Zurich: By Boat, Train, and Tram

On the lower level of Zurich’s large and bustling train station, the S-10 is waiting to depart on Track 1. It’s a cheerful, cozy-looking train, painted bright orange and red. Precisely on the minute, it pulls out, chugging steadily uphill. We climb higher and the scenery starts to change, with views of mountains, lush greenery, and giant sunflowers.

The picture windows are half-open, and the air at this height is fragrant and bracing. It’s taken us a mere 15 minutes to reach Uetilberg — the ‘top’ of Zurich — and a sign at our flower-bedecked Swiss chalet of a station notes that we’re now about a half-mile high.

The ride is just one of the many pleasures of this scenic city of lakes, a river, and mountains with an extensive public transit network that includes trams, trains, and ferries. Once at Uetilberg, for example, a two-hour walk along a panoramic promenade leads to Felsenegg, where walkers can enjoy a cable car ride down to a lower stop, Adsiwil.

A separate hill-climber, the Dolderbahn, makes it way into the woods just outside of downtown, where you’ll find a path to the Zoo, walking trails, and the grande dame Dolder Grand Hotel.

I didn’t embark on that particular trek, but I did enjoy a boat cruise on Lake Zurich, which boarded right at the base of the city’s main shopping street, the Bahnhofstrasse. On board, we glided along, watching sailboats bobbing in the distance and ogling the elegant houses that clung to the lakeshore and hugged the hillsides.

Photos courtesy of Switzerland Tourism

As we turned to make our way back, a group of students carrying their school bags boarded at the opposite shore. Eating candy, talking animatedly — they were like typical kids anywhere — except that their release from class was made even more heady by their mode of transportation.

On another day, I enjoyed a ferry ride on the Limmart River, which offered great views of the cathedral Fraumunster, famous for its Marc Chagall stained glass windows.

Of course, while here, I also sampled Zurich’s signature blue and white trams. These zippy, totally automated vehicles are fun to ride, and they can get you just about anywhere in town. Best of all, you never have to wait more than five minutes for one to arrive.