Having planned a short trip to Zurich, I scanned the shelves of my small local library for guide books and found just one on Switzerland. I decided to see if Amazon had any specifically for Zurich and again found only one: Cityspots Zurich. It hadn't yet been rated but seemed worth ordering.
The book is divided into five main sections, Introducing Zurich, Making the Most of Zurich, The City of Zurich, Out of Town and Practical Information. There is an index at the end, but maps are interspersed at appropriate places. Plenty of colour illustrations give a feel for the place even if some of them are quite small.
I didn't read much of the introduction, although I was interested to find out that the Dada movement had originated in Zurich. The section also gives a brief history of the city, an overview of its lifestyle and culture, and a useful month-by-month summary of annual events in Zurich.
The section on Making the Most of Zurich looks first at shopping, then at eating and drinking, followed by entertainment and nightlife. These are all rather generalised, but the next sub-section on sport and relaxation lists a fair number of activities. Then comes accommodation, which suggests nineteen hotels in three price categories. My comment here has to be that for the Helmhaus Hotel where I stayed, the book says 'Ask for a room overlooking the river'; the hotel is close to the river, admittedly, but the rooms do not overlook it.
The section continues with a brief look at Zurich's top ten attractions. I was able to see five of them in twenty-four hours, namely Lake Zurich, the Bahnhofstrasse, the Fraumunster, the Grossmunster and Niederdorf. I would gladly have swapped the Bahnhofstrasse for a visit to the Uetli Mountain had time permitted, but the sights I did see were certainly worthy of a top ten list. The section also gives ideas for activities that are free of charge and things to do when it rains – I was lucky to have sun. Practical information on transport concludes the section; I was glad to discover here that it was easy to take a train from the airport to the city centre.
The section on the City of Zurich focuses on three distinct areas: central Zurich, Niederdorf and beyond, and Zurich West. Each sub-section gives a little information on the main attractions of the area as well as shops and restaurants, with an indication of how expensive they are. We didn't have time to visit Zurich West at all, but it was in Cityspots Zurich that we found out about the Lindenhof and its wonderful views, as well as the Zeughauskeller, considered to be Zurich's top beer hall.
Out of Town was not relevant to me as my time was so limited, but my son and his partner were able to make a day trip to Lake Lucerne and Mount Pilatus, having been inspired by the information and pictures in this section of Cityspots Zurich. The book also suggests Rapperswil on the eastern shore of Lake Zurich as a worthwhile place to make a trip to. Details of accommodation in Lucerne and Rapperswil will be useful for anyone wanting an overnight stay.
Practical Information is a fairly short but important section that concludes the book. A few details are given on how to travel to Zurich, currency, opening hours and so on. Advice is given on suitability of the city for children as well as facilities for disabled travellers. Practical Information also includes emergency telephone numbers, locations of a pharmacy, hospital and dental clinic, and a list of embassies and consulates for English-speaking countries.
Cityspots Zurich is a small format and with just 144 pages is not heavy to carry. A few useful phrases in German with a pronunciation guide are given on the inside front and back covers; we found that almost everyone spoke English, but it is still worth making the effort to respond now and again in German. I didn't honestly find that the maps in the book were detailed enough, but I was able to print one from the Internet that showed the way from the railway station to our hotel, and once in Zurich it was easy to get hold of a large map free of charge.
If you are making a visit solely to Zurich I would definitely recommend this guide. If, however, you are travelling to other destinations in Switzerland it would be preferable to have a guide for the country as a whole. I don't regret buying Cityspots Zurich in the least, although I needed larger maps. The photographs did make me feel that I had chosen the right destination, and I still enjoy looking at them even though I took many of my own during my visit.
Written by Teresa Fisher
Updated by Marc Krebs
Thomas Cook Publishing, 2009
Price £6.99 (Amazon £4.19)