ABOUT THE CITY
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital. According to several surveys from 2006 to 2008, Zürich was named the city with the best quality of life in the world as well as the wealthiest city in Europe. The high quality of life has been cited as a reason for economic growth in Zürich.
Contemporary Zürich might still be home to the world’s fourth-biggest stock exchange and remain Switzerland’s financial engine, but it’s also become vibrant and trendy. Located on a picturesque river and lake whose water you can drink, easy to get around and a stranger to the hassled lifestyle that defines bigger cities, this affluent, fashion-conscious place enjoys the finest things in life. Yet with church steeples rising against a backdrop of hills and mountains, the medieval old town will also appeal to traditionalists.
The city is home to many multilingual people. Such diversity in culture accounts for the opening of offices and research centers in the city by large corporations, such as IBM, General Motors Europe, Toyota Europe, UBS, Credit Suisse, Google, Microsoft, ABB Ltd., and Degussa.
Zürich is the largest city in Switzerland and capital of the canton of Zürich. The city is Switzerland’s main commercial and cultural centre (the political capital of Switzerland being Bern), and is widely considered to be one of the world’s global cities. According to research published in April 2006 by Mercer Consulting (HR consulting firm based in London), it is the city with the best quality of life in the world.
Zurich is on Lake Zurich, where the lake meets the Limmat River, in the north of Switzerland. The city is crisscrossed by lovely, low bridges. Zurich is divided by the Limmat River into two general areas:
West or Left Bank: Here you will find the Altstadt (Old Town) and the Hauptbahnhof (the main train station). However, this district is dominated by Bahnhofplatz, center of rail connections, and Bahnhofstrasse, which is the main commercial and banking thoroughfare. This is the Zurich world of high finance and elegant shops. The venerable Fraumünster church, on Fraumünster Strasse, dominates the west bank.
East or Right Bank Opposite Fraumünster, on the other side of the river, is Grossmünster church, on Grossmünsterplatz; its two Gothic towers are an east-bank landmark. The historic guildhalls of Zurich, such as the Zunfthaus zur Saffran, rise on the east bank of the river. So, too, does the Rathaus, the city’s town hall, completed in 1698. On the east bank you can explore the eastern part of Altstadt, strolling along Neumarkt, one of the best preserved of the old streets. The area beyond is Niederdorf, the center of the town’s hot spots. The right bank constitutes the livelier older section, divided into the Oberdorf (Upper Village) and the Niederdorf (Lower Village).
Zurich is divided into 12 districts (Stadtkreis), which are situated clockwise around the city center and are numbered by the last digit of the postal code. These districts are divided into 34 neighborhoods (Quartiere). Each Stadtkreis has a separate government office, town hall and administration.
population: 366,809 (12/05)
urban area: 1,091,732
Size: 91.88 sq km
UBS, Credit Suisse, Swiss Re, and many other financial institutions have their headquarters in Zürich, the commercial centre of Switzerland. Zürich is the world’s primary centre for offshore banking, mainly due to Swiss bank secrecy. The financial sector accounts for about one quarter of the city’s economic activities. The Swiss Stock Exchange has its headquarters in Zürich
The success of the Greater Zürich Economic Area as one of the most important in the world is probably due to more than one factor. The very low tax rate and the possibility for foreign companies and private persons to optimize their tax burden by personalized tax agreement with the Tax Authorities is surely one of the key points – a practice that often brings conflicts with Switzerland’s neighbors in Europe, who do not like this type of successful and aggressive strategy for establishing European headquarters or service/research centers by known global economic players (e.g. IBM, General Motors Europe, Google, Microsoft, Pfizer). The fact that Switzerland doesn’t have an inheritance tax is also an important factor for rich private persons.
Another reason for the economic success of Zürich can be seen in the research and educational (R&D) field of the city. The ETH Zurich is ranked alongside the University of Zurich: there are currently more than 58,000 students attending the institutions.
