48 Hours In Zurich, Switzerland

48 Hours in Zurich, Switzerland (Photo: Zürich Tourism-Martin Rütschi)

Forget the old stereotype of Zurich, once considered a city of slick-haired bankers too busy counting their gold and scurrying for never-late trains to give you the time of day. Sure, it’s clean, conservative and traditional in some respects, but the city is also forward thinking, fun loving, even libertine, with more than 500 nightspots. You’ll never have time to visit them all, but hey, it’s worth a try, right?

Where to stay

The Widder Hotel operates out of nine historic townhouses that have been completely re-imagined and furnished with designs by Le Corbusier, Charles and Ray Eames, Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe while retaining period details like stone walls, wood beams and frescos. If you want to bunk somewhere a bit more affordable, check into the Hotel Ambassador a l’Opera. Originally built as a Beaux-Arts villa, this 45-room hotel occupies a prime location beside the Opera house, and every room features a “highly adjustable” electronic bed (ahem).

What to see and do

Zurich is all about the water and the surrounding mountains, so start with a walk along the river, then take a cruise around Lake Zurich. For panoramic views of the city and the lake, hop on a train for the 30-minute ride to Uetilberg, which punctuates the landscape at 871-metres. Culture vultures will get their fill at Kunsthaus Zürich, one of the most important art museums of Europe, the opera house, and Fraumünster Church, famous for five stained glass windows designed by Marc Chagall.

Where to eat and drink

Restaurant Oepfelchammer serves up serious dude food, like heaping portions of veal drowned in creamy mushroom sauce, in a 14th century building. Don’t miss the wood-paneled room, where virtually every surface is inscribed with graffiti, some dating back more than 150 years. The room is called “Oeli”—a reference to “oiling the throat”—because THIS is where the Swiss do their serious drinking.

For a hip night out, head to up-and-coming Zurich West, once the heart of the red light district. Shiffbau, an old brick ship-building factory here, now houses a jazz club, a sleek glass cube of a restaurant, a pub and the Neitturm Bar, with floor-to-ceiling windows offering low-rise views.

Finally, who says real men don’t eat macaroons? Confiserie Sprungli is like a shrine to Switzerland’s own colourful version, called Luxemburgerlis, which are made fresh daily.

Where to shop

The Bahnhofstrasse is the main shopping street, flanked by heavy hitters like Hermes, Cartier, Louis Vuitton, and Prada. But if you’re after something as Swiss as it is durable, check out Freitag headquarters in Zurich West. The company is renowned for its line of messenger bags made from old truck tarps, inner tubes, and seat belts, and it has expanded to include other items, like wallets. Housed in a collection of cargo containers stacked atop one-another, Freitag also features a platform at the top that offers birds’ eye views, giving you an idea of the scope of Zurich West’s transformation.

For more information on Zurich, visit: www.zuerich.com.

Follow Amy Laughinghouse on Twitter at @A_Laughinghouse or visit her website: www.amylaughinghouse.com.

Tags: Switzerland, Travel Guide, Zurich

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