Switzerland is a small, culturally (and just flat out) rich country. They have four official national languages including German, French, Italian, and Romansh. German is the main language spoken in Zurich, which is the largest and arguably the most lively Swiss city. Zurich is also a transport hub, and hosts a leading financial center, and research and development sector.
As a German speaker myself, I was really excited to see if I could actually understand Swiss German….and nope, nothing. Swiss German really is a language in and of itself, not merely a dialect. Nothing to worry about though, the Swiss can also speak English just as fluently as any of the other numerous languages they speak.
Despite a bit of heartbreak not being able to communicate with the locals in German, my trip went off without a hitch. I flew with SWISS from Berlin Tegel to Zurich airport, which only took an hour and a half. The airport in Zurich itself is quite massive, as it is the largest international airport in Switzerland and the principal hub of Swiss International Air Lines. First time travelers should plan a little time to find out where they need to go when passing through.
After a short 10 train ride from the north of Oerlikon to the city station (Zürich Hauptbahnhof) I was already blown away. Looking out the window during ride you see lots of industrial and tall unison apartment buildings that reminded me of old GDR housing. Don’t fret! That is only the outskirts of the city, once you are in the city be prepared to have your breath taken away!
Paradeplatz is one of the main squares in Zurich. It is lined with Swiss banks such as HSBC, UBS, and Credit Suisse. Amidst the many banks is a wonderful little art gallery called galeria gmurzynska. The gallery itself has a very unique futuristic design and is a great place to pop into for 30-minutes while you are out. You don’t need to plan hours such as often the case with larger museums and it is free! Afterwards, be sure to check out the Marc Chagall stained glass windows in the Fraumünster church, which is only a five minute walk away.
Another tip for art appreciators- check out the Kunsthaus. The permanent collections are exceptional including works from some of my favorites such as René Magritte, Wassily Kandinsky, and Salvador Dali.
All that art and sight seeing really makes you work up an appetite. For those looking to try some tasty asian noodles, I recommend going to MIKI ramen. It is located a little outside of the center but is a merely a ten minute tram ride from Paradeplatz. My friends raved about the restaurant Fork & Bottle, but due to their opening hours I didn’t get to check it out. Something to keep in mind is that restaurants in Zurich often close between lunch and dinner, so be sure to check when they are open and plan accordingly.
Another shocker while in Zurich is the amount of Starbucks they have, especially in close proximity to each other. If you’re looking for something special, other than your usual grande Colombian roast, check out Manuel’s, which serves coffee, rum, and cuban cigars. Here you’re sure to find something for everyone.
For a night out in Zurich you will want to go somewhere a bit removed from the center if you aren’t willing to pay a fortune. I recommend going to trendy Langstrasse. While there, bear in mind that venues marked as clubs are actually strip clubs, so make be sure to specify that you are looking for a night club or somewhere to go dancing if you ask around.
Before you leave don’t forget to buy some some to-die-for Swiss chocolate from Sprüngli!