Jessica Benavides Canepa

Known for its aesthetic perfection, the likes of which are usually only found on movie sets, Switzerland’s largest city also harbours an unexpected dual personality. The storybook centre with majestic squares and cobblestoned corners contrast with an edgier west side, made up of onetime factories and sustained by the creative pulse of a post-industrial art scene.

Wealthy and meticulously maintained, Zürich entices visitors with its diverse options. Tour the medieval old town caressed by the tranquil Lake Zürich and rich with ancient monuments like the Peterskirche (Peter’s Church) with its striking (pun intended) clock face, sample cuisine both indigenous and foreign, then change gears and visit Zürich West (also goes by Kreis 5) for hip happenings day or night. Or, if so inclined, explore the exclusive shopping street Bahnhofstrasse for the priciest baubles and fashions in Europe for a well-rounded taste of this stately metropolis.

Suite dreams

Built over a 15th-century townhouse that catered to Zürich’s culinary elite since its inception, Marktgasse is a 39-room boutique beauty seamlessly combining the best of the old and the new-ish. The eight suites, though similar in minimalist style and hushed tones, each contains distinct craft furnishings and architectural aesthetics that render them unique. For an indulgent taste of Swiss hospitality, book a table at adjoining Baltho Restaurant featuring an eclectic international menu in a chic setting or unwind at the complementary Munstergasse Spa nearby, the oldest Hamam in town.

With an emphasis on whimsical urban design and bold colour embellishments, Zürich West’s 25hours Hotel aims to offer a lifestyle wonderland for creative souls. Stylish rooms are organised into tiers named after precious metals (a wink to the city’s financial centre background) all of which cater to guests’ particular travel statuses; from the solo adventurer to the business powerbroker to the family at play, it’s all covered. Entertainment extras include cushy kitsch and kaleidoscopic lounge spaces, complimentary bike rentals, a kitchen club and a sauna/fitness room with city views.

For an opulent stay fit for a king, book a stay at the Dolder Grand, a hillside oasis minutes from the centre. In this turn-of-the-century 173-room edifice enhanced by a modern facelift in 2008, guests can indulge in extravagant facilities and amenities that include a spacious spa, butler service, a 2-Michelin star The Restaurant – one of the finest eateries in country –, a golf course and romance novel views of Lake Zürich and the distant snow-tipped Alps. Choose between the main building’s classic rooms featuring marble baths and neutral-toned furnishings or go all-out contempo in a Top Suite where design accents range from mod mansion to 50’s glam to hip rock star digs.

Marktgasse Hotel

Marktgasse Hotel

Feast & swig

Swiss cuisine is a multi-cultural affair, due in large part to the country’s bordering proximity to France, Italy and Germany. Traditional dishes tend to be simple with a strong emphasis on cheese and potatoes. Specialities vary throughout the districts; in cosmo Zürich, hearty fare such as Rösti (hashed potatoes) paired with various kinds of sausages are as in demand as Michelin meals and lighter, veggie-centric bites while international staples sushi, tapas and pizza can be found on every corner.

Creative comfort food best describes the cuisine at Café Boy, a rustic crowd pleaser with over 200 wines on offer. For high-end Euro eats and panoramic sightings, make your way up the 35 floors of the Prime Tower – the tallest building in Zürich – to the cleverly-named Clouds, an ultra-mod restaurant featuring a ritzy bar, bistro and bird’s-eye views of the city. Nature lovers flock to Fischers Fritz for the catch of the day served with seasonal sides in a rustic lakeside cabin, and as for flavours from afar, notables include Gartenhof’s exceptional French-style mussels, Bottega Berta’s pasta delights and the authentic Japanese edibles of Sala of Tokyo.

As the weather warms, foodies and fashionistas alike swarm to the happening outdoor market scene. For fresh produce, cheese and exotic goods from around the world, make a morning stop at the Helvetiaplatz Markt, Zürich’s most celebrated farmer’s market. Wander the stalls at the Bürkiplatz market for regional specialities, spices and gorgeous flowers. In the summertime, fight the Monday blues at Montagsmarkt, a must-see for any clotheshorse and a showcase for trending up-and-coming fashion designers.

