Any visit to Zurich will inevitably start with the historic attractions in the Old Town (and for good reason), but while tourists back into the Fraumüenster church to gawk at its windows by Marc Chagall, across the Limmat River are the striking stained glass windows of the Grossmüenster church. They were commissioned from German artist Sigmar Polke in 2009, which is like asking Andy Warhol to design a synagogue.
Despite its obvious appeal, don’t get stuck in the historic quarter: Head by tram to Zurich West, a former industrial district that is becoming the new heart of the city for artists, designers, and a trendier crowd.
Eating here can be as cheap or as expensive as you wish, and—contrary to popular belief—it’s not all cheese and chocolate (although you can find plenty of both if you want). Here’s where to try something different.
• Neumarkt: You won’t just happen upon this place without a little help, since it’s tucked away down an alley and far from the crowds—so take a map. The leafy garden out back is a magical spot away from the bustle of the street, and the kitchen uses market-fresh ingredients in modern dishes (Neumarkt 5; Wirtschaft-Neumarkt.ch)
• Tidbits: This slick vegetarian self-service restaurant features an enormous salad bar, a large variety of breads, several hot dishes, plus drinks and an espresso counter (Seefeldstrasse 2; tibits.ch)
• Zeughauskeller: Set in a 15th-century armory with canons still decorating the dining room, this place serves up sausages, meat, and fish dishes, and salads at large communal tables. (Bahnofstrasse 28a; zeughauskeller.ch)
SLEEP: Something for Every Pocketbook
Despite the tourist throngs and the noisy nightlife, staying amid the winding streets of Old Town is fun and convenient. However, the other side of the river is home to more stately and upscale properties within an easy walk to Old Town, and with better lake views.
• Storchen Zurich: For a romantic experience, this four-star hotel, which claims more than 650 years of hospitality, can’t be beat. Even if you don’t stay here, grab a drink at the Barchetta Caffé Bar, directly on the River Limmat. (Weinplatz 2; storchen.ch)
• Platzhirsch: The team behind the oldest gay club in Zurich, T&M, opened this cute and comfortable boutique hotel in historic Niederdorf. The playful name means “top dog,” and the 24 cozy rooms are above a popular bar and café, so you don’t have to go far for a bit of mingling. But don’t expect to go to bed early (Spitalgasse 3; MeinPlatzhirsch.ch)
• Leoneck Hotel: This centrally located, clean, and affordable—yet inescapably Swiss/elfin/cow-themed—hotel will satisfy any whimsical traveler. The Crazy Cow restaurant downstairs serves traditional Swiss food in American portions. (Leonhardstrasse 1; leoneck.ch/en).
SEE: Go West
You’ll want to start in the historic core, but city’s heart has shifted to Zurich West, a former industrial district that is now where home to artists, designers, and a trendier crowd.
• Viaduct: It’s sort of like New York City’s High Line, complete with a path for walking and cycling, but the 36 ground-level arches have been retrofitted with stylish retail shops. (im-viadukt.ch)
• Markthalle in the Viadukt: This large space under a bridge has been transformed into an indoor market. The bright, airy room has more than 15 vendors offering fresh produce, ice cream, and artisanal cheeses, and wine—all for sampling. (Limmatstrasse 231; Markthalle.im-Viadukt.ch)
• Grossmunster Church: While the tourist pack into the Fraumunster church to gawk at the windows by Marc Chagall, cross the street to see windows commissioned from German artist Sigmar Polke in 2009, which is like asking Andy Warhol to do a synagogue. (Gorssmunsterplatz; Grossmuenster.ch)
PLAY: In Mixed Company
The nightlife scene centers mainly (but not only) at the eastern side of River Limmat, at the Niederdorf area, with the city’s newer bars and restaurants and parties. Gay-specific bars and parties have, for the most part, given way to mixed clubs, where gay and straight people play together.
• Cranberry: This is the place to get your evening started. Unlike so many gay bars, you can actually get excellent cocktails from a bar staff that prides themselves on their skills (just look at the trophies at the upstairs bar. (Metzgergasse 3; Cranberry.ch)
• Club Supermarket: This young, gay-friendly dance club takes off during late-night hours. (Geroldstrasse 17; Supermarket.li)
• Friedas Buxe Club: Thursday’s “Behave—Anything But Straight” party is the newest star of Zurich’s nightlife rotation (facebook.com/behave.club)
MY CITY: ZURICH
Entrepreneur Erik Schlumpf loves hom some Zurich. READ MORE