I’ll be the first to admit I’m not the best person to go to for city exploration advice but…I did spend an entire week in the city of Zurich so I did find a few cool places worth checking out, even if you swear you’re not a city person. Plus, I took photos and am always looking for an excuse to share them! These are the areas I visited while wandering around the city of Zurich…
Running + Walking Along Lake Zurich
Getting to Zurichsee/Lake Zurich is easy. Each train stop has a map that tells you where you are and the lake is the very obvious blue spot. Snag yourself a ticket [your best bet is probably a 24hr ticket for 8.60CHF without a Half Fare pass], hop on the next train [they are numbered, it’s really easy!] and watch the little screen list stops until you see the one you want [probably Burkliplatz] then get off the train and head for the water!
— I have no photos of the street art! I can’t believe I failed so miserably…so just go check it out, it’s really cool! —
I spent one afternoon running along the lake and another walking the paths with friends. I learned that the north side of the lake is a little more “posh” than the south side, which is more cultural and artsy. Both are beautiful and worth the trip! The north side has better sunset views while the north side has some awesome street art, the arboritum and I’ve been told dinner at Ziegel oh Lac is worth the trip [was closed when we stopped by].
Wandering Altstadt/Old Town
On your way to Altstadt [literal translation is “Old Town”] you should probably take the train to a stop northwest of the main station [which is also just north of Altstadt] and walk the river paths. Along the way stop for coffee or a slightly more adult drink at a little cafe and just enjoy your time there. Snag a seat near the river or on the river walls and watch the swimmers splash by [swimming is allowed in the eastern section of the river!]. As you walk east simply follow the most obvious trails [or divert off somewhere interesting and use your GPS to get your back on track later!].
We spent our Sunday afternoon walking along the river, sucking down caffeine and taking in the lazy day around us. Kids were playing, people were birthday party’ing and half the city was out on foot or bikes, even with the clouds threatening rain. We finished off our night with a walk through Altstadt, which was oddly calm and empty.
I returned to Altstadt a few days later on my way out of the city when I stopped to meet an internet stranger-turned-friend for coffee. Even though the city streets around the Old Town area were busy with people the narrow cobblestone roads were relaxed. It’s really a beautiful area and if you have money to spend the shops look interesting! Plus, there are a million and a half places to stop for a coffee!
Day Trip to Lucerne
You can get nearly anyone in Switzerland via public transportation but, if you have friends with a car…let them chauffeur you around! A few German friends living/visiting Zurich poured over guidebooks during lunch and found a great hiking trail in Lucerne. Around 2pm we all piled into the car for the hour long drive to Lucerne for about 3 hours of hiking on the Burgenstock trails.
It was a cloudy day and every once in a while the clouds would follow through with their threat to dump rain on our heads but I am fairly certain we were all glad we headed out for the hike. We parked near the Burgenstock Resort and started up the road. This section of our trek was a little confusing since the area was under construction, but as long as you remember a sign that has a red circle around it means “no!” you’ll be fine.
The trail took us along the edge of the lake and through a tunnel before we veered right toward the Obermatt Restaurant. It was closed but the views from up high were stunning! Even with the clouds and rain the hills surrounding the lake were beautiful. On this hike we actually went through two Swiss cantons [states] — Lucerne and Nidwalden — and could see another — Schwyz — off in the distance. It was really cool, kind of like being on the Four Corners in the States.
From the Obermatt Restaurant we headed back toward our car, following another set of yellow arrows down a new trail. We made it back to the car just before the sun officially set behind the rain clouds and made a beeline for downtown Lurcerne. We walked along the lake and through the main station before stopping at a restaurant overlooking the Reuss River for dinner. We had high hopes for a meal of fondue and raclette cheese but had to settled for just fondue since the restaurant was out of raclette. Then we fought off food comas on the drive back to Zurich…a pretty legit way to spend a Saturday afternoon!
Day Trip to Hohronen
My second day trip out of Zurich was unplanned on my part. A few friends were headed out for a day hike and I had no good excuse not to tag along so I hopped in the car! Again, public transportation will get you just about anywhere but sometimes cars are quicker. We arrived at the trailhead, near Hutten, and headed up the trail. About an hour later we arrived at the top…but the silly trees obstructed our views. A few handfuls of fresh blackberries later we decided it was still a pretty great hike! Of course, a few hundred feet later we came upon a clearing with a bench, just waiting for us to stop for another snack!
We did this hike as a big circle, completing it with a long descent through the countryside. We even came upon a vicious mountain lion that tried to gnaw my hand off! Okay, so it was just a friendly three-legged farm cat that got a little friendly but I’m fairly certain I’ll end up with a scar so I’m sticking with the mountain lion story! Even so, it was a beautiful day with great conversation and more Swiss cow bells!
Basically…if you’re in Zurich, go exploring! Get outside the hub-bub of the city, wander away from the Main Station and head for the hills! Don’t let the seemingly complex public transportation system keep you close to town — ask the locals [nearly everyone speaks some English and they really are approachable!] or ask at an information desk in a larger train station.
NOTE: If you are going to use public transportation in Switzerland ask about “Half Fare” passes [120CHF for a 1 month pass] for travelers at the information desk — the pass will get you half price train + bus tickets throughout the country and pays for itself in about two trips if you’re traveling far! Check it out! I didn’t figure it out until three weeks into my trip and would have easily paid for it, twice!