Craft coffee is en vogue all around Europe and Zürich is no exception. Here, dapper folk of all stripes go wild for eco roasts and baked goodies in retro-fab cafés. With cosy locations all over the city, Vi Cafe spreads java love made from fine, fine Arabica beans roasted at their own brewery in Eglisau. The Rhythm Henrici of Coffee is everything a hip coffeehouse should be; quality brews, a flora-filled terrace and a relaxed, artsy vibe that gives rise to a popular Tuesday night live music jam. For a slice of romance with your coffee, take a cold brew break at Bovelli; a spot for homemade cakes and conversation around art deco tables draped with linens and mood lighting come sundown.


Fischers Fritz

Fischers Fritz

Postcard parade

Internationally renowned for chocolate, watches and its impeccable cleanliness, Zürich can surprise visitors looking for more than just a pretty picture. While other cities might overindulge in café culture or Sunday brunch, this Swiss town is all about lake lounging. Many a summer’s day can be spent swimming and socialising at popular spots such as Strandbad Tiefenbrunnen, the men’s-only Scanzengraben and the pristine beach area of Strandbad Mythenquai.

For more to do, wander around the quasi-industrial Neu Oerlikon district and explore MFO Park, a uniquely designed, steel-frame public space featuring abstract artwork framed by entwined vines and recycled glass flooring.

Turn back the clock at the Pegasus Small World, a museum housing over 4,000 weird and wacky toys and miniatures dating back to the 1890’s. Celebrate flower power inside the domes (no, they aren’t just decorative) of the University of Zürich Botanical Gardens; featuring thousands of plant species in a compact space.

And for the festive fella, Zürich holds two fab events of merit. Every summer, the  Zürich Pride Festival welcomes more than 10,000 queer folk and friends to celebrate love, life and non-conformity. In August, the dazzling Street Parade boasting 30+ multi-hued “love mobiles” has become the largest techno parade in Europe, with aims to become the best since the demise of Berlin’s Love Parade.

The Dolder Grand

The Dolder Grand

Sale away

Synonymous with quality and classic tailoring, Swiss fashions haven’t exactly turned heads among the fashion-conscious. But with unique urban styles emerging from alternative areas Zürich West and Langstrasse, times, they are a-changing.

For dapper duds with a sprinkle of vintage style as well as books, fragrances and accessories, visit AP & Co, a men’s concept shop boasting curated finds. Urban wear with flair is the speciality at Street Files, a unisex store showcasing indie brands including Samsoe & Samsoe and Raised by Wolves. Beautifully eclectic, Maiuki is worth a gander for well-crafted shoes, bags and clothing. Rounding off the local talent, Freitag creates lifestyle accessories graphically designed for maximum comfort.

Artisanal food and drink aficionados need not worry; some of the best trendsetting shops reside in Zurich. Java junkies will find all the spiffy tools needed for excellent brews at Bear Brothers and Cow. Craving confiserie-style macaroons? Sprüngli has been preparing them with a dollop of chocolate and a spoonful of skill since 1845. Hiltl, the oldest vegetarian resto in Switzerland now boasts a new first; the only veggie butcher shop for green foodies in search of plant-based substitutes for popular dishes including Cordon Bleu and Züri-Geschnetzeltes (veal strips in mushroom sauce).


Freitag | Photo: Oliver Nanzig

Freitag | Photo: Oliver Nanzig

Paint the town

For the discerning gent, accompanied or solo, Zürich offers a wealth of nocturnal possibilities. If jazz is your scene, Moods is a must-visit; live concerts galore from the world’s top soul, blues, funk and, naturally, jazz musicians. For the truest of fans, take a jazzy break pre or post flight at the Zürich Airport’s Montreux Jazz Café, providing video clip highlights of all the legendary acts to have graced the celebrated Montreux Jazz Festival, all in a convivial coffee shop setting.

French cabaret meets retro revival at Les Garçons, an all-are-welcome boy bar featuring craft concoctions, a smoke at the en suite fumoir and a spin – or twenty – around the dance floor. For award-winning cocktails in an ultra-mod exposed brick and shocking red Campari bar setting (try that in one breath), make a stop at Cranberry’s, arguably the most popular gay bar in town. Carbo-load before showing off dance moves at the divine, chandeliered, industrial joint Gerold Chuchi; Italian eatery extraordinaire by day and intimate dance club after the sun goes down. And in the spirit of celebration, special shout out to the Hive Club for their annual Aera Nacht der Blumen, a magical musical blowout on two dance floors in a space temporarily transformed by the ethereal beauty of flowers.

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