Churches, chocolates and classic charm in Zürich.
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The country's largest city located in northern Switzerland, Zürich's reputation as one of the most liveable cities in the world has led many to mistake it as the capital of Switzerland - which is actually Bern. Historically, the city has been important not just to Switzerland, but also to Europe, as the centre of religious reformation in Europe in the 16th century, and now as one of the world’s largest financial centres. The Dadaism avant-garde art movement also began here, giving rise to art with an unmistakable political voice.
Nestled at the cradle of the Alps between mountains, forests and lakes, the best Zurich experiences often include a good helping of its architectural landmarks, museums, nature and local culture. One week is ideal to explore all these while taking in its refreshing cold air. It is a great walking city and is extremely well-connected via public transport. You can discover Zürich in two novel ways, namely via a scenic classic route or choose the hip contemporary trail!
Like much of Switzerland, Zürich's appeal is its history and tradition. If you’re interested in exploring Zürich by following the scenic classic route, the best place to begin this trail is Lindenhof. The historic centre of Zürich, Lindenhof is situated atop a moraine hill, and is listed as a national heritage site. Start at Lindenhof Square and make your way to the Old Town (District 1). From here on out, choose between a heritage church trail or a fascinating museum trail.
Zürich’s four main churches - the Grossmunster, Fraumunster, St Peterskirche and Predigerkirche - are a few centuries old. Their majestic romanesque, gothic and baroque architectures are breathtaking. The Peterskirche, or better known as St. Peter, built in the 1500s, has Europe’s largest clock face - definitely worthy of an Instagram shot.
Meanwhile, Zürich is also filled with museums, and two that mustn't be missed are the Kunsthaus Zürich, housing one of the greatest art collections in Europe, and the Uhrenmuseum Beyer, dedicated to horology. The Zürich Museum of Art has one of the largest collections of Classic Modern art in the world, while the Beyer Watch and Clock Museum houses one of the world's best private collections of clocks and watches.
Like many European cities, Zürich has its own contemporary charm, centred at the cosmopolitan and industrial Zürich-West. With its rich history, the city has a certain attraction about it, where the old meets the new, where classic meets modern. Take the Lowenbrau-Kunst, which was a historic brewery that closed down in the mid 1980s. After artists took over the building, it became home to some of Zürich’s most prestigious art galleries such as Hauser & Wirth and Kunsthalle Zürich. Aside from statues and sculptures littered across the city, there are also plenty of "off-spaces" - non-commercial galleries run independently by artists.
After indulging in the city’s urban art, visit Im Viadukt to (window) shop a little. Im Viadukt is a cool and lively shopping area built right underneath elevated train tracks, full of independent local boutiques tucked neatly under track arches, a modern nod to the city's rich architectural heritage.
Try to time your visits with its events, such as the underrated Zürich Film Festival or the world’s largest techno music festival, the Street Parade!
The city may be Switzerland’s chocolate capital, but Zürich also offers a unique taste for a wholesome experience beyond confectionaries. For a gastronomic experience, try to get a reservation at the 96-year-old Kronenhalle, a restaurant world-famous for its combination of culture and food. Its museum-worthy collection of works by Picassos and Matisse have enticed patrons for generations, while its perfect spaetzles have kept them coming back. For vegans or those eating clean, the family-run Hiltl is the world’s oldest vegetarian restaurant that you can’t miss! Meanwhile, for that chocolatey goodness Zürich is known for, Confiserie Sprüngli is a luxury confectionery manufacturer you should look out for. Founded in 1836, the company is famous for its signature macarons, the Luxemburgerli. They are also the manufacturer for the world famous Lindt chocolate brand.
Nonetheless, perhaps the restaurant that best represents the city might just be the award-winning Blindekuh. A project by the Blind-Liecht foundation to create employment for the blind and visually impaired, no lights are allowed inside its dining halls, where diners are served by the blind and visually impaired.
However, if you can’t decide on where to go and what to eat, you might want to join a Swiss Food and Sweet tour, that will bring you through the best of Europe, food-wise. If you time your visit right, you might even get to enjoy the Zürich Food or Street Food festivals!
Plenty are on offer to a Zurich visitor. For nature-lovers, Lake Zurich is great for recreational walks to enjoy the surrounding Alpine views. You can observe the city from the top of the Uetliberg mountain, or even hike and camp there! If you’re getting some shopping done, go all out and get to the posh Bahnhofstrasse (one of the world’s most expensive shopping streets) or the picturesque Rosenhof Market, for souvenirs for yourself and those back home. One way to wind down at the end of the day is with a 1-hour cruise down the cool blue Limmat River as you say goodbye to the Alpine sunset, making your trip extra memorable as you explore the city from another angle, proving that whatever you want to do, Zurich will always have something for you.