Forget what you’ve heard about Zurich. Sure it might be home to the world’s fourth-biggest stock exchange, but Zurich is definitely no longer the snoozy banking town it was in the ‘90s. Rich with as much culture as money, modern Zurich boasts an affluent young population and an increasingly exciting way of life. Couple the thriving art and dining scene in Zuri-West with waterways so clean you can drink from and it’s easy to see why Zurich constantly tops the world’s most livable city list.
Zuri-West, where you’ll find modern Zurich on display at the trendy bars and restaurants, and Altstadt (Old Town) are the two most popular destinations for visitors to explore. Niederdorf makes a great place to start your journey by wandering the cobbled alleyways and gazing at the countless medieval buildings. Nearby you’ll find Zurich’s twin-towered Grossmuenster Church, built largely in the 15th century. With Zurich widely regarded as the home of the Dadaist Art movement, Zurich Museum of Art, Rietberg Museum, and Swiss National Museum are all important cultural attractions. Opened in 1891, The Zurich Opera House is also worth a visit, if even just to marvel at the architecture in the performance hall.
Zurich boasts many lively restaurants and bars with countless new venues having opened since the late 1990s. Langstrasse, just west of the centre has long been the centre of Zurich’s nightlife with many low-key bars and restaurants to sample. Recently Zuri-West has been stealing all of the dining and wining limelight though, with Clouds and Hotel Rivingston & Sons just two tasty restaurants to try out in the area. Blindekuh (Blind Cow) is Zurich’s most popular restaurant, which is strange considering you have to eat there in total darkness. In fact people with vision impairment run the restaurant and the lack of light is a way of sharing their experience with customers.
Where to Stay
Visitors to Zurich are in for more treats than just chocolate thanks to accommodation options being widely outstanding. Starting at the top of the list, B2 Boutique Hotel is a boldly designed hotel and spa housed in a former brewery. It’s not cheap but it’s not forgettable either and has a 36-foot-tall library lounge containing more than 33,000 books. Housed within 9 historic houses, Widder Hotel is another standout option and has individually designed rooms. Lady’s First Design Hotel and Hotel St. Josef offer fewer frills for visitors with fewer francs, while Hotel Schweizerhof is perhaps ‘the’ classic Zurich hotel and is located right beside the central train station.
Just a few short steps from central station, Bahnhofstrasse is where you’ll find one of Europe’s most prestigious shopping areas. Here you can join locals strolling the wide promenades and gazing at the numerous international stores (just not on Sundays when most shops are closed). An interesting alternative for those not wanting to spend 20,000 Swiss Francs on a Rolex is Areas 4 and 5. While at night this area west of the city becomes centre of Zurich’s nightlife, by day it’s a young fashionable area beaming with modern boutiques, cafes and galleries.
Zurich like a Local
Many visitors don’t come to Zurich to swim, but those that are willing to dip their toes into the cool clear waters will be rewarded with a typically local experience. Between May and September outdoor swimming areas open all around Lake Zurich and Limmat River. Flusband Oberer Letten is the best of the swimming locations and is where you can mix with locals in a somewhat urban oasis. Here young and old swim, play volleyball and sunbake on the wooden terraces. Cafes and small beer gardens also seasonally open in the area offering locals and tourists alike the perfect opportunity to unwind on a warm day.