Zürich: Contemporary Classic 

Get Lost Switzerland Special

March 2014


Blending the finest of the past witha modern edge, the largest city in Switzerland tempts Tatyana Leonov

There’s something about Zürich that has everyone talking. Old and new, traditional and contemporary, conventional and glamorous... These qualities are often at odds in life, but occasionally find harmony in special places. Zürich’s ability to capture that dynamic blend is a true secret of its success. Beautiful clocks (Europe’s fifth largest church clock face is found in Zürich’s St Peterskirche church), designer stores, ateliers and eclectic studios meld seamlessly in this vibrant metropolis. 

The Old Town, boasting imposing architecture, grand museums and exceptional art galleries, looks as though it belongs in a fairytale. Take some time to walk around and savour the surrounding cityscape, starting at Bahnhofstrasse, one of Switzerland’s prime shopping streets, where you’ll find everything from designer goods to famous Swiss chocolate along the picturesque stretch. Stroll along the Limmatquai, which curves over to its namesake, the Limmat River, for more shopping as well stunning churches, halls and bridges. These riverside sights are particularly beautiful at nightfall when the surrounding lights immerse the city in their serene glow.

Zürich is a beacon of good times in the evenings. Come dusk, riverside pools are transformed into fashionable waterfront bars – think sophisticated, suave and seductive with musical wants, gastronomic pleasures and drink medleys all taken care of under one of the many roofs. Rimini Bar, on Schanzengraben, is one of the best – kick back on plush sofas and oriental cushions while enjoying dishes grilled on the spit and a cocktail or two.

Whether you’re after fondue, classic Swiss food, Japanese or Italian, Zürich’s culinary scene caters to every taste and whim. Hiltl, the world’s oldest vegetarian restaurant, is a must-do. Across two levels, it serves exemplary fare (à la carte and buffet-style) that will make the mouths water of even the most committed carnivores.

Beyond the Old Town is Zürich West. The once-industrial district has gone through an artistic renaissance and is now a pulsating expanse of gallery spaces, funky boutiques, studios, theatres, hotels, restaurants and bars. Stay at the edgy 25Hours Hotel, which features a playful interior created by local designer Alfredo Häberli and has rooms that explode with pops of colour and whimsical graphics dotted throughout. Start a shopping spree at the Freitag Flagship Store, housed in stacked freight containers, for cool bags made from recycled tarpaulin. Grab a snack – homemade pies, local organic produce – at Markthalle or, if a more serious meal is necessary, head to Les Halles for organic Mediterranean-inspired tapas and the finest mussels and fries.

The revival of Zürich West began with the opening of Schiffbau in 2002. The culture centre in transformed shipbuilding halls is home to a theatre (in conjunction with Schauspielhaus), restaurant, bar and even a jazz club. It’s the kind of place you could hang out for hours on end remaining entertained, but if you do feel the need for a boogie, head to one of Zürich West’s nightclubs and dance into the morning. 

All about: Zürich

Zürich is located in north-central Switzerland, and shares its name with a canton

Population: 390,000

It sits at the northern end of Lake Zürich, the Old Town straddling the Limmat River

Many organisations, from consulting firm Mercer to Monocle Magazine, rate Zürich as having the highest quality of living in the world

As well as being one of the biggest global financial centres, the city has a rich culture, with many museums and art galleries,
as well as important orchestras and theatre companies

In August, Zürich plays host to Street Parade, one of the largest techno and dance music festivals in the world

• Zürich has the only Opera House in Switzerland