Saturday, June 22, 2013

Hockey road trips: Swiss Hockey - Southeast region (Ticino & Graubünden)

If nature and the great, magnificent outdoors are more your style than big cities, or if you fancy the idea of a ski vacation among Switzerland's renowned resorts, then combining a vacation with hockey games in the southeastern Ticino and Graubünden cantons might be more up your alley. 

These two Swiss cantons have very distinct personalities, and are well worth a visit any time of the year. HC Davos is in mountainous Graubünden, while HC Ambrì-Piotta and HC Lugano are in Italian-flavored Ticino


Three teams make up the Southeastern (Ticino/Graubünden) region: 

Team: HC Davos
Twitter: @HCD_News
Tier: National A
Stadium and address: Vaillant Arena, Kurgartenstrasse, 7270 Davos Platz
Public transportation stops/stations: Closest train stations: Davos Dorf & Davos Platz. (2:18 from Zürich; 1:40 by train or 2:00 by bus from Chur; 3:30 from Lugano) From Davos Platz (1.2 km): Take bus towards "Davos Dorf, Stilli", stop "Davos Platz, Schatzalpbahn", 2 block walk to arena. From Davos Dorf (1.9 km): Take bus towards "Davos Dorf, Stilli", stop "Davos Platz, Kurgartenstrasse"
NHL players who played here during lockout: Loui Eriksson (Stars), Rick Nash (Rangers), Joe Thornton (Sharks)

Team: Hockey Club Ambrì Piotta SA (HC Ambrì-Piotta)
Tier: National A
Stadium and address: Stadio Valascia, Ambrì, 6775 Quinto
Unique about this stadium: The ends of the stadium are open-air. Dress warmly!
Public transportation stops/stations: Take the SBB to Ambrì-Piotta. The stadium is two blocks from the train station. (~2:30 from Zürich; 0:50-1:25 from Bellinzona; 1:30-2 from Lugano; 3:45 from Chur via bus or train)
NHL players who played here during lockout: Matt Duchene (Avalanche), Max Pacioretty (Canadiens), Cory Schneider (Canucks)

Team: Hockey Club Lugano SA (HC Lugano)
Twitter: @HcLugano1941
Tier: National A
Stadium and address: Piste della Resega, Via Chiosso, 6948 Porza (north side of Lugano)
Public transportation stops/stations: Main train station: Lugano (2:40 from Zürich; 0:30 from Bellinzona; 2:40 from Chur; 3:25 from Davos; 5:30 from Genève); "Canobbio, Ganna" bus to "Lugano Stadio" stop (8 stops/13 minutes), "Lugano, Centro" bus to return. The arena is 3 km from the main Lugano train station.
NHL players who played here during lockout: Luca Sbisa (Ducks), Patrice Bergeron (Bruins)
Other notes: Affiliated with EHC Basel Sharks (National B)



Graubünden may be Switzerland's most distinct canton, as well as its largest. Entirely mountainous, its deep and fertile valleys have been settled for thousands of years. Some of the region's vineyards (and yes, there are many!) can trace their production history back to Roman times. 

Blessed by sunshine most days of the year, Davos lies at an elevation of 5,120 feet, making it the highest city in Europe. Three main languages are spoken in the region, and you will find signs and labels in all three: German, Romansh, and Italian. Davos is in an area that is predominantly German-speaking. 

Valliant Arena has a distinctive profile in central Davos
photo courtesy of the World Economic Forum
The interior of Vaillant Arena, home to HC Davos, may be one of the most striking in professional hockey, with its vaulted, cathedral-like wooden ceiling. Beside the rink is Eisstadion Davos, an open natural ice rink which used to be a popular venue for speed skating events.

The city plays host to the World Economic Forum in late January each year, so you may find it challenging to get accommodations while the WEF is in town. 

Should you be staying in the area around the holidays, the annual Spengler Cup tournament played between Christmas and New Year, attracting hockey teams from around the globe. The Spengler Cup is the oldest invitational ice hockey tournament in the world, hosted by HC Davos since 1923. 

