The central station in Zurich is one of Europe's largest train travel hubs and it is now in effect three stations in one.
So this guide to using the main station in Switzerland's largest city will help make sense of how to navigate the space.
If you will be departing or arriving on an international train at Zurich's main train station, your experience of using the station will be comparatively simple.
That's because those international trains all use the older main part of the station, which is at street level.
However, if you will be travelling between Zurich's HB station and other Swiss destinations, this information should be a big help.
That's because, depending on their destination, those Swiss trains now use three different parts of the station; two of which are below ground.
The three things which are good to know about Zurich HB rail station:
(1) Zurich HB isn't solely a railway station.
It's also one of the city's largest shopping malls - and the only one that is open on a Sunday, it's why the station is sometimes referred as 'Zurich Shop-Ville'.
So if you're following a holiday itinerary, Zurich HB is also a very convenient location for picking up additional supplies.
This mall, which is below the railway tracks, also links the lower level parts of the station, with the main concourse which is up at street level.
It can be easy to get lost in this mall, so keep an eye on the signs which will guide you around the station.
In addition to the mall, the main street level departure hall also functions as an exhibition space and on certain days of the week it also hosts a farmer's market.
If you happen to be in the station at those times and have time to have something to eat, head to the market and not the other food outlets.
(2) The main traveller services at Zurich HB station including the toilets, waiting rooms and left luggage lockers are located on a mezzanine level.
It is beneath the main concourse, the main access down to it is located between the main concourse, where the trains arrive at gleis (tracks) 3 -18, and the main hall
The left luggage lockers cost €9 per 24 hours, they used to only accept coins; though newer lockers are being provided which accept credit and debit cards.
There is an easy-to-miss change machine available for converting notes to coins.
(3) The three parts of the station complex which the trains arrive at and depart from are:
If you’ll be heading to Zurich HB station on foot, by tram or taxi, the easiest option is to enter the station via the main concourse or departure hall.
That's because they're both at street level and the main hall flows into the concourse.
Surrounding the main hall are some of the food/drink outlets at the station, and the acess to the First Class lounge is also here.
However, most of the food/drink outlets and nearly all of the shops at the station, are located in the mall level below the railway tracks
Using The Train Departure Information at Zurich HB:
When checking the departure details for the express trains - IC, IR, ICE, EC, RJ and TGV, you need to be looking at the departure information headed 'Fernverkehr'.
Other departure screens only show the local (S-Bahn) trains.
The main blue departure board is located on the main concourse; and on it the 'Fernverkehr' departures are listed on the left.
However, not all stations which each train will be calling at, will be shown on any of the departure screens.
So if you can't see your station listed and therefore aren't sure which train to take, the best option is to take advantage of the multi-lingual staff at the Information desk; it's easy to find on the main concourse.
If your train is departing from platforms/gleis 3-18 at Zurich's main station you're in luck, all you have to do is walk on to the platform/gleis, as they hey have step free access from the main concourse.
Trains which USUALY depart from this part of the station include ALL of the international trains from Zurich HB.
Some trains to other destinations in Switzerland, also use this part of the station including those on the routes to Chur, Chiasso, Locarno, Lugano and Schaffhausen.
If your train is departing from platforms/gleis 31-34 then you need to head to the lowest level of station; using the stairs, escalators or lifts.
There are elevators/ lifts on the left side of the main concourse, when facing the trains, which lead directly down to each specific gleis/platform.
However there are separate elevators, so one leads down to gleis/platforms 31-32 and the other connects to 33-34; so check that you are entering the right elevator.
The escalators which provide the optimum alternative access down to this part of the station, are also on the left of the main concourse; though they initially only take you down one level into the mall.
Ahead of you will then be the two sets of escalators which provide access to the trains, one leads down to gleis (platforms/tracks) 31-32 and the other gives access to 33-34.
The trains which USUALLY depart from gleis/platforms 31 and 32 include the IC trains on these routes:
The trains which USUALLY depart from gleis/platforms 33 include the IC trains heading to St Gallen and Romanshorn.
