Zurich, Switzerland is divided into 12 districts, which are further divided into neighborhoods. Where you decide to base yourself and explore during your visit to Zurich depends on your travel goals. Whether you're seeking lake and river recreation, an immersion in medieval Zurich, or a taste of the city's cutting edge, there's a neighborhood for you.
Even if you opt not to stay in this part of Zurich, you're likely to spend a lot of time here. On the east side of the Limmat River, the Niederdorf is one half of Zurich's Altstadt (Old Town). Composed of buildings dating mostly to the 13th to 18th centuries, the area is known for its quaint pedestrian streets and squares as well as its many restaurants, bars, and upscale shops. It's dominated by the twin-towered Grossmünster church. The Rathaus (city hall) is here, and the pretty Limmatqui walkway runs the length of the river, down to Lake Zurich.
Lindenhof & the City
Lindenhof sits in the other half of Zurich's Altstadt, and lies on an island formed by the Limmat and the Schanzengraben, an artificial canal that once formed a defensive barrier for the city. Bahnhofstrasse, the world's most expensive shopping street, forms the western border of Lindenhof, beyond which lies the City, Zurich's financial and business district. Lindenhof is also home to several medieval guild houses, pretty public squares, the ancient Fraumünster church, and Lindenhofplatz, a historic park offering nice views of Niederdorf.
Once known as Zurich's red-light district and still emerging from its seedier past, Langstrasse is now one of the hippest districts in the city, lined with bars and restaurants. Though it's defined by Langstrasse (the actual street), the neighborhood also comprises a broader area that includes part of the Hauptbahnhof train station and borders the City. Running along Lagerstrasse from Langstrasse to the station, Europaallee is a new and trendy zone for shopping, dining, and drinking.
If you're interested in a model of urban redevelopment and reclamation, head to Zurich West, the former industrial area that is now one of Zurich's trendiest, liveliest districts. Located west and north of Zurich's main train station, Zurich West is defined by Prime Tower, the tallest building in the city. The colorful Freitag Tower is made of stacked shipping containers, while the arches of the railway Viadukt have been converted into a thriving retail and entertainment zone. In summer and winter, Frau Gerholds Garten is the place to be for dining, bars, and shopping for one-of-a-kind crafts.
Starting from the Opera House in Altstadt, long and skinny Seefeld stretches along Lake Zurich for several kilometers. Its lakefront position and proximity to the rest of Zurich make it an attractive base for both tourists and residents, especially those who want to take advantage of lake recreation. Here, they'll find boat and SUP rentals, plus swimming areas, outdoor restaurants, and plenty of inviting lawns for picnicking and sunbathing.
Zurich's western lakeshore is quieter and farther off the trodden tourist path. It's a mostly modern district with several high-end hotels in the area bordering the city. Attractions here include the FIFA World Football Museum, the Museum Rietberg with its collections of international art, plus several gardens, including two lakefront gardens with swimming areas, restaurants, and rowing clubs.
East and north of the Niederdorf, Zurich's University Quarter forms part of District 6. Away from much of the business of the city center, the area is home to the University of Zurich, shady Universitätsspital Park, the Dynamo Cultural Center, and several small museums. The Rigiblick funicular carries riders up to the Rigiblick viewpoint, with sweeping panoramas of the city and surrounding mountains.
This district north and west of the city center is quite large, but visitors to Zurich will likely want to focus their attention on the pretty area of District 10 that runs along the Limmat River. Two summer bathhouses here offer sheltered river swimming, plus plenty of green space and areas for catching some sun. Proximity to Zurich West makes this a nice choice for those who want the excitement of Zurich West coupled with a quiet place to sleep at night.