4 Jan 2016

Destination Guide: Zurich, Switzerland


What to see and do in Zurich

Hello, 2016! In the first post of the New Year, take a walk around Zurich, Switzerland's largest city. And there’s more to it than its staid banking image. From its historical Old Town to the modern and grungy West neighbourhood, experience the fun side of Zurich. 

Image courtesy Zürich Tourismus - Bruno Macor
Here's what you can do in 48 hours in Zurich.

Man About Town
A walk around Zurich’s old town, the historical city before 1893, is a great way to begin your day in the city. Climb up to the Lindenhof hill, the site of a former Roman castle, for a bird’s eye view of the city. 

View from Lindenhof hill
Next to it is St Peter Church, the oldest church in Zurich, with a massive clock (the largest in Europe) on its tower. But the churches to visit are on either side of the Limmat River – the Grossmünster, founded by Charlemagne, with the iconic twin towers, and the Fraumünster, built on the remains of an abbey for aristocratic women, and most famous for the five stained glass windows designed by Marc Chagall. 

Grossmunster
And speaking of art, a visit to the nearby Kunsthaus is a must to admire the works of Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, and several Swiss artists.

Lunch with a view
When in Switzerland, have lunch by a lake! Lake Zurich’s edges are dotted with several restaurants and it would be hard to make a choice. Seerose Restaurant offers some stunning views of the lake and the city, with the Alps in the background. Get a table out on the terrace and choose from a daily menu of seasonal, European fare, as you watch the boats and yachts sail around the lake. If you’re in town in time for a Sunday Brunch, head over to Clouds, the highest bar and bistro in Zurich. Located at the top of the 35-storey Prime Tower at Maagplatz, Clouds boasts of a panoramic view of the city and the lake from its floor-to-ceiling windows. Watch the chefs in action in the restaurant’s open kitchen as you feast from a generous buffet of European delicacies. Clouds Bar is also a great place to unwind after work, and indulge in a seasonal cocktail or two – perhaps something with the bar’s in-house, award-winning gin?

The Lake Garden
Lake Zurich is, of course, a must-visit, whether you’re in town for a weekend or longer. Take a leisurely cruise around the lake on-board one of the historic paddle steamers. Alternatively, head to the lake’s east shore to Zurichhorn Park, which conceals a surprising place. 

Image courtesy Zürich Tourism - Caroline Minjolle
Chinagarten, a colourful Chinese garden complete with pagodas, pavilions and bridges, was a gift from Zurich’s twin city Kunming in China. It is a temple garden and one of the most revered of gardens outside China. It’s a surreal experience wandering around an orderly Swiss garden and suddenly coming upon a little slice of China.
  
Sweet Nothings
Switzerland means chocolate for most people, and in Zurich you’re truly spoilt for choice. Your first stop should undoubtedly be Confiserie Sprüngli, who have been making fine luxury chocolates for nearly 180 years. Apart from the truffles and pralines, Sprüngli is famous for luxemburgerli – smaller and airier than the Parisian macarons, and available in interesting seasonal flavours.

Image courtesy Zürich Tourism - Martin Rütsch
If you’re looking for some artisanal chocolate, the family-owned Confiserie Honold at Rennweg is a good place to visit. Apart from buying excellent quality chocolates, drop in at Honold’s tearoom for a coffee or aperitif, along with some sandwiches, canapés or tempting praline creations.

The Barhopper
The multi-cultural Langstrasse (literally, the long street) is lined with more than 600 nightclubs! This former red light district of Zurich has been gentrified and is today a pulsating party zone on most nights. Depending upon what you prefer, take your pick from the Gonzo Club, a cellar nightclub featuring live bands, or Longstreet Bar with a DJ belting out dance music, or Die Zukunft (The Future) featuring electro and house music. The street is also the venue for an open-air street festival every two years; Langstrassenfest is held in August-September and features a fun fair, food stalls and music performances.

West Side Story
Kreis 5 (District 5), also known as Zurich West, is fast becoming THE most happening neighbourhoods in the city. This former industrial quarter still retains its gritty look, but now its vast expanses are filled with art, design, food, shopping and a whole lot of culture. 

Image courtesy Markthalle Im Viadukt - Ralph Hut
Under the 36 arches of a railway viaduct built in 1894, today stands a shopper’s paradise – fashion boutiques, trendy sports shops and artsy studios. Check out Fashionslave where a stylist will help you select new designer togs and personal grooming products. Im Viadukt is also home to Markthalle – treat yourself to premium Italian antipasti at Saltinbocca, or fresh sushi and sashimi at Tokyo Tapas. Don’t forget to visit the Freitag Store at Geroldstrasse and pick up a trendy messenger bag made from upcycled truck tarps!

To Market
From mid-November, Zurich takes on a festive look, with several Christmas Markets being held all over the city. 

Image courtesy Zürich Tourism - Martin Rütschi
Zurich’s main train station hosts one of the largest indoor Christmas markets in Europe. Drop by to admire the stunning Swarovski-studded 50-feet tall Christmas tree and then indulge in some shopping. The city’s oldest Christmas market is held in the Niederdorf quarter of the Old Town, and it’s got a romantic, almost fairy-tale like feel to it. The Rapperswil Christmas market is one of the largest in Switzerland; with more than 200 stalls, it’s easy to lose track of time here. Don’t forget to sample the roasted almonds and drink warm cups of mulled wine as you browse through the handmade products on offer at the market stalls.

Jazz You Like It
If jazz and whiskey is your thing, Widder Hotel is your ideal spot. This luxury hotel in Rennweg is the setting for Widder Bar, a cool jazz bar where musicians from all over the world have performed. Wood paneling in warm tones and plush red upholstery give the bar a cozy yet classy look. Jazz concerts take place between October and January and in spring from March to May. Widder bar is also known for its whiskey ‘library’ – with over 1,000 bottles of the good stuff, including 250 different types of single malts. Schiffbau in Zurich West (where steamboats were originally built) has a lively bar scene as well, including Moods, a jazz club and cocktail bar, which hosts both local and international musicians.

Also, check out:

Image courtesy Zürich Tourismus - Gaetan Bally
 - Get your bearings right when you arrive in Zurich, by taking a free walking tour of the old town. Details at www.freewalkzurich.ch

- Need to keep up with your fitness regime? From the downtown Quai Brucke (Quay Bridge), head northwest, and pick a running path on either side of the Limmat River.

- See Zurich the cool way! Rent an e-TukTuk, an emission-free vehicle for a guided city tour. Details at www.etuktuk.ch

- The Café-Restaurant at Confiserie Sprüngli on Paradeplatz is the best place in Zurich for a cup of hot chocolate.
Image courtesy Confiserie Sprüngli
- If you plan to visit museums and use the (very efficient) public transport, buy a ZurichCARD. You will get discounted or free entries to museums, discounts at shops and on city tours, and free public transport. The card is available online or at several ticket offices across the city. CHF 24 for 24 hours and CHF 48 for 72 hours.

This article was commissioned by Man's World India. An edited version of this was published in the November 2015 issue. 

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