Clustered on the shore of a glassy lake, with mountains rising in the distance, Zurich is as beautiful as it is chic. It may be Switzerland’s largest city, but greenery and low-rise architecture gift it with a small town feel. Considered one of the world’s most liveable cities, it offers an excellent first taste of Switzerland before you set off on a more expansive Swiss adventure. Cool new urban spaces have popped up between charming old buildings, creating unique neighbourhoods and buzzing cultural pockets. See the city from a different perspective with a boat ride on River Limmat, while a quick train trip takes you out to Üetliberg, where you will take in beautiful views of the city from the mountain’s summit.
Boutiques selling high quality, locally made wares are scattered around the city. Upgrade your watch with a beautiful timepiece crafted with famous Swiss design, or perhaps select some jewellery that will forever remind you of your visit. For cool urban designers make way for the Aussersihl quarter, or for exclusive wares head to Bahnhofstrasse, downtown’s main street. When you need a break from shopping it’s an excellent spot to stop for a coffee and to indulge in a little people watching. Tap into the trendy-side of the city in Zürich West, where stalls have popped up under the arches of the railway viaduct and the market hall sells local gourmet produce.
Creative events abound year-round in Zurich, but the city’s artistic side is busiest is in the summer months. The Zurich Festival is in full swing during June and operas, concerts, drama, dance and open-air theatres swing into life. You could easily spend weeks wandering through museums and whiling away afternoons in galleries, but with more than 50 museums and 100 art galleries from which to choose, you’ll have to be selective. Start your cultural exploration at the Swiss National Museum, housed in a hundred-year-old building that resembles a Disney castle, before moving on to admire the likes of Jean Tinguely’s kinetic sculpture down by edge of the lake.
Step through the pages of the city’s history while wandering the narrow lanes of the Old Town, as well as its most popular promenade Niederdorf, which is sweetly referred to as Dörfli – the “little village” by the locals. Select a text from an ancient bookshop and settle into a cafe in one of the charming car-free streets to watch the world shuffle past distinguished old buildings.
Nightlife thrives here, and in the summer months the revelry spills outside beyond the confines of clubs. Even if you’re not vying for a party you’ll find the frivolity can be infectious.
Swiss cuisine is infamously rich and decadent, and indulging in its sauces, creams and sweets is a must when you’re in a city like Zurich. Start your day, at least once during your visit, with a Birchermüesli from Sprüngli on Paradeplatz, the country’s most famous coffee house. For something savoury, settle in for a traditional meal of veal cutlets at the historic guild house Zunfthaus zur Waag.
It’s easy to get enamoured with a country’s traditional fare, but Switzerland’s modern culinary scene is vibrant too. Try, for example, the gourmet specialities served at Gnüsserei, a restaurant set up in a cool industrial space.
Follow your nose around Lake Zurich until you reach the small town of Kilchberg, where you’ll have the chance to purchase delicious produce from the iconic Lindt Chocolate Shop.