Travelling to Zurich?
Are you heading to Zurich on a work trip? Get to know the city better in our comprehensive guide for business travellers.
Nestled amidst snow-capped peaks and shimmering lakes lies the Swiss city of Zurich. Forget the stereotypical vision of quaint Alpine villages – this cosmopolitan gem is a dynamo of finance, innovation, and cutting-edge design. But beneath the sleek skyscrapers and buzzing trams lies a charming Altstadt (Old Town) whispering tales of medieval guilds and Reformation fervour.
As a business traveller, you’ll find yourself at the heart of Europe’s economic activity, where precision and punctuality are second nature. Yet, scratch beneath the commercial surface and you’ll find a surprising vibrancy. World-class art museums rub shoulders with trendy pop-up galleries, Michelin-starred restaurants share the limelight with cosy fondue joints and lakeside bars pulse with the rhythm of international crowds.
Zurich is a city that defies expectations, blending tradition and progress with a healthy dose of Swiss charm. In this comprehensive guide for business travellers, we navigate its cobbled streets, boardroom towers, and hidden gems and discover why Zurich is more than just a work destination.
Zurich Fact File
The Zurich coat of arms is a Per bend argent and azure shield.
Swiss German and widespread fluency in standard German and English
Swiss Franc (Fr.)
Spring (Mar-May) = 12 °C (53.6 °F)
Summer (Jun-Aug) = 21.6 °C (70.9 °F)
Autumn (Sep-Nov) = 12.3 °C. (54.0 °F)
Winter (Dec-Feb) = 3 °C (37.4 °F)
Getting To Zurich
Zurich Airport (ZRH) is the main airport and gateway to the city, conveniently located just 10 km from the city centre. For alternative connections, consider Bern-Belp Airport (BRN) located in Bern or Friedrichshafen Airport (FDH) across the Obersee – also known as the Upper Lake Constance – in neighbouring Germany.
Switzerland boasts an extensive railway network, operated by the national carrier SBB. High-speed InterCity trains connect major cities while regional trains zip through charming villages and Alpine vistas. TGV Lyria whisks you from Paris or Frankfurt in under 7 hours, while EuroCity trains from Italy take just 3 hours through the Gotthard Base Tunnel.
Switzerland boasts a network of well-maintained motorways adorned with breathtaking views. From Germany, head south through the Black Forest on the A81 before joining the A7 to Zurich. If heading in from Italy to the east, take the A2 before entering the alpine heights of Switzerland through the San Bernardino tunnel.
Business Culture & Etiquette
Punctuality, precision, and professionalism reign supreme in Zurich’s business culture. Be prepared for meetings to start and end on time, dress conservatively in suits or dresses, and greet colleagues with a firm handshake. Politeness and respect are paramount, so address everyone by their honorifics and surname until invited otherwise.
Small talk isn’t a priority; focus on clear, concise communication. Hierarchical structures are common, so respect the chain of command. Patience is also key – decisions are deliberated, and negotiations can be slow. Don’t expect immediate answers.
A few of our other top business tips:
- Though formal business is the name of the game in Zurich, after-work drinks or dinners are opportunities to build rapport in a more lighthearted manner.
- Take some time to learn some basic Swiss German phrases. Greet clients with “Grüezi” (the most common Hello) or “Sali” (an informal Hi). If you want to thank someone you can use “Merci vilmal” (Thank you very much) or toast someone with a hearty “Prost!” (cheers!).
Crime & Safety
Zurich consistently ranks as one of the safest cities in the world, boasting a low crime rate and a strong sense of community. You’re more likely to encounter charming trams clanging down cobbled streets than any danger.
Violent crime is extremely rare, and the city’s well-maintained streets and public spaces contribute to a sense of security. However, like any major urban centre, travellers should exercise typical precautions towards pickpocketing and other petty crimes.
Be aware that Zurich can reach minus temperatures in the winter, so make sure to pack warm clothing and to look out for ice.
Here are a few of our other top safety tips:
- Stay alert, especially in crowded areas such as Zurich’s most famous shopping street Bahnhofstrasse or the Limmatquai riverside promenade. Trust your instincts and avoid any situation that feels uncomfortable.
- Familiarise yourself with local emergency numbers: Police – 117, Fire – 118, Ambulance – 144.
- Consider wearing a money belt under your clothes to deter pickpockets in busy central areas.
Getting Around Zurich
From the bustling main station, Zurich HB, commuters can get from the city centre to the trendy Zurich West in just 7 minutes, passing by the famous Bahnhofstrasse shopping strip. You can also hop on a regional train and embark on a scenic jaunt alongside Lake Zurich in just 15 minutes.
There are several bicycle hire services in the city including Bike Rental Zurich. Dedicated cycle lanes hug the Limmat River – home to an elegant family of swans – while, beyond the city, you can climb the mountain of Uetliberg where you will be rewarded with panoramic cityscape views.
On Foot (zu Fuß)
Zurich is incredibly safe for pedestrians, with the central business hub easy to navigate on foot. Those who want to spend a little more time exploring on their morning commute will discover cobbled streets and charming scenic views, particularly if cutting through the medieval Niederdorf area.
Top 3 Things To See Or Do In Zurich
If you find yourself with a bit of free time on your business trip, Zurich is an interesting and vibrant city with plenty to explore. Here are our top 3 recommendations…
1. Zurich Old Town (Niederdorf)
Nestled in the heart of Zurich, Niederdorf (“Lower Village”) is an echo of the city’s medieval past. Cobbled streets and half-timbered houses are strung with colourful facades, and charming shops brim with artisanal treasures. Here you can explore the Fraumünster church with its stunning stained glass windows. Or you can simply wander through the vibrant markets and grab a pastry at a cosy cafe.
Rising 871 meters above the capital of the district, the “Mountain of Zurich” boasts breathtaking panoramic views of the city, lake, and beyond. Hike or take the Uetlibergbahn cogwheel train to the top and enjoy stunning vistas, restaurants, and even a children’s zoo. If you time your visit for sunset, you can witness the cityscape below transform – golden hues bathe the buildings, the lake paints itself in fiery orange, and the mountains cloak themselves in a purple shroud.
3. Lake Zurich
Lake Zurich is the city’s heart. Take a scenic boat cruise, relax on the shores, or rent a paddle boat for an invigorating workout. If you’re feeling chilled out, embark on a picturesque walk along the Limmatquai, the riverside promenade, and watch the bustling city life unfold as you soak in the lake views. If you are visiting during the late winter months, look out for the spectacular annual Zürchen tradition of burning a giant snowman (“Böögg”) on a raft in the lake, signifying the end of the season.
Zurich might be synonymous with Swiss precision and finance, but for the business traveller, it’s much more than just boardrooms and bank accounts. It’s a city that seamlessly blends corporate modernity with old-world charm, offering a vibrant atmosphere alongside stunning natural beauty – all within easy reach.
Zurich caters to every facet of a modern business traveller’s needs. Not only is it well-connected to other business hubs across the length and breadth of Europe, but the wealth of routes to and from the city makes it a destination with international appeal. Though business is rife in Zurich, don’t forget to venture beyond the business district – savour a fondue by the Limmat, explore the bustling markets, or lose yourself in the serene beauty of Lake Zurich.
So, the next time your business takes you to the Swiss city, you’ll be surprised by how much it has to offer.
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