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 Hanna Lindon reports.
0700-0900. Kick off your jam-packed Zurich day with a dawn stroll along the Enge Wiese side of Lake Zurich, soaking up those iconic views before hailing a bus and following the river north towards the Hauptbahnhof (main railway station). Here, you’ll find a true local secret – kitsch little Moroccan café Maison Blunt (Gasometerstrasse 5, 043 211 0033). Its oriental menu and arm-long tea selection make it the perfect alternative to Zurich’s many traditional Swiss eateries. If you do fancy a bowl of the local Birchermüesli, though, then world-renowned coffee house Sprüngli (Bahnhofstrasse 21, 044 224 4646) is the place to go.
0900-1100. With breakfast out of the way, it’s time to get exploring. Despite its shiny, clean-cut image, Zurich has a lively artistic counter culture – and nowhere showcases the city’s underground designers better than the narrow streets of Kreis 4. By night a seedy red-light district, Kreis 4’s daytime face is far more intriguing. Here, cutting-edge galleries rub shoulders with eclectic shopfronts. Former garage Bord (Badenerstrasse 123a, 043 243 6911) is a must for fans of interior design, with its intriguing mix of big-name modern designers and up-and-coming local talent.
1100-1300. If you prefer fashion to furniture, then Josefstrasse in Kreis 5, particularly at the end closest to Zurich’s main railway station, is fabulous for shopping. Melvins at number 26 (044 440 1144) offers labels from all over northern Europe, while Beige at number 10 (044 272 7422) 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 cream cheese and pumpkin seed pesto, or celery and apple soup with truffle oil.
1300-1500. Zurich isn’t just about shopping and eating. This is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, and the best place to see panoramic views of the Old Town and the lake is from the nearby Uetliberg Mountain. During summer, the ‘Zürich on Wheels’ scheme (Robert-Maillar-Strasse 16, 043 288 3445) offers bike hire completely free of charge. If you’re feeling fit, it’s just a short pedal up to the summit of the peak, where you’ll be rewarded with dizzying views of the snow-capped Alps on the horizon. Otherwise, hop on the narrow-gauge railway for a more relaxing journey up to this stellar viewpoint.
1500-1700. Now you’ve admired the historic architecture of Zurich’s Old Town from the bird’s-eye position, it’s time to get up close and personal. Niederdorf – known locally as Dörfli or ‘the little village’ – is a warren of winding cobbled lanes and grand old buildings. This is the heart of the Zurich cultural scene, home to world-class institutions like the Swiss National Museum (Museumstrasse 2, 044 218 6511) and the Kunsthaus Zürich (Heimplatz 1, 044 253 8484), as well as many of the city’s sightseeing staples. The Gothic-style Grossmünster (Grossmünsterplatz, 044 251 3860), with its iconic twin towers, is worth a look-in if only for the 11th-century crypt, while the Rathaus (Limmatquai 55) is a photographic gem. A short stroll away, the Schipfe district is a charming collection of artists’ workshops and picturesque shopfronts.
1700-1900. If you’re keen to keep sightseeing, then another visual treat in Zurich is the Fraumünster (Münsterhof 2, 044 211 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 (St-Peter-Hofstatt), whose tower has the largest clock face in Europe – measuring more than 8 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. For classic Swiss fare, head for Zeughauskeller (Bahnhofstrasse 28a, 044 220 1515), where sausages and schnitzels are menu staples and diners are packed companionably into an atmospheric Bavarian beer hall. If your taste runs to fine cuisine, Michelin-starred Spice in the Sorell Hotel Rigiblick (Germaniastrasse 99, 043 255 1570) turns each of its dishes into colourful works of art. Don’t bother with a menu – just let the chef know your likes and dislikes, and let him surprise your taste buds. Worried about the state of your wallet? Local favourite Lily’s Stomach Supply (Langstrasse 197, 044 440 1885) is sandwiched between a line of Zurich’s most fashionable bars and shops, and its well-priced Asian nosh attracts young trendies from all over the city. A more upmarket, locally lauded restaurant is housed in boutique hotel Helvetia (Stauffacherquai 1, 044 297 9999), long a haunt of political types and now a cosy little wood-panelled hideaway serving classic comfort food. Afterwards, grab a sundowner at B21 (Orellistrasse 21, 044 268 3535). Located 10 minutes from the city centre, at an elevated position, it has cracking views over Zurich.
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 smaller club set in a townhouse, complete with wooden beams and music featuring house and R&B. A big party destination in Zurich is Club Zukunft (Dienerstrasse 33, 043 539 86 52), where a funky crowd of 20-somethings dances to deep house against a post-disco backdrop designed by the artist David Renggli.
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Written by World Travel Guide.