Switzerland attracts a lot of tourists thanks to its beautiful views and numerous winter activities at visitors’ disposal. Not everyone who comes to Switzerland plans to enjoy their time at ski resorts; many tourists are simply interested in travelling across the country with such wonderful panoramic views. And for most of tourists the journey begins in Zurich.
Year after year Zurich – Switzerland's largest city – is named among the top cities in the world with the most favorable living conditions. Very cozy, hasteless, and peaceful – you can pick dozens of positive adjectives for Zurich, but I can assure you, you can find only one negative feature of this city – it is very expensive. Expensive prices is something you will see everywhere in Switzerland, even salaries are higher than in other European countries, but at the same time the cost of living here is also significantly higher than the European average. Therefore, when choosing a hotel in Zurich you should ask yourself only one question – how much you are ready to spend on accommodation.
What Area is the Best to Stay in Zurich?
You should make this decision based on the goal of your visit. It is highly unlikely that you come here for shopping. In this case, you would probably go to Italy instead. Then there are only two options: a business trip (for an exhibition or a conference – a lot of them are held here yearly, or maybe just because your company’s business requires your presence in Switzerland) or you are coming here just as a tourist.
If you come to Zurich on a business trip, you have two options for accommodation. You can either stay close to your company’s office or close to the downtown. I will discuss both of these options in detail a bit later.
If you come to Zurich as a tourist, you should take into account for how long you plan to stay in the city. Here again we have a few options.
The first option: you won’t stay here for long. Maybe you will stay for a couple of days in Zurich and then will hit the road again, or rather take a train to explore other parts of Switzerland, and I must tell you, the train system in Switzerland is organized in the most convenient way.
The second option is similar to the first one up to some extent: a couple of days in Zurich, then one-day trips to nearby cities and villages. And here, there is a lot to see: Zug, Rapperswil, Winterthur, Rhein Fall, Höllgrotten Baar (stalactite caves), or Luzern. All these places are located within a one hour distance from Zurich.
Finally, the third option: Zurich is just one short stop on the way to your destination, and you will take the train or maybe fly to your vacation spot.
Maybe at this stage you have a question, why don’t I use traditional district-based recommendations for accommodation. The answer is simple. I believe this approach would be completely wrong for Zurich.
Yes, it is really the largest city in Switzerland, and it has a lot of unique advantages from the tourist’s point of view. The city is very compact, and all the sights are within a walking distance, walking down the main shopping street (Bahnhofstrasse) will hardly take more than 20 minutes, and just like the Old town it starts from the main railway station.
Another characteristic of the city is a unique co-existence of traditions and innovations. The Old town borders on new buildings but you will not sense any disharmony, and if you go just a little further, you will see amazing panoramic views of the mountains – the main reason for many tourists to come to Switzerland and to Zurich, in particular.
Downtown (Old Town, Bahnhofstrasse, Main Railway Station)
As we already know, the railway station, downtown, Old Town (Altstadt), the main shopping street Bahnhofstrasse are located in the close proximity from each other. Hence, the most reasonable decision would be to choose a hotel in this district. If you plan to spend a few days in Zurich or if you plan to use the city as a central point for exploring nearby towns, this district is without a doubt the most convenient.
Interestingly, you won’t have to pay more money for this convenient location. Hotels in the more remote areas of the city will be just as expensive. Unless they are located in a less suitable district but then you do not really want to stay in such places.
Choosing another district for accommodation can be determined only by the requirement to live close to the office (if you are on a business trip) or the place where the event you are visiting will take place (again, if you are on a business trip), or close to the airport if you are going to stay in Zurich for just one day and would like to reach the airport fast and without any hustle.
And now, we can finally start choosing hotels. The main criterion here is your budget. Starting from 3-stars hotels you will get a very decent level of comfort. It means you will have a clean room, quality service, but you will most probably have to pay for WiFi and breakfast. However, you can solve this problem by buying a local SIM-card with mobile Internet plan (it will be cheaper than paying for WiFi in the room, plus, you will always be available to your friends and family and have access to Internet at all times and not only in the late evenings or early mornings.) As for the breakfast, you can choose one of many cafes in the city center, it will not save you much money, probably, though, because as I said, Zurich is a very expensive city. Alternatively, you can buy food in the supermarket near the railway station, and have your breakfast in the room – most of them have kettles, and some even provide coffee makers.
Hotels in Zurich can be divided into four categories:
- not expensive (as a rule, they are located in the less nice districts);
In the district that we are talking about now – the city center – you can find medium-priced, expensive, and luxurious hotels.
