Zurich Guide. Leisure Guides.

 

A medieval city with a modern soul, Zurich is bounded by the jaw-dropping natural beauty of the Alps and Lake Zurich. Its traditional Swiss facade hides all the luxuries of an international financial capital.

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Getting around


Swiss public transport is one of the wonders of the modern world, and Zurich is a sparkling example of its efficiency. The city has a well-oiled network of friendly yellow Swiss PostAuto buses, local buses, trams, suburban trains, boats and even cable cars – all managed by Zürcher Verkehrsverbund (ZVV). There are so many ways of getting from A to B that it can be confusing at first, but all timetables are integrated on the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) website and there’s a handy free app you can download for offline information access. 
 
Bear in mind that the regular public transport service ends at around 12.30am. A night owl service caters for clubbers on Friday and Saturday nights, but during the week you’ll have to take your chances on foot. This shouldn’t be too much of a hardship, as Zurich’s compact centre makes it easy to walk between the main areas of interest.
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Hotels


You might cringe at the room rates, but there’s no denying that Zurich does luxury hotels better than almost any other city in Europe. The brightest stars of the five star scene are clustered around the shores of Lake Zurich with soul-soothing views over to the distant Alps. Of these, none marries traditional charm and creature comforts quite as well as the palatial Eden Au Lac (Utoquai 45). An equally upmarket alternative is nearby Bellerive Au Lac (Lyoner Strasse 40), which offers Alpine views in a stylish art deco package. 
 
Most of the good mid-range accommodation in Zurich is set back from the shores of the lake. The neo-classical Hotel Bristol (Stampfenbachstrasse 34) is a five-minute walk from the station and the rooms are a lesson in chic minimalism. For airport-bound visitors, the three-star Hilton Apart-Hotel (Hohenbühlstrasse 1) has cornered the mid-range business travel market.
 
To book a hotel click here
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Nightlife


For a true taste of Zurich’s nightlife scene, bypass the city centre tourist bars and head straight for edgy Aussersihl west of the Sihl River. This area is the Shoreditch of Zurich – a once slummy backwater made good by an influx of trendies. It still smacks a little of seediness in some places, but the bright young things who inhabit the warehouse clubs of the Industrial Quarter couldn’t care less about that. Nights spent here generally end up in Club Zukunft (Dienerstrasse 33), a deep house venue with an electric twist. 
 
Visitors who prefer their nightlife a little more upmarket should get glammed up and sashay into the Swiss Casino (Gessnerallee 3-5), the largest casino in Switzerland. This opulent building sprawls over 3,000 square metres and has 26 gaming tables. A cheaper but just as fun night can be had at nearby Theatre Gessnerallee (Gessnerallee 8), Zurich’s kookiest fringe theatre and comedy venue.
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Restaurants


There was a time when Zurich’s foodie scene revolved around fondue and rösti, but not any more. Yes, restaurants like Restaurant zum Kropf (In Gassen 16) still do lip-smacking traditional Swiss fare – but nowadays gastronomy in the city is best defined by its sparkling constellation of Michelin-star restaurants. Rico’s Kunststuben (Seestrasse 160) and The Dolder Grand Restaurant (Kurhausstrasse 65) have two Michelin stars apiece and both have played a hand in revolutionising Zurich’s fine dining scene. Slightly cheaper but just as select is the one-Michelin-star Münsterhof (Münsterhof 6) in the Old Town. 
 
If you’re keen to rub shoulders with the intelligentsia then book a table at the wood-heavy Helvetia (Stauffacherquai 1), a favourite with intellectuals and visiting politicians. Or get up close and personal with the locals at the brilliantly named Lily’s Stomach Supply (Langstrasse 197), a sociable Asian restaurant where the guests share long wooden benches. 
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Shopping


It says a lot about Zurich that the city’s main shopping street, Bahnhofstrasse, is also one of the most expensive and upmarket shopping areas in the world. Not for Zurich the traditional line of dog-eared souvenir shops – here, you’re more likely to come away with a designer watch than a stick of rock or a 99p fridge magnet. 
 
Jelmoli (Seidengasse 1) and Globus (Schweizergasse 11) dominate the retail mecca that is Bahnhofstrasse, and both department stores specialise in high-end designer brands. To find boutique-style shops catering for a younger crowd, you’ll have to head to Niederdorf in the Old Town, while the flea market that runs on summer Saturdays in Burkiplatz is an intriguing emporium of bric-a-brac. Locals love the Caritas store (Birmensdorferstrasse 52), a charity shop packed with designer cast-offs at bargain-bucket prices. Nearby Netto (Birmensdorferstrasse 38) is also popular with the Zurich trendies.
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Top 10 sights

 
Top 5 sights for first-timers
 
Grossmünster 
 
This two-towered church dates back to around 1100AD and is a defining feature of the Zurich skyline. The climb up to the top of the tower is painfully steep and long, but you’ll be rewarded with one of the best views in the city. 
 
Grossmünsterplatz 
www.grossmuenster.ch 
 
Kunsthaus 

This stilted concrete building is to Zurich what the Tate is to London. It houses works by some of the most revered Impressionist and post-Impressionist artists, including Manet, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Monet and Picasso. Look out too for thought-provoking work by sculptor Alberto Giacometti. 
 
