The city of Zurich is picturesque, even from the ground. The Limmat River, Lake Zurich, the Alps in the distance all contrive for a postcard perfect view. There’s a way to see it all and the city itself as well: climb Uetliberg, the highest mountain in the area.
No, you won’t need your ropes and carabiners for this one. Zurich’s amazing public transportation comes to the rescue with a train that takes you on a pleasant and quick 20-minute ride out of town to the Uetliberg station, less than 200 feet from the summit. The S10 is easy to catch from Hauptbanhof, the main rail station, and standard zone fares apply.
Hiking and biking trails abound here, a nice break from urban life. There are different levels of difficulty. The most common is the trail from the train station to the observation tower. It is uphill all the way and takes about an hour, but the hike is not difficult, which is good as I’m not much of a hiker. The path is wide and clearly marked. Its beginning is shared with the Path of the Planets, an educational trail that is set to a scale of 1:1 billion (and yes, Pluto is included!). In the winter, the hiking paths become popular sledding trails.
The steel observation tower itself is very striking, with its triangular construction and zigzag steps. At 30m high, there is an open-air observation platform from which the amazing panorama of Zurich can be viewed. Telescopes are available for closer exploration of the sights.
Despite my aversion to hiking, I enjoyed this foray to Uetliberg; the view was definitely worthwhile, and on a Friday morning we almost had the place to ourselves. The air was crisp and cool after our slight exertion in the woods. The lake sparkled, the Alps were hazy in the distance, and the world seemed beautifully still. I’m not sure if the trails are lit at night, but I can imagine how amazing the city lights must look.
There is no charge to visit Uetliberg or to climb the observation tower. Nearby is a hotel and restaurant called the Uto Kulm (named after the summit), for those wanting a scenic lunch or dinner, or a longer stay in the area. If you don’t feel like a fancy meal, you can always buy some delicious cheese, bread or sandwiches from one of the many bakeries in the city and have yourself a picnic while enjoying the view.