An abundance of quaint historical buildings that make you feel as though you’re one of the Von Trapps – tick
Exquisite Patisseries and cafes you just have to test out – tick
Home of the ultimate bratwurst – tick
Zurich is the financial centre of Switzerland, and although one of the most expensive cities in the world, it has frankly earned its right to be a bit snooty. Boasting architecture in the city centre that look like mini-versions of European Schlosses [castles], sparklingly clean streets and sidewalks, beautiful luxury hotels and designer shops, and an insanely punctual public transport system, [if you live in Britain you’ll get where I’m coming from] you’ll find very little to complain about.
The Limmat river that drifts through the city runs into Zürichsee, the vast lake that mirrors its Alpine backdrop in picture-postcard fashion. Tidy bridges criss-cross the river, linking the strictly commercial and financial areas on one side with Niederdorf, the hilly, pedestrianised medieval centre on the other. Most of the key sights are in the old town, where winding alleys lead to 16th- and 17th-century houses, guildhalls and many of the city’s 1,030 fountains. The best way to see it all is to stroll at will, although you can take a guided walking tour [starting at the main station tourist office].
For shopping in Zürich there are three different areas in the center:
Bahnhofstrasse, which runs from the Zürich Train Main station ‘Hauptbahnhof’ right down to the lake. Bahnhofsstrasse is famous for being one of the most exclusive and expensive shopping streets in the world. Here you can get anything from diamond rings to chocolate to fur coats. Globus and Jelmoli are two fiercely competitive department stores, both of whom carry items from many high-end brands.
Niederdorf, which is the Old Part of Zurich and expands from ‘Bellevue’ by the Lake right to ‘Central’ which is just over the River from the train station. The Niederdorf is more for young people. Aside from a lot of fast food places you will find a lot of trendy clothes stores here.
Löwenstrasse, which runs west of Bahnhofstrasse from the main train station, has lower range shops and a large branch of Migros, a department store chain.
All of these places are great if you have some money to spend, but even if you don’t – the city is so fairytale-like you’ll want to explore all of it. You’ll never find yourself running out of surprises as you turn each corner – the Swiss are very good at charming details and you’ll always find a quaint window display, or cuckoo-clock in an archway, or something typically Swiss to keep your attention!
If you only have one day in Zurich and want to have a rounded experience I’d recommend lunch at Zeughauskeller, housed in a typically Swiss building dating from 1487, serving traditional hearty fare such as delicious sausages, stews, rösti, and potato salads all washed down with Hurlimann draft beer. Its vast dining room seats 200 and large wooden chandeliers hang from cast-iron chains, and walls are decorated with medieval halberds and illustrations of ancient Zurich noblemen.
Then a stroll along the Bahnhofstrasse taking in all the sights, a wander into the vast and stylish Jelmoli department store, stop off at H&M [which is brilliantly different in Zurich], head to Migros to stock up on Swiss delicacies like cold meats, chocolates and condiments [definitely worth a browse], take a stroll around the Old Town and finally end your day back at back at the Bahnhofstrasse [closest to the main station to head home] at Confiserie Sprungli .
Sprungli is a Zurich institution, the epitome of European cafe culture, it is Zurich’s oldest cafe. Housed in a beautiful 17th century building, the bottom floor is full to bursting with chocolate pastries and treats, like Willie Wonka’s chocolaterie it’s a hive of activity. Ascend up an elaborate gold stairwell to the second floor, where you will find a large wide windowed cafe overlooking the city. Here you can relax and take in the atmosophere surrounding by tinkling cups and irresistable smells. This is also a great place to people watch, you will certainly find fascinating affluent elderly ladies in furs with their dogs [the are surprisingly wel behaved] whiling away the hours.
I would recommend the delicious cheese tart or the Luxembourgli [their speciality Macaroons] with a Cafe Creme. Bliss.
Author: Rohini Wahi
Rohini is a London based freelance journalist and trend forecaster for the design industries. She has worked for Elle Decoration, Living Etc, Houzz and Design Sponge amongst others.
She loves a period drama and keeps a tidy home. Launched in 2007 The Beat That My Heart Skipped focuses on home inspirations, design trends, lifestyle and food – coupled with an insight into Rohini’s work and home life – from key picks at trade shows to styled weekend soirees. To contact Rohini for queries, work for hire or just to say hi drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org