Gateway to Europe

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Zurich, with its central location in the north of Switzerland, is often referred to as the gateway to Europe, as you can reach surrounding countries easily by train or connecting flight. In 2012 the airport processed 24.8 million visitors, an all-time high. But with so much on offer, Zurich is actually worthy of more than just its gateway status.

It’s the largest city in Switzerland and is home to a number of financial institutions and banking giants, the majority of Switzerland’s research and development centres, world football’s governing body FIFA, and the headquarters of many international companies that are attracted to the low tax rates.

Airport

The airport – also known as Kloten Airport – is 13 kilometres north of central Zurich. The terminals are connected to the main building by automated trains, so once you’ve disembarked and cleared passport control, you hop on board for a quick journey to collect your luggage. In the main terminal building there is complimentary Wi-Fi access for an hour, after which you can purchase additional credit.

The Swiss International Air Lines arrivals lounge on the first floor of Terminal 2 is available to Swiss First and Business Class passengers (just remember to keep your boarding pass stub as proof), as well as members of the HON Circle, Senator and Frequent Traveller rewards programmes who’s flights land before noon. Open between 06h00 and 13h00 daily, the lounge offers 20 shower rooms, a rest area, three hotel-style bedrooms, an ‘e-corner’ with 10 work stations and free WLAN, and a meeting room. There is also a buffet with a selection of hot and cold breakfast dishes, fruit juices and coffees.

The departure lounges include offerings from Swiss, Emirates, oneworld and SkyTeam. Zurich Airport railway station is located underneath the main terminal building. Trains make regular trips into the city centre and there are also direct trains to surrounding cities.

Hotels

The city is teeming with hotels, and some of the best business travel-focused properties can be found less than 10 kilometres from the airport.

The Park Inn by Radisson Zurich Airport is five kilometres from the airport and 12 kilometres from the city centre. It has 210 rooms and conference facilities for up to 80 people. There is a also complimentary shuttle to and from the airport.

Situated at the airport is the Radisson Blu Hotel Zurich Airport. It has 330 rooms and can be reached by a direct walkway from the airport building.

The 4-star Holiday Inn Zurich Messe is seven kilometres from the airport and just five kilometres from the centre of town. It has 164 rooms and free Wi-Fi.

At just a five-minute commute, Moevenpick Hotel Zurich-Airport offers a free shuttle service to and from the airport. Its conference facilities can accommodate up to 400 delegates.

Also within five minutes of the airport is the Hilton Zurich Airport. It offers an executive lounge to those in executive rooms, 25 function and meeting rooms and free Wi-Fi.

The 4-star Novotel Zurich Airport Messe has 255 air-conditioned rooms, free high-speed Internet, restaurants, a lounge bar, terrace, fitness centre with sauna, and Wi-Fi, whilst the Best Western Hotel Airport punts itself as the “smallest and most personalised 3-star superior hotel at Zurich Airport”. It has 44 rooms, 10 meeting rooms and a free airport shuttle.

The Renaissance Zurich Hotel is 10 minutes from the airport, with a tram line right outside its door to take guests to the city centre, airport, or the nearby shopping mall.

A little further out, but close to Zurich’s exhibition area is the Best Western Trend Hotel Zurich-Regensdorf. The hotel is a 14-minute train ride out of Zurich city centre. It has 51 rooms, eight meeting rooms, three restaurants and a smoking lounge.

Getting there

Swiss International Air Lines has its primary hub at Zurich’s Kloten Airport. From here, you can reach 48 European destinations with a connecting flight. To reach Zurich on Swiss from Africa, you can fly from Cairo, Dar es Salaam, Johannesburg and Nairobi.

Transport

Public transport in Zurich is well established and well integrated. It connects all parts of the city with buses, trams and trains. The city consists of seven zones with all modes of transport timed to allow commuters easy transfers.

Public transport tickets are available from machines and from sales people at main interchange points, including most railway stations. Don’t get caught without a valid ticket, as you will receive a heavy fine.

