Lake Zürich by steamer
ABOVE: Meilen, on Lake Zürich.
Its official name is Zürichsee, but it's known as the Zürisee in the local Züritüütsch dialect. By any name, Lake Zürich is a delightful place to spend a day, preferably aboard a lake steamer.
The boats operate from early April through late October on a number of routes, with a handful of commuter boats running in winter. Summer pleasure cruises include:
Route 3730 in the Swiss Official Timetable runs from the main Zürich boat landing at Bürkliplatz to Rapperwil, with one boat a day continuing to Schmerikon at the far end of the lake. Total journey time is about two hours to Rapperswil or 3-1/4 hours to Schmerikon.
Most tourists leave the boat at Rapperswil, the "City of Roses," which is 29 km or 18 miles from Zürich. Rapperswil is an attractive town (pop. 7,700) with a restored 13th Century castle that houses Switzerland's Polish Museum. Other attractions include a rose garden, a deer park, historic civic buildings and houses, arcaded shops, an interesting town museum, and a children's zoo with elephant rides and dolphin shows. (The zoo is operated by the Knie National Circus, which is headquartered in Rapperswil.)
My suggestion: Take the 9:30 a.m. Zmorgeschiff, or "Breakfast Ship," from Zürich to Rapperswil. (The boat operates daily from June through September; early and late in the season, it sails only on Sundays.)
After arriving in Rapperswil at 11:13 a.m., spend the rest of your day there and head back to the city on the Rapperswil-Meilen-Zürich railroad line. Trains leave Rapperswil at 3 and 33 minutes past the hour until 11:33 p.m., arriving at the Zürich Stadelhofen railroad station 42 minutes later and at Zürich Hauptbahnhof (the main railroad station) 3 minutes after that.
If you'd rather travel both ways by steamer, you can buy a "Grosse Zürichsee-Rundfahrten" ticket. The boat leaves Rapperswil at 11:25 a.m., arriving in Zürich at 1:15 p.m.
NOTE: From mid-June through August (and on Sundays from May through September), the 9:30 a.m. roundtrip boat from Zürich is normally an historic steam paddlewheeler.
From mid-July through mid-August and on Sundays outside the main season, a "Tageskreuzfahrten" is available from Zürich to Schmerikon via Rapperswil. Schmerikon is at the far end of the lake, in the section known as the Obersee.
The boat leaves Zürich Bürkliplatz at 10 a.m., reaching Schmerikon at 1:17 p.m. and arriving back in the city at 5:02 p.m. On Sundays, an extra boat leaves Zürich at 12:30 p.m., returning at 7:24 p.m. Both ships have restaurants on board.
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