48 Hours In: Zurich

Far from being an enclave of buttoned-up reserve, this lakeside Swiss city dazzles in summer with cultural events and water-based activity.

Click here for 48Hours In...Zurich map

 

Travel essentials

Why go now?

Switzerland's largest city has shaken off its former image of prim reserve. Expensive it may be – the Swiss franc remains strong, at less than 1.5 to the pound – but the payback comes when you spend time roaming.

This is a surprisingly jovial city, with an engaging mix of areas and boundless creativity. Next weekend, Caliente! (6-8 July; caliente.ch) forms a mini-carnival of Latin and Caribbean culture, while Art and the City (until 23 Sept; artandthecity.ch) presents 40 works in public areas by artists including Ai Weiwei.

Touchdown

I travelled with Railbookers (020-3327 2439; railbookers.com) on a flexible rail/flight package, which included flight out, train back and two nights' B&B; similar deals cost from £425 per person.

The train journey from London is straightforward. After the Eurostar to Paris Gare du Nord, take RER line D to the Gare de Lyon, from where high-speed TGVs depart for Zurich.

Alternatively, Swiss (0845 601 0956; swiss.com) flies to Zurich from Heathrow, London City, Birmingham and Manchester. BA (0844 493 0787; ba.com) flies from Heathrow and London City.

Other options include easyJet (0843 104 5000; easyjet.com) from Luton and Gatwick; Helvetic (00 41 44 270 8500; helvetic.com) from Cardiff, Bristol and Inverness; and BMI (0844 848 4888; flybmi.com) from Edinburgh.

At the airport buy a ZurichCARD to cover public transport, museums, retail discounts and more (Sfr20/£13 for 24 hours, or Sfr40/£26 for 72 hours). With it, the train to Zurich HB ("Main Station") (1) or slower tram 10 to the city square known as Central (2) are free.

Get your bearings

Zurich drapes around the neck of slender Lake Zurich, where the River Limmat exits northwards. Its medieval old town flanks the river. The left bank is upmarket shopping territory corralled by the curving Bahnhofstrasse. The right bank, known as Niederdorf, is a busy little tangle of bars, old-fashioned shops and traditional restaurants.

A five-minute tram ride takes you into the livelier ethnic and social mix of Zurich West, centred on honky-tonk Langstrasse and the chic boutiques in reclaimed warehouses and railway arches behind Limmatplatz.

On the concourse of the main station (1), the tourist office (00 41 44 215 4000; zuerich.com) opens Monday to Saturday 8am to 8.30pm, Sunday 8.30am to 6.30pm.

Check in

The B2 hotel (3) at Brandschenkestrasse 152 (00 41 44 567 6767; b2boutiquehotels. com) opened in March in old brewery. Cachet comes from modern-styled rooms with open bathrooms, acres of parquet floor and a post-industrial setting amid shops and restaurants. Doubles from Sfr290 (£190), with breakfast.

Steps from Central, Hotel du Théâtre (4), Seilergraben 69 (00 41 44 267 2670; hotel-du- theatre.ch) has every room designed individually evoking the building's past as a theatre and cinema. It's a lovely friendly three-star with character and doubles from Sfr205 (£133), room only.

If you're after budget soul, go for the easy-going Hotel Otter (5), Oberdorfstrasse 7 (00 41 44 251 2207; hotelotter.ch), an old-town building with arty rooms and shared bathrooms above a street-level café. Doubles from Sfr155 (£100), including breakfast.

Day one

Take a hike

From the main station (1) stroll south past the department stores and terrace cafés of ritzy Bahnhofstrasse. Turn off at Uraniastrasse, beneath the domed tower of the 105-year-old observatory (6) (urania-sternwarte.ch), then cut right along Schipfe, a riverside lane that conceals a number of artists' workshops. Climb to the Lindenhof (7), the former site of a Roman customs post, now grassy and quiet. Behind the owlish clock face adorning St Peter's church (8) soars the elegantly spired Fraumünster (9) (open daily from 10am to 6pm), a 13th-century church featuring some exquisite stained glass by Marc Chagall. A plaque set into the cobbled square alongside commemorates Winston Churchill's speech calling for a United States of Europe, delivered here in 1946.

Cross the river at Münsterbrücke (10), with views of the 17th-century Rathaus (town hall) (11), then pick any alley to plunge you into the old town. Turn left on to cobbled Niederdorfstrasse, jumbled with design shops, medieval fountains and beer halls. Once past the corner with Spiegelgasse – marked by the Cabaret Voltaire (12) arts venue, on the site of a bar where the Dada art movement was founded back in 1916 – and you emerge at tram-packed Central (2).