Davos is dominated by Davos Klosters, a conglomeration of six interconnected ski resorts that cover 320 km (200 miles) of trails. Jakobshorn is noted for its snowboarding and freestyle skier fun park as well as playing host to many sport competitions. Parsenn Davos Klosters is the largest of the individual resorts with a wide variety of terrain, including one of longest runs in Europe, the Weissfluhgipel-Küblis, at a length of 12 km (8 miles). Madrisa, Pischa, and Rinerhorn are considered the "family-friendly" resorts; Pischa includes a lot of freestyle terrain. If you're just learning to ski, you might consider Schatzalp-Strela, called a "decelerated" ski resort for its gently rolling hills. Davos Klosters' charms are not limited to the winter months; the area is popular for mountain biking, hiking, hang-gliding, paragliding, and other summer pursuits.

In addition to being one of the biggest year-round sports meccas in Europe, it also has a more recent history as a spa town. Several clinics in the area specialize in treatment of allergies, asthma, and other respiratory issues. Davos is an official training center for Swiss Olympic teams, but many other teams come here for high-altitude training as well. It is not surprising that Davos Hospital specializes in sports medicine.

Still looking for things to do in the area? Davos is loaded with excellent shopping, boutiques, restaurants, and nightlife. Take a tour and tasting at Monstein Brewery, the highest brewery in Europe. Elsewhere in Graubünden, you may enjoy visiting the historic ski town of St. Moritz, or explore Chur, the government center of the canton and oldest city in the country. (Chur is well worth a stop of its own as you travel around Switzerland!)

Where to stay in Davos

Davos is loaded with hotel options for any budget. As local taxis are expensive, this list is mostly of hotels in walking range.
Hotels marked with this were awarded Prix Bienvenu 2013 from the Swiss tourism board for being one of Switzerland's Top 100 "most welcoming hotels".  
* Hotel is within walking distance (1/2 mile) of arena 
Luxury ($225+)
Central Sporthotel Davos * | Hotel Europe * | ‡ Hotel Sport (Klosters) | ‡ Waldhotel Davos
Business/tourist class ($100-$225+)
Hotel Casanna | Interhome * (local apartment rentals; minimum 7 days) | Panorama Hotel * | Hotel Waldhuus (Sheraton Davos)
Budget/hostel ($99 or less)
Hotel Bündnerhof * | Snowboarder's Palace


Lovely lakeside Lugano, the largest city in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, is home to HC Lugano. Often called the "Swiss Riviera", the city has been attracting more celebrities and athletes in recent years, drawn by the beautiful southern climate and the gorgeous local scenery. While the area has been settled since the Stone Age, and there is evidence ancient Romans lived in the area, the city first appeared by name on historical documents in 724 AD. With so much history, it is natural that there are many heritage sites in the area, including many churches like the ornate Romanesque-Baroque Cathedral of St. Lorenzo and the Renaissance-era Church of Santa Maria degli Angioli.

Take one of the local cable lifts to the top of one of the many mountains that ring Lake Lugano, or a cruise on Lake Lugano to enjoy lunch at one of the many tiny villages that ring the lake. Enjoy shopping, theater, the casino, or any of the city's museums

View of Lugano - photo courtesy of Norman Scheliga / Flickr
One experience you cannot miss in Ticino is the grotto restaurants. Traditional grotto (or grotti) are family-run caves or locations in the woods to cure and store their homemade meats, cheese, spirits, etc. One of the best known is the very traditional Grotto Morchino, which traces its history to 1842. Ticino is known for its salamis, so you will want to try a plate of local cold cuts. Other regional favorites include minestrone, polenta, pumpkin soup, roasted rabbit, and marinated fish. A traditional local cordial called nocino (also called ratafià), brewed from young walnuts, is also popular in the area. 

Bellinzona, located between Lugano and Ambrì-Piotta, is well worth a visit while in the area. Its skyline is dominated by three castles (Castelgrande, Castello di Montebello and Castello di Sasso Corbaro) and the city wall. The town looks more Lombardian than Swiss; and the local culture is heavily influenced by their Italian-related history. Bellinzona held a position of strategic importance between the Swiss and the Italians; today, it is a cultural center. In February/March, the city hosts Carnevale Rabadan Bellinzona, similar to Venice's Carnivale. In the summer, there is a blues festival and a renaissance faire (La Spada Nella Rocca); the fall and winter brings a wine-growers' festival (Bacchica Bellinzonese), a cheese market, and the Christmas market. 

