Free bicycles from Züri rollt
1. Girl on a free bike from Züri rollt
2. My bicycle advertising a new website
3. Free bikes at Bicycle Station North
4. Sign at Bicycle Station North
Like several other Swiss cities, Zürich has a great bicycle lending service. From several places in the city you can borrow a bicycle for the day at no cost. You just have to show your passport or ID card (they don't even want to keep your passport, just write down the number) and leave a deposit of 20 Swiss Francs, which you get back in full if you return the bike in good condition by 9.30 pm.
For ten Swiss Francs you can even keep the bike overnight, which is great if you want to ride home from the opera, for instance.
This is even better then the similar service in Bern, which I used in 2009, because in Bern only the first four hours are free and you aren't allowed to keep the bike over night.
As in Bern and other Swiss cities, the service is paid for in part by sponsors whose advertising signs are mounted on the bikes. Some of the smaller sponsors are quite harmless, like local pharmacies and newspapers, but the main sponsor is a notorious global fast-food corporation which is one of the main culprits in the world-wide obesity epidemic*, not to mention deforestation to raise cattle for their ground beef. So a lot of people who use the bikes, like the girl in the first photo, are unwittingly serving as advertising agents for an infamous menace to public health.
I was lucky this time and got a bike advertising a new website that the city of Zürich is planning to start up, called Mobility is Culture (second photo).
"Züri rollt" has lots of bikes (third photo), and I had no trouble getting one, but on a sunny afternoon it can happen that they are all taken, so it's best to go early.
The free bike program has numerous advantages for the city of Zürich. It relieves traffic congestion, reduces noise and air pollution, improves public health -- and provides jobs and vocational training for people who would otherwise be out of work, such as people from Africa who have applied for political asylum in Switzerland.
In Zürich the bikes can be borrowed all year round at the two bicycle stations on the north and south sides of the main railroad station. From May to October there are four additional lending points at Globus City, Bürkliplatz, Oerlikon and the railroad station in Enge.
Groups can reserve bikes, but there is a reservation charge of ten Swiss Francs per bike.
*In case you are not aware of how serious the world-wide obesity epidemic has become, look up the September 2007 issue of Scientific American magazine. That was a special issue on Diet, Health and the Food Supply entitled "Feast and Famine -- The Global Paradox of Obesity and Malnutrition."
Rail car to Rauchen
The rail car labeled Rauchen is not to a city named Rauchen. It is the smoking car. Big city trains are often segmented, forming groups of cars to the same destination. They are labeled, so make sure you get on a car that will get you to where you want to go.
Boat trip on the lake
There are several different boat trips on offer on Lake Zurich and, if the weather is good, they do provide a very pleasant experience with some super views of the lake shore and the sitant mountain peaks.
I used my 9 o'clock pass to take the boat to Rapperswil. I'm not sure whether the ticket covers all departure times for that trip; the leaflet I picked up at the departure point seemed to suggest it didn't.
There are number of routes on offer and a number of 'specials' (dinner cruises and suchlike) depending on the time of year (see website below, in English). The boat I took was comfortable, with sparklingly-clean toilets and plenty of places to sit and enjoy the passing scenery. It stopped at several villages on the way to Rapperswil, so the whole journey took around an hour and a half.
Definitely something worth doing, though I wouldn't want to book in advance. I'd wait to see what the weather was like on the day. It's always chillier on the water anyway and if the weather was wet, cold or misty I think there would be little point in taking the boat.
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Buying ZVV tickets.
Getting tickets to travel around (and to/from Zurich) is very simple.
Ticket machine are very easy to use and all those I came across had English (and other) language options. A few only accepted cards but I always used the ones which took cash. They accept coins and notes and give change.
There are ZVV ticket machines in the Hauptbahnhof and at tram/bus stops. ZVV tickets cover the greater Zurich area. So, for example, Lucerne is just outside that area (and you'd need to use the other ticket machines for that journey) whilst Rapperswil is inside. ZVV ticket machines have a helpful map to show you which places are within the area.
The '9 o'clock ticket' is very good value. It allows unlimited travel with the ZVV area after 9am on all forms of transport, including some boat trips to Rapperswil, until 5am the following day. I made good use of the 25CHF it cost me, taking the boat to Rapperswil and the train back from there and then using the ticket for a train trip up and down Uetliberg.
The 1-2 zone day ticket which covers all trams etc within Zurich (including the Polybahn) is also good value at 8.40CHF. Although the Altstadt is fairly small and very walkable the day ticket came in very useful when I wanted to explore the city more widely.
You can read about the all ticket types in English on the ZVV website linked below.
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I was very impressed by Zurich's Hauptbahnhof (main station).
It's huge, as one would expect, but very easy to navigate. There's a massive departure board listing forthcoming departures, destinations and platforms (I love watching departure boards when they 'click over' ), including S-bahn trains. There are information boards with all departures per hour listed, so it's easy to find out when the next train to wherever is going.
Trains to and from Zurich airport are speedy and efficient, making the journey in around 10 minutes and departing regularly throughout the day.
There are easy-to-use ticket machines with English language options which accept cash (and giving change) or cards (I suspect only cards with a PIN number though).