On platforms/gleis 31-34 the trains tend to follow each other at short intervals.
Your train may not be the next to depart, so double check the electronic displays that will show the next/current train to depart.
Also check the departure times; the IC trains can be scheduled to spend up to 10 mins waiting in the lower level station, so you may not have to rush to board these trains.
Because Zurich HB is in effect three stations in one, how you exit the station or access the other gleis/platforms, depends on which part of the station your train has arrived at.
If you will be continuing your journey on foot, by taxi or by tram then simply walk ahead to the main concourse - all the exits from there are step free.
However, if you will be continuing your journey by tram, it's a good idea to look up your route before your train arrives at Zurich HB.
Some routes only use the tram stops in front of the station, the Bahnhoquai, which is at the far end of the main hall when arriving by train.
Other routes only use the tram stops which are to the right of the main concourse, the Bahnhofpltaz:
If you are new to using Zurich HB station, before you exit the gleis/platform that you will have stepped on to; check the yellow departure (Abfahrt) posters, which should be on the platform.
They list all the subsequent departures from Zurich HB, but not every station that the trains will be calling at.
So knowing which gleis (platform/track) your next train should be leaving from, could save you from having to go too far
There are short cuts providing alternatives to using the main concourse to access your subsequent train.
So they're particularly useful if you don't have heavy luggage etc; but to make the most of them, you'll need to know in which direction to head.
You'll have a choice between:
(1) Accessing the other platforms/tracks/gleis via the main concourse, which will be ahead of you, at the end of the platform/track/gleis which you will have stepped on to.
On the main concourse you'll find the main departure board, which you can use to confirm which platform/track/gleis your next train will be leaving from.
(2) Using the stairs on the platform/track/gleis to access the lower (mall) level of the station - it's using these that can* be the short cut
*If you were sitting in the front of the train, you may as well access the other parts of the station by using the main concourse.
Once you have descended to the lower (mall) level, you can confirm which platform/track/gleis your train will be departing from on the yellow electronic departure monitors.
Long distance and other express trains are on the electronic indicators marked ‘Fernverkehr’.
Accessing gleis/platforms/tracks 31-34 and 41-44 from gleis/platforms/tracks 3-18:
If your next train is departing from gleis/platforms/tracks 31-34 or 41-44, you need to head to the lowest levels in the station.
The quickest route to these gleis/platforms/tracks can be to head down the stairs/escalators, which are on the gleis/platform that you have just stepped on to.
You will then be at the lower (mall) level in the station, but from here you will have to descend again by escalator or lift to access the trains.
However, if you have heavy luggage etc and your next train is departing from gleis/platforms/tracks 31-34 the better option is to use the main concourse.
There are lifts on the right side of the main concourse, which will be ahead of you at the end of the platform.
Specific lifts lead directly down to each platform/gleis (31-32 and 33-34), so take your time and make sure you're entering the correct lift.
Trains heading west and south - towards Basel, Bern and Zurich usually depart from gleis 31-32, while those heading east to the Flughafen (airport) usually depart from gleis 33-34.
Accessing gleis/platforms/tracks 3 - 18:
If your subsequent train is departing from gleis 3-18, then you can access the platform/gleis that your train will be departing via the main concourse.
However, if you don’t have luggage etc - it can be quicker to use the stairs/escalators down to into the lower concourse
All of the platforms/gleis 3-18 are linked to this passage in the lower concourse; which is also part of the shopping mall.
If you want to exit the station, there are escalators on each platform/gleis which lead up to a below ground concourse above; which houses the shopping mall.
From here several other escalators and staircases steps lead up to multiple exits from the station; so keep an eye on the signs to make sure you're heading to the optimum exit.
However, if you're not sure which exit will suit you, this part of the station doesn't have an obvious 'Way Out' sign, you can either:
(1) Use the elevators, which are also on each gleis (platform/track) to ascend up to the main concourse; you'll find them behind the escalators.
They'll be by the front of trains arriving from Basel, Bern, Brig, Geneve and Lausanne.