Romans were the first to fortify the area now known as Zurich, although there is evidence of settlement as far back as the Bronze Age. In the first century BC the Romans turned the Lindenhof into a customs post and named it Turicum. Even though growth was slow, textiles such as of silk and wool allowed Zurich’s Merchants to build up great wealth. In 1218 Zurich was given the status of a free city under the Holy Roman Empire. In 1336 the merchants and artisans of the city lead by burgomaster Rudolf Brun, managed to push the nobility out of power and gave the power instead, to workers guilds. In 1351 Zurich joined the Swiss Confederation and soon became known as a cultural and intellectual center.
Federal Veterinary Office
+41 (0)31 323 85 02
All countries regulate the importation of animals in some shape or form. Swiss regulations are fairly flexible, due to the small territory and the large number of foreign visitors.
As a general rule, animals are not quarantined upon their arrival to Switzerland. However, if you are returning to a country that applies this treatment, even after a few hours on Swiss soil, your animal will be quarantined.
A veterinary rabies vaccination certificate is compulsory, stating that the vaccination took place at least 30 days and no longer than one year before crossing the border. The 30-day waiting period need not be observed if there is proof of revaccination.
The certificate must be written in either German, French, Italian or English and contain the following information:
Name and address of animal owner
Description of the animal (breed, sex, age, color)
Confirmation that the animal was submitted to a veterinary examination prior to vaccination and found in good health
Date of rabies vaccination, type of vaccine used, name of manufacturer and batch number
Signature of the veterinarian.
Certificates issued in languages other than those stipulated must be accompanied by a legal translation.
Certain animals can be imported without a rabies vaccination certificate:
Puppies and kittens up to five months of age from the United States, with a veterinary health certificate stating the animal’s age.
You may drive in Switzerland with your valid U.S. license for up to one year after your arrival; then you must obtain a Swiss permit, issued on the basis of valid U.S. licenses. Holders of expired U.S. licenses must take the Swiss driving test when applying for a Swiss license. To apply for your driver’s license, you will need your resident’s permit, two passport size photos and your valid US driver’s license. You will be required to go to an Optician for an eye test, but normally no driving or written test is necessary. A form must be completed. (This form is in German but they have a copy of the questions in English). A Swiss driver’s license is valid for life, although older drivers must have regular eye tests. The minimum age for driving or learning to drive is 18. Liability insurance on motor vehicles is compulsory in Switzerland and must be provided by a Swiss insurance company. You must have in your possession an international insurance certificate, known as a Green Card (Carte Verte).
You may want to invest in an international driver’s license before you leave the U.S. Although you may not actually need one, many travelers like the added security blanket of having one, as they are recognized worldwide whereas your local driver’s license isn’t. In case of an accident, an international driver’s license is easier to read among parties who may not understand your local license. In the United States you can apply for one at:
American Automobile Association (AAA)
For help, contact
Automobil Club der Schweiz
CH-3000 Bern 13
(0)31 328 31 11
Touring Club Suisse
9, rue Pierre-Fatio
CH-1211 Geneva 3
(0)22 417 27 27
The Automobile Club of Switzerland and its branch offices will assist motorists at all times. The Automobile Club der Schweiz offers 24-hour breakdown service. Most mountain roads have emergency call boxes.
Finding an Address
In a system that developed during the Middle Ages, all Swiss cities, including Zurich, begin their street-numbering system with the lowest numbers closest to the center of town. In Zurich, the center is the Hauptbahnhof. All even numbers lie on one side of the street, and all odd numbers are on the other.
Swiss roads are well surfaced but intricate and curving, especially in the mountains. There is a well-developed highway network. A combination of steep or winding routes and hazardous weather means some roads will be closed in winter. Signs are posted at the beginning of the climb.
Drive on the right in Switzerland, except when merging into traffic circles, when priority is given to the drivers coming from the left. Children under age seven are not permitted to sit in the front seat.
Zurich International Airport (IATA: ZRH)
Zurich International is Switzerland’s largest and busiest airport, run with Swiss efficiency. It is actually in the community of Kloten, 12 minutes by train to central Zurich, about every 10-15 minutes. Almost every large hotel in Zurich provides shuttle buses from airport to your hotel.
