Zurich has a rich history and many reminders of its past. There are 20 museums, nearly 100 galleries, and 24 archives (including one devoted to Thomas Mann). The historic buildings, religious monuments, and quays are worth discovering, as are the well-preserved homes of rich burghers, lovely parks, and gardens. Even if you don't have time to visit all those museums and galleries, a walk along the quays of Zurich shouldn't be missed.
You can also visit Uetliberg, southwest of Zurich, the northernmost peak in the Albis ridge.
An Open Sesame & Bargain Pass -- Inaugurated in 2003, the ZurichCARD offers a 50% reduction on public transportation, free visits to 43 museums, reduced prices at the zoo, and a welcome drink at more than two dozen restaurants. The pass is widely available, sold at such outlets as the Zurich Main Rail Station, the airport, and at certain hotels. It costs 20F for 24 hours or 40F for 72 hours. See www.zuerich.com/en/visitor/information/zuerich-card.html for more information.
Zurich Street Parade
The Zurich Street Parade is one massive rave/techno dance party, filling the city streets for 1 day and night each August in an outdoor, over-the-top party. The event, meant to symbolize love, peace, freedom, generosity, and tolerance, started in 1992 with 2,000 partiers and has mushroomed to attract more than half a million international visitors. Modeled after Berlin's Loveparade, the Zurich Street Parade kicks off on a Saturday in early August with a parade of floats (lovemobiles) blaring their way along city streets, each with its own dance and music theme. And just as the party starts winding down (around 3am, when other, more bacchanalian parties move into private homes and hotel rooms), special cleaning vans sweep and clean the streets, leaving the town spotless and perfect by the next day. Book early, or plan to stay in a nearby city such as Basel or Lucerne (both 1 hr. away by train). For dates and details, visit the Street Parade's official website (www.streetparade.ch).
Another party, Zurich's Sechsenlauten party is conducted on the third Monday of April. With origins going back to the mid-19th century, and centering around the Sechsenlauterplatz, near Zurich's opera house, the party celebrates the end of winter with many pagan allegories. It's sponsored by an association of Zurich's remaining guilds, and culminates in a parade and the "burning of the snowman," which symbolizes the rebirth of life after a barren period of cold, and the beginning of spring.
The Top Attractions
The quays of Zurich, with their promenades, are among the city's most popular attractions. They're made for walking. The most famous is Limmatquai, in the center of Zurich. It begins at the Bahnhof Bridge and extends east to the Rathaus (town hall) and beyond. Many of the quays have lovely gardens. Uto Quai is the major promenade along Zurichsee (Lake Zurich), running from Badeanstalt Uto Quai (a swimming site) to Bellevueplatz and Quaibrücke. The site (a wooden sun deck with changing rooms, floating on pontoons above the water) is open daily from 8am to 7pm mid-May to mid-September. Most adults head there afternoons from noon until 7 or 8pm. Entrance costs 3.50F for children under 12, 5F for students, and 7F for adults. For more info, click on www.badi-info.ch/utoquai.html.
If you stroll as far as Mythenquai, you'll be following the lake along its western shore and out into the countryside.
Especially for Kids
There are 80 playgrounds in Zurich. For the one nearest your hotel, ask either at your hotel or at the local tourist office. Most boat trips leave from the end of Bahnhofstrasse on the right. You may also combine a train ride with a trip to an attraction outside Zurich.
Select theaters also present changing programs for children. Ask at the tourist office or get a copy of Zurich for Children.
Several stores may be fun spots to visit with your kids. Artfully old-fashioned is Pastorini, Weinplatz 3 (tel. 044/228-70-70; www.pastorini.ch), which specializes in wooden toys -- the kind your parents might have played with -- and is one of the biggest toy stores in Zurich, spread over five floors.
The best-stocked children's bookstore in Switzerland is Kinderbuchladen Zurich, Oberdorfstrasse 32 (tel. 044/265-30-00; www.kinderbuchladen.ch), which carries many English-language books.
In addition, the two zoos listed may be of special interest to children.