Zurich is one of Europe’s most surprising cities. Once known mostly as the epicentre of Swiss banking, traveling to Zurich today is far from staid and conservative, offering a truly multi-faceted experience.
Topographically, Zurich has much to offer and water is at the heart of the city. With the River Limmat running through to Lake Zurich, the city is framed by a stunning mountain backdrop. Between May and October activities on the water are extremely popular for visitors and locals alike – from swimming in Lake Zurich, visiting a lido bar or simply taking a boat tour of the city to enjoy the medieval architecture from a different perspective, Zurich offers something for everyone.
Cultural life in Zurich is rich and varied. The Kunsthaus (see Unmissable below) is one of Europe’s greatest museums of art. Those that have time should also visit Winterthur just 30 minutes from the center of Zurich to see the Oskar Reinhart Collection, housing European masterpieces showcased in the collectors’ former residence, which was bequeathed to the Swiss Confederation in 1958.
The Zurich Opera and Ballet are world class, and is the only opera house in the world still running as a cooperative! Not all the culture is high-brow – there has been an explosion of the arts and pop culture in general (Zurich was, after all ,the home of Dada) and one of the very best places to see this is Kreis 5. Sitting at the epicentre, Kreis 5 is the local arts hub, where there are many contemporary art galleries. If you only have time for one, start with the Löwenbräuareal, a former brewery that now houses more than a dozen galleries under its roof.
You will also be pleased to note that Switzerland’s largest city also has more to its food scene than fondue and chocolate… go in May to experience the annual Food Zurich Festival where 200 local restuarants and suppliers participate in food related events. There is everything from sustainable eating, the very first vegetarian restaurant in the world, and the great restaurants mentioned in our dine with the locals section below.
Zurich is a vibrant, beautiful city that deserves more than a cursory half day stop. Make it part of your Swiss travel plans!
Zurich is a year- round city, equally as buzzy in the winter as in May and June due to the active ski season in Switzerland. Zurich has also now become known for its charming Christmas markets. Spring is perhaps our favorite time, with April being particularly beautiful as the city’s outdoor life returns after the winter snow. Zurich is also host to a number of festivals, one of the newest and most popular is Food Zurich in May, which has over 150 food related events throughout the city. Bi-annually in June the largest festival – Zurich Festival takes place over three weeks where all the cultural institutions such as museums and concert halls in the city join forces to create a festival with one theme. The next Zurich Festival is June 1-24, 2018. From mid-July to the end of August there are no opera or ballet performances. Most museums are closed on Monday’s and many stores are closed on Sundays.
Our team of travel experts can customize a unique program for you based on your exact preferences and interests. We suggest you allow a minimum of two to three nights in Zurich, depending on your flight arrival.
If you only visit one museum in Zurich, it should be the stand out Kunsthaus Art Gallery. The list of artists in their collection reads like a roll call of famous artists: Rubens; Rembrandt; Canaletto; Rodin; Rothko; Warhol; Matisse; Dali; Miro; Chagall; Kandinsky; Cezanne; Picasso; Monet. It also has the largest collection of Giacometti in the world.
For a very traditional Swiss meal you cannot beat Zeughauskeller. A 600 year old former armoury, now the place to eat geschnetzelte, veal cooked in a white wine and mushroom sauce, served with rosti potatoes and washed down with local ales. For those that prefer a more contemporary style, a visit to Markthalle, a very fashionable indoor food market under the arches of a converted railway bridge – Viadukt that also has scores of independent local design stores. Also unmissable, particularly in the summer, is Frau Gerolds Garten in Zurich – West. This oasis in the center of a former industrial area that is now a hipster hangout featuring street-food stalls, beer gardens and a living kitchen garden.
The gold standard of Swiss Chocolate is Sprüngli, which was founded in the 1800’s. There are no less that 16 Sprüngli stores in Zurich, but the most famous is on Paradeplatz. Downstairs is a grand café that serves breakfast and brunch. You can either stay for a full meal, or just have a coffee and pastry or their signature hot chocolate. It is truly a Zurich icon, and their chocolates make the best gifts to take home for friends and family.