Zurich Airport is currently serviced by more than 100 different airlines, 75 of which offer scheduled services.
(0)84 885 08 52
The airport taxi rank is located in front of Arrivals 1 and 2. A taxi from Zurich Airport to central Zurich costs around CHF 50 (€ 35).
Zurich airport railway station is located underneath the terminal. Trains run between Zurich main station and the airport every 10 minutes during peak periods (travel time: 10 minutes), and numerous inter-city and regional trains provide connections to all the main towns and cities in Switzerland.
Main destinations and frequency of services: Berne, Basel, St. Gallen, Lucerne, Constance, Geneva, Lausanne, And Zug: at least every 30 minutes.
There are trains to many parts of Switzerland; frequent S-Bahn services, plus direct Inter-region and intercity services to Winterthur, Bern, Basel and Lucerne. By changing trains at Zürich HB (Zurich main station) most other places in Switzerland can be reached in a few hours.
VBZ-Züri-Linie, the tram service in Zürich, is swift and on time. It runs from 5:30 AM to midnight, every six minutes at peak hours and every 12 minutes during non-peak times. All-day passes can be purchased from the same vending machines at the stops that sell post maps and one-ride tickets; tickets must be purchased before you board.
There is a comprehensive and unified bus, tram and S-Bahn service in the city, which includes boats on the Limmat River. Tickets allow you to switch between modes of transport as you like. A 24-hour city pass is available, and a 24-hour pass valid for unlimited travel within the whole canton of Zürich saves additional money.
The train station and the connecting underground mall has shops, restaurants, and a grocery store which locals use when they need to do late night shopping, as it is not subject to the closing hours laws otherwise in force in the city.
The bus terminal is located behind multi-storey car parks 2 and 3, and can also be reached via the new Airport Shopping.
Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ)
Daily German language newspaper with a reputation as a world-class newspaper and as the Swiss newspaper of record
A national daily newspaper with one of the largest circulations in Switzerland.
Only the free daily German language newspaper, distributed to commuters in more than 150 train stations.
More than 1,700 restaurants and bars serve both traditional Zürich and Swiss dishes as well as exotic specialties. The evenings will leave you spoilt for choice: indoors or outdoors, anything is possible as far as the nightlife in Zürich goes.
The bread available in Zürich is generally delicious. Try grilled Bratwurst from street stands, served with a large crusty roll of sourdough bread and optional mustard, or sandwiches made with fresh baked Bretzeln (large, soft pretzels). Common Swiss bread is the Zopf, braided soft bread that is commonly served on Sundays (the other name for it is Sonntagszopf).
The quintessential Zürich dish is Zürigschnätzlets, veal in a cream and wine sauce. Various kinds of grilled Wurst (sausages) are also popular. These are most often accompanied by boiled potatoes, Rösti, a Swiss potato pancake (grated potato, formed into a pancake then pan-fried until crisp in butter or oil) or Spätzle (small noodle dumplings).
Supermarket chains in Switzerland are not usually open on Sundays.
Migros – This chain of supermarkets (in fact a cooperative) provides pretty good price/quality but be aware that Migros does not sell cigarettes or alcoholic beverages.
Enjoy the pretty old town, the trendy new Zürich West district and the glorious lake. With opera, ballet, theater premieres, shows, musicals, art exhibitions in over 50 museums and 100 galleries, time never drags in Zürich. The famous Bahnhofstrasse and the Limmatquai are a shopper’s paradise.
157 50 14
English-language information service that gives details on hotels, restaurants, museums, nightlife, skiing, what to do in an emergency, and more. Lines are open weekdays 9-7 and 9-1 on Saturday.
Botanischer Garten (Botanic Garden)
+41 44 634 84 61
The gardens contain 15,000 living species, including some rare specimens from New Caledonia and Southwest Africa. The herbarium contains three million plants.
41 44 268 64 00
One of the most famous Opera Houses in Europe, combines opera and ballet stages. The two art forms and the choice of programs appeal to a wide audience making the opera house a common place of entertainment for various generations.
