-out places and have a picnic near the lake. Hotels are also quite pricey, although there are some budget options available like hostels.
Zurich's streets are divided into zones. Parking is prohibited in the yellow zone. In the blue zone you can park up to one and a half hours with a blue parking disc. In the red zone you need a red parking disc. Here you can park for free until 3 p.m. Blue and red parking discs can be obtained through police stations, Tourist Offices and banks. Outside of these zones you have to pay at a parking machine. There are many parking garages and an electronic system indicates which garage has availability.
Zurich Airport is located twelve kilometers north of the city. You can quickly and easily reach Zürich-Kloten Airport by rental car via the A20 freeway. The exit to the airport is clearly signposted.