Further easing of community and border measures around the world has us all excited to once again explore European cities. With international travel back on the agenda, there’s no better time to fly to Switzerland’s hippest city for a journey of winter discovery.
The snow-topped spires and spectacle of freshly-powdered mountains provide a perfect backdrop. There is also more to see, eat and do than ever, because in recent years Zurich has witnessed a smart shake-up. And, because this is the time of year when the city is at its cosiest, the rewards are everywhere. Here is an itinerary for how you can spend a perfect day in the city.
Assuming it’s the weekend, start on Bürkliplatz, the city’s lakeshore square. A honeypot for visitors, the marketplace hosts a weekly calendar of flower, farmers’ and flea markets and is ingrained in the city’s community life. Many locals turn up at 6am sharp, having done so for decades, to buy the freshest delicacies, collectibles and art in the city. Frankly, nobody could accuse this place of not providing contrast to the banker-flair of nearby Bahnhofstrasse.
Know your Art Brut from your Dada? Both beloved counterculture art movements were born in Switzerland and the Kunsthaus is where to seek out cutting-edge exhibitions and all kinds of psychedelic eye candy. The gallery is a five-minute walk from the Grossmunster cathedral and, thanks to a new David Chipperfield-designed extension which opened this past autumn, it’s now the largest art gallery in the country. It’s so vast, in fact, you’ll be tempted to take a guided tour to fathom it all.
For more on Dada, head through the sinewy streets of the medieval Niederdorf to café -cum-gallery Cabaret Voltaire on Spiegelgasse where the movement was first conceived. Please note that Cabaret Voltaire is closed for renovation until Spring 2022.
Lunch means a reservation at one of the city’s gilded guild halls, many of which house equally-polished dining spaces. Close by is Restaurant zum Grünen Glas, where business executives slacken ties and undo top buttons over plates of veal breast served with oxtail ragout, salmon tartar and baby goat braised in red wine. If it’s full, try Zunfthaus zur Waag on the opposite bank of the silver-blue Limmat River.
Next on the agenda is a bit of shopping. Globus is the Harrods or Bloomingdales for money-to-burn Swiss and its window displays are worth the trip alone. Inside the department store, you’ll find everything from high street fashion and homewares to fine table linens, decorative cushions and cocktail dresses fit for an ambassador’s ball. Such a staple of Zurich life, it’s where you’ll also find the well-heeled shopping for only-in-Switzerland delicacies, cheeses and wines. Note, the country exports less than one percent of its annual wine production. So know that’s it’s exceptionally good.
One last treat before dinner. No visit to Zurich is complete without a lung-filling dip into Sprüngli, the city’s longest-running chocolate manufacturer and in business since 1836. Here, champagne truffles, lighter-than-air pralines and pyramids of hot pink, lemon and strawberry Luxemburgerli (cream-puffed mini-macarons) offer a bitesize intro to the city’s history of sweet production. What’s more, this crown jewel confiserie is at the nexus of all city life and is constantly redefining the art of the high-end chocolatier. Nothing comes fresher — or more contemporary — than the Truffes du Jour, bitesize nuggets made fresh every day in unexpected flavours.
Baur’s, tucked inside the Bar au Lac hotel, is a brasserie restaurant that opened before the pandemic hit. Which is to say, it feels as good as new. Sit at the counter and pick from the wall of wines (it’s curated by the world’s best sommelier, no less), or settle into a booth for French classics such as Chateaubriand, beef tartare or rabbit confit. Whatever you choose, expect phenomenal service.
The historic hotel has been open for more than 175 years and is surrounded by its own private park; afterwards, ask the concierge to introduce you to the property’s 80,000 bumblebee employees, who live in a miniature version of the hotel on the lawn.
Drop in to see Dirk Hany, who owns one of Zurich’s most popular cocktail bars, Bar am Wasser. Located moments away, it’s a swanky spot overlooking the Limmat, with a seasonal menu heavy on local flavours. If the mixologist isn’t at his preferred home behind the counter, his colleagues will still fix up a head-spinning after-dinner sweetener or champagne-topped cocktail to give you a second wind. It’s wildly popular, so reservations are recommended.
Remember Zurich is foremost a city of professionals and business types — so night owls are a rare breed. To continue the party, head to the dyed-in-the-wool Gräbli Bar on Niederdorfstrasse. It’s the only bar in the city that’s open around-the-clock, 365 days.
Please check the establishments’ respective websites for opening hours as well as booking requirements before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.
The information is accurate as of press time. For the latest travel advisory updates, please refer to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website.
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