Chill in Switzerland's clubbing capital

Bridget Stott does her best to keep up with hip and happening Zurich

Long regarded as a rather staid banking town, Zurich has now joined the fast stream of hip city-break destinations. Recently relaxed licensing laws and a young, entrepreneurial spirit have led to the rise of a vibrant club culture that challenges the buttoned-up values of the city's well-heeled élite. Of course, the essence of old Zurich survives, so if you love picture-postcard scenery, the fine arts, cheese fondues - and dancing all night - Zurich it is.

Long regarded as a rather staid banking town, Zurich has now joined the fast stream of hip city-break destinations. Recently relaxed licensing laws and a young, entrepreneurial spirit have led to the rise of a vibrant club culture that challenges the buttoned-up values of the city's well-heeled élite. Of course, the essence of old Zurich survives, so if you love picture-postcard scenery, the fine arts, cheese fondues - and dancing all night - Zurich it is.

When to go In summer, temperatures never get much above 25C, so sightseeing never gets overheated, although the crowds can. In winter, fun aplenty can be had both indoors and out. Explore the 50 or so museums and galleries, sip hot chocolate in a cool café, or head for the slopes for great skiing and snowboarding.

The Zurich Spring Festival (9-10 April) celebrates the start of spring with guild members leading colourful processions through town, and culminates with the burning of the Boogg, a symbolic snowman-like figure filled with fireworks. From 23 June to 16 July, the Zurich Festival offers a cultural feast of concerts and opera, and the Street Parade (12 August) is Zurich's answer to the Rio carnival, with floats, dancing, throbbing techno music and half a million participants.

Getting thereZurich is one hour and 40 minutes from Heathrow, and the airport is just a 10-minute train ride from the town centre, with departures every 10-15 minutes.

Swissair (tel: 0845 7581333) has nine flights daily from Heathrow from £110 return plus taxes. The airline also offers three flights daily from Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow, and four from Newcastle. British Airways (tel: 0345 222111) flies from Heathrow from £142 including tax, and from Gatwick from £121 including tax. EasyJet (tel: 0870 600 0000) offers the cheapest seats - from £50 one way - if you book well in advance.

Where to stay Budget accommodation tends to fill up quickly between August and October, so book ahead where possible. Try the popular two-star Zic Zac Rock Hotel, Marktgasse 17, (tel: 0041 1 261 2181), with its individually themed rooms, from £16.50 for a single to £37 for a double.

Alternatively, the friendly City Backpacker/Biber, Niederdorfstrasse 5 (tel: 0041 1 251 9015), has dormitory beds from just £7.50 a night and private double rooms from £22. Women-only hotel, Haus Zur Stauffacherin, Kanzleistrasse 19 (tel: 0041 1 241 6979), has single rooms from £23 a night. Zurich also has several well-run youth hostels. Call the booking office (tel: 0041 1 360 1414) for more information.

More upmarket, Hotel Rutli, Zahringerstrasse 43 (tel: 0041 1 254 5800), is just five minutes' walk from the main railway station. It offers spotless, contemporary-style rooms and a good buffet breakfast, from £35 for a double.

However, if you want to spend a fortune, you've come to the right place. The elegant and deeply romantic four-star Zum Storchen, Am Weinplatz 2 (tel: 0041 1 227 2727), was built in 1535 as a coaching inn on the banks of the river Limmat. A double room costs £112. Alternatively, the five-star Widder, Rennweg 7 (tel: 0041 1 224 2526), stylish double rooms, some with private rooftop terraces, from £142 a night.

What to see and doThe medieval city centre, with its cobbled streets, alleyways, quaint courtyards and squares (all too narrow for cars) is ideal for exploring on foot. It is the prettiest part of town, ending abruptly at the mouth of the river Limmat, which flows into Lake Zürich and splits the old town into two distinct areas.

The east bank offers trendy shops, bars and restaurants along pretty side streets, while the west bank is home to the financial institutions and the elegant Bahnhofstrasse, with its designer boutiques, banks and hotels.

The 13th-century St Peter's church on the west bank boasts the largest clock-face in Europe. The evening we stopped by, an old man was practising his scales on a traditional alphorn while two teenage boys tried out their breakdancing moves near the altar. Nearby, the excavated Roman bathhouse on Thermengasse is also worth a look.

Across the river, visit the 13th-century Fraumünster church, with its eight more recent stained-glass windows by Marc Chagall, and the Grossmünster cathedral, on Zwingliplatz, where the Protestant reformer Ulrich Zwingli preached in the 16th century.