There are a few websites with helpful information about buying tickets – check out the Swiss National Railroad (www.sbb.ch/home) and Zurich Transport Network (www.zvv.ch/en/) before settling on a ticket for your travels, as there are sometime specials available.

With a ZurichCARD you can travel throughout the city, using the buses, trams, trains, cable cars and boats as often as you like for either 24 or 72 hours. Prices stated on the website in October were around $25 for a 24-hour card, and $50 for a 72-hour card. The card also gives you special discounts at certain shops, a culinary surprise with every main meal ordered at participating restaurants, and free entry to most of the city’s museums.

Activities

There are a number of guided tours available. Whether you’d like to walk or use motorised transport, you can either meet a guide at the railway station for a tour of the old town, or hop on the Classic Trolley tram for a two-hour ride around the city.

A visit to Switzerland isn’t complete unless you ascend the Alps – thankfully there are numerous places for you to experience the crisp mountain air and spectacular views. The base of Mount Titlis is a one-hour train ride away from Zurich, in the mountain village of Engelberg. Take three cable cars, including the rotating cable car Rotair, to the top of the mountain, and then climb in the Ice Flyer chair lift to get to Glacier Park. Here you can try your hand at skiing, sledding, snowboarding and snowtubing, or take a less adrenalin-filled snow walk. Europe’s highest suspension bridge is found here and is open all year round, weather permitting.

Zurich Tourism’s website lists 49 museums in the city, so if you’re interested in a cultural outing, check out www.zuerich.com for a full list. The Swiss National Museum, in the heart of the city, is across the street from the main railway station. The museum houses the largest cultural-historical collection of objects in the country. The building is over 100 years old and is reminiscent of a fairytale castle.

If you’re a shopper, Bahnhofstrasse is the place for you. It’s Zurich’s main downtown street and one of the world’s most expensive and exclusive shopping avenues. Among other stores, you’ll find Apple, Burberry, Cartier, Chanel, Dior, Armani, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada and Tommy Hilfiger.

If this sounds a little pricey, try Niederdorf, the old part of the city. Aside from many fast food outlets, you’ll find plenty of trendy clothes stores here.

Opera lovers can visit the Opernhaus Zurich, which has a varied programme including La Bohemme, and ballet performances of Romeo and Juliet in January 2014, and Aida in February.

Moods is the place to go for jazz, funk, soul, blues, electro and world music, and is located in the central parts of Zurich’s new hotspot in the Zurich-West area.

Thanks to Switzerland’s excellent public transport and Zurich’s rather central location, other parts of the country are easily accessible. Lucerne, home of the transport museum, is less than an hour away by train, as are Basel and Bern, the country’s capital.

Visa

All non-EU nationals require a Schengen visa to enter Switzerland. The process of acquiring a Schengen visa is lengthy – it usually takes 16 days for the visa to be issued. Aside from the paperwork and full colour passport photo that needs to accompany your application, you will also need to visit the Swiss embassy in your home town to have your picture taken and fingerprints digitally recorded.

The Swiss Alps

The section of the Alps mountain range that runs through Switzerland, also known as the Central Alps, covers 65% of Switzerland. The highest summit in the Swiss Alps is Monte Rosa (4,634 metres) near the Swiss-Italian border. The highest mountain which lies entirely on Swiss territory is the Dom (4,545 metres). Human habitation is mostly centred in the sub-alpine valleys usually below 1,800 metres above sea level. Some of the most well-known peaks in the Swiss Alps are the Jungfrau, the Matterhorn and Titlis.

Fact File

Population: 379,915

Time zone: GMT +1

Plugs: Two-prong round

Dialling code: +41 43

Currency:  Swiss Franc; $1= CHF0.91

Language: Officially its standard German, but French and English are often heard

Etiquette

While friends kiss each other on the cheek three times, you’re only expected to shake hands in a business meeting. Do not litter. It’s not a fineable offense, but it is seen as bad behaviour. And when you discard your rubbish, make sure you put it in the correct bin, particularly recyclable items. Be punctual. That means no more than one minute late. Unsurprisingly for a country that is known for making clocks, the Swiss have a near-obsession with being on time.

Kate Kennedy

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