Lake steamers from Zurich in summer take you to Rapperswil, "the town of roses" lying on the northern shore of Lake Zurich, a distance of 39km (25 miles) from the Swiss capital. If you're in Zurich for just a short time and have no other chance to visit the rest of the country, then spend a day (and/or night) at Rapperswil to see a typical Swiss town.

In recorded history, its vineyards were first mentioned in 981. It was once a town of prestige, with a fortified castle dating from 1229. The Counts of Rapperswil controlled parts of Eastern and Central Switzerland. But in 1283 the House of Rapperswil became extinct upon the death of the 18-year-old Count Rudolf V. After that time, the Emperor Rudolf I acquired the fiefs. Eventually, the possession of the former nobles became part of the Habsburg kingdom.

In January 2007, the towns of Rapperswil and Jona merged to form a new municipality, Rapperswil-Jona, with a population of about 26,000, making it the second largest town in its canton, with St. Gallen as its capital.

The town's main sights are centered around the Old Town, or Altstadt, of Rapperswil. You can spend about 1 1/2 hours strolling through its medieval alleys.

Rapperswil is called the Rosenstadt or the "town of roses" because of its displays of the flower in its trio of parks in the center. Some 600 different kinds of roses can be seen between June and October.