HC Ambrì-Piotta, also known as "Bianco-Blu", plays in the municipality of Quinto, about 90 minutes from Lugano. Ambrì and Piotta are two very small villages - their combined population is around 500 people! Despite what one might expect about the hockey club due to the size of their hometown, HC Ambrì-Piotta has more than 40 fan clubs scattered across Europe, and their stadium can fit up to 7,000 spectators. 

From Ambrì-Piotta, the last transport to Bellinzona or Lugano leaves at 11:31pm; but if you'd prefer to stay in the village overnight, there is Hotel Ristorante Monte Pettine, a B&B across from the train/bus station. 

Where to stay in/near Lugano

Hotels listed below are in Lugano unless (notated). 
Hotels marked with this were awarded Prix Bienvenu 2013 from the Swiss tourism board for being one of Switzerland's Top 100 "most welcoming hotels".  
Luxury ($225+)
Grand Hotel Villa Castagnola | ‡ Hotel Lugano Dante Center | Hotel Splendide Lugano | Villa Sassa Hotel & Spa  
Business/tourist class ($100-$225+)
Albergo Besso | Hotel Atlantico | Hotel Colorado Lugano | Hotel Delfino | Hotel & Spa Internazionale (Bellinzona)  | Hotel Nassa Garni Sagl | Hotel Walter au Lac 
Budget/hostel ($99 or less)
Hotel Albergo Acquarello | Hotel & Hostel Montarina | Hotel Pestalozzi Lugano | Ostello per la Gioventù Figino (Figino/Hostel) | Villa Montebello (Bellinzona/Hostel) 

The Glacier Express - photo courtesy Martha de Jong-Lantink / Flickr
Getting around the region

SBB is the best way to travel around the region. You can enjoy the gorgeous Swiss countryside in spacious comfort, no matter what the weather might be like. 

If you're traveling between Davos and Lugano, the Bernina Express will take you across some of Switzerland's most spectacular scenery, as well as through part of northern Italy. The part of the journey that takes you between Tirano, Italy, and Lugano follows the beautiful shores of Lake Como. 

Depending on where your travels in Switzerland may take you, you may also be interested in the Glacier Express, which makes its way across Graubünden. Both the Bernina Express and Glacier Express are included in the Swiss Pass and Swiss Flexi Pass plans. If taking the train from Zurich to Davos, those who have taken the route before suggest sitting on the right side of the train for terrific views. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Hockey road trips: Swiss Hockey - Basel region

Basel - photo courtesy of Sérgio Jacomino / Flickr
Located in northwest Switzerland on the Rhine River, Basel is the third-largest city in Switzerland (after Zürich & Genève). Although the city is at the conference of France, Germany, and Switzerland, like Zürich, the primary language in the city is German. Basel is also home to the only cargo port in Switzerland, as freight ships can connect to ocean-going cargo ships via the Rhine.

Basel can trace its official history back more than 2,400 years, although people settled in the region long before that. Augusta Raurica, 20 km east of Basel on the Rhine, is the oldest known Roman colony along the Rhine, and the best-preserved north of the Alps.; today, it is a Roman archaeological site and open-air museum. Basel also has Switzerland's oldest university, the University of Basel, founded in 1460.

Hockey towns Olten and Langenthal are located in the area between Zürich, Basel, and Bern - you could easily stay in any of the three cities and make the short commute to see either of these two teams play.

HC Ajoie is located in Porrentruy, which is in the small region of Switzerland that juts northward into France, Ajoie. Not surprisingly, French is the dominant language there. Porrentruy showcases remnants of medieval city fortifications and the Porte de France castle was home to the prince bishops of Basel for 265 years. The old town offers a lot of charming historic architecture, and plenty of historical sites. If you are a stained glass enthusiast, you will find the largest concentration of stained glass art in a small region of Europe in the region's nearly 60 churches and chapels. It may surprise you to discover that the Ajoie region is loaded with vineyards - but Swiss wines are well worth your time! The area also produces a lot of fruit, notably the damson plum, which is made into a popular local eau de vie liqueur called Damassine.


