With ancient sights, eclectic shopping, delectable eateries and bags of style, Zurich is chock-a-block with city break fun. Whether you fancy filling your day with sightseeing and shopping, or taking a long lunch then relaxing in a spa, this chic European city has plenty to enjoy, as Ruth-Ellen Davis reports.
0700-0900. Kick off your jam-packed Zurich day with a bowl of its famous breakfast: Bircher muesli. This delightful morning treat has been satisfying appetites since around 1900, when it was created by city doctor Maximilian Oskar Bircher-Benner. These days, there are countless versions of his moreish mixture of oats, cream, honey, apple and lemon. Sample two of Zurich’s best at Confiserie Sprüngli (Bahnhofstrasse 21, 044 224 4646), which also sells divine Luxemburgerli macarons, and Péclard (Napfgasse 4, 044 251 5150) – finish off breakfast here with a few handmade chocolates while you marvel at the sumptuously decorated interior.
0900-1100. Péclard is in the Niederdorf or Dörfli (little village) quarter of the Old Town where the streets are packed with antiquarian bookshops and other small boutiques. Stepping into Schwarzenbach, at Münstergasse 19, feels like stepping into a time machine to the past. This old-fashioned deli feels like a 19th-century apothecary, with shelves packed with coffee beans, teas, honey and dried fruits.
1100-1300. Josefstrasse in District 5, particularly at the end closest to Zurich’s main railway station, is fabulous for shopping. Melvins at number 8 offers labels from all over northern Europe while Beige, next door at number 10, showcases the innovative work of textile designers Manuela Helg and Karin Maurer. One of Zurich’s most fashionable new shopping areas is Im Viadukt, set in railway arches in Zurich West. Find designer shoe stores and cutting-edge furniture boutiques rubbing shoulders with fresh fruit stalls and bike shops. Fuel up at Restaurant Viadukt (Viaduktstrasse 69-71, 043 204 1899) with its selection of sophisticated light lunch dishes such as beetroot salad with Oberlander cream cheese and pumpkin seed pesto, or celery and apple soup with truffle oil. For a more informal bite, there’s nearby Restaurant Markthalle (Limmatstrasse 231, 044 201 0060).
1300-1500. Zurich is not just about shopping and eating. There is a host of great sights to see in Switzerland’s financial capital. The shores of Lake Zurich are home to the last building ever conceived by the great architect Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris, better known as Le Corbusier: a confection of steel and coloured enamelled panels that is now the Heidi Weber Museum (Höschgasse 8, 044 383 6470). This houses a collection of the architect’s work, but is only open at weekends; it is worth a look even if the museum is closed. Just nearby is one of Zurich’s best-kept secrets, the China Garden – a beautiful open space with pagodas and temples by the twinkling lake.
1500-1700. Zurich was also the birthplace of Dadaism, an anti-war cultural movement that began during WWI. Its spiritual home, the Cabaret Voltaire (Spiegelgasse 1, 043 268 5720) is well worth a visit, as is Kunsthaus Zürich (Heimplatz 1, 044 253 8484), the city’s brilliant art museum. This has an exceptional collection of artworks from the Dadaists as well as works by Munch, Chagall, Klee and the Impressionists. If it’s a city break with the girls, why not finish a day’s exploration with a good dose of relaxation, and head over to hip Seefeld for the Lady’s First design hotel (Mainaustrasse 24, 01 380 8010). The fabulous spa includes a steam bath, a natural sauna with light therapy and a Finnish sauna.
1700-1900. If you’re keen to keep sightseeing, then another visual treat in Zurich is the Fraumünster (Münsterhof, 044 221 2063) in the heart of the Old Town. This evangelical-reformed cathedral was founded as an abbey in AD853. Its simple design belies a real treasure inside – five stained glass windows designed by the modern artist Marc Chagall, which were installed in 1970. The windows contrast strongly with another hugely impressive window at the other end of the cathedral designed by Swiss-Italian painter Augusto Giacometti. While you are in the area, pop into the nearby St Peter’s Church, whose tower has the largest clock face in Europe – measuring more than eight metres wide. Its huge size was meant to enable Zurich residents to set their watches to a standard time – handy in a city of watch shops. Unusually, the tower is owned by the city, while the nave is owned by the church.
1900-2100. Zurich is teeming with chic night spots and some of the finest cuisine on the continent. A highly popular bar with slick surrounds, great DJs and quality cocktails is 0815 (Kreuzstrasse 26, 044 242 0815). During the day it has more of a chilled café vibe, then as evening draws in it attracts a young and lively crowd. B21 at the Sorell Hotel Zürichberg (Orellistrasse 21, 044 268 3535) is a surprising option, considering it’s a hotel bar. Located 10 minutes from the city centre, at an elevated position, it has cracking views over Zurich. It’s a great spot for a sundowner, and a DJ plays Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. For some fine cuisine, Blaue Ente (Seefeldstrasse 223, Mühle Tiefenbrunnen, 044 388 6840) is a delectable restaurant and swish bar set in a converted mill. It enjoys a prime location, out of the city centre on the banks of Lake Zurich. To really push the culinary boat out, there’s the famous Kronenhalle (Rämistrasse 4, 044 262 9900), its walls clad in artistic masterpieces from greats such as Picasso. Order a premium drink in the bar, all rich mahogany and dark green leather, and then take a seat in the restaurant, where the grilled chateaubriand with Béarnaise sauce really is to die for.
After 2100. As the home of Street Parade, Europe’s biggest annual street party, it’s no secret that Zurich knows how to throw a party. Club Indochine (Limmatstrasse 275, 044 448 1111) is a beautiful club offering, its interior swathed in South East Asian flavours and enjoyed by vast crowds of hip and young clientele. Music ranges from easy pop and disco to house and techno. For a little more intimacy, Icon (Augustinerhof, 044 448 1133) is a petit club set in a townhouse, complete with wooden beams, and music includes house and R & B. A big party destination in Zurich is Hive (Geroldstrasse 5, 044 271 1210), where revellers of all ages get their fix of house, techno and indie until the small hours.
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Written by World Travel Guide.