(2) Use the sets of escalators and then when you're at the mall level, go ahead of you and take the escalators up to 'gleis 3 - 18' - they will take you up to the main concourse of the station at street level.
The plus of exiting the station from the main concourse is that the streetscape around the station can be seen from here, so it can be less disorientating than using the other routes.
Changing trains at Zurich HB from platforms / tracks 31-34:
If you're connecting into another train, before exiting the platform/gleis, check the yellow train departure (Abfahrt) poster that will be on the platform.
You may need to hunt for it, but the information it contains can save time and hassle, particularly if you have luggage etc.
If you’re in luck you may have to simply remain on the same platform/gleis for your next train.
If not you will have to ascend to the level(s) above.
(1) If your connecting train is departing from gleis 31-34 you won’t have to go far.
Simply go up to the level above, confirming the departure information on the electronic information screens.
Long distance and other express trains are on the electronic indicators marked ‘Fernverkehr’.
Then head down again to the gleis that your train will be departing from.
(2) Gleis (platforms / tracks) 41-44 are located at the opposite end of this lower level concourse to gleis 31-34.
So head up to this lower level and then' you'll be following a route which leads through the shopping mall, that is located at this level.
Once you have found the access points to gleis 41-42 and 43-44, you will need to descend down to access the trains.
(3) If your connecting train will be departing from platforms/gleis 3-18, then there are stairs and escalators up to these platforms/gleis from the concourse above platforms 31-34, the same level as the mall.
You don’t have to head to the main concourse to wait for and board your train.
However, if you have luggage etc, the easiest option will be to avoid the escalators and use the lifts instead.
They have direct access to the main concourse, which is on the same level as platforms/gleis 3-18.
Heading off on foot from Zurich HB:
The old town is within walking distance of Zurich HB station.
If you'll be heading there don’t exit from the front of the station, instead take the exit to the right of the main concourse, then cross the street to access the road named Banhofstrasse, follow it and the old town is then a 10 min walk away.
Taking the tram on from Zurich HB station:
Zurich has no metro/subway system , so use the trams and trolleybuses to access the other areas of the city.
On the tram map (link above) there are two stops that are adjacent to the Zurich HB station.
(1) The Bahnhofquai HB stop (to the right of the horizontal black rail line in the middle of the map) is in the front of the station.
(2) The Bahnhofplatz HB stop is to the right of the station (turn right on the main concourse when exiting the ground level platforms).
On the map, lines 2-17 are tram lines; and lines 31, 32, 33, 34, 46, 71 and 72 are trolleybus lines..
For the Kunsthaus modern art museum take tram line 3 (direction Klusplatz) or Trolleybus 31 (direction Hellbach Platz) from the Bahnhofplatz HB stop.
For the Boat cruises on the Zurichzee (Lake Zurich) take Tram Line 11 from the Bahnhofquai HB stop in front of the station (direction Rehalp) and alight at Burkplatz,
Heading on by local train from Zurich HB:
The FIFA World football museum is across the street from Zurich Enge station.
Local trains on:
Trains on line S2 and S8 depart from the lower level platforms at Zurich HB, usually from gleis 32, but the trains on line S24 depart from the main street level concourse.
There are more than 10 x trains per hour from Zurich HB station to Zurich Airport/Flughafen, but they depart from all three parts of the station.
There are no ‘next train to Zurich Flughafen’ indicators so the best option is to use the electronic displays; on the smaller yellow screens check those marked ‘Fernverkehr’ AND those marked ‘S-Bahn’.
Most of the trains will be calling at Zurich Flughfaen en route to other destinations, including Winterthur, St Gallen and Romanshorn.
The train journey to Zurich Flughafen only takes 10-12 mins, so it doesn’t matter which type of train to take.
However, if you’ll be entering the station at the main concourse level and have luggage you'llneed to allow 3-4 mins to access platforms/gleis 33-34 and 41-44.