Four teams are in this area: EHC Basel Sharks, EHC Olten, HC Ajoie, and SC Langenthal. While Langenthal could also be included with Bern hockey clubs, we'll talk about them here. All four teams are currently National B tier.

Team: EHC Basel Sharks
Twitter: @EHCBaselSharks
Tier: National B
Stadium and address: St. Jakob-Arena, Vorder Brüglingen 33, 4052 Basel
Public transportation stops/stations: From the main Basel SBB station, take the 2 or 12 bus to the St. Jakob stop (approx 3 km). St. Jakob is an extensive sports park with multiple sports facilities; it is a 2 block walk to the ice arena.

Team: EHC Olten (Eishockey Club Olten AG EHCO)
Twitter: @EHCOlten
Tier: National B
Stadium and address: Sportpark Olten AG, Sportstrasse 95, 4600 Olten
Public transportation stops/stations: Basel S-Bahn S3 to Olten (25 minutes) or IR train from Zürich (40 minutes); change to NFB bus, take to Kunsteisbahn stop (Olten). Walking is approximately 1.1 miles.
Olten tourist info: website

Team: HC Ajoie
Tier: National B
Stadium and address: Patinoire de Porrentruy, Route de Courgenay, Porrentruy
Public transportation stops/stations: Basel S-Bahn S3 to Porrentruy (1 hr 15 min); Delémont or Charmoille bus to Patinoire stop. Walking distance just under 1 mile.
Porrentruy tourist info: website

Team: SC Langenthal
Tier: National B
Stadium and address: Stadion Schoren, Dorfgasse 99, 4900 Langenthal
Closest public transportation stops/stations: IR train to Langenthal (time approx 45 minutes from Basel; or 55 min from Zürich); connect to Basel bus NFB to Schoren-Eisbahn (Langenthal) stop. (1.7 km via taxi).
Langental city/tourist info: website
NHLers who played here during the lockout: Peter Regin (Senators)



A few sites worth exploring in Basel: 
  • Kunst Museum of Fine Arts - world's oldest public art collection 
  • Basler Münster - a distinctive Protestant church (and former Catholic cathedral), originally built in 1019 and rebuilt after the 1356 Basel earthquake, blending Romanesque and Gothic styles. It underwent further reconstruction and restoration over the past 160 years. The city is home to many heritage sites, including many other churches and monasteries. 
  • Vitra Design Museum -  Frank O. Gehry's first building in Europe, home to the one of the largest collections of modern furniture design.  
  • Basler Papiermühle (The Basel Paper Mill; a.k.a. the Swiss Museum for Paper, Writing and Printing) - located in a historic paper mill; its collection focuses on paper making, book printing, and writing.
Where to stay in Basel

Hotels marked with this were awarded Prix Bienvenu 2013 from the Swiss tourism board for being one of Switzerland's Top 100 "most welcoming hotels". 

A great side perk of staying in Basel: the Basel Mobility Ticket (BMT), received free when checking in to Basel hotels (no matter what price range!), allows visitors free use of the local public transportation.

Luxury ($225+)
Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois | Hotel D
Business/tourist class ($100-$225+)
hotel bildungszentrum 21 ‡ | Hotel Ibis Basel Bahnhof | Hotel Krafft | Hotel Metropol | Hotel Rochat | Hotel Spalentor Basel | Hotel Victoria | Radisson Blu Hotel
Budget/hostel ($99 or less)
BaselBackPack (hostel) | Jugendherberge Basel (hostel) | YMCA Hostel Basel 
View of Porrentruy - photo courtesy of Juan Carlos Aceros / Flickr

Where to stay in Porrentruy

The Hôtel Terminus Porrentruy Sàrl (Rue du Jura 31) is directly across from the train station; the Hôtel Auberge d'Ajoie (Rue Gustave-Amweg 1) is a 2 block walk.
Getting around:

Basel has an extensive public transportation system, including trams, ferries, and buses.