It's very easy to find the platforms, because they are all straight in front of you and clearly numbered, with electronic signs telling you which train is due to depart next, and to where.
There's a Tourist Office which has lots of helpful leaflets...but also had queues each time i wandered past, so be warned.
And there's a huge, multi-coloured flying angel hanging over the massive and rather wonderful late-1800s departure hall. It's 'La'Ange Protecteur', by Niki de Saint Phalle.
It's worth visiting the Hauptbahnhof just to see the departure hall (so vast that a market was held there during one of my days) and the angel, imo.
You'll find the Hauptbahnhof (oddly enough) at the end of Bahnhofstrasse.
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Zurich Airport, Switzerland
"Zurich Airpor"t, also known as "Kloten Airport", is Switzerland's largest international airport, and the principal hub of Swiss International Air Lines. The airport is owned by Flughafen Zürich AG, a company quoted on the SIX Swiss Exchange.
The airport is close to the city, in about 20 mins u can reach, high-tech and glassed building with a lot of sunlight, fast check-ins and not so crowded. Also many opportunities for the last minute shoppings at duty frees if you are on a rushed business trip ... :)
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To get around Zurich, buy a Zurich card. It enables you to use the buses, trams, ferries and cable cars around Zurich as well as many other perks like entry into museums etc. Check out the site below for all the details.
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Zurich Card for unlimited travel
24 hour Zurich card CHF. 20.00 children 14.00
72 hour Zurich card CHF 40.00 children 28.00
buy this card at the airport as it covers the journey from and to the airport - you need to pay in cash as they don't accept credit cards. There is a ATM machine on the opposite side of the ticket vending counter - it is behind the electric stairs.
the Zurich card is valid on all trams throughout the city and trams and trains into the agglomeration of Zurich and onto Uetliberg as well as the boats on the river Limmat and lake Zurich
the card also includes complimentary entry to all museums in Zurich (Museum Rietberg charges a supplement if you wan to view their present Special exhibition)
the card offers a free drink with each meal bought in certain restaurants (brochure will will be given to you at time of purchase) also in the Restaurant on top of Uetliberg - which was the only time I used it for a free drink. Most of the Restaurants which feature in this brochure would be rather more expensive than average with a few exceptions.
the card needs to be validated at the time you start to use it at one of the orange ticket machines at the tram stops.
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Cycling by the lake and on the streets
Photos: Cycling in Zürich
Cycling along the lakeshore in a popular activity in Zürich, but cyclists often have to share the paths with pedestrians.
For cyclists in a hurry this is usually not a problem, however, because there are often parallel streets with bicycle lanes painted on them.
The official policy of the city of Zürich is -- quite rightly! -- that bicycles belong on the streets, not on the sidewalks. "On the streets bicycles can go faster, have more room to maneuver, profit from more intensive street cleaning (broken glass, snow) and there are fewer conflicts with pedestrians." Also there are fewer accidents when motorists and cyclists can see each other, i.e. when both are on the street.
Cycling in Zürich
Photos: Cycling in Zürich
Anyone who has cycled in other Swiss cities like Basel, Bern or even Geneva will no doubt be somewhat disappointed by the cycling situation in Zürich.
Although Zürich has made great progress in recent years and has a cycling infrastructure that would (or should) make most British and American cities green with envy, by the standard of other Swiss and European cities Zürich still has a long way to go.
One reason for this is Zürich's excellent public transit system. In a city where trams and trolleybuses come every few minutes and whisk people swiftly and silently from anywhere to anywhere else, even confirmed autophobes often fail to see the urgency of improving the bicycle infrastructure.
Nonetheless, city officials are aware that there is considerable scope for increased bicycle traffic. A "micro census" from the year 2000 found that 53% of all car journeys within the city are shorter than three kilometers and 79% are shorter than five kilometers, which are "ideal bicycle distances".
Helvetic rolls onto the runway of Unique Airport to almost 20 destinations in Europe. Has direct , non-stop flights only from Zurich. The quick, simple booking procedure enables you to make a booking on the Internet in just a few steps. Helvetic Airways offers more comfort and quality than train and car journeys .
Also included in the integrated transportation system are the Limmat Boats, which go along the Limmat River from the main railroad station, and then out a ways onto Lake Zürich.
These are very low boats because they have to pass under several low bridges along the Limmat.
Ships on Lake Zürich
1. A ship on Lake Zürich (by coincidence that's the opera house in the background)
2. A three-decker ship on a cloudy day
There are also larger ships that go all around Lake Zürich on cruises and on regular routes, mainly leaving from the docks at Bürkliplatz.
I HIGHLY recommend Lufthansa Airlines from Frankfurt to Zurich. A short hop, about 1 hour flight and you are there. Friendly flight assistants, on time and smooth take off and landings.
You get a nice view of both Germany and NorthEastern Switzerland on a clear day.
Travel around in circles, and see Zuerich from the sky. Funny thing is, we never saw anyone actually riding this thing. Is it outrageously expensive?
To see a cool 30 second clip of this ferris wheel being built, click on the link below.
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