10 Essential Zürich Experiences
If you haven’t visited Switzerland’s most populous city, you’re more likely to associate the name with banking than the buzzy, urban hot spot that it is. That’s a shame, because contemporary Zürich has a kind of pulsating energy not usually found in Switzerland. Here are 10 essential Zürich experiences.
1. Swiss luxury
If you’re looking for a totally Swiss gift, head straight to elegant Bahnhofstrasse, which is home to the city’s best luxury shops, selling everything from watches and clocks to chocolate and ready-to-wear fashion. It’s also home to dozens of banks, and their vaults –located beneath the street — are said to be crammed with gold and silver.
2. Cafe culture
Zürich has a thriving cafe culture and there are literally hundreds of restaurants serving all types of local and international cuisine scattered across the city. Niederdorfstrasse, and the backstreets nearby, are a good place to begin. They’re filled with wall-to-wall cafes, restaurants and bars of every description.
3. Summer swimming
Zürich really comes into its own during its Mediterranean-like summer. Green parks lining its lake fill quickly on sunny days. Between May and mid-September, outdoor swimming areas are open around the lake and along the Limmat River. These are usually rectangular wooden piers with a pavilion covering part of them. Most offer massages, yoga and saunas, as well as snacks and drinks.
4. Old Town stroll
Spend at least a few hours exploring the cobbled streets of the pedestrian-only old town lining both sides of the Limmat River that bisects Zürich. You never know where a turn down a quiet alley will lead — perhaps a 16th-century guildhall, a tiny boutique or courtyards and fountains.
5. Museum fix
Zürich’s Kunsthaus museum underwent a major overhaul less than a decade ago and is home to a rich collection of Alberto Giacometti stick-figure sculptures, along with Monets, Van Goghs and other 19th- and 20th-century art. Swiss artist Ferdinand Hodler is also represented.
6. Sunday lake walks
Speaking of strolls, it seems on Sunday afternoons that all of Zürich heads to the lake to walk leisurely around it — or when it is completely frozen in winter, as pictured in this old photograph. There are sometimes human traffic jams, but it is definitely a worthwhile cultural experience that’s been local custom for generations now.
7. Festival town
Despite its straight-laced banker reputation, Zurich knows how to throw a wild party. On the third Monday in April, Zürich celebrates the arrival of warmer weather with Sechselauten, which includes a costumed parade and the ignition of fireworks-filled snowman come dusk. In August the city rocks out to the techno Street Parade, one of the largest of its kind. All-night parties around the city follow the three-hour parade.
Switzerland is famous for its chocolate, and the mother off all chocolate shops is Sprungli on Bahnhofstrasse. It’s a Zürich institution and must for chocoholics.
9. Beer and sausage
Zeughauskeller, also on Bahnhofstrasse, is another Zürich legacy with a giant menu boasting 20 different kinds of sausage plus a lot of beer choices to wash the meat down. Beyond sausage, it serves numerous other Swiss specialties of a carnivorous and vegetarian variety.
Beginning just west of the central train station, Züri-West — Zürich’s former industrial area — is now one of its hippest neighborhoods day or night. It’s most popular late at night, when its extravagant night club scene gets going close to midnight.
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