Forget what you think you know about Zürich: Switzerland’s largest city offers an unexpected mix of razor-sharp design and bohemian cool— if you know where to find it.
Where to Stay in Zürich
There’s no shortage of over-the-top grand luxe hotels in a city known for its extreme wealth. If you’re looking to rub shoulders with conservative financiers or to discuss the intricate mechanics of a £20,000 watch, it’s easily done.
Those searching for a more relaxed experience need look no further than Hotel Restaurant Helvetia (Stauffacherquai 1, Kreis 4; +41 44 297 99 99; www.hotel-helvetia.ch), something of a hub of bohemian counter-culture during the intellectual revolution of the 1980’s. Compact, yet perfectly formed rooms provide stylish creature comforts that make exploring Zurich’s lively Langstrasse district an easy affair (pun intended, see note on red-light district below). For something special, and altogether otherworldly, book in to (Rennweg 7, Kreis 1; +41 44 224 25 26; www.widderhotel.ch), a series of townhouses in Old Town designed to delight and inspire. Trust us: it’s worth the investment.
Where to Eat in Zurich
The best coffee in Zurich can be found at the buzzy, light-filled La Stanza (Bleicherweg 10, Kreis 2; +41 43 817 62 82; www.lastanza.ch), with it’s marble-top bar and classic Italian café interior. Jostle at the bar and wait for a table— turnover is quick. Foodies looking for local flavour can tuck into traditional Bratwurst at Sternen Grill (Theaterstrasse 22, Kreis 1; +41 44 251 49 49; www.sternengrill.ch), pitched where the river and lake meet. For a fashionable lunch, the sartorially savvy head to Josef (Gasometerstrasse 24, Kreis 5; +41 44 271 65 95; www.josef.ch), whom’s chefs serve up modern Swiss fare under the watchful gaze of monochrome portraits in a grown-up rock-chic setting. Dinner is served at Volkshaus (Stauffacherstrasse 60, Kreis 4; +41 44 242 11 55; www.restaurantvolkshaus.ch), a grand— yet nicely faded— boho eatery whose alcoves lend a private dining feel to an otherwise bustling spot. Expect new twists on old classics like Cordon Bleu and saffron risotto.
Where Go Out in Zurich
It’s hard to believe how a city of banking and business HQ’s can rival Madrid in its nocturnal stamina, but there’s something of a swan-like grace to Zurich; serene to the eye, paddling furiously under the surface, nights here can easily turn to days with the right (or wrong) itinerary. Eat late, then call into Central Bar (Ankerstrasse 65, Kreis 4; +41 44 241 42 24), a simple joint with good music and a local vibe. The Schiffbau (Giessereistrasse 5, Kreis 5; +41 44 258 75 18; www.schauspielhaus.ch) is a successful nod to Zurich’s industrial past. A former warehouse, now a multi-disciplinary arts space (the younger sibling to the city’s more mature Schauspielhaus) that’s home to a glass-walled bar with exceptional views (and exceptional cocktails; Nietturm Fumoir LaSalle, (Schiffbaustrasse 4, Kreis 5; +41 44 258 70 77; www.nietturm.ch), award-winning restaurant (LaSalle, Schiffbaustrasse 4, Kreis 5; +41 44 258 70 71; www.lasalle-restaurant.ch) and busy club (Moods, Schiffbaustrasse 6, Kreis 5; +41 44 276 80 00; www.moods.ch). Late-night revellers invariably end up in the Langstrasse quarter, which—be forewarned— is also the city’s red-light district. There are any number of decent party dens along the main drag, so make friends and follow the crowd. ELLE loves Plaza (Badenerstrasse 109, Kreis 4; +41 44 542 90 90; www.plaza-zurich.ch), a former golden-age cinema now home to some of the most cosmopolitan party nights on offer. On Sundays, dedicated followers congregate at Helsinki Klub (Geroldstrasse 35, Kreis 5; www.helsinkiklub.ch), where the bluegrassy sounds of Trio From Hell have been filling cracks in the crumbling walls for almost a decade, a pleasantly surreal experience.