Billettzentrale (BiZZ for short)
044 221 22 8
Bahnhofstrasse, which runs from the Zürich Train Main station “Hauptbahnhof” right down to the lake. Bahnhofsstrasse is famous for being one of the most exclusive and expensive shopping streets in the world. Here you can get anything from diamond rings to chocolate and fur coats. Globus and Jelmoli are two fiercely competitive department stores, both of whom carry items from many high-end brands.
Niederdorf, which is the Old Part of Zurich and expands from “Bellevue” by the Lake right to “Central” which is just over the River from the train station. The Niederdorf is more for young people. Aside from a lot of fast food places you will find a lot of trendy clothes stores here.
Löwenstrasse, which runs west of Bahnhofstrasse from the main train station, has lower range shops and a large branch of Migros, a department store chain.
Neue Grasshopper Fussball AG
Grasshopper-Club Zürich Football (Soccer)
Grasshopper is the largest Swiss sports club and has nine official fan clubs.
ZSC Lions Ice Hockey Club
Professional ice hockey team.
Challengers Baseball Club Zürich
Baseball in Zurich.
Zürich Renegades American Football Club
American flag football.
Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA)
The world’s governing body for soccer.
Track and field.
Swiss Federation of Private Schools
CH – 3000 Bern 7
+41 (0) 31 328 40 50
Global Education in Switzerland
P. O. Box 316
CH – 3000 Bern 7
+41 (0)31 328 40 50
The 27 schools of the group “Global Education in Switzerland” are also members of the Swiss Federation of Private Schools SFPS (260 schools) and include some of the most famous and oldest in the country. The main concern of the group “Global Education in Switzerland” is the furtherance of the quality of the schools which belong to it.
International School Winterthur
+41 (0)52 203 50 00
The International School Winterthur, a non-profit organization, opened its doors in 2002 to serve the growing international community in the greater Zurich and Winterthur areas.
Zurich International School
+41 (0)43 833-2222
ZIS is an international day school for students aged 3 to 18 serving the Zurich area. Formed in July 2001 through the merger of the American International School of Zurich and the International Primary School of Zurich, Zurich International School is the only co-educational international day school in the Zurich area for students aged 3 to 18 which is fully accredited by the Council of International Schools and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. Over 950 students from more than 45 countries attend ZIS at one of the school’s four campuses.
Quality Schools International
Elementary and secondary schools provide American curriculum programs for expatriate children in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia.
Sabis School Network
Network of international schools offering a pre-K through grade 12 college-prep curriculum
Offers pre-school through college-level classes in a number of countries
8092 Zurich, Switzerland
+41 44 632 11 11
ETH Zurich is the study, research and work place of 18,000 people from 80 nations. About 350 professors in 15 departments teach mainly in the engineering sciences and architecture, system oriented sciences, mathematics and natural sciences areas and carry out research that is highly valued worldwide.
Currency and Banking
The unit of currency in Switzerland is the Swiss franc, available in notes of 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 1,000. Francs are divided into centimes (in Suisse Romande) or rappen (in German Switzerland). There are coins for 5, 10, and 20 centimes. Larger coins are the half-, 1-, 2-, and 5-franc pieces.
Switzerland is not part of the European Union and thus the Euro is not legal tender. However, many places – such as supermarkets and the railways – accept Euro and will give you change in Swiss Francs. Changing some money to Swiss Francs (CHF) is essential.
The approximate value of 1 Swiss Franc (CHF) = 0.79315 US Dollar (USD).
U.S. Banks and Local Correspondent Banks
American Express Bank (Switzerland)
rue du Rhône P.O. Box 3072
CH-1204 Geneva, Switzerland
+41 (22) 319 08 08
Bank of America NT
rue du Marché P.O. Box 3042
CH-1211 Geneva 3, Switzerland
+41 (22) 318 69 38
Bank Morgan Stanley AG
P.O. Box 6740
Dining / Cooking
Swiss cooking deserves its reputation of being delicious, clean and wholesome. The Swiss National Dish is Rösti: a sort of Swiss-style hash browned potatoes, which cannot be imagined until they have been tasted. There are many regional variations on Rösti (with eggs, cheese, bacon, onion, etc.), especially in the mountains.