You can save the bother and time involved of accessing these lower level platforms/gleis if you take a train to Zurich Flughafen that is departing from the street level platforms/gleis/tracks 3 – 18.
So check the departure boards carefully, if the next departure from platforms/gleis/tracks 3 – 18 is departing within 8 mins; the recommendation is to take that train.
When looking at the train departure screens at Zurich Flughafen you will see a swathe of trains calling at Zurich HB (Zurich’s main station) – listed in the ‘Nach’ column.
The IC and IR trains are non-stop to Zurich HB; so are marginally faster than the ‘S’ trains.
What won’t be obvious from the departure screens, is that the ‘S’ (S-Bahn) trains also call at stations in central Zurich other than Zurich HB.
S16 line trains, heading to Herriberg - also call at Zurich Stadelhofen station.
S16 line trains, heading to Herriberg and S2 line trains heading to Wilderswill - also call at Hardbrucke station.
Line S24 trains also call at Zurich Wipkingen station.
Accommodation in Zurich is comparatively expensive and there are surprisingly few highly rated hotels in the vicinity of Zurich HB station (Zurich Main Station)
Finding a room with easy access to Zurich HB station, that also costs less than the equivalent of €80 per night AND has good user ratings - can therefore be a needle in a haystack scenario.
If you are on a budget, but also want quality accommodation, then staying by the airport can be a good option.
However, most of the budget-friendly hotels near Zurich Airport are adjacent to Kloten station and this station is not served by the frequent trains between Zurich HB station and the airport.
Kloten station is on line S7 of the Zurich S-Bahn (commuter trains) network and trains on line S7 run every 30 minutes.
From Zurich HB take trains that have a final destination of Winterthur (but other trains will be heading to Winterthur so make sure to take a line S7 train).
Hotels within 5 min walk of Zurich HB station:
Money saving options with direct public transport links to/from Zurich HB station:
Gasthause 201 (take tram lines 4, 11. 13 or 15 to the
25 Hours Hotel Zurich West (take tram line 4 to the Toni-Areal stop)
Hotel Allegra Lodge Zurich Airport (take the train to Kloten station)
Welcome Inn Zurich Airport (take the train to Kloten station)
Fly Away Hotel (take the train to Kloten station)
Sedartis Hotel (take the train to Thalwil station)
Zurich Youth Hostel (take the train to Zurich Wollishofen station)
It may not seem obvious from looking at a map, but if you want to tick off the ‘Grand Tour of Switzerland' railway routes, then Zurich is a good base for a rail pass itinerary - particularly in the summer when the daylight hours are longest.
Basing yourself in the city saves you the bother of having to switch hotels during a holiday.
If you want to take one, two, or three of these itineraries, a Saver Day Pass for each day of travels will be a money saver.
If you want to follow more than three of these routes you will save with a Swiss Travel Pass; and if you'll want to make the most of the other inclusions on the Swiss Travel passes, the lake cruises, funiculars, galleries and museums etc, the Swiss Travel Pass can also be good value for money if you follow just three of the suggested routes.
All the routes below can be accomplished in a day.
The schedules may seem daunting, but virtually all the connections are as simple as possible.
1: The Golden Pass route: Zurich – Visp – Montreux – Zweisimmen – Spiez – Interlaken Ost – Luzern – Zurich
2: The Glacier/Bernina Express route #1: Zurich – Chur – Samedan – Pontresina – Tirano – Pontresina – Samedan – Chur – Zurich
3: The Glacier Express route #2: Zurich – Visp – Zermatt – Visp – Andermatt – Disentis/Muster – Chur – Zurich
5: Mount Rigi and Wilhelm Tell Express route: Zurich – Luzern → boat to Viznau → Rigi-Kulm → Arth-Goldau – Fluelen → boat to Luzern – Zurich
6: The Bernese-Oberland: Zurich - Spiez – Interlaken Ost → Lauterbrunnen → Kleine Scheidegg → Jungfaujoch → Kleine Scheidegg → Grindelwald → Interlaken Ost – Bern - Zurich
This is one of more than 300 station guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.