Best weekend ever, Switzerland edition.
February 2, 2009 8:08 PM   Subscribe

Boyfriend and I are spending a weekend in Zürich in a couple of weeks. What are the things we mustn't miss there? Also, what would be the best way to travel to other places in Switzerland for a day?

Boyfriend and I, two American residents in their mid-twenties, just booked tickets to spend the weekend of Valentine's in Zürich (he'll be working there the following week). I'll be there for three full days, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and I've been charged with planning an itinerary for the trip. Neither of us has ever been to Zürich, so I have a ton of questions.

Which neighborhood should we stay in? We like to be close to everything, but don't mind walking or taking public transport to save a few bucks, as long as there are good pubs and restaurants walking distance the hotel. Can you recommend attractions in the city, or a good travel guide? I'm a huge Lonely Planet fan, but it didn't look particularly comprehensive when I paged through it at the bookstore the other day.

Boyfriend loves driving, and I love riding in cars (as an under-25 driver, I'm stuck in the passenger seat in a rental anyway). How feasible would it be to rent a car for a day and drive to Bern and Geneva? What else should we check out on the way there, or should we head in a totally different direction? Should we take the train instead (will there be snow on the roads)?

Finally, do you know any places in the city for taking amazing pictures? I just bought a travel tripod, and after losing all of the pictures from our previous vacation (long story), I'd love to have some good photos to send to family back home.
posted by halogen to Travel & Transportation around Zurich, Switzerland (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I forgot to mention, we're not interested in snow sports (he snowboards in Seattle, I just tend to get cold and miserable).
posted by halogen at 8:20 PM on February 2, 2009

Design Sponge just posted a Zurich guide. Looks like fun.
posted by judith at 11:25 PM on February 2, 2009

Best answer: Trains in and around Zurich (and out to the rest of the country) are excellent. I got a 3-day city pass, which gave me free travel around the city and entrance to various museums, impressive churchs etc. The pass also entitles you to a ferry ride around the lake and a ride up to the top of the hill above the city; both give you fantastic views. Also consider going up to the University buildings at night for a great night-time view over the city.

Walk down the mail shopping street in Zurich; when you're about halfway from the train station to the lake there's an amazing chocolate shop on your left. It has a dark brown front and is famous among locals but I'm afraid I've forgotten the name... look for the crowd! If it's cols weather, be sure to go upstairs to drink a hot chocolate in their cafe.

Try to spend a few hours in Zug; it's a very quiet and amazingly picturesque town on the edge of a beautiful lake. The town museum is interesting enough, but I wouldn't make it a priority when you're there.
posted by metaBugs at 2:08 AM on February 3, 2009

Best answer: Zurich is a great town, though expensive. metaBugs is right, train is the way to get to another city. The trains are frequent and timely. Geneva is a 3 hr train ride away. While the ride is pretty, you may not want to dedicate a whole day of a three day journey.

Check out this map. The street called Munstergasse on the east side of the river is younger and more interesting. The north end gets a little seedy, but in Switzerland even seedy feels pretty safe. You can take some nice pictures of the Grossmuster church and from its promenade. The shops on talstrasse, leading toward the train station, are more expensive.
posted by shothotbot at 6:54 AM on February 3, 2009

Best answer: The chocolate shop metaBugs is talking about is Spruengli. It is indeed amazing.

Off the top of my head, other things to recommend include the Alpamare, a very large set of indoors and outdoors pools and slides - you can get there easily by a local train and a bus. The hamam (Turkish bath) on the Muenstergasse is wonderful and could be a really nice addition to a Valentine's weekend. You can spend a good couple of hours just wandering around the Oberdorf and the river.

The trains in Switzerland are clean, comfortable and reliable and Zuerich to Bern takes only one hour. I would definitely recommend taking the train over renting a car (but I don't drive, so can't offer a direct comparison).

Have a lovely trip!
posted by daisyk at 1:27 PM on February 3, 2009

If you like ze art useums you vill looove ze Kunsthaus.
posted by lalochezia at 11:45 PM on February 3, 2009

Best answer: (D'oh. Only just saw this question. Hope the answer's not too late to be useful.)

Thirded on not bothering with rental cars. Public transport in Zürich and in Switzerland in general is frighteningly good, if a bit pricey. Driving in Zürich sucks. The road system in the city is explicitly public-transit and pedestrian priority (which I love as a tram-riding pedestrian), so the most direct route between two places isn't. Parking is not particularly easy to come by. You'll spend more time and money, and move really slowly. As for heading to Bern, yesterday I went on my first roadtrip since I moved here eight months ago. I watched the ICN (high speed train) pass me between Zürich and Bern. Speed limits on autoroutes are are 80-120km/h. Enforcement is good, and often photographic. Fines are punitive. That said there are nice drives in the mountains to the south, though in the winter these will often be grey and/or laden with skiiers.

In my opinion, the city really comes into its own in the summer, along the lakefront and the Limmatquai, but February in the valley is usually foggy. Nonetheless I love wandering about the old town. The area between the Limmat river and Bahnhofstrasse, from Bellevueplatz to the station, are beautiful. The standard "tourist" old town is along the Neiderdorf from the Grossmunster up to Central (tram to Central then south, you can walk up from Bellevue as well. It's a great town for wandering; even "seedy" by Swiss standards (Langstrasse, a center of the local bar scene, as well as the reasonably tame red-light district, between Limmatplatz on Tram 4/13 and Bezirksgebaude on Tram 2/3) is safe by American ones.

Seconded on Zug; another nice old town that's a little closer is Rapperswil (S5, S7, S15 from the main station, or via boat from Bürkliplatz).

If you get a good clear day, good picture spots are the Uetliberg (Tram 13 from the main station to Albisgütli and a 45 minute, 300m vertical hike on a dirt and gravel trail; S10 from the main station to Uetliberg) from which you get a gorgeous view of the city and the lake from above. You can see the Limmatquai (east bank of the river and old city) from the Lindenhof (tram to Rennweg, follow Rennweg or Kuttelgasse up). If the weather's good, you can get a nice view of the city from the Seefeld side of lakefront across from the end of Höschgasse (Tram 2, 4 to Höschgasse, turn right off Seefeldstrasse and walk until you start having to swim) up toward Bellevue. Of course the old city itself is also great for found photography.

Something they don't usually tell you about is that all of the shops (except the ones in the train station and airport) and many of the restaurants are closed on Sundays. If you want to do any gift shopping here, do it early.

As for where to stay, hotels are quite expensive. If you're looking for something small, romantic, and central, you're going to pay out the nose. I'm afraid I'm not much help here.
posted by Vetinari at 1:15 PM on February 8, 2009

« Older He'll be blind for 4 days! Help me entertain my...   |   I should have moved to Canada while I still could Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.