Heimplatz 1 
www.kunsthaus.ch 
 
Zoologischer Garten 

Zurich Zoo amalgamates a range of habitats and environments from around the world. Around 300 species co-exist here, and a stroll through the attraction will take you from the jungles of Madagascar to the icy reaches of Antarctica. Don’t miss the penguin parade, performed every day at noon during cold weather. 
 
Zürichbergstrasse 221 
www.zoo.ch 
 
Lake Promenade 

Running for three kilometres along the shores of Lake Zurich, this airy boardwalk is a wall-to-wall visual feast. On summer evenings, it’s the perfect place to chill out and watch the world go by. Rumour has it the lake water is so pure you can even drink it – but we don’t recommend testing that theory. 
 
Landesmuseum 

This Swiss institution is actually three museums in one – the National Museum Zurich, the Castle of Prangins and Forum of Swiss History Schwyz. You could easily spend days in here exploring, but for a whistle-stop tour of the Landesmuseum’s best bits head straight to the Collections Gallery. It offers a visual overview of the museum’s permanent collections. 
 
Museumstrasse 2 
www.nationalmuseum.ch 
 
Top 5 sights for old hands
 
Centre Le Corbusier 
 
The last building ever designed by celebrated Swiss architect Le Corbusier is an elegant medley of sweeping lines and technicolour cubes that’s now a small but intriguing museum. It has limited opening hours, but if you can squeeze in a visit then you won’t be disappointed. 
 
Höschgasse 8
www.centerlecorbusier.com 
 
Üetliberg 

Most classic photographs of the Zurich skyline are taken from this 869-metre peak, which is known fondly as the city’s ‘local’ mountain. In winter, the hiking trails that crisscross the slopes become sledding runs, and you can’t move for over-excited locals whizzing at breakneck speeds down the snowy tracks. 
 
www.uetliberg.ch 
 
Baden 

A picturesque collection of pastel houses around 25 kilometres from Zurich, Baden is a spa town with a curative history dating back to Roman times. A dip in the sulphurous thermal springs is said to heal everything from rheumatism to circulatory problems – that’s if you can stand the whiff of bad eggs. 
 
www.baden.ch 
 
Chinese Garden 

This exquisite Oriental gem on the shores of the lake is so small that many visitors overlook it. Among the locals, it’s known as an eccentric little landscaped hideaway with a collection of colourful Chinese buildings and a curious artificial ‘mountain’. The open art galleries are sure to lull you into serenity. 
 
Bellerivestrasse 138 
 
Neumarkt 17 

It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but this bland white facade in Zurich’s Old Town is a temple to the best of modern interior design. Architecture geeks can spend a happy few hours admiring furniture by some of Europe’s top design geniuses. 
 
Neumarkt 17 
www.neumarkt17.ch 
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Top 5 activities


Opera 

The Zurich Opera House has been attracting the best international talent since 1891 and it’s one of the top places in the world to watch opera. Tickets tend to sell out fast, so get in there early if you want to secure a seat. 
 
Hiking 

If drinking in the views of the Alps from your balcony isn’t adventurous enough for you, then why not lace up your walking boots and head out there? Guided tours leave daily from Zurich town centre, and Zurich Tourism has a free collection of GPS tours for independent hikers. 
 
Swimming 

Zurich’s lakeside lidos are one of the reasons why the city regularly nets ‘best quality of life’ accolades. Lake Zurich is surrounded by seductive spots perfect for post-meeting dips – but avoid the areas marked FKK unless you want to see just a little bit too much of your fellow bathers. 
 
Skiing 

There are 12 ski resorts within an hour’s drive of Zurich Airport, and the locals regularly speed off to the slopes for an afternoon during winter. A slightly longer drive will bring you within reach of famous locations such as Grindelwald and Interlaken. 
 
Spas 

Once you’ve had your adrenaline kick on the slopes, soothe those aching muscles with a traditional Swiss spa treatment. There are more than 100 spas in and around Zurich, offering everything from massages to detox experiences.
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Top 5 events


Sechseläuten

During this traditional spring festival, the streets of Zurich overflow with traditionally dressed locals, marching bands, horses and decorated carriages. The highlight is a mass parade to the shores of Lake Zurich for a traditional spring ritual. 
 
Date: April 
Venue: Citywide 
 
Caliente

This raucous celebration of Latin-American music and culture is now the largest of its kind in the German-speaking world. Expect upbeat street music, fiery food and a party atmosphere. 
 
Date: July 
Venue: Helvetiaplatz and Langstrasse 
 
Züri Fäscht

This unmissable festival only takes place every three years (next in 2013) – but it’s well worth the wait. With food stalls, fairground rides, music and two nights of fireworks, Züri Fäscht takes the centre of Zurich by storm. 
 
Date: July (tri-annually) 
Venue: Citywide 
 
Street Parade

Once a year, this straight-laced city lets its hair down to host the largest technoparade in Europe. The Zurich Street Parade is officially a political demonstration in aid of freedom, tolerance and love. Unofficially, though, it’s the biggest knees-up in the city’s calendar. 
 
Date: August 
Venue: Lake Zurich 
 
Christmas Market

Unusually, this huge festive extravaganza is held indoors in Zurich. It runs for around a month each year, and the highlight is a towering Christmas tree decorated with 5,000 Swarovski crystals. 
 
Date: November/December 
Venue: ShopVille-RailCity

Written by World Travel Guide

Flights to Zurich
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