Often lauded as a thriving financial hub, but rarely exposed for its unique culture, we’re here to uncover the hidden side of Zurich. Tucked away between the beautifully preserved medieval streets, the city has a remarkably vibrant and creative community. History is abundant, culture is rife, and there’s an industrial edge sweeping the city, making it one of Europe’s hottest destinations. Here’s how to make the most of a four day vacation in this surprisingly cool subwaypolis.
The airport is just over 6 miles from Zurich’s city center, so once you’ve touched down it’s an easy journey to your hotel. Check in and relax with a coffee while you prepare for a day of exploring the Old Town, known locally as Altstadt. The narrow, cobbled streets are lined with medieval architecture, that give way to more intricate Renaissance buildings; each one tells a story of time. Your first day is a gentle introduction to the ancient gems this city has on offer, so we’ll arrange for a local guide to be on hand to tell you more about each sight, while allowing you to explore at your own pace.
As you head west across the Limmat river via Münsterbrücke, look back at the iconic double towers of Grossmünster, the city’s most prolific Protestant Church. Make your way to Fraumünster church, which was built on the remains on an abbey that dates back to 853, and can be identified today by the graceful blue spire piercing the skyline. Inside, extensive 20th century refurbishment has seen the addition of striking contemporary stain-glass windows by both Chagall and Giacometti.Read more
Next, refuel with some a light lunch at Rotisserie (the Storchen Hotel’s restaurant which not only gives you delicious food, but wonderful views of the Limmat) before you visit Kunsthaus, one of Switzerland’s best collections of art from across the ages. Spend the evening relaxing over drinks and dinner at the world’s first vegetarian restaurant, Haus Hiltl – or, for those who want meat and fish on their plate, try Kronenhalle, where you can sample delicious food amid a stunning exhibition of pieces by some of the world’s greatest artists. Food for thought in its truest sense.
Your second day in Zurich will help you get under the skin of an altogether more modern Zurich. District 5, also known as Zurich West, is fast emerging as one of the hippest areas in Europe. This old industrial quarter has been regenerating its dis-used spaces into quirky, unique venues that make for a fun day of exploration.
Through the graffiti-ridden back-streets, trace the railway line and discover the stores and restaurants that now reside in its arches, Im Viadukt; choose a spot to grab a mid-morning coffee and get your bearings. Nearby Frau Gerold’s Garten is a wonderful display of the creativity and community spirit you find in this area, and makes for a pretty route (often with the addition of live music) as you head to Hauser & Wirth to get your fix of modern art. Spend the rest of the afternoon discovering concept stores and stores, and grabbing some food at Schiffbau, a ship factory turned theater, which also has a lovely restaurant and bar called LaSalle.
TAKE TIME FROM THE CITY
Now it’s time to see beyond the city and venture into the Swiss countryside. First stop, Schauffhausen, a pretty medieval town about an hour’s drive into the mountains, for which we’ll arrange a chauffeur. Here you will have a private, behind the scenes tour of IWC, one of Switzerland’s world-famous watchmakers. Learn about the industry that has kept this country running so smoothly, and see the masters at work on beautiful timepieces. Take some time to breathe in the even fresher air here while you look at the painted buildings and rolling landscape beyond. Afterwards, head to nearby Laufen Castle where you can pick up an adventure path which leads you to unrivaled views of Europe’s biggest waterfall, The Rhine Falls. In its most abundant state the waterfall reaches a spectacular width of 492 feet, so it’s quite a spectacle. On route back, stop off at any little villages and towns that take your fancy, making sure you sample some of the Swiss chocolate on offer in each – or make a dedicated detour to the Swiss Maestrani Chocolate Factory, which reopens in spring 2017.
Back in Zurich for your final day, we can arrange for you to have a backstage tour of Zurich’s spectacular opera house, where you might even be lucky enough to listen in on some rehearsals. Then revisit the areas that have most captured your heart, and, depending on the time of year, explore one of the many local market stalls. Year round you can find artisan foods at Bahnhofmarkt on a Wednesday, or all sorts of flea market treasures (and tat) at Kanzlei or Bürkliplatz on a Saturday; at Christmas the city is awash with glittering local markets that will instill a sense of festivity in even the most Scrooge-like of visitors.
Whatever time of year you decide to go, Zurich is the picture of a fairy-tale, and doesn’t fail to deliver in magical experiences to boot. This is the perfect place start to your European adventure.