48 Hours In Zurich

Above: An old street in Zurich decorated with flags for the Swiss National (Photo credit: Alexander Chaikin/Shutterstock)
Above: An old street in Zurich decorated with flags for the Swiss National (Photo credit: Alexander Chaikin/Shutterstock)

Just when you think you have Switzerland pegged, it surprises you with Zurich – a city that has a party hearty side and a Bohemian attitude. It exists harmoniously alongside its banks and corporate headquarters – evidence that the Swiss understand how to experience joie de vivre after 5 p.m.

Where to get cultured

The Kunsthaus is a great art galley for people who know nothing about art. Its wall are adorned with works from artists that most anyone would recognize – Picasso, Monet, Warhol and the biggest collection of art from Edward Munch (famous for his painting, The Scream) outside of Scandinavia. You’ll feel much more sophisticated after you visit. Promise.

Where to shop

There’s only one street that really matters for shopping in Zurich and it’s Bahnhofstrasse. The real estate here is said to be the third most expensive in the world. Despite its exclusivity and chic designer shops (Chanel, Dior, Cartier, etc.), you can still pick up reasonably priced merch. Need a watch? You’ll find plenty to choose from here, along with Swiss Army knives and branded goods of every description and colour.

What to do

Pack in the historical stuff that makes Zurich what is into an afternoon. Check out the Rathaus, its 17th-century town hall, climb up the tower of the Grossmunster church for some great views and Instagram fodder, and get lost in the narrow lanes of the old town district. You’ll find some worthy cafés where you can down a pint or two, and plenty of boutiques to nab something for the folks at home who insist you buy them souvenirs.

Get esoteric and visit the Café Voltaire, once the gathering place for avant-garde artsy types who founded Dadaism in 1916– an anti-war/anti-bourgeois movement that rejected logic and reason in favour of absurdity and irrationality. It influenced all forms of artistic impression and provided a foundation to surrealism in art.

Cruise the lake from Bürkliplatz, where the boats depart. Hop off where you like at any stop, stroll beside the lake or have dinner in a room with a view at the Romantik Hotel Sonne. When to go There’s not shortage of cool things to do any time of year, but summer is the highlight. Visitors can slip into their bathing suits and take a swim in the lake to soak up views of the city skyline and mountains in the distance. And it’s the season where Street Parade Zurich happens (August 10, 2013). It’s a crazy wild, electronic music festival that brings together the world’s top DJs, live acts, and multi-media shows, spread over seven stages. This is the one Swiss event that blasts away any idea that the country is uptight or conservative. It ranks right up there with the world’s best parties.

What to eat

Duh. This is Switzerland, so it’s cheese and chocolate first and foremost. For traditional cheese specialties, like fondue or raclette (more melted cheese) are try a place like Fribourger Fonduestubli. Fondues are the king here. Dip, eat, repeat, then finish your meal the Swiss way with a glass of kirsch, a delish brandy made from cherries. For chocolate, park yourself at the Café Sprungli, the city’s most beloved chocolatier. They make other stuff, too, like its famous macaroons (called Luxemburgerli) in flavours like hazelnut, caramel, chestnut, cinnamon, and raspberry.

For more Swiss 411, see myswitzerland.com or zuerich.com

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Michele Sponagle

Canadian journalist Michele Sponagle is a prolific creator of lifestyle editorial, from travel to style, from relationships to food trends. She has been there and done that in more than 60 countries — and still counting. She has contributed to most of Canada’s leading media outlets and racked up more than 10 National Magazine Award nominations and one win from the Travel Media Association of Canada for best family feature.

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