Basel is home to three railway stations, serving the Swiss, French, and German networks. The Swiss (Basel SBB) and French (Bâle SNCF) stations share a complex, with Customs and Immigrations between then. You can reach Basel in 3 hours from Paris via the TGV Rhin-Rhône line. The German rail station (Basel Badischer Bahnhof) is across the city.  The regional S-Bahn network consists of five lines. Note that if you travel out to Basel's French or German suburbs, you will have to go through customs; Switzerland is not part of the EU customs.

Like Zürich, Basel has a tourist discount card, called BaselCard; pricing is for 24, 48, or 72 hours. The card includes a free use of public transportation, free city tour, entry to the Zoo, reduced admission costs for museums, cruises, and cinema, and discounts for restaurants, shopping, and spas.  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Hockey road trips: Swiss Hockey - Zürich region

It's an exciting time to experience Swiss hockey.

In the Cinderella story of this year's Men's World Championship, the Swiss national hockey team made it to the Gold medal round.

ZSC Lions hockey - photo courtesy of Corsin/Flickr
While they "only" came home with Silver, the 2013 Swiss men's team did something nobody else in their country had done for sixty years: medaling at the World Championships or Olympics. It was a huge achievement for Swiss hockey, and bodes well for the future of the sport in their country.

Last fall, when the NHL locked out its players, many big name players headed overseas to play, and 27 players from 17 different NHL teams ended up in the Swiss leagues. The majority of them played in Switzerland's top national "A" league.
Hockey has been around in Switzerland for a long time. The sport's governing body,  the Swiss Ice Hockey Association (SIHA), was founded in 1908 and was a founding member of the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) in 1908, along with Belgium, France, Great Britain, and Bohemia (now Czech Republic). The IIHF is headquartered in Zürich. 

Swiss hockey has two leagues: National League A and National League B. For North American fans, perhaps the most interesting thing about Switzerland's two-tier system is that at the end of their seasons, the bottom four teams in the "A" league play in a regulation tournament, where the loser goes on to play against the champion of the "B" league in a best-of-seven series. Should the B team come out the champion in this series, that B team is promoted into the A league the following season, and the A team gets demoted into the B league. This gives teams something to strive for right through their very last game.

Switzerland is a lovely country to visit, and due to its compact nature, it is easy to take in hockey games while you're visiting. When to go will depend upon what else interests you in the country; there's far more to explore than simply mountains and chocolate.

The peak tourism season in Switzerland is, not surprisingly, June through late August/early September, which means higher prices on everything from accommodations to food.  Swiss teams begin playing in mid-August, and their season ends by mid-spring. September is a marvelous time to visit Switzerland, because the land is vibrant with fall colors and the weather is still at its best. If you enjoy winter sports, you may want to hold off until mid-December, when the ski resorts start opening.

Over the summer, we'll discuss the various Swiss hockey cities, breaking them down into five regions: Basel, Bern, Genève/Lausanne, Ticino/Graubünden, and Zürich.


Many international visitors to Switzerland begin their trips in Zürich, so that is where we will also start our Swiss journeys. Zürich is a vibrant, fun, modern city, and there is so much to see and do that you could easily spend a week or more here, day tripping via Swiss rail to other places in the country. Zürich's extensive commuter rail network will make your journeys around the Lake Zürich region quite easy; Swiss trains always run in a very timely manner.

Zürich is home to the ZSC Lions (National A) and GCK Lions (National B). Three more teams call the greater Zürichsee (Lake Zürich) region home: EV Zug, Kloten Flyers, and the Rapperswil-Jona Lakers. Additionally, HC Thurgau is only an hour northeast of Zürich via train.

ZSC Lions - photo courtesy of _becaro_/Flickr

Team: ZSC Lions
Twitter: @zsclions
Tier: National A
Stadium address: Hallenstadion Zürich, Wallisellenstrasse 45, Zürich
Public transportation stops/stations: Closest stop: Zürich - Messe/Hallenstadion (trams 11, 12; bus 63, 94); Other local stops: Zürich - Oerlikon station (Commuter trains S, S2, S5, S6, S7, S8, S14, S16, SN5, SN7; other trains ICN, IR, RE; trams 10, 12, 14; buses 768, 781, N6); Zürich - Leutschenbach (trams 10, 11, 12; bus 781); Zürich - Hallenbad Oerlikon (buses 63, 94); Zürich - Dorflinde (buses 61, 62); Zürich - Sternen Oerlikon (trams 10, 11, 12, 14, 15; buses 61, 62, 63, 94, N6)
NHLers who played here during the lockout: Dustin Brown (Kings)

