Self-confident and prosperous, Zurich is the blueprint of Swiss perfection, with its banking muscle, alpine backdrop, and love of good living. Blessed with pure air, dazzling Lake Zurich and a walkable Altstadt district full of fine boutiques and restaurants, it's little wonder the locals look so pleased. But where is the urban edge? You need only delve into Dada at Cabaret Voltaire, enjoy a literary pint at the James Joyce Pub, or buy a funky Freitag bag to realize that behind its super-slick facade, Zurich inspires and innovates.
Things to Do
See the first rays illuminate Marc Chagall's exquisite stained-glass windows at the medieval Fraumünster church, rising gracefully above the Limmat River. You'll find standouts by Monet and a peerless Alberto Giacometti collection at the Kunsthaus, while Cabaret Voltaire, birthplace of the World War I Dada movement, gives insight into the rebellious Swiss psyche. With the Alps on the horizon and a crystal-clear lake for summertime recreation, Zurich is an outdoorsy place. Head up to Uetliberg peak for expansive city views and scenic hiking trails.
Trams rumble past stately 19th-century department stores and boutiques on Bahnhofstrasse, where luxury lovers shop for Tiffany diamonds, Swiss-made Beyer watches, and the latest Louis Vuitton. An affordable indulgence is a gift-wrapped box of Confiserie Sprüngli's chocolate truffles or feather-light macaroons, Zurich's best since 1836. The Limmat River flows swiftly past Schipfe, where you'll find one-off crafts in quaint workshops and galleries. In Zuri West, the flagship Freitag store stocks its entire range of the hippest messenger bags.
Nightlife and Entertainment
Down by the river, the Altstadt's historic lanes attract a lively crowd with a mix of pubs, jazz bars, and pavement cafes. Guinness comes with poetry at the mahogany bar in the James Joyce Pub, featuring the original Victorian interior of Jury's of Dublin mentioned in Ulysses. Champagne cocktails in the sublimely Art Nouveau Café Odeon are the perfect prelude to concerts at the neoclassical Opera House. Zuri West's hip lounge bars and high-octane clubs provide late-night partying.
Restaurants and Dining
Foodies revere the menus that read like culinary poetry at Zurich's smart lakefront restaurants; book weeks ahead for the Michelin-starred Rico's Kunststuben. For a flavor of the Alps, take comfort in gooey cheese fondue and crisp rösti potatoes at an Altstadt wood-paneled tavern. The scene is more diverse in Zuri West, where diners tuck into good-value Turkish kabobs, authentic curries, and Italian food.