The Ceramics Museum, Münsterhof 20, is housed in a guildhall which dates from 1750. The museum has fine pieces from the now-defunct Zurich porcelain factory, and also contains original 16th- century Kachelofen stoves, still in use today. Admission is free.

The Kunsthaus or Museum of Fine Arts, Heimplatz 1, is arguably Zurich's most renowned museum. Look out for the Marc Chagall room, the section devoted to Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti, and the important collection of works by Fussli and Hodler. Entry is £2, with free admission on Wednesday nights and all day Sunday.

For open spaces and alpine views, head to Lake Zürich. The eastern shore features a long promenade and sculpture park. Le Corbusier's last building, the Heidi Weber House, is just off the main path.

If you want to get out on the water, an armada of pleasure craft and steamers line the lakeside quay and offer a plethora of excursion deals from April to October. During the summer, it's also possible to swim in the lake. Look out for the ornate 19th-century swimming clubs and bathhouses.

No trip to Zurich would be complete without visiting Confiserie Schober at Napfgasse 4. The café, decorated with vast bunches of plastic flowers, serves great hot chocolate, while the shop sells everything from champagne truffles to chocolate stem-ginger cake.

The city's most famous chocolate landmark, the Sprungli bakery, Bahnhofstrasse 12, has a fabulous range of decadent indulgences.

Food and drink Zurich has hundreds of restaurants serving local and international cuisine in every price range. For a feast, head for one of the ancient guildhouses. The Ivy-style Zunyhaus zur Schmiden, Marktgasse 20, serves modern Italian dishes from £30 for two, without wine. For an immense fondue or raclette in suitably kitsch surroundings, head for Adler's Swiss Chuchi, Rosengasse 10. About £30 for two with wine.

For budget dining, try the Brasserie Lipp, Uraniastrasse 9, with Parisian belle époque-style decor and French dishes to match from £5-£10. The vegetarian café Bona Dea, Bahnhofplatz 15, offers buffet-style meals from £8.50, and cheap eats can also be found at beerhalls around town. The Rheinfelder Bierhalle, Niederdorfstrasse 76, serves simple dishes from £3, and you can eat at the self-service Mensa Polyterrace, Leonhardstrasse 34, from £2.60.

If you're heading to the clubs and bars of the red-light district, try Lily's Stomach Supply, Langstrasse 197, which offers a good Pan-Asian menu from around £7.

NightlifeMuch of the club scene can be found around the Langstrasse, where plenty of new bars and clubs stay open until dawn. The Klinik on Freigutstrauss pulls a crowd of young artists, designers and filmmakers, while Inkognito at Hardturmstrasse 122, and gay club, Labyrinth, Pfingstweidstrasse 70, are popular with the young office and student crowd.

For one-off party-night forecasts, consult www.pulp.ch and www.partysan.ch. Most late-night bars and clubs are clustered around the Niederdorfstrasse. The stylish Kaufleuten, Pelikanstrasse 18, benefits from Zurich's recent all-night licensing laws, as does Hotel Seehof's minimalist bar on Seehofstrasse 11.

Out of townEngleberg is the nearest winter-sports resort. A one-day ski and rail pass can be picked up at the Zurich railway station for around £23.50. The train journey takes about two hours, passing through stunning mountain scenery, and ski and board hire is available from the Salomon Station, next to the cable car. Ask about ski lessons for beginners and group deals for four or more at the Engleberg Tourist Office (tel: 041 637 3040).

Deals and packages Thomson Breakaway (tel: 0870 550 2555); Travelscene (tel: 020 8427 4445); Creative Tours (tel: 020 7495 1779); Thomas Cook (tel: 01733 563 200); and Cresta Holidays (tel: 0870 161 0900) all offer packages to Zurich, flying with Swissair. British Airways (tel: 0870 24 24 243) offers weekend breaks at the three-star Hotel Bristol from £235 per person based on two sharing.

Further information The Tourist Office is at Zurich central railway station (tel: 01 215 4000; net: www.zurichtourism.ch).In the UK, contact Switzerland Travel Centre, Leicester Square, London W1 (tel: 020-7734 1921).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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
  • Get to the point
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

    Recruitment Genius: Bid / Tender Writing Executive

    £24000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executives / Marketing Communications Consultants

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a number of Marketi...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

    £20000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This well established business ...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own