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6 months in: 6 things about Zürich

Sitting near a fountain in Niederdorf, Zurich

Half a year living in Switzerland! Somebody pinch me. Even though this is all happening to me, it still feels surreal sometimes.

In the past few months, my routine in Zürich has evolved from going to German classes and the Integration course (which I have successfully completed last week :)), to working full time and getting to know the local 9-5, lunch, and after-work world. I feel like I am seeing the city in all new ways, and now a little more from the inside. The funny thing is, the more integrated you become, the harder it is to appreciate it because things get easier and familiar. I make it a personal goal to keep my newbie curiosity 🙂

For this mini-milestone, I thought it would be fun to list 6 things about Zürich that I find unique and that, in one way or another, shape my everyday life.

1. church bells

Dingggg-dingggg-dingggg. I hear church bells at least once a day. Either while still in bed, or when out in AltStadt and Niederdorf, or if I’m passing through Stauffacher. Church bell songs are a constant Zürich companion. They even ring when it’s a quarter of an hour. I never before lived in a city that sounds like a little old romantic European village on a daily basis.  And, I never before looked for an apartment in a city where in addition to things like “how close is it to a supermarket/tram stop/park”, you also have to think “how close is it to a church?” those bells are lovely, but they are loud.

how this shapes my everyday life: it’s how I wake up on Sunday 🙂 And also, since underneath my tough exterior hides a romantic, there is nothing that I love more than strolling cobblestone streets of Altstadt to the sound of bells from St Peter church.

2. trams

No doubt, trams run this city and this city runs on trams. For me, there is not a more classic image of Zürich than a blue and white tram gliding down Bahnhofstrasse. Even though I moved here from Helsinki (which has a famously excellent public transportation), I was still impressed by how easy it is to get around in Zürich. And when I was recently in Milan, within minutes of taking the metro, I was mentally thanking myself that I don’t have to take it to work every day (like I did in Paris). Though you can argue that it’s faster and there is some NYC/big city gritty kind of charm to the subway, I will choose a Zürich tram over it any day.

how this shapes my everyday life: I’m a die-hard pedestrian and I could probably never live in a city that requires constant driving. I love to walk everywhere. I don’t like buses because they remind me of commuting to my university in Canada. I don’t like the metro because it’s an energy sucker even if you take it for 2-3 stops (plus I’ve seen things in the Parisian metro that I, unfortunately, will never be able to unsee..). But trams – trams, I love and trams I can do. So basically, trams are one of the big reasons why me and this city get along.

3. rooftops

Zürich in the summer is a rooftop town! While all outdoor spaces get love, nothing is more beloved than a rooftop terrace with a view. I’ve honestly never before lived in a city with so much top floor outdoor space. In Paris, we had balconies and roofs themselves (which you’d climb onto from a tiny window in the ceiling of the building). In Helsinki, balconies are not very popular unless they’re covered (and anyway Finns prefer cottages). In Vancouver, you either have a patio or a glass balcony box. But in Zürich, every rooftop is put to use.

How this shapes my everyday life: I know I am still nowhere close to being a local because I have not been to a rooftop party yet 🙁

4.  water

Okay, so in Vancouver, there was an ocean. In Paris, there was a river. In Helsinki, there was a sea. In Zürich though, there is a river, a canal, and a lake – and boy, do the locals know how to make the most out of all three. Actually, out of water in general. There is a fountain every several blocks. There are (to my knowledge) at least 5 public baths. There are bars on the water, there are beaches by the water, there are bridges over the water, there are walkways along the water. And everywhere the water is super clean.  In the winter you feel it less, but in the summer, the city revolves around its turquoise H2O.

