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Five things that surprise foreigners who move to Zurich

Sandra Sparrowhawk
Sandra Sparrowhawk - [email protected]
Five things that surprise foreigners who move to Zurich
Some aspects of living in Zurich may come as a surprise. Photo by David Taljat.

Zurich is often painted as a financial hub - and that is true. But there's a lot more going on in Switzerland's largest city and the surrounding area.


Located in north-central Switzerland at the very north-western tip of Lake Zurich, Zurich is known worldwide as the financial capital – and often mistaken as the nation’s capital - of Switzerland (that title goes to Bern). 

With a population of roughly 443,037 people, Zurich boasts a proud and rich history, with numerous historic buildings, museums as well as churches and cathedrals.

The city has a vibrant community of international citizens, built up mostly of students and foreign workers, and is widely known as one of the safest cities in the country.

However, in case you didn't do your homework on living in Zurich before you relocated, there are some things that will likely surprise you as you slowly start becoming a "Zürcher " (a Zurich local).

Zurich has its own mountain

Yes, you heard that right.

The Uetliberg mountain is part of the Albis chain – a chain of hills in the canton of Zurich – and sits at 2,850 feet above sea level.

The mountain offers mesmerising panoramic views of the city, lake Zurich, and in good weather even the Alps.

The hike from Zurich Triemli to the Uetliberg is a moderately difficult hike and can be done almost all year round, though it is recommended that you avoid snowy and rainy days. The hike from Zurich Triemli to the Uetliberg Uto Kulm takes about 1 hour 25 minutes.

Note that due to construction work, sections of the S4 and the S10 as well as the entire route of the SN4 are closed from July to October 2023.


Fountain bathing is a thing

In the Swiss city of Winterthur, northeast of Zurich, fountain bathing is a long-standing tradition. On hot days, head down to the Steinberggasse and you'll find residents stripping off and getting into the water.

"Because the city of Winterthur doesn't have a lake or a major river, some people like to bathe in the fountains in the middle of town," says Switzerland Tourism. 

But taking a dip in a fountain isn’t a Winterthur exclusive, you can also bathe in the city of Zurich’s very own fountains as there are no legal restrictions to do so – though this is not always encouraged.

People take a dip in a fountain in Winterthur.

People take a dip in a fountain in Winterthur, near Zurich. Photo: Switzerland Tourism/Ivo Scholz

This is because certain fountains have ornate stucco work that can be damaged when climbed on. The fountains should be treated with respect, according to the council.

So, if you do fancy taking a dep in one of the city’s 1,200 (ornate) fountains, we encourage you to be careful and never let your pooch hop in with you – dogs are not allowed to swim in Zurich’s fountains due to hygiene reasons.

READ MORE: Where is bathing in fountains allowed in Switzerland?


Zurich has a vibrant nightlife

Though the city may be small when compared to other capital cities across Europe, it boasts an electric nightlife and is particularly known for its top-notch techno scene.

If you’re looking for what’s trendy, then you may want to start with one of Zurich’s oldest nightclubs: Mascotte. The club has a diverse programme which frequently features live bands ranging from Pete Doherty, Florence & the Machine, and German rock band Die Toten Hosen, as well as comedy nights and various DJs.

Alternatively, you can head to the Alte Kaserne, situated between Zurich Main Station and Langstrasse, if you prefer a relaxed, alternative atmosphere. The venue attracts an eclectic audience and plays host to musical live acts alongside theatrical performances and readings.

The summer season also brings back Zurich’s popular open-air bars where locals and visitors alike meet up for a refreshing drink by the lake. After dusk, some of the river and lakeside resorts transform into waterfront bars – or Badi-Bars as Zürchers call them – where guests can enjoy music, poetry readings, or movie screenings with a cocktail in hand.

Local delicacies are to die for

While Muesli, or Birchermüesli as it is called in Swiss German, has become a global hit, not many people know that the dish is Swiss, let alone that it originated in Zurich.

But the popular oats-based breakfast meal is by far not the only specialty Zurich has to offer, as you will be quick to learn upon moving there. Zurich food is, in fact, quite delicious.

If like many foreigners you have landed in Zurich on an empty stomach and crave a hearty meal, head to the Restaurant Kronenhalle for a Züri Gschnätzlets (‘sliced meat Zurich style’. Zurich’s very own cult dish is made of finely sliced veal fillet dipped in a creamy mushroom sauce and served with Rösti – another Swiss classic.

But that’s not all Zurich’s menu has to offer.

Another popular dish is called the Zürcher Eintopf, a Zurich style hot pot dish combining pork necks, potatoes, and carrots with white wine.

Come Christmastime, you can bake a few Tirggel to win over your guests. The biscuits are made from flour and honey and are traditionally decorated with Biblical or regional themes.

READ MORE: The 16 regional food delicacies from around Switzerland you need to try

Zurich’s outstanding transport links aren’t just hearsay

It goes without saying that Switzerland’s public transportation network is among the world’s most efficient and reliable – and Zurich is no exception.

According to, the majority of the Zurich public favours the use of trams and buses to get around the city. However, Zurich’s transportation network also includes trains and even boats to virtually connect every part of the city and is very straightforward for visitors to the city to use.


If you are visiting Zurich as a tourist or are in the area for a business trip, you may want to purchase the Zürich Card. The travelcard entitles the holder to unlimited 2nd class travel on all forms of public transportation within the entire city network.

The Zürich Card can be purchased in the Zürich City Guide app, via the webshop, or physically at a ticket machine, and is valid for a period of 24 or 72 hours.

If you have newly moved to Zurich and work locally, however, you may want to invest in the handy Swiss Half-Fare Card to get up to 50 percent off all public transportation in Switzerland, including most mountain railroads.


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