Don’t let its reputation fool you; Zurich is much more than just a business hub. To begin with, the city is remarkably attractive, from the village-like medieval Old Town to the dazzling lakeside parks that overlook the majestic white-tipped Alps. Then there is its rich cultural scene, which encompasses a range of highly regarded museums, galleries and performance venues.
Getting around Zurich is a fuss-free experience. From the moment you step off your train at the airport, you’ll be connected to a well-functioning network of punctual trains, trams, buses, boats and cableways. For most visitors, it makes sense to buy a ZürichCARD, which not only provides unlimited transport but also includes free admission to museums and discounts at various attractions.
Ground zero for shopping in Zurich is Bahnhofstrasse. Though its expensive chocolatiers, luxury fashion brands and watch shops are aimed at the deep-pocketed, it’s still fun to window-shop and watch others blow their cash. From here, it’s just a short walk up to Lindenhof, an elevated, linden tree-lined square where a Roman fortress once stood. Nearby lies the millennium-old Fraumünster, a landmark church that contains exquisite stained-glass windows designed by Marc Chagall.
For the culturally curious, Zurich has a particularly strong fine art showing. The best stuff is held in the Kunsthaus, where masterpieces from Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti as well as Monet and Van Gogh are displayed. For a more contemporary approach to visual culture, the design-centric exhibits of the excellent Museum für Gestaltung are hard to top, while the neo-Baroque Zurich Opera House and the Schauspielhaus Zürich theatre offer after-dark cultural opportunities.
One of Zurich’s biggest selling points is its proximity to nature, which can be enjoyed from lakeside parks, such as Chinagarten. The summit of Zurich’s very own mountain, Üetliberg, can be reached via a short train journey and a 10-minute hike. Among the biggest events in town is the annual Street Parade (August), a party that sees the streets mobbed with techno-loving revellers.
Bathing suits aren’t the first thing you reach for when packing for a city break, but when Zurich is the destination, they should be. The Limmat River is lined with urban baden (swimming areas) where locals come to take a dip in the clean and clear Alpine-fed water.
For something closer to the wild, head for the Wildnispark Zürich, where you’ll find educational trails leading through forest and a wildlife park housing native animals. For something less physically testing, soak in the rooftop pool in the Thermalbad and Spa Zürich during sunset, when a fiery glow casts the city in its best light.
From hearty fondue feasts to handmade chocolates, Zurich has lots to offer the hungry travellers. For those exploring the city on foot, follow your nose to the street-side stalls where affordable wurst-style sausages are grilled to order. For casual food in industrial-chic environment, browse the converted warehouses of Zurich West; the Viadukt stretch here features delicatessens and a market housed in old railway arches. For dining with a side of history, reserve a table at Kronenhalle, a former beer hall turned haute cuisine restaurant whose tasty Swiss dishes are overshadowed only by the scene-stealing art collection that hangs on its wall, which includes works by Picasso, Rodin and Matisse.