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Zurich Airport: 9-Hr Layover, Enough Time for Town?

My parents, ages 76 and 83, have an 9-hr flight layover in Zurich before flying to Luxembourg to meet up with me and my children. They arrive in Zurich at 8:30 am and fly out at 5:30 pm. What are some ways they can spend their time as they wait for their flight? Is the city nearby and worth a quick visit? Anything else nearby worth a visit? I was considering hiring a driver for them to take them about and return them to the airport so they don't miss their flight. I'm a little bit worried about them as they have traveled quite a bit but are normally on tours and not on their own. I don't know how they would fare on their own with public transportation and getting back to the airport on time, and they can't miss their flight! Also, at the Luxembourg airport when i pick them up, is it best to meet up with them at baggage claim? Or possibly a better location? Thanks!

Posted by
3560 posts

Pam , while I would normally be loathe to suggest leaving an airport with a connection in the offing , I think nine hours and it being Zurich would be an exception . Providing they do not have any mobility issues , trains from the airport to Zurich Hauptbahnhof run often and take only fifteen minutes to make the trip. They could wander along the Bahnhofstrasse , find some nice food and coffee and quite comfortably have adequate time to return to the airport . IMO it beats hanging around the airport for nine hours ,although as airports go , I rather liked Zurich airport .

Posted by
831 posts

Hi Pam, The airport is outside the city, but there are plenty of fast trains that would get them into the city. But honestly I'd discourage it as Zurich is a big airport with lots going on and if they were my parents I'd be suggesting a good book... Do you know if they will have to change terminals for the connecting flight? If so there could be a fair bit of walking involved as well as having to clear immigration as well - I'm assuming their bags will have been been checked through to Luxembourg and they will clear customs there. Pam, if you think they might do with some assistance there is a free service at Zurich airport called Carport. They always took great care of my parents (RIP) when the travelled through the airport. Jim

Posted by
124 posts

Definitely.Our flight to Rome from Zurich was delayed for 6 hours because of a 6 hour strike by the Rome air control people.We strolled in the Old Town with no worry of not arriving back at the airport late.Trains are frequent and it is a very short ride into town.

Posted by
77 posts

Jim, I hadn't thought about whether they would have to change terminals. They fly in on a United flight from Newark and fly to Luxembourg on Swiss International Airlines. They normally travel with one small rolling suitcase each without checking baggage, so I imagine they will do the same here. They will likely have their luggage with them, so if they venture into town, they'll probably have to store their luggage someplace. Are there lockers? Any other suggestions? Another thing that just came to mind is whether they will need to exchange money and get swiss francs to buy lunch, etc. I hadn't thought of that. Do places at the airport take US Dollars or Euros? Is it only swiss francs in town?

Posted by
77 posts

I forgot to mention that they are both mobile.

Posted by
3560 posts

Pam , I hope you are not offended by my answering your last querys . Firstly , from a logical perspective , whether or not they have to change terminals for the next flight is immaterial , they will have to deal with that regardless of whether they stay at the airport or come into the city . There are indeed left luggage facilities at the airport , so no issue there. As far as the money , Euros are generally accepted although change in coinage is given in francs . In any event , withdrawing francs from an ATM is easy as can be , just like here in the states. If they do come into the city , a lovely treat is having coffee and pastry at Sprungli Konditorei at Bahnhofstrasse 21 ! In addition , since mobility is not an issue , after sitting through a long flight , moving around is the best thing one can do , oxygen in the lungs works wonders . I don't say this lightly , I'm in my late sixties , and I find it invigorating .

Posted by
4805 posts

Zurich is a pretty efficient airport. Last year, I had a one hour connection. My plane arrived 10 minutes late and even with only 50 minutes to change terminals, go through immigration, and a security interview before my United flight, I still made it. So if they are going to leave the airport, this is a good airport to leave.

Posted by
28474 posts

Just a thought - why not meet them at Luxembourg Station (Gare de Luxembourg) right in the middle of Luxembourg 45 minutes before they depart Zurich? What in the blazes is Nigel yapping on about now, I hear you say. Zurich has a train station right downstairs with a very frequent service into Zurich Hauptbahnhof. There is a train which goes direct to Luxembourg at 11:36 from platform 17. A connecting service from the airport leaves the airport at 11:13 and arrives at the Hbf at 11:23 in platform 16. Easy as pie. An 11:13 departure from the airport gives them nearly 3 hours to allow for late flights or difficulties with luggage - although it sounds like they may have carry-on only. Any train to the Hbf would be fine for the 10 minute ride and if they take an earlier one they could stroll the shops in the station - there's plenty going on. They just have to be back for the 11:36. The train will be marked for Brussels (Bruxelles). Unfortunately the train doesn't go along the Mosel but does go through France after Basel, calling at Zürich HB 11:36 17 Baden(CH) Brugg AG Frick Stein-Säckingen Rheinfelden(CH) Basel SBB 12:47 4 Train continues as IC 90 Basel SBB Gl.30-35 13:15 St-Louis(Haut Rhin) Mulhouse Ville Colmar Selestat Strasbourg 14:37 14:50 Metz Ville Thionville
Luxembourg 16:49 Is there any chance that they would like that? If so I can try to find out what happens in Basel. Just let me know. There is a small chance that they may have to go through the border (just a walk through) to the French platforms. I'd hate to hang out for 9 hours - much rather be moving, and arrive earlier.