Where to Shop in Zürich
In a city seemingly made of money, high-end stalwarts can easily be found along Bahnhofstrasse, but voyagers looking for something really special should head straight to Frau Gerold’s Garten (Geroldstrasse 23, Kreis 5; www.fraugerold.ch) in the newly fashionable Zurich West. This open-air marketplace/garden/gallery/bar is made up of stacks of transport containers housing winning boutiques, neatly stacked between an overpass and the Viadukt, part of a regeneration project for this former industrial zone. Like most projects of its kind, an independent spirit prevails, with shops championing clever and covetable young Swiss designers. We love Townhouse (www.ilovetownhouse.com) for its charming jewellery, bath products and super-luxe cotton tees, and Edition Populaire (www.editionpopulaire.ch), which shares the same space, for beautifully crafted leather bags and limited-run enamel homewares. Also in the Garten is quirky Wooster (www.woostershop.ch), a converted Greyhound bus stocked with a careful edit of New York style (thing Helmut Lang, Theory, etc) and Making Things, selling well-made knits and off-kilter accessories. Turn right when leaving the garden and you can’t miss Freitag Tower (Geroldstrasse 17, Kreis 5; +41 43 366 95 20; www.freitag.ch), the flagship of the original Swiss staple. Pop into Walter Vintage (Geroldstrasse 15, Kreis 5; +41 44 201 83 83; www.walterwalter.ch) for some domestic inspiration and pick up a Gilles Dewavrin scented candle while you’re there— we love Ambré. Carry on along the Viadukt whose arches have been repurposed as shops and get fitted for denim at Nudie Jeans (Viaduktstrasse 51, Kreis 5; +41 44 271 44 45; www.nudiejeans.com). A short walk towards Langstrasse will take you to Freulein Frech Josefstrasse 48, 8005, +41 44 271 60 20; www.freuleinfrech.com) and Waldraud (Josefstrasse 142, Kreis 5; +41 44 554 60 50; www.waldrud.com), — both ELLE favourites. Elsewhere, Friends of Carlotta (Neumarkt 22, Kreis 1; +41 44 261 87 07; www.foc.ch), Vestibule (St. Peterstrasse 20, Kreis 1; +41 44 260 13 31; www.vestibule.ch), and Einzigart (Josefstrasse 36, Kreis 5; +41 44 440 46 00; www.einzigart.ch) all offer one-of-a-kind jewellery, clothing and accessories and are not to be missed.
What to Wear in Zurich
Save your sportswear for the slopes and look sharp: The Swiss love a bit of decent tailoring. Pair a classic, crisp white men’s shirt with sleek black skinnies, and you’re set. In colder months, a simple cashmere sweater will do the trick; pop into Saus & Braus (Ankerstrasse 14, Kreis 4; +41 44 242 23 11; www.sausbraus.ch) for a selection of Swiss designers who’ve lovingly crafted your new favourite knit. Want to go full-zueri? Add an iconic Freitag messenger bag and you’re basically a local. Don’t bother over-accessorising, the aim is minimalist chic. Instead, hit up the Kanzlei flea market (Helvetiaplatz, Kreis 4; +41 79 668 50 40; www.flohmarktkanzlei.ch) on Saturdays for vintage watches and prime people-watching.
Don’t Leave Zurich Without…
… Visiting the Museum für Gestaltung (Ausstellungsstrasse 60, Kreis 5; +41 43 466 67 67; www.museum-gestaltung.ch), the poster collection illustrates just how much the world owes to Swiss graphic design. Catch a flick at Kino Xenix (Kanzleistrasse 56, Kreis 4; +41 44 242 73 10; www.xenix.ch) whose regular program includes highlights from cult-status directors ranging anywhere from Woody Allen to Akira Kurosawa. And finally, embrace the cliché and gorge on chocolate at Sprüngli (Bahnhofstrasse 21, Kreis 1; +41 44 224 46 46; www.spruengli.ch). After all, this is Switzerland.
Where to Go for Pampering in Zurich
Strip down and get sweaty: Seebad Enge (Mythenquai 9 (harbour), Kreis 2; +41 44 201 38 89; www.tonttu.ch) is, hands-down, the city’s best sauna. Jutting out into Lake Zurich, it’s lazy perch on a floating dock delivers 180-degree views of cool waters bookended by mountains and the city rising up to slopes to the left, all of which can be seen from inside the sauna cabins, through narrow windows carefully placed to preserve (what’s left) of one’s modesty from onlookers in the park behind. This (ahem) hotspot is not for the faint-hearted; Seebad Enge’s steamy cabins are mixed-entry most days, though there’s usually a dedicated cabin just for the ladies, and on Mondays, women get full run of the place. Be brave and follow the formula of sauna/rest/sauna/cold by jumping into the icy lake in winter months, or play it cool in the summer by staying post-treatment to enjoy a beer on the dock. So geil.