Team: GCK Lions
Twitter: @GCK_Lions
Tier: National B
Stadium address: KEK Kunsteisbahn Küsnacht, Johannisburgstrasse, Küsnacht
Public transportation stops/stations: From Zürich, take commuter train S6 or S16; connect to the 919 bus outside the station; Itschnach - Fallcher or Itschnach - Dorf (buses: 912, 919)

Team: EV Zug
Twitter: @evzug
Tier: National A
Stadium address: Bossard Arena, General-Guisan-Strasse 4, Zug
Public transportation stops/stations: Zug - Schutzengel (commuter train S1, less than one block from arena); Zug - Schutzengel (bus NFB); Zug - Stadion (bus NFB)
NHLers who played here during the lockout: Rapheal Diaz (Canadiens), Henrik Zetterberg (Red Wings)

Team: Kloten Flyers
Twitter: @KlotenFlyer
Tier: National A
Stadium address: KOLPING-Arena, Schluefweg, Kloten
Public transportation stops/stations: Kloten train station (commuter train S7); Kloten - Schluefweg (bus 731); Kloten - Neubrunnenstrasse (bus 732); Kloten - Bramen (bus 735). It is less than a 3/4 mile walk (1.1 km) from Kloten's main train station to the stadium. If the weather is bad, you can connect to the 731 bus at the station, which will cut the walking portion by slightly less than half.
NHLers who played here during the lockout: Brooks Laich (Capitals)

Team: Rapperswil-Jona Lakers
Twitter: @lakers_1945
Tier: National A
Stadium address: Diners Club Arena, Walter-Denzler-Straße 3, Rapperswil
Public transportation stops/stations: Rapperswil train station (commuter lines S, S4, S5, S7, S8, S15, S16, S40, SN5, SN8; other trains IR, R). It is about half a mile from the main station to the arena. Bus 991 can be taken from the station to the Sportanl Lido stop in front of the arena.
NHLers who played here during the lockout: Michael Del Zotto (Rangers), Jason Spezza (Senators)

Team: HC Thurgau
Twitter: @HCThurgau
Tier: National B
Stadium address: Güttingersreuti, 8570 Weinfelden, Weinfelden (Thurgau)
Public transportation stops/stations: From Zürich, take a commuter train (commuter trains S, S5, S7, S8, S11, S30, SN; also trains IC, IR, R) to Weinfelden, then connect to bus 92428 to Güttingersreuti stop, next to arena. Güttingersreuti is about a mile east of the train station.

Zürich has been permanently settled for over 2,000 years; today it is a major international financial center as well as one of the wealthiest cities in Europe. Many surveys over the past several years have consistently ranked Switzerland, and Zürich in particular, as having some of the best quality of life in the world. Although this region of Switzerland is German-speaking, you will have few if any problems getting around, as most people speak English as well.

The Swiss National Museum is located right across the street from Zürich HB, the main railway station in the city. The museum actually is comprised of three museums: the National Museum Zürich, the Castle of Prangins, and the Forum of Swiss History. Between them, you will get an extensive look at Swiss history and culture.

Zürich - photo courtesy Pedro Szekely/Flickr
Zürich's skyline is framed by three major churches in the heart of downtown: Grossmünster's heavy twin spires are perhaps the most notable downtown landmark. According to legend, it was founded by Charlemagne. Across the River Limmat is the Fraumünster; both churches were important in the history of the city. If you are a fan of Marc Chagall's art, you will want to stop by the Fraumünster for a look at the stained glass windows he designed in 1970. And appropriately enough for Switzerland, St. Peter's Church, not far away, has the largest clock face in Europe.

If art and design are more your style, the Kunsthaus is one of the most important art collections in the country; it has an emphasis on Swiss art. The Museum of Design, part of the Zürich University of the Arts, is worth a stop for modern design and pop culture.

A few shopping areas are clustered close together in the Altstadt ("old town") district. The Augustinergasse is a colorful, narrow historic street, worth a stroll off the nearby Bahnhofstrasse, Zürich's busy main shopping street.

