Located on the banks of Lake Zurich, Zurich may be Switzerland’s largest city, home to the financial capital of mainland Europe, the fourth largest stock exchange and the world’s largest gold bullion market, yet it offers so much more besides its efficient, economic façade. Zurich is a relaxed and charming city rich in atmosphere and historic culture; indeed James Joyce’s Ulysees was written here (Joyce is buried in Fluntern Cemetery), Einstein studied here and Lenin was exiled here. Today it enjoys a reputation for its affluent, on trend social scene and plays host to Europe’s largest annual street party.
Set amidst a backdrop of snow-capped mountains and sparkling Lake Zurich, the city’s picturesque Old Town dates back to the 16th century and houses narrow streets leading onto hidden squares, lined by 16th and 17th-century guild houses. The 13th-century Grossmünster Cathedral offers fine views over the city from its Karlstrum Tower whilst the Gothic and Romanesque Fraumünster boasts stunning stained-glass windows by Chagall and Giacometti.
If art is your thing, head for the Kunsthaus (Museum of Fine Arts) which houses one of the most important art collections in Switzerland and indeed Europe. The extensive collection spans the Old Masters including paintings from the Dutch, Flemish, Italian Baroque, 16th-century Venetian and Late Gothic schools, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, Nordic Expressionism and Modern Art. There’s also a dedicated section to Swiss painting and the most comprehensive collection of works by Alberto Giacometti worldwide.
Situated next to the river, the Schipfe is one of the oldest districts in Zurich and is another must-see for its interesting buildings, arts and crafts and bohemian atmosphere. For more upmarket shopping, head to Bahnhofstrasse, Zurich’s elegant shopping thoroughfare famed for its jewellers, watchmakers, fashion boutiques and department stores. And for the chocoholics, the Lindt and Sprüngli chocolate factory is situated just to the south of the city centre; tours and requisite tastings are available!
After a busy day of sightseeing and shopping, repose in Lindenhof Square, a wonderful spot in which to soak up the atmosphere of the Old Town and river and watch the chess battles ensue! As the evening draws in, head for Niederdorf in the Old Town, where Zurich’s vibrant nightlife comes alive amidst a wealth of cafes, bars and restaurants.