How this shapes my everyday life: Water calms me down so I am grateful to have it nearby all year round. But in the summer especially, the lake and the river become the life. I have yet to float down the Limmat (hopefully soon) but I already know that I can’t think of any other city where you can do that. And I am ready to spend every hot summer day by the lake. My week starts with checking the weather to see when I can squeeze in a swim 🙂

5. vibe

I have raved about this before and I will rave about it again. This city has a chill vibe like nowhere else. You’d think it would feel like a posh and stressful banker town, but you would probably have to break into a meeting room at Paradeplatz to really feel that. Swans glide along the river, people stroll along the lake, glasses clink in old town, young suits share beers at 7pm, birds chirp in the alleyways, bells sing along and maybe only in the middle of a sales Saturday at Bahnhofstrasse you would ever feel a real upbeat in tempo.

How this shapes my everyday life: simple – I love it.

6. internationality

On any given day, walking along the street you can hear French/Italian/Spanish/Russian/etc. While there is no mistaking that Zürich is a Swiss city, you can tell that it’s in the center of Europe and that people from all over the world live here. So as an expat, I don’t feel like an odd duck in a sea of swans. In most cases, locals are welcoming, friendly and curious about my story.

How this shapes my everyday life: As a multi-culture, multi-country child, I just need to be in a place that has other people like me. And as someone who wants to be a “Zürcherin”, it’s important to me that this title comes with an open-minded mentality.

I’m curious to hear if you guys agree with the list and what you would put on yours! 🙂


  1. Are you enjoying the food? I have been to Switzerland four times and always felt the food there was great. Italian cooks they’d say. Raclette, rosti, fondu, full multi course dinners – loved the food. You look great but thin. Have some chocolate 🤗

  2. I love Zürich! Lived there for half a year and it is my dream to go back one day. Lovely post. Brought me back good old memories. Thank you for that 🙂

  3. Freek says

    I’ve been following your insta for a while since I’ve always loved Switzerland and I did a big roadtrip trough the country this summer to really suck up all of it’s beauty.
    I’m thinking of moving to Luzern/Zurich after graduation and this blog helps a lot, thanks!

  4. Pingback: One year in Switzerland | Just moved to Switzerland

  5. Val layne says

    I love reading this blog. I fell in love with Zurich when I traveled here from the US for some brain surgery. Now I go once to twice a yr for medical checks and stay to travel round by trains and walk this amazing city. I love this entire country .Thanks for sharing.

  6. Yen says

    Hi I will be visiting Zurich this June. Is it still as beautiful compared to winter and spring?

  7. Gruetzi! I just found your blog and read this post. I’ve been here for 1 month and already agree with your list. We chose our place based on the amazing panoramic rooftop view of Lake Zurich! I have heard that it is a must that I share my good fortune with rooftop parties, as soon as our container shipment arrives! When looking for a place, I did not, however, know to ask about the closest church! My first afternoon, I was shocked that the bells rang for a whole 15 minutes! They are lovely, but if the windows are open, I can’t sleep in or nap! I also love the availability of fountains everywhere! My dog is especially grateful. All in all, I agree with your list. After hearing everyone tell me that everyone in Zurich speaks English, I find that on a day to day basis, the folks I come into contact with do not. I’ve been ordering furniture and none of the delivery drivers speak English. I’m starting German classes next month, but for now, I am getting comfortable with the one phrase I say most often to the locals (with a smile)– entschuldigung!

    • Larisa says

      What a lovely comment and so cool to hear about your first month in the city! Congrats on snagging a rooftop apartment – that’s a real coup in Zurich 😉 and I hear you about the church bells. I sometimes groan about the ones near our apartment even though they’re more than 500m away 🙂 Best of luck with your expat journey here and I hope you will face all the ups and downs as you do now – with a smile x

  8. Marcel Stierli says

    Salü! I’am born and grown in Zurich, spent more then 40 years in my city and i always said: When i move out from Zurich, i move out of the country. So i did, i leave since 8 years in Mexico. I just stumbled in Insta over your blog. Absolutely great to read and i think you do a much better picture of my city that i ever can do. I hope you enjoy your further time, stay save and enjoy

    • Larisa says

      Thank you so much Marcel, this means a lot coming from a local! Stay safe and greetings to Mexico!

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