Mountain railways, cable cars, funiculars, and chair lifts abound in Switzerland, but one of the best ways to pass a fair weather afternoon is aboard one the fleet of paddle steamers that depart for cruising and commerce between Zurich and other points of interest along the shores of Zürichsee (Lake Zurich).
From early April to late October, pleasure cruises ply the lake for periods of 3-7 hours, featuring lounges, snack bars, and even fully stocked restaurants for travelers inclined to take their leisure and indulge their appetites at the same time. Some of the boats date back more than a century. The oldest vessel, the Stadt Zürich, was built in 1909 and has been operating continuously ever since (it’s still possible to book passage on the Stadt, but reservations are highly recommended).
One popular itinerary is the daily boat from the main Zürich landing at Bürkliplatz to Rapperwil (known locally as The City of Roses), and then on to Schmerikon at the far end of the lake. Clocking in at roughly 3-1/2 hours one way, the journey can be varied in a number of ways, including stopping over in Rapperwil to explore the Polish Museum, rose garden, deer park, and children’s zoo before returning to Zurich by train, or going all out and making the full 7-hour roundtrip to Schmerikon and back again. It’s hard to beat a full day on the lake on a sunny summer day, especially on a historic vessel appointed with ample refreshments.
Many routes and options are available during the on-season, and even more variations exist for travelers willing to opt for modern diesel-driven boats and small private craft.
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