Lunch on the run

Adler's Swiss Chuchi (13), Rosengasse 10 (00 41 44 266 9696; hotel-adler.ch), is a favoured spot in the Niederdorf lanes. Try the daily changing set menu (Sfr17/£11) – steak, veal, rösti and the like – or opt for an aromatic cheese fondue (Sfr29/£19).

Take a ride

Trams 2, 5, 8, 9 and 11 all serve Bürkliplatz (14), from where boats head out around the lake. The ZurichCARD is valid for the 90-minute "Short Round Trip", which departs every half-hour. You can get out anywhere along the way – perhaps at Küsnacht, for ice cream in the lakeside garden of Romantik Hotel Sonne opposite the landing stage (00 41 44 914 1818; sonne.ch) – and take a later boat back.

An aperitif

In lively Zurich West, La Salle (15) sits in a huge glass cube within the Schiffbau – a former shipbuilder's yard – at Schiffbaustrasse 4 (00 41 44 258 7071; lasalle-restau rant.ch; open daily until midnight). It's a classy spot in which to sink a glass of Turbinen Bräu (Sfr5/£3), brewed a mile or so down the road.

Dining with the locals

In between Zurich West's industrial-chic bars and streetwear outlets stands Lily's Stomach Supply (16), Langstrasse 197 (00 41 44 440 1885; lilys.ch), a fast-paced hideaway dishing up Asian nosh to diners seated at long benches – anything from Tamil chicken curry to pad Thai or Vietnamese beef salad (all roughly Sfr22/£14), washed down with Tsingtao beer (Sfr6.50/£4).

Meanwhile, a more refined watering-hole can be found at Helvetia (17), Stauffacherquai 1 (00 41 44 297 9999; hotel-helve tia.ch), which has long been a refuge for political types to meet and discuss the issues of the day. Graze in the wood‑panelled bar, or book for the tasteful upstairs restaurant serving classic dishes such as Züri-Geschnetzeltes, sliced veal in mushroom cream sauce (Sfr42/£27).

Day two

Sunday morning: go to church

With its twin pepperpot towers dominating riverside views, the Grossmünster (18), or Great Minster, was begun around 1100. Stripped of decoration in the 1520s during the Reformation, it retains an austere serenity, lifted by Augusto Giacometti's dazzlingly colourful windows. Don't miss the huge statue of Charlemagne in the crypt (open daily 9am to 6pm; grossmuenster.ch).

Out to brunch

Switzerland's tallest building is the 35-storey Prime Tower, completed in December, its glass façades looming 126m above the train tracks. It is mostly offices, but take the lift to the top floor for Clouds (19) (00 41 44 404 3000; clouds.ch), a suave lounge-bar and restaurant with panoramic views and a rather nouvelle-cuisine take on Sunday brunch.

Expect artful mini-portions of cold meats, smoked fish, homemade pasta, sweet mousses and sorbets, and a bill above Sfr75 (£50) per head (open Sundays from 10am, daily for lunch and dinner, no Sat lunch).

Cultural afternoon

After last month's furore surrounding The Scream, sold at auction for a record US$120m (£80m), see more of Munch at the Kunsthaus (20), Heimplatz 1 (00 41 44 253 8484; kunsthaus.ch), which has the largest collection of his works outside Scandinavia. Dip, too, into Monet, Picasso, Rothko and Warhol and a comprehensive array of Alberto Giacometti's spindly sculptures.

The innovative show Riotous Baroque (until 2 September) highlights themes of life and lust from the 17th century to today (open daily 10am to 6pm, Wed-Fri until 8pm, closed Mon). Admission with ZurichCARD is Sfr20/£13, or free if you exclude the Baroque exhibition.

A walk in the park

On the lake's east shore, reached by boat or tram numbers 2 and 4, the Zurichhorn park conceals a pretty Chinese Garden (21), a gift from Zurich's twin city of Kunming. It has a willow-fringed lakelet, arched bridge, pagodas and pavilions (open daily 11am-5pm, entry Sfr4/£2.50).

The icing on the cake

Tram 6 climbs to the Zoo (22), Zurichbergstrasse 221 (00 41 44 254 2505; zoo.ch), which has more than 300 species in large, well-maintained facilities including the Masoala Rainforest dome, a steamy slice of Madagascan jungle.

Walk on paths amid ferns and giant bamboo, spot geckos, red-ruffed lemurs and tropical frogs. Profits support conservation, healthcare and sustainable farming in Madagascar (open daily 9am to 6pm, entry with ZurichCARD is Sfr20/£13).

Far from being an enclave of buttoned-up reserve, this lakeside Swiss city dazzles in summer with cultural events and water-based activity.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum