Travel to ZurichGalavante Confidential - The Affair of Business: Zurich
The affair of business is often what brings you to Zürich, but there is plenty of pleasure to be had as well. Zürich is a combination of modern city and charming town, a feat it accomplishes with signature Swiss grace. Set against a backdrop of stunning mountains and gorgeous Lake Zürich, your weekend will be filled with high-brow culture, excellent food, surprisingly good wine and a very distinct Swiss appeal. Zürich has many layers, which when discovered, will have you wishing for an extended international assignment in this civilized locale.
A utopia of sorts, Zürich runs likes a fine-tuned machine – spotlessly clean, and of course, always on time. Stepping out of the train station will land you on Bahnhofstrasse, one of the ritziest shopping streets in the city. And as the Swiss are a beautiful people, there will be much eye candy to enjoy.
Peel back this layer of outward perfection to discover a charming old town. Cross an ancient bridge or cobblestone street and you’ll feel like you’re in another era. As for character, Zürich has lots of it, including an endearing quirkiness that even if you don’t come to embrace, you’ll at least enjoy.
Indulgent meals, superior hospitality and dazzling views are all part and parcel of Switzerland’s largest city. Perfect for a weekend, Zürich hosts a harmonious mix of culture, wellness, shopping and nightlife. For longer stays, Zürich can be used as a hub to explore nearby mountain resorts and spas.
In a country with the best hotel school in the world, Zürich is bursting with superb options for accommodation. Galavante favors the Park Hyatt and Baur au Lac. The Dolder Grant Hotel is another coveted location for European glitterati, but it’s better to book into the spa for the day. For a more boutique scene, try Hotel Greulich, Romantikhotel Florhof and the Romantik Seehotel Sonne.
The only lifestyle enhancement the Swiss have not embraced is the taxi, partly because public transport is so efficient and because the Swiss are staunch environmentalists. While taxis are available at marked stands and can be booked in advance, you need not fuss, because the center of Zürich is easily navigable by foot. Wind through the old town or Niederdorfli, and visit the Fraumunster and Grossmunster churches, followed by a shopping tour up Bahnhofstrasse. For simple designs, try Kowä on Fraumunsterplatz, or browse through Pantha Rhei near Bellevueplatz for its unique bohemian style. Some other Swiss takeaways include Sprüngli chocolates (available at the airport) and traditional belts studded with brass cows, horses and herdsmen – sounds touristy but Hermès will catch on to it one day and you’ll be sorry you missed the original trend.
Stop for a drink at Terrasse and sip Schweizer Weisswein in the café or garden. You can also enjoy a light snack, but there are more tantalizing options in and around Zürich. A total integration of rural and urban living is something that often places Zürich high on quality-of-life rankings. Farm-to-table is reflected strongly in the food culture and at some restaurants you can expect to eat meat raised on the premises. Take a ferry or water taxi from Burkliplatz to Herrliberg and head up the hill to Restaurant Buech. Make sure to indulge in the Weiner Shnitzel. For traditional Swiss fondue and raclette, visit Chez Crettol in the suburb of Küsnacht (also accessible by boat).
For a lounge atmosphere, make for Tao’s lounge off Bahnhofstrasse and Indochine or Kaufleuten for late-night partying. Not too far away, the Widder Hotel features regular jazz performances.
To further explore, walk along the Zürisee, also known as the Lake of Zurich. If it’s summer, visit the Badi Enge, a lakeside park and beach where you can go for a refreshing swim with the locals. For lunch, Zürich has a number of relaxed options in the city center. Café Sprüngli in Paradeplatz is world-famous for its dessert and hot chocolate, but you can also dine on simple salads, soups and sandwiches. Further down the Bahnhofstrasse and tucked into a side street is Picnic, a casual restaurant serving Zürich’s best sushi. Save room for a macaroon from La Durée across the street. For a more casual option, the Sternen Grill serves up traditional bratwurst and brot for standing consumption with a beer balanced in your hands. Afterwards, have a drink at Jules Verne, a small panorama bar in the center of town.
Some of Zürich’s true gems are its museums. The Museum Rietberg exhibits an internationally renowned collection of art from Asia, Africa, America and Oceania. The art is as captivating as the architecture and lush gardens. Plan to spend several hours here, especially on a sunny day. Art lovers will also be impressed by the Kunsthaus, Zürich’s main art museum. The permanent collection houses numerous old masters, along with Monet and Swiss contemporary artists such as Pipilotti Rist. The museum hosts many world-class exhibits including a recent retrospective of Picasso’s work. On Wednesday, admission to the permanent collection is free, and the museum is open late on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Also, check out the E.G. Bührle Collection, the massive private collection of a Zürich industrialist, which ranges from 17th-century Dutch Masters to 20th-century French Impressionism.
A night at Zürich Opera will enchant you with its exceptional opera stars, in a theater dating back to the 19th century, when Wagner was writing exclusively for this house during his exile from Germany. You can imagine the crowd over a century ago, in ball gowns and top hats instead of Oscar de la Renta and Tom Ford. After the opera, book a table at the famous Kronenhalle, a cultural relic that was once the hang-out of James Joyce, Joan Miró, Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Coco Chanel, Dior, Richard Strauss and Igor Stravinsky, some of whom left their work to decorate the walls. Traditional Swiss dishes and international cuisine are served with a generous side of high-society-watching.
While most of Zürich caters to the upmarket crowd, it’s the red light district, within walking distance of the main train station, that’s the hip and happening center for art, culture and ethnic cuisine. Take a stroll down Josefstrasse and stop in to Maison Blunt for Lebanese brunch or tea. For dinner, Josef serves gourmet small dishes, perfect for sampling and sharing. Further down Josefstrasse lies the Viaduct, a railway bridge that has been redesigned to include shops, markets and restaurants, worthy for an afternoon browse.
The Swiss don’t give away all their secrets for free. In a country where the best cheese and chocolate is kept within its borders, bank accounts are a very private affair and earning a dinner invitation to a Swiss person’s home can take longer than a decade (they admit this as well). But, with our Galavante itinerary and tips, you can now explore on your own – and make the most of this fairytale town.
The One-Hour-Away Appendix
It’s impossible to count on one hand how many fabulous destinations you can reach within an hour or so from the center of Zürich. We’ve listed our favorites below.
The closest and most luxurious is the spa at the Dolder Grand Hotel, a “castle in the sky” perched at the top of the Züriberg. Float away into the clouds as you experience the spa’s decadent water room, which alone could fill your entire day. Massages and facials are also worth the indulgence. On another berg nearby, you can hike along the ridge of Uetliberg, enjoying spectacular views of Zürich and the surrounding region. Or, rent a bicycle and pedal to Rapperswil, a small town at the other end of the lake. If you get tired or short on time (the round-trip takes four hours) boat or train service can take you back to the center of Zürich.
Further outside the city, Bad Ragaz is another spa experience, this time with a natural spring and healing waters known to clear and purify the skin. Spend a day at the Grand Hotel Quellenhof Bad Ragaz, enjoying the spa’s fresh mineral waters, also available bottled on the table in the restaurant. One hour from the center of Zürich, catch reflections of the Rigi and Pilatus peaks sparkling in Lake Luzern, a small Swiss city that features a wealth of culture, gastronomy and hospitality. If you can squeeze in a night at the lakeside Park Hotel Weggis, particularly in summer, you’ll be rewarded with warm air, clear water and stunning views. Bern and Basel are a short train ride from Zürich’s main station and both have their own charms and superb art museums. Via TGV, Strasbourg and the Alsace wine region are also very close.
Skiiers are spoiled for choice, with the ski resorts Flumserberg and Laax within an hour from Zürich. For overnight trips, Arosa, St. Moritz and Adelboden are all top choices.