As the great and the good of football descend on Zurich, I assess its city break credentials
Zurich welcomed the stars of football present and past yesterday evening as the 2014 FIFA Ballon d’Or was presented once again to Cristiano Ronaldo, making him the world’s best football player for the third time. Switzerland’s largest city, Zurich is perhaps better known for its association with finance than it is football, although arguably FC Zurich are winners in recent years of the Swiss Super League and Swiss Cup. Indeed the city was also the host of the 2014 European Athletics Championships.
And yet whilst it reigns supreme as the money capital of mainland Europe and a host city for sporting events, Zurich is a city abundant in charm, atmosphere and culture, all set against a stunning backdrop of the shimmering waters of Lake Zurich and the Uetliberg peak, marking the end of the Albis mountain range. For an unforgettable vista over the city, why not take the train to Uetliberg terminal where a 10-minute walk gets you to the lookout tower at the summit. Or for another perspective on Zurich, take to the water with a cruise on Lake Zurich and the River Limmat.
Set along the riverside is perhaps Zurich’s most famous landmark, the 13th-century Grossmünster Cathedral with its distinctive double towers. Whilst on an ecclesiastical theme, be sure also to take in the Gothic and Romanesque Fraumünster, which boasts stunning stained-glass windows by Chagall and Giacometti, the latter also creating windows for the Wasserkirche (Water Church) and magnificent murals on the vaulted ceiling of the city police headquarters located on charming Lindenhof Square.
From a museum perspective, there’s no shortage of cultural offerings in the mix, from classical art at the prestigious Kunsthaus, celebrating its 100th year in 2015, to contemporary works at the Helmhaus and local creations on display at the Art Dock. Honouring the Swiss-born French citizen, the Centre Le Corbusier celebrates the work of the famous Swiss artist and architect whilst you’ll also find museums dedicated to the art of watchmaking (Beyer Watch Museum), trams and toys, to name but a few.
If retail therapy is a pre-requisite, then Bahnhofstrasse is the place to head for, particularly if its luxury and international brands you’re after. Leading from the train station to the lake, Zurich’s elegant shopping thoroughfare is famed for its jewellers, watchmakers, fashion boutiques and department stores. Equally, try the Old Town, Rennweg and Storchengasse in particular, and even Langstrasse and the Niederdorf, perhaps best known for their bars, restaurants and lively nightlife.
With direct flights available from London, Birmingham and Manchester and a journey time of just ten minutes into the city centre from the airport, a city break in Zurich is definitely worthy of consideration. Why not try it for yourself in 2015?