Many assume Zurich will be stiff and stern, with thoughts of finance and business, I witnessed the opposite: a fresh and friendly city with beautiful surroundings, a delightful old town, a cool and creative burgeoning industrial quarter, and a culture which is instantly likeable. Just 80 minutes from London by plane to Switzerland’s most popular city, it is the perfect weekend destination. Here are my recommendations for exploring this small but diverse city.
Baur au Lac – the belle of the town, Baur au Lac hotel is THE place to stay in Zurich. Currently celebrating its 170th birthday the hotel has served many famous and royal guests over the years. Today it upholds the highest level of classic luxury and tradition whilst regularly modernising its facilities.
Markthalle – after a busy morning of shopping nearby Markthalle is a lovely lunch option. With a food market indoors the menu changes daily using only the freshest seasonal ingredients.
Pavillon – this civilised and sophisticated Michelin star restaurant serves fine Swiss contemporary dishes with exemplary service to match (look out for witty restaurant manager Jürgen). Try the speciality Veal knuckle with creamy potatoes for two.
Rosso – until 1997 a law existed that restricted the number of restaurants per district in Zurich. This shabby chic pizzeria therefore has only existed ‘legally’ since then. It was previously an under the radar venue but even now Rosso retains it’s underground atmosphere so you still feel like you’ve been told about the best kept secret in town. Serving the best pizzas around it is essential to book ahead.
Sprungli – this chocolatier is renowned in Zurich, the sweets are so special that Zurchers haven’t let them leave the country unlike other big Swiss chocolate brands. Pop in for breakfast in the upstairs cafe or just for a Luxemburgerli (a version of the macaron filled with cream), we tried delicious Gold champagne and salted caramel flavours.
Grande – this fashionable cafe is on the main Limmatquai street, serving up strong and creamy flat whites for takeaway or eat in. The creative decor is super cool, I especially loved the illustrated coffee designs drawn on blackboards on the walls.
Bear, Brothers and Cow – receiving rave reviews as a pop-up coffee outlet, BBC will soon return to a permanent venue in Zurich supplying caffeine fans with the finest roast in town.
Kronenhalle Bar– this cosy little bar dates back to 1862. The interior is designed by Diego Giacometti with mahogany wood panelling, forest green walls and leather banquettes. The paintings on the walls indicate to the artistic past clientele. Braque, Chagall, Miro and Picasso often frequented this bar sometimes settling the tab by donating their art. Known for mixing the best cocktails in town we tried the deliciously refreshing and unique Olio Nobile which combines gin, lemon, sorbet, olive oil and mint.
Helsinki – this hipster hang-out is popular with crowds of all kinds. Located in a scruffy chic old gasworks facility under the Hardbrucke, Helsinki is a great venue for an evening drink, especially on Sunday nights when the house band AAD Hollander Trio from Hell play rock’n’roll, country and polka.
Rive Gauche – this stylish and slick casual restaurant offers a range of delicious comforting dishes, but it was the cocktails that really impressed me. Try the pretty pink Rhubarb Panther, an addictive fruity martini that is mixed here to perfection.
Im Viadukt – a picturesque and trendy collection of design shops housed beneath the arches in Kreis 5 I particularly loved the Senior Design Factory.
Bogen 33 – a wonder world of retro furniture and wacky items. When you’ve splashed out on vintage one-offs visit the nearby old fashioned photoautomat machine to commemorate your purchases with a strip of black and white classic photos.
Freitag – housed in old shipping containers this popular Swiss brand makes bags and accessories from recycled truck tarps, a thick shiny and scruffy material which wears well in harsh weather. Climb to the top of the stack of containers to view the city from an impressive height.
Edition Populaire – found in a huddle of hip independent boutiques Edition Populaire is a simple and stylish concept store stocking design focused clothes and accessories by local brands like Townhouse: from Zurich with Love. I loved the bright hued leather envelope clutch bags.
Fraumunster – drop in to this famous Zurich church to see the colourful stained glass window masterpiece by Marc Chagall.
St Peter’s Church – the tower proudly presents the largest clock face in Europe. Admire this church from various vantage points around the old town.
Boat trip on the lake with ZürichSee – sit and relax on the upper deck on one of the 90 minute lake tour boats. Order a glass of rose and sip the cooling wine whilst the boat floats towards the magnificent snow topped Alps.
Schiffbau – this super cool complex is the cultural epicentre of Zurich-West. Home to Moods jazz club, LaSalle restaurant, Matchbox Theatre and the rooftop bar, NietturmBar. Make sure you keep a whole evening free to try them all, and on your way out pay 8 CHF for a quirky design product from the Designomat (a recycled cigarette dispenser).
Kunsthaus – an art fans first stop in Zurich this gallery holds a wonderful collection, including works by Giacometti, Munch and Miro.
Haus Konstruktiv – in a former power station this alternative but equally interesting institution presents conceptual art exhibitions from local artists with a focus on Constructivist and Concrete art. We saw a psychedelic collection of works by Victor Vasarely.
Frauenbad – women rule the roost at this public bath on the river. During the day only females can frolick in the water, at night though both sexes are allowed to come and enjoy a drink and the fun party vibe.
Book a stay at Baur au Lac here: www.bauraulac.ch , read my review of the hotel here.
Many thanks to the Swiss Tourist Office for their help with this trip, more information here.