Tips for a Trip to Zurich

Zurich is a breath of fresh air. One of the cleanest cities on the planet, its water is so clean that you can drink it from public water fountains. With almost half a million people, its sanitation standards are among the highest in the world. Against the refreshing backdrop of mountains, feed the swans along the lake. Enjoy one of the many outdoor cafes that line the streets where, for the price of a cup of coffee, you can relax, people watch and soak up the clean air.

Explore quaint houses, churches, town squares, fountains and winding lanes. Modern trams and buses make up the inexpensive public transportation system which is easy to understand and use. Visitors may purchase inexpensive day cards, valid for 24 hours, from the Tourist Office at the main railway station, or from the many ticket machines, located at stops around the city. Driving in Zurich is easy but parking facilities within the city are limited. Obtain the list of multi-layered car parks from the Tourist Office if you decide to use your car. In the city, there are a few "must see" destinations.

You can strike out on your own with a map from your hotel or the Tourist Office. Their guided tours begin at 2 hours for Old Town, Lindenhof Square, St. Peter’s Church, the Town Hall, the guild houses.

There are many boat trips available to scenic lakeside towns, including Rapperswil. Rhine Falls is at Schaffhausen, about 30 miles north of Zurich. The town is noted for picturesque architecture, a 12th-century monastery and a 400 year-old fort.

The train will take you there, as well. The falls are the largest in Europe. A well maintained express train will also take you to Stein-am-Rhein, about 14 miles from Schafthausen, offering quaint old houses, a lively marketplace and an 800 year-old fort. The magnificent painted facades are impressive. The view here is magnificent. My favorite excursion is to Einsiedeln, about 25 miles southeast of Zurich.

It is an easy drive to the home of the Benedictine Monastery of Einsiedeln. The abbey here is an excellent example of the baroque era of architecture. The site dates back about 1,000 years and the abbey houses the Black Madonna Shrine. The beautiful gold statue, in jeweled robes, is called The Black Madonna because over the centuries, smoke from candles has covered her face in black.

Even today, pilgrimages are made to look upon the Madonna, said to cause miracle cures. A few saints are buried here and anyone is welcome to pray or join frequent services. Ladies should have head coverings. If you arrive at the right time, you can absorb the beauty of the monks chanting.

A good family outing is to Alpamare, at Pfaffikon, about 35 minutes by car on Autoroute N3, by train or excursion. Water activities here include thermal and whirlpool baths, wave pool, five canyon and bob slides; a sauna, solaria, cafe and snack bar are also available.