Make the brief climb to Lindenhof for lovely views across the city. Stop by the Schipfe area, where you can find boutique and craft shops tucked among the neighborhood. Make your way across the river to wander among the twisted historic streets of the Niederdorf, and get lost among the wide range of shops, or come back in the evening to enjoy the nightlife in this area.

Has all that sightseeing and shopping (and attending hockey games) worn you out? Switzerland is famous for its spa treatments, and you can begin indulging in them starting here; try Zürich's Thermal Baths & Spa.

If you rather indulge in one of Switzerland's other famous products - specifically, its chocolates - then search out a Teuscher or Sprüngli shop. Sprüngli's main shop at 21 Bahnhofstrasse has a tremendous selection of Luxemburgerli (light, petite macarons) available in more than a dozen flavors. The company exercises such a high demand on the quality of their product that all the milk they use is locally sourced in a small radius around Zürich, and their products have tightly prescribed shelf lives. (Get their Criollo de Maracaibo -- it is an incredible chocolate that you will never forget!)

Should your trip to Zürich coincide with the third Monday in April, you will be in town for one of the city's best festivals, the Sechseläuten. A parade of the city's fourteen historical Zünfte (guilds) is held, and at the end of the celebration, the giant Böögg (the effigy of Winter), is burned as a sign that spring has arrived. Tradition has it that the time between lighting the Böögg fire and its head exploding is indicative of what the coming summer will be like; a shorter time is more favorable. (The record is 5 minutes, 7 seconds.)

Where to stay in Zürich

Hotels marked with this were awarded Prix Bienvenu 2013 from the Swiss tourism board for being one of Switzerland's Top 100 "most welcoming hotels". 
 No matter your budget, you can find something to suit your tastes.

If you want to stay in one of the best historic hotels in Zürich, and enjoy top-end luxury accommodations, the Hotel zum Storchen (Weinplatz 2, Zürich) is a wonderful place to stay. Located on the River Limmat in the heart of old town, the Storchen has been offering accommodations to visitors for over 650 years, but the current rooms have all the modern conveniences a traveler could want. It is Swiss hospitality at its finest.

The following hotels are also within walking distance (within 1/2 mile) of the Zürich HB; broken down alphabetically by price range.

Luxury ($250+/night)
Business/tourist/boutique class ($125-$250+/night) 
Best Western - Hotel Montana | Hotel Altstadt ‡ | Hotel California-Schifflande | Hotel City |Hotel Franziskaner | Hotel Kindli ‡ | Hotel Limmathof | Platzhirsch Hotel 
Budget/Hostel ($40-$125+/night)

City Backpacker Hostel - Hotel Biber | easyHotel

Getting around

Swiss public transit is outstanding; there are few places in the country you cannot reach via train or bus. Additionally, car rentals are expensive, and public parking is limited; you're better off sticking to public transit!

Zurich HB - photo courtesy of Blake Johnson/Flickr
Zürich's main train station is Zürich Hauptbahnhof, also known as Zürich HB (Bahnhofplatz 15, Zürich). All "S" commuter trains (S and S2-S16), as well as IC, ICN, IR, and RE train lines go through this station, as well as several other train lines and Swiss high-speed connections. Zürich HB is also home to a variety of shops to keep you occupied between connections!

Swiss Federal Railways offer a wide variety of fares, including multi-day passes, to help ease your travel around Switzerland. The best bargain to get around the Zürich region is the ZürichCARD, good for either 24 (CHF24/€20) or 72 (CHF48/€40) hours. It not only offers unlimited transportation via bus, rail, boat, tram, and cable car around the city and the local area, but also gives you free entrance to many museums, plus other benefits.

If you fly into Zürich International Airport, the S2, S16, IC, and ICN trains all connect to Zürich HB; you can be downtown in under 15 minutes.

Rapperswil-Jona: In addition to the local train connections, ferries operate year-round between Zürich and Rapperswil-Jona (located on the SE shore of Lake Zürich), offering a chance to get out on Lake Zürich and enjoy the beautiful views. The town's sites include a castle, extensive rose gardens, a Capuchin Friary, and the Polish National Museum.