Zurich is the biggest Swiss city. Hundreds of global companies, institutions and organizations (e.g. FIFA, ABB and Credit Suisse Group) are based there. Nevertheless, by European standards it’s… quite small. Zurich has approximately 400,000 inhabitants, with 1.8 million living in the metropolitan area. This busy business landscape is combined with historical landmarks, museums and picturesque views of Lake Zurich and snow-covered Alps. This mix creates a perfect destination, both for tourists and businessmen. However, travelling to Zurich unprepared might bring some trouble, particularly in form of parking tickets and fines.
Travelling to Zurich – how to get there?
Zurich is well connected to the world, by every mean of transport possible. Zurich Airport is located less than 10 kilometers northeast of the city center. It’s the largest Swiss airport, connected with over 200 destinations all over the world. The airport has its own railway station. Getting to the city center costs 6.80 CHF and takes approximately 15 minutes. You can also take a tram or bus (for the same price, but it takes around 30 minutes). The Zurich Hauptbahnhof is one of the busiest railway stations in the world. It’s a huge hub, with direct services to many European countries (Germany, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Italy and France) and – of course – Swiss cities. Travelling to Zurich by car is easy too. The city is surrounded by a complex highway system. A1 connects Zurich with Bern, Geneva and France to the west, and Austria and Germany to the east. To get there from Italy, you should use the A2 highway and turn right in Luzern. A3 starts near the German and French borders in Basel and goes to the east, ending near Lichtenstein.
Swiss power sockets and adapters
You just arrived in Zurich. You want to rest for a while, plug in your laptop and surf the net for a moment, no problem, is it? Nope, the Swiss have their own, unique power sockets. They are three-holed and hexagonal in shape. They will accept the standard Europlug, but for appliances with European Type E or Type F plugs you will need an adapter. The standard voltage in Switzerland is 230V, with a 50Hz frequency. If you’re coming from the US, Canada or South America, you should check the label on the appliance. If it does not accept the European voltage and frequency standard, you will also need a voltage converter.
Opening hours and leisure in Zurich
Most shops in Zurich are open Monday to Friday between 9 AM and 8 PM. On Saturdays, most of them close earlier, usually around 5 PM. You have to remember that some shops also have a lunch break, between noon and 2 PM. This lunch break is frequently enforced in banks and offices. On Sundays and public holidays, all shops are closed – except gas stations, train stations and airports. In Zurich, you can therefore go shopping underneath the Hauptbahnhof, where a huge shopping center is located.
You have to remember that Swiss people really respect their time off. Basically, if you do anything loud at night (after 10 PM) or on Sunday, you will get death stares from your neighbors. And that’s the best case scenario. If they call the police on you, you might get a hefty fine. Possible offences include, but are not limited to: using power tools, mowing your lawn or doing laundry. Anything that disturbs your neighbors’ peace might cause you problems, and sometimes it feels like they are just waiting for the opportunity to report you.
Parking permits in Zurich
Generally, Zurich does not like cars. To protect the citizens from excessive traffic, the administration established Blue Zone (restricted parking area) that covers most of the city. If you are coming to Zurich for a short stay, you should purchase a day permit (15 CHF/day), that allows unlimited parking in the Blue Zone. You can also use one of the many multi-level garages (2-3 CHF/hour). If you live in Zurich, you can receive a resident parking permit (300 CHF/year). It gives you the right to park in your postal code area for unlimited time. You can download the Blue Zone and postal codes map here.
Parking discs in Zurich
If you don’t have a resident or a visitor card, things can get pretty complicated. Monday-Saturday, you can park in the Blue Zone for free, for a limited time, but you need a parking disc. When you park, you have to set the time indicator to the next full half-hour mark after your arrival. Example: if you park at 15:01, you set the timer to 15:30 and you can stay until 16:30. Between 11:00 and 13:29 you still set the mark to the next half-hour, but – as it is lunch break – you can stay until 14:30. From 18:00 to 9:00 and on Sundays, Blue Zone parking is free.
Parking in the city center (postal code 8001) is also limited. The maximum stay duration is indicated by road signs and you need to pay at the closest meter.
Getting around Zurich by public transport
As you can see, moving around Zurich by car might prove difficult. Luckily, the public transport system (buses, trolleybuses and trams) is well-developed and Swiss trains are still the most punctual in Europe. If you visit Zurich for a short time only, you might consider buying a “Zurich Card”. It offers unlimited travel by public transport in Zurich and the surrounding area (including the airport). It also gives you discounts or free admissions to museums and other institutions. You can purchase a 24h card for 27 CHF, or a 72h card for 53 CHF. If you use the public transport only occasionally, you should buy single or multiple-journey (six single journeys) tickets. For a longer stay, we would recommend a monthly or annual travel card, called NetworkPass. The exact prices depend on the number of fare zones you are travelling through. The Zurich City zone (110) counts double in price calculations, as the public transport there is much denser than in other areas.
There are some mobile apps that will be very useful while visiting – or living in – Zurich. ZVV Timetable is the official Zurich Transport Authority tool to plan journeys and purchase tickets with your smartphone. ZüriPlan provides an interactive map of the city. You can also use it to plot pedestrian and bicycle routes that will be both fast and touristically attractive or try one of the preprogrammed tours.
Renting an apartment in Zurich
If you’re new in Switzerland, renting an apartment can come with a lot of challenges. Zurich’s housing market is very limited and cheap apartments are rare. Even though new properties are built, the search for accommodation is difficult due to exorbitant prices and high competition. The landlords usually request some official documents like a copy of your salary statement as well as an extract from the debt collection register. Many landlords also ask for references, and they might even call your employer! If you find an apartment you like, you should fill out the application form – it includes information on people living in the households, their professions, salaries, etc.
VISIONAPARTMENTS in Zurich
If you don’t want to go through all this struggle or simply don’t have the time or opportunity to arrange everything, a temporary living solution is an ideal option. VISIONAPARTMENTS, the biggest provider of Serviced Apartments in Switzerland, offers temporary homes in different sizes and styles at 14 locations in Zurich. You can book a studio apartment from 1’780 Swiss francs per month. If you rent a Serviced Apartment you don’t have to worry about anything. The minimum rent period is 2 days, and you can leave the temporary home whenever you like – without cleaning it or searching for a new tenant. This solution is particularly suitable for expats, people relocating from abroad or for a comfortable stay while searching for a long-term home.