Posted by
831 posts

"Jim, I hadn't thought about whether they would have to change terminals. They fly in on a United flight from Newark and fly to Luxembourg on Swiss International Airlines." Yes, I believe the will have to switch terminals, but they have plenty of time, best is that the check in at the transfer desk and find out what to do. "They normally travel with one small rolling suitcase each without checking baggage, so I imagine they will do the same here. They will likely have their luggage with them, so if they venture into town, they'll probably have to store their luggage someplace. Are there lockers? Any other suggestions?" Yes, there are plenty of lockers at the stations in the airport and in town. But they might need to get some coins... "Another thing that just came to mind is whether they will need to exchange money and get swiss francs to buy lunch, etc. I hadn't thought of that. Do places at the airport take US Dollars or Euros? Is it only swiss francs in town?" Euros are accepted in most places, but only notes and change is in Swiss coins. Two other ideas of things to do to pass the time:
- Take the airport tour - Rather than heading in to town, go in the other direction and visit Winterthur, this is not as hectic as Zurich

Posted by
831 posts

@Nigel I don't know what is going on with the 11:36 out of Zurich, but since the timetable is show no change is required, I assuming that the train is going to be shunted around to the French station in Basel. If not, then the change would take about 10 minutes, so it is not a big issue. @Pam, If you decide on this, I can easily ask at the train station was is happening as I go by there everyday. Jim

Posted by
28474 posts

@Jim You're a trouper. It is always handy to have help on the ground. It is a little strange as it originates in Zürich HBf as IR90 and leaves Basel SNCF as IC90. Clearly it is the same equipment except for the head end (loco). I bet you're right. I bet it arrives at SBB platform 4, is locally shunted to a French platform, and a French loco attached, leaving 25 minutes after it got to Basel SBB. I note that the following ICE from Zürich HBf which also connects with this train shows their passengers arriving at SBB and being given 9 minutes to walk to 30-36, the SNCF platforms. In any event it shouldn't bother Pam's parents or any of the other through passengers.

Posted by
4805 posts

Keep in mind that if the airline tickets have already been purchased then the train option from Zurich to Luxembourg won't work. If they don't show up for the Zurich-Luxembourg leg of their flight the airline will cancel the remaining segments on their ticket (and that would include their return flight to the U.S.)

Posted by
77 posts

@Nigel I never would have considered that option of training it from Zurich to Luxembourg. It's an interesting thought I did think about so thanks for suggesting it. My folks are actually excited to spend a little bit of time in Zurich as they have never been to Switzerland. I think we'll keep the plan for them to spend 9 hours there and then take the flight to Luxembourg. @Jim Thanks for the offer to check in person as you are there, that was so nice!! @Laura
Thanks for that reminder about voiding the return flight. They only purchased a one-way so that doesn't impact them here, but it's good to keep in mind. I appreciate everyone who responded. It's so nice to share and receive tips on this board...I find it invaluable!

Posted by
13299 posts

Pam, I am not going to worry about your parent's mobility. I go skiing with friends their age and I cannot keep up, so I will make no assumptions that your parents are not fully capable of managing the short trip into Zurich. It is only 12 minutes away by train and the main station is right downtown, in easy walking distance from some nice sights. They should leave luggage at the airport and take the train into town. From the main floor of the station, after admiring the Blue Angel, they can exit to the street and turn right toward the river. They can walk along the river on either side, perhaps visiting the Frauenkirche with the Chagall window, and when ready they can find a place for lunch. Right on the river is Zum Storchen, a fancy hotel with dining room right on the river. Or they can stroll the Altstadt (Oldtown) on the other side of the river, and find a place that looks nice to them.

Posted by
265 posts

??? "they only purchased a one way ticket". Do you mean they only have a one way ticket to Europe? And no return ticket? From a recent discussion on this board this "could be" a problem for entry into Europe. Without a return ticket to the USA they MIGHT not be allowed to enter and be put on the next plane home. We need more details about their status in order to give you correct information about this "possible" red flag problem.
It is late and I may have just missed some detail. Did anyone else catch the possible problem??? Comments.

Posted by
77 posts

@Robert
Good catch! Actually, as of right now they have a one-way ticket, but I'm in the process of finding them flights (using United miles) for their return trip home at the end of July. I'm hoping for the 30,000 miles/pp Economy tickets, but will likely have to spend 60,000 miles/pp Anytime tickets in the next month or so. No worries. By the time they fly to Europe, they WILL have their return ticket back.

Posted by
4805 posts

If they only have one-way, then the train option could work as long as they have carry-on only.

Posted by
831 posts

"From a recent discussion on this board this "could be" a problem for entry into Europe. Without a return ticket to the USA they MIGHT not be allowed to enter and be put on the next plane home." Actually given their age they are unlikely to checked and even if they are a return ticket will not be much of an issue as there is not much chance of them trying to pick up casual jobs in Europe :-) As long as they can show that they have access to sufficient funds and medical coverage they should be fine.