Veal is still very popular, though the use of turkey and other meats as a substitute is growing.
While Fondue (melted cheese in a central pot, dip bread into it) and Raclette (cheese melted in small portions, served with potatoes and pickles) are really local to the Valais region of Switzerland, but they are commonly available at restaurants aimed at tourists.
For breakfast, try a bowl of Muesli, which was invented as a health food in Switzerland. The Sprüngli confectionery store tea rooms serve a deluxe version of this fiber-filled cereal with whole milk, crushed berries and cream.
There are a huge variety of cheeses available at the supermarkets, specialty stores and markets, as well as all kinds of hams and dried sausages. Dairy products are generally delicious, especially the butter.
For those with a sweet tooth, there’s a huge variety of chocolates to enjoy, from the cheapest chocolate bar to individually hand-made truffles. (See the Shopping section above). The chocolate bar displays at the supermarkets will overwhelm you! Also enjoy pastries and cakes from the various Konditorei scattered around town. A typical cake is the Mandelfisch, an almond cake shaped like a fish.
Like any proper European country, Switzerland abounds with cafés where you can enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee, glass of wine or other beverage, and watch the world go by.
Learning the mother tongue of the area you will be staying in is a great sign of respect. English is widely spoken in Switzerland, but any attempt to speak the local language is always appreciated, even if you’re replied to in English. It’s always polite to ask if they speak English before starting a conversation.
Friends kiss each other on the cheek three times (left – right – left).
The drinking age for beer, wine, and “alcopops” (i.e. flavored malt beverages, etc.) is 16 while the age for straight liquor is 18. The public consumption of alcohol in Switzerland is legal, so do not be alarmed if you see a group of teenagers drinking a six-pack on public property; this is by no means out of the ordinary and should not be interpreted as threatening.
Swiss police take on a relatively unobtrusive air; they prefer to remain behind the scenes, as they consider their presence potentially threatening to the overall environment (practice of de-escalation). Unlike some more highly policed countries, officers will rarely approach civilians to ask if they need help or merely mark their presence by patrolling. However, police are indeed serious about traffic violations. Jaywalking (crossing a red pedestrian light), for example, will be fined on the spot
Tipping: Tips are automatically included in all hotel and restaurant bills and in most taxi fares. For special services like luggage handling, it is customary to tip CHF 2 per bag.
DO NOT LITTER! It’s not Singapore where you get fined for it but it’s definitely seen as bad behavior in this country. Also make sure that you put trash in the correct bin (e.g. recyclable).
Be punctual. Not surprisingly for a country that is known for making clocks, the Swiss have a near-obsession with being on time.
Switzerland is not a country of insane civil lawsuits and damage claims; consequently, if you see a sign or disclaimer telling you not to do something, obey it! An example: in many alpine areas, charming little mountain streams may be flanked by signs with the message “No Swimming.”
Tel. (0)44 269 69 69 – Emergency Medical Service
Tel. 111 – tells you which pharmacies are open at night, on Sundays and public holidays.
Swiss law requires that all persons residing in Switzerland for more than three months be covered by adequate health insurance. There are no fixed fees for doctors and dentists. Where dentists are concerned, it is advisable to ask for an estimate for the whole treatment after the first examination. Most doctors are not available on Thursday afternoons.
Basic insurance is offered by a large number of state or private insurance companies. All insurers offer the same benefits but the contributions (premiums) depend on the insurer, on your place of residence and on the form of insurance chosen. Out-patient and stationary medical treatment as well as medicines prescribed by a doctor are covered, but not dental treatment. The insured person has a free choice of doctors and participates in the costs with a fixed annual excess.
Rates for hospitals and clinics vary according to the different section of the hospital, the patient’s place of residence and the length of hospitalization. Additional charges are added for surgery, surgery room, laboratory, medications, physician’s fee, X-rays or other special services and treatments. Admittance to a hospital can be arranged only through your attending physician.
