Previously labelled as a rigid commercial centre, the Zurich of the 19th and 20th centuries is a far cry from the vibrant, cultural metropolis of today. Home to a young, diverse and wealthy population, the city has drastically upped its game and now boasts an extraordinary museum and gallery scene, luxurious restaurants and shopping, and an enviable proportion of clean, green spaces that wrap around Lake Zurich. Epitomising Swiss charm and traditional character with a twist of urban culture, Zurich welcomes millions of visitors each year, particularly in August, when the city comes alive for its annual Street Parade.
The picture-perfect Altstadt (Old Town) is steeped in medieval history and is home to picturesque cobbled alleyways and elegant church steeples. This is particularly apparent along the popular Niederdorf promenade, which attracts hordes of visitors who come to stroll through its winding streets and small squares. The stunning Fraumunster and Grossmunster churches are the town’s Gothic treasures, and proudly dominate the city’s skyline.
The Zurich Opera House is also worth checking out, not least for the breathtaking architecture of its performance hall. Zurich West’s charm lies in its industrial-turned-cultural spaces, its authentically renovated lofts and galleries, and its dynamic nightlife scene. The Museum for Modern Art in Zurich makes for an interesting visit, as it holds more than 4,000 works of fine art. Make a stop at the Swiss National Museum and the Museum Rietberg for insights into Swiss history and the international art scene.
Eat and Drink
The cosmopolitan nature of Zurich is largely to thank for its first-rate dining scene. Italian, Asian, Turkish, Russian and Brazilian restaurants are all readily available in the city, alongside traditional Zurich-style cooking. Swiss favourites such as fondue and raclette are a must, as well as the local specialty of Zuri-geschnetzeltes mit roesti, veal in creamy sauce served in traditional rosti style.
The areas of Niederdorf and Langstrasse boast a thriving restaurant scene. Zurich West has recently entered the entertainment scene and is now considered one of the trendiest neighbourhoods to drink, dine, and party the night away in Zurich.
Where to Stay
As one of the most liveable cities in the world, Zurich accommodation certainly doesn’t come cheap. It does, however, provide generally great quality and efficient service. Accommodation in Old Town is a popular choice for those keen to stay close to all the action in the city. Hotels situated around the central train station also provide a great location and come slightly cheaper than those in Old Town.
Zurich’s exclusive Bahnhofstrasse is globally renowned as one of the most expensive shopping boulevards in the world. The famous street is home to some of the most luxurious brands on the planet such as Cartier, Omega, Swarovski and the ultra-lavish Globus department store. The best of Swiss chocolatiers also inhabit this pocket of retail luxury, as well as jewellers and perfumeries.
The innovative and accessible Sihlcity mall hosts a raft of shops, restaurants and an entertainment complex that makes for a great family day out. The Gallery on Marktgasse 12 is a fashion lover’s mecca, bursting with more than 20 brands under a single roof. For Swiss souvenirs, Niederdorf and Old Town are brimming with chocolate, cheese and gift stores.
Zurich Like a Local
If you’re visiting Zurich in summer, do as the locals do and escape the heat on a daytrip to the Limmat River or one of Lake Zurich’s outdoor swimming areas. If you want to escape the city for a day with the whole family, take a 50-minute train ride out of Zurich to the Rhine Falls, Europe’s biggest waterfall. Relax to the sound of crashing water, take a walk to drink in the stunning views or explore the adventure park on the northern side of the Falls.