To describe Zürich as the largest city in Switzerland would be accurate but imprecise, at least by Swiss standards. Zürich is both a big and a small place: its population of 390,082 makes it twice the size of Geneva, Switzerland’s second largest city, but less than 1/20th the size of London, the only European city to rank higher than Zürich in the 2015 Global Financial Cities Index. It’s a major business center disguised as a quaint lakeside town, a strange but appealing hybrid of historic and new, a decent approximation of what it would look like if you took the corporate cleanliness of Singapore, added some of Monaco’s luxury, mixed in a bit of Venice’s Old World charm, and then placed the resulting city on the foothills of the Alps.
Neal Bruewer, DACH Country Manager at Magnetic, has gotten to know Zürich well through his frequent trips to the city from his home base in Hamburg. We caught up with Neal after his most recent trip:
What work project brought you to Zürich?
I was visiting an important client who is an advertiser using our search retargeting solution.
How did you choose where to stay?
I shopped around online, using a number of travel review sites. The hotel I chose was only 20 minutes from the airport and in a quiet area, which was a nice alternative to the usual central hotels I stay in. The hotel was fine for my one night stay, especially since I did not spend much time there.
Did you get to see any friends on this trip?
I’ve known this client for a very long time, so we went out and had a great meal together. We went to the restaurant in the Zürich Casino, Georges Grill. It was amazing!
How would you rather spend the money you saved on your trip to Zürich: on a Swiss watch, on Swiss chocolate, or on a whole lot of Swiss cheese?
Swiss watch! I have a couple and love them! But I actually spent my Rocketrip points on an Amazon gift card that went towards a 55” Samsung LCD TV.
If you had a free afternoon in Zürich, what would you do with it?
In the summer - get a boat and hang out on the lake. In the winter - hit the slopes with my snowboard!
And finally, which of these famous residents of Zürich would you rather have dinner with? Albert Einstein, James Joyce, or Tina Turner (who is a naturalized Swiss citizen)?
Gotta be Albert Einstein! Physics is a great interest of mine.
Thanks to Neal for telling us about his trip! Keep reading below for more Zürich travel advice:
Zürich Transportation Facts and Tips
- Zürich's Hauptbahnhof is one of the busiest train stations in the world, with nearly 3,000 trains passing through each day. The station is also notable for giving its name to the Bahnhofstrasse, Zürich's famously luxurious high street that has the most expensive retail real estate in all of Europe.
- Flughafen Zürich (Zürich Airport) - besides being fun to say - is only a twelve minute train ride from the city center. More information about fares and timetables can be found here.
- Public transportation in Zürich is predictably efficient, though the overlapping network of trams, buses and commuter trains - all organized around a zonal fare system - can be confusing to outsiders. This Zürich travel Wiki is packed with useful tips for navigating the city.
Where to Eat
There’s more to Swiss cuisine than cheese, chocolate, and fondue. Though really, who needs more than that?
- Alpenrose - A quintessentially Swiss dining experience, where a seasonal menu of German, French and Italian-influenced dishes is served in an elegant, timbered dining-hall.
- Cafe Odeon - Zürich has a reputation for being a buttoned-up place, so it’s delightfully incongruous to find a bohemian cafe once frequented by Vladimir Lenin only steps away from the Swiss banks and luxury retailers of the Bahnhofstrasse.
- Kings Kebab - An authentic Turkish doner kebab stand with an English name. Switzerland’s food scene has added some new flavors in the past twenty years thanks to significant immigration from Turkey and the former Yugoslav republics.
Where to Stay
Hotel accommodations are pricey in Zürich, especially given the recent appreciation of the Swiss Franc against the Euro. But affordable options do exist, and Airbnb listings are plentiful.
- Townhouse Hotel - This boutique near Zürich’s main train station has the feel of a bed and breakfast. The rooms are cozy (small), but guests can spread out a bit in the downstairs living room, or at least stop by for the free snacks and espresso.
- Hotel Otter - The rooms are spacious at the Hotel Otter, and some even come with kitchens. If you don’t mind shared bathrooms, the Otter offers a great price-location ratio in the heart of Zürich’s Old Town.
- Hotel Seegarten - Between its bright yellow exterior and its in-house Italian restaurant, the Hotel Seegarten seems like it belongs on the shores of the Mediterranean more than Lake Zürich. Still, there’s an undeniably Swiss functionality to this hotel’s location, within walking distance to the city’s main commercial area.
Zürich is a compact city, with many pleasant residential neighborhoods in close proximity to the main business centers. These are just a few Airbnb listings from around the city:
There's no doubt that Zürich is one of the world's most expensive cities, and making a business trip there can be tough if you're worrried about overspending. Let us know your favorite Zürich travel secrets by tweeting to @Rocketrip.