The wealthy, efficiently run city with a reputation for being more of a business hub than a sightseeing city is often unfairly overlooked as a travel destination. Although it’s a city slowly coming out of its shell and the attractive, culturally vibrant Swiss city is now emerging as one of Europe’s hippest destinations. From our recent stay, here’s why we think we think you’d be foolish not to add the cool city of Zurich to your travel list…
The bars and nightlife
It might be difficult to believe but the Swiss really do know how to have fun. Yes the Swiss have shed their conservative image and finally found their inner party animal. From the city’s Street Parade where thousands of people descend on the city for the largest techno party in the world to its Pride Festival, there is seemingly no end to the city’s party vibe. However, if you manage to arrive at an out-of-festival time, never fear, there are plenty of places to get your dancing shoes on for (just head for Züri-West, the epicentre of the city’s nightlife). The city’s extraordinary Badi Bars also deserve a special mention. They give ‘dive bar’ a whole new meaning, instead of spit on the floor décor, they serve as the city’s lidos by day and by night turn into buzzing waterside bars.
Over the years Zurich has built up a reputation as a shopping city, even though it can’t match London or Milan, it does have its fair share of retail therapy opportunities. The Bahnhofstrasse: a pedestrianized street home to many world-famous brands as well as large, impressive department stores. If it’s souvenirs you’re after head for Teddy’s Souvenir Shop which has a broad selection of traditional crafts and souvenirs from all over Switzerland. To get away from the crowds head to the Old Town and wander around the side streets and alleys from interesting stores selling a wide range of unique curios.
The historic Old Town
The beautiful Historic Centre (located in the Old Town) is the culture cup of Zurich and is home to a number of architecturally impressive buildings from medieval churches and to houses that date back to the reign of Charlemagne. Zurich stands out from other mainland European cities – it has a lively café culture, but in the old town, it has something of a twist, where tourists can experience living history in a large amount of beautifully presented historic cafes. Café Shober, for example, dates back to 1875 and has retained all the charm and character its owner intended when it was first opened.
The beautiful lake
There is something almost otherworldly about the stunning crystal clear lake that ripples in the centre of Zurich which acts as the centripetal force for the locals. Throughout the bright, clear days the lake is a hive of activity from simple shore-side picnickers to oarsmen in canoes to romantic couples in pedalos. If you are feeling like making a statement, there is always the opportunity to take to the water in the Cadillac-shaped boat (yes really).
Mostly when people think of food in Switzerland, they think of Swiss chocolate but there is so much more about Swiss food than just the chocolate shops. You can try Guild House for traditional cuisine like Zurcher Geshnetzeltes or more trendy and stylish restaurants with impressive décor and zany menus in Zurich West. And when you’ve done all that, hit up the confectionaries! Don’t leave the city without trying Confiserie Sprungli’s internationally acclaimed macaroons- you have been warned!
The interesting museums
Zurich is also home to an impressive number of interesting museums (and we mean interesting)! Try Cabaret Voltaire, the quirky home of the surreal art movement Dadaism, for Avant-garde art exhibits, live jazz and a very cool cafe. If you want something a little more traditional then opt for Uhrenmuseum Beyer which documents the history of time-keeping and timepieces including primitive examples like sundials, water clocks and hourglasses. The museum showcases the long-established human obsession with time since, well, the beginning of time! Located in the heart of the city it contains 250 valuable exhibits dating back to around 1400BC.
Where to Stay
Zurich has an impressive variety of different accommodations, ranging from four-star hotels to beautiful lakefront inns and hip hostels. We stayed in the boutique Hotel du Théâtre, a well presented mid-range hotel located at the gateway to Zurich’s old town. With the train station only a few minutes’ walk away and a high standard of quirky, contemporary interior design, the hotel made an excellent base for our Zurich city break.