Let’s start with the medium-priced hotels. Here you can take a closer look at Hotel Otter. It is located in the Old Town, within proximity of the Grossmünster Cathedral and Lake Zurich. The rooms are clean and cozy, there is complimentary Internet. An additional bonus is the direct connection to the airport and main railway station, even though you can easily take a walk to the latter. All the beautiful sights are very close-by, and you can take a lovely walk and see all the noteworthy places.
Another option in this price category is the aparthotel Astor Hotel & Serviced Apartments. Rooms are equipped with a kitchenette (with a coffee machine), guests are also provided with complimentary Wi-Fi. The station is just a few minutes away, and all the main tourist sights are within an easy reach.
Hotel Rössli is another hotel next to the Grossmünster Cathedral. Some rooms have verandas with views at Lake Zurich. The railway station is reachable on foot (10–15 minutes) or you can take a tram. There might be some noise from Bahnhofstrasse in the evenings, but if you don’t open windows, the problem will be solved.
Hotel St. Josef is also located very conveniently. You can explore the Old Town on foot; reach the station and the lake in just under 10 minutes. There is Zurich University nearby, and an observation point that has amazing views at the city. The hotel is located at a quiet street with low traffic, the rooms have a kettle and a small fridge.
Finally, Hotel Kindli is located just in the middle of the Old Town. An additional advantage for architecture lovers is the old building that houses the hotel. Nearby you will see Fraumünster Cathedral, St. Peters Cathedral and Lindenhof hill. If you look for a place that will let you lose yourself in the atmosphere of the old town, staying in this hotel will be ideal for you, especially during Christmas season, when the hotel and the entire Old Town are decorated with Christmas lights.
And if your budget is unlimited, treat yourself to the stay in a luxurious 5-star hotel of the Old Town. For example, Widder Hotel is one of the best hotels in Switzerland. The nearby located Michelin restaurant can add to your Zurich experiences. Or you can choose to stay in Savoy Baur en Ville that is located at the main square Paradeplatz – just in the heart of Zurich.
Just opposite the railway station there is the splendid Schweizerhof Zürich that is a bit less expensive than the previous two but is not the least bit less comfortable.
However, not everyone can afford spending 400–600 euros per night, and most tourists search for budget-friendly options for accommodation. In this case, you can consider staying in a hostel. For example, in this district you can find the hostel City Backpacker / Hotel Biber that is a member of an international chain. Nearby there are many restaurants and shops, the lake is just 5 minutes away, and you can take advantage of the convenient location in the Old Town.
Messe Zürich Neighborhood
Zurich is well-known for numerous trade fairs and conferences that are held here. As a rule, these events take place in the exhibition center Messe Zürich. If you come to Zurich to take part in (or visit) an exhibition, it is recommended to find accommodation near the Messe Zürich. Here you can take a look at such hotels as Holiday Inn Zürich Messe or ibis Zürich Messe-Airport. The first one is a little bit more expensive, the second one is more budget-friendly. Both hotels are located in the northern part of Zurich, not far from the train station Oerlikon – the second large train station in Zurich. You can easily reach the city center (or the airport if you go in the opposite direction) by tram or train. It can take you from 10 to 20 minutes depending on the transport you choose. That’s why these two hotels are also great for tourists who would like to stay closer to the airport, for example, when you arrive late or have an early morning flight.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Hotel in Zurich
In conclusion, I would like to highlight a few things that you should consider when choosing a hotel in Zurich.
As you already know, Zurich is a compact-sized city with convenient transport connections. You can reach the Old town from the airport in just 20-25 minutes. That’s why the district where to stay is less relevant compared to the price you will (can afford to) pay. Logistics-wise city center is the most convenient district for your accommodation. It includes both the Old town, and the main railway station. It is a good option for those who plan to stay in Zurich for only a couple of days before they go on exploring Switzerland, and also for those who plan to make Zurich a central point for their one-day trips to all the interesting places located nearby.
Hotels in Zurich are expensive. Even hostels can be more expensive than standard rooms in 3-star hotels of the nearby countries. So, you should decide how much you are ready to spend and then pick the relevant category of hotels to choose from.
If you choose a hotel outside the Old town, it makes sense to buy ZurichCard for public transport. It also allows you visiting city museums for free.
If you travel by car, keep in mind that Zurich has the same issues with parking as most European cities – it is hardly possible to find a parking spot in the city center. Please, find out in advance if a hotel has its own parking (some hotels do) and how much that would cost.
If a trade fair or a conference is held in Zurich at the time of your planned visit, hotels might be overbooked. It is always recommended to book in advance. Besides, many hotels have discounts for early booking. If you could not find a hotel in Zurich, try one of the nearby towns. It will be a bit less expensive, and the transport expenses will not be very high because of the well-developed system of transport fares.