Things to do in Zurich

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.

To Stay

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.

To Eat

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.

To Drink

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.

To Shop

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.

To See

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.

To Do

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: , read my review of the hotel here.

Many thanks to the Swiss Tourist Office for their help with this trip, more information here.

Pavillon restaurant, Baur au Lac, Zurich

Switzerland has one of the highest concentrations of Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe, and the country’s largest city Zurich is the best place to try this fine food. As one of the world’s most prominent financial cities, Zurich unsurprisingly offers a sophisticated and elegant culinary culture with an abundance of upmarket eateries, both Swiss and international. Last year Baur au Lac Hotel’s premier restaurant, Pavillon was deservedly given a Michelin star, a very prestigious award for Head Chef Laurent Eperon and his team.

The staff stood to attention as we walked into the palatial Pavillon dining room. Following their pre-match brief, they looked excited and enthusiastic about an evening’s work and their genuine smiles showed a true sense of pride for this restaurant. A unique rotunda room dominates, designed by famous architect Pierre Yves Rochon. The room glows with natural light thanks to the 360 degree glazing, and above your head Art Deco Lalique chandeliers sparkle.

After a glass of Philipponnat Champagne, we were presented with plates of intricate miniatures with “greetings from the chef”. Scallops in tempura with mango chilli chutney was a light and sweet start, followed soon after with a tiny pot of vibrant green pea soup with a large soft ricotta and lemon filled ravioli. Each was just a mouthful, but flavoured intensely.

The menu is filled with intriguing and innovative dishes showcasing a fresh and contemporary haute cuisine. Of the starters, Ratatouille Pop Art is an exceptional dish, a beautifully deconstructed illustration on the plate, selecting key Mediterranean flavours and textures to make a delicious and satisfying creation.  Those on a health kick will enjoy the Green asparagus tips with Manuka honey vinaigrette, lemon and vanilla; a sweet and healthy start to the meal, using the best seasonal produce available. Greedy and desperate to try many of the options, I persuaded the kitchen to kindly prepare a taster of the divine pasta dish, Gyoza tortellini filled with Swiss chard, Noir de Bigorre raw ham and ricotta with Beaufort cheese veloute. Despite appearing airy and pale, this Asian inspired dish was rich and addictive, with a soft cheesy centre and a crisp edge.

As each course was placed on the table glasses of wisely chosen wine were offered to match the food. Our favourite was without a doubt the Grüner Veltliner, Schloss Gobelsburg Kamptal Austria 2012, an unusual and very drinkable wine with a slightly peppery and woody taste combined with a hint of pear and citrus sweetness; it was balanced and refreshing and I imagine would complement many dishes. We also tried a lovely Swiss Chardonnay, Guido Brivio, Tessin Switzerland 2012, also excellent.

For main we indulged in a Pavillon speciality, the Glazed veal knuckle for two with gravy refined with wild black pepper from Madagascar and Agria potato puree. It was exquisite. Brought first to the table as an impressive hunk of meat on the bone, glistening from the oven heat, I wondered how we would conquer it! Returning minutes later neatly sliced in a bowl of fragrant rich gravy, the meat fell apart as my fork pierced it, and melted in the mouth. Deep and fully flavoured with the pepper, the gravy was exemplary and combined happily with the creamy, smooth pureed potato. Veal is the traditional Swiss meat and this dish pays homage to the country beyond words.

We shared a range of desserts showcasing the pastry chef’s skills. My favourite was the Strawberry Pop Art, a light and fruity dish with strawberry jelly, crumble and cream cheese ice cream. It was a lovely contrast of crunch and cream, presented in a sculptural fashion. Pavillon’s take on Tiramisu is also worth trying, a spectacular presentation with a tube of coffee creaminess and cold aniseed flavoured ice-cream, certainly not an ordinary dessert.

Both hotel guests and visitors adore Pavillon restaurant, it was the culinary highlight of my weekend in Zurich with food that wowed. Put a meal at Pavillon at the top of your Zurich to do list.

More information and book here:

Book a stay at Baur au Lac here: , read my review of the hotel here.

Many thanks to the Swiss Tourist Office for their help with this trip, more information here.

Baur au Lac Hotel, Zurich

The sun was setting as we came into Zurich airport and the air had a hint of early summer warmth. Usually I dread the onward journey from the airport but in Zurich the connection couldn’t be simpler, a 10 minute train ride and a few stops on the tram. I asked the airport information officer for orientation help, explaining I was trying to get to the Baur au Lac hotel. She looked up, eyes alight, ‘the Baur au Lac is amazing, the best hotel in the city’. This reaction was repeated every time I mentioned the hotel and I soon realised the iconic status of this Zurich institution. Most cities have a few top luxury hotels to choose from, in Zurich there is one hotel which impresses locals and tourists alike, and I was staying there for the weekend. Walking through the quiet clean streets to Baur au Lac, I was nervous with anticipation.

Celebrating its 170th birthday this year, Baur au Lac has spent almost two centuries charming visitors to Zurich. Discreet and understated on the exterior but lovely and lavish inside, the property has a sophisticated allure. The hotel enjoys an advantageous position on the edge of the lake overlooking a scene of natural beauty with the Alps dazzling in the distance, but not far from the favourite designer shopping street, Bahnhofstrasse.

Service at Baur au Lac is second to none, every member of staff is alert and caring at every opportunity – it felt so comfortable but so special simultaneously. We were in an elegant second floor double deluxe room, newly refurbished and spacious with an abundance of natural light. The décor is a perfect balance of antique tradition, modern luxury and stylish creativity. I loved the decadent plush red chairs and the expressive Miro print which hung next to the giant bed. The heavy curtains ensure you fall into an immersive sleep until morning. On the desk a selection of delicate and delectable cakes were freshly made for us by the highly accomplished pastry chef.

The bathroom is another world of wonders, extra shiny marble and granite covered surfaces, delicious smelling Baur au Lac toiletries and fluffy towels and bathrobes. A power shower and a big deep bathtub are both on hand for a quick refresh or a longer relaxing soak.

In the morning it is tempting to just lounge around in the bedroom, it seems too beautiful to leave but downstairs breakfast awaits. Served in the immaculate Pavillon dining room, Baur au Lac breakfast is truly fit for a queen. The room is adorned with bouquets of flowers on pastel green tables and looks out onto Baur au Lac’s lush private garden, it is heavenly. An array of Parisian style pastries, fruit, yoghurt, meat and cheese are all available from the buffet. We chose French toast with maple syrup from the a la carte, which arrived covered in crunchy cornflakes and dusted in icing sugar. Accompanied by ruby red strawberries and a dollop of thick cream, it was absolutely divine. Strong cappuccino and freshly squeezed orange juice completed our morning feast.

There is so much to discover and explore in Zurich but guests who wish to rest, relax and recuperate from their busy lives could not do better than Baur au Lac. Michelin star restaurant Pavillon serves wonderful fine dishes, whilst bar and restaurant Rive Gauche offers a more casual option. Shopping needs can be met within the hotel at the design boutique or at the unique wine cellar and shop, whilst working visitors can use the 24 hour business centre and indoor or outdoor spaces for meetings and receptions.

Quite simply, this place has everything, but best of all this historic, family-owned property has personality and soul ensuring every guest will remember their stay and dream of a return visit to Baur au Lac.

Book a stay at Baur au Lac here:

Many thanks to the Swiss Tourist Office for their help with this trip, more information here.