You may obtain a list of hospitals, dentists and physicians in the Zurich area, who are known to speak English as well as German from the US Embassy. You may also try the web-site: http://www.drmed.ch. The Bona Fides of all practitioners in Zurich have been authenticated by the Swiss Doctor’s Association. The choice of a physician is a private matter. The Consular Agency cannot, therefore, make any recommendations or assume any responsibility for the professional integrity of the persons or institutions listed.
Jan. 1 New Year’s Day
Mar/Apr (varies) Good Friday
Mar/Apr (varies) Easter Monday
May 1 Labor Day
May (late May) Ascension Day
May/June (varies) Pentecost Monday
Aug. 1 Swiss National Holiday
Dec. 25 Christmas Day
Dec. 26 St. Stephen’s Day
The current is AC, 230V, 50 Hz. The standard plug is three-prong, but you may, in older buildings, run across some others. The Swiss plug is used nowhere else in Europe. While a general purpose “European-style” conversion plug may work, hold off buying more than one of those (no kits, etc.) until you get to your home.
A nearby hardware or variety store will be able to help you if you don’t have with you what you need. Most laptops operate on 110 and 220 volts and so require only a plug adapter.
Post offices – identified by a yellow logo and Die Post, La Poste or La Posta – generally open Monday to Friday 7.30am–noon & 1.30–6.30pm, and Saturday 8–11am, although watch out for slight regional variations and restricted hours in smaller branches. Some main offices stay open over the lunch break.
For both domestic and international post, there’s a two-tier system. A–Priority post is delivered next day in Switzerland, within five days to Europe, and within ten days worldwide (both of the latter by airmail); B–Economy post takes three days domestic, up to ten days to Europe, and up to eight weeks by surface delivery worldwide. Currently sending a postcard or a 20g letter by A/B post costs Fr.1.10/0.90 to Europe, or Fr.1.80/1.10 worldwide. For all A post, you should write a prominent “A” with a box around it above the address, or ask for one of the blue stickers.
Poste restante is available at any post office: all you need to know is that town’s four-figure postal code list the lot.
Switzerland’s value-added tax is 7.6%.However, on any one purchase of 550 francs or more from one store, refunds are available to nonresidents for clothes, watches, and souvenirs, but not for meals or hotel rooms.
To get a VAT refund, pay by credit card; at the time of purchase, the store clerk should fill out and give you a red form and keep a record of your credit card number. When leaving Switzerland, you must hand-deliver the red form to an officer at the customs office at the airport or, if leaving by car or train, at the border. Customs will process the form and return it to the store, which will refund the tax by crediting your card.
US citizens’ income tax liabilities are based on worldwide income, so you’re still responsible to pay the IRS on income earned in Switzerland or other countries. You do get an $80,000 dollar exemption on money you earn overseas, so the tax burden will be significantly lower. In some countries, you can get foreign tax credits, depending on tax rates.
Embassy & Vissa
American Citizen Services
CH-3005 Bern, Switzerland
Routine calls: 031 357 72 34 from 14:00-17:00
Emergencies: 031 357 70 11
Emergencies after hours, on weekends and holidays: 031 357 77 77
Fax: 031 357 72 80
Consular Agency Zurich
3rd floor, Zurich, Switzerland
CH-8008 Zurich, Switzerland
Tel: 043 499 29 60
Fax: 043 499 29 61
Directions: Take the Number 2 or 4 Tram in the direction of Tiefenbrunnen to the stop “Feldeggstrasse”. Appointment required, hours are 10:00 until 13:00, Monday through Friday.
Embassy Registration: Americans living in Switzerland are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Bern, with the Consular Agency in Zurich or through the State Department’s travel registration website , and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Switzerland. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy, Consulate, or Consular Agent to contact them in case of emergency.
Embassy of Switzerland
2900 Cathedral Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008,
A passport is required for travel to Switzerland. A visa is required for stays more than 90 days.