Grüezi, Zürich! by Merle Wilkening | 31st August, 2023 | Playground
A global financial center with a characterful old town, surrounded by water and mountains, Zurich celebrates its diversity. The attractive Swiss city is one of the most livable places in the world.
For years, Zurich has consistently been ranked one of the world’s most livable cities. In 2023, Switzerland’s largest city came sixth in the rankings of British weekly news magazine The Economist. There are good reasons for this, the most important of which is immediately obvious: its location on the shores of Lake Zurich with the magnificent Swiss Alps in the background. Affectionately known as “Züri” to its population of just under 450,000, Zurich is regarded by many as a “small global city.” As Switzerland’s largest financial and banking center, it is also one of the most expensive cities in the world. Zurich’s rise to its current economic powerhouse status began during the Industrial Revolution.
The cosmopolitan university and business city is divided into twelve districts. The most central of these covers the old town, which extends to both sides of the Limmat River. Our recommendation for a stroll through Zurich starts at the Rudolf Brun Bridge (named after the city’s first mayor) and then goes south along Heiristeg and Schipfe heading toward Lake Zurich. Schipfe is one of the oldest districts in the city. Boats used to dock here in the Middle Ages to unload their cargo of silk, gold and foodstuffs. This is a good place for a first pit stop – perhaps for an aperitif in the trendy Barchetta bar of the historic Hotel Storchen directly on the Limmat River, where it feels a bit like Venice.
Continue past the town hall bridge and Fraumünster Church and you’ll arrive at the Sechseläutenplatz, the town square where the annual Zurich Film Festival takes place at the end of September. If you carry on past the impressive Opera House on the lakeside, you’ll come to the Pavillon Le Corbusier, a unique architectural structure and the last building designed by the famous Swiss architect. Away from the old town, known as Niederdorf, with its alleys and magnificent guild houses, the elegance and unique surroundings of the city are best appreciated from above. In just two minutes, the red Polybahn funicular whisks you from Central Square to Polyterrasse, where you can enjoy one of the best views over the entire city.
Creativity abounds in District 5, the former industrial quarter in the west of the city. Here, you’ll find Freitag Tower, the well-known Zurich recycled bag label’s flagship store built from stacked shipping containers and rising 26 meters into the air. There are boutiques, galleries and delicatessens under the arches of the old railway viaduct. Visitors to Zurich shouldn’t miss the opportunity to dine at the Kronenhalle, a historic Swiss restaurant renowned for its traditional cuisine. While savoring your Geschnetzeltes with Rösti, take a moment to admire the wood-paneled walls adorned with works by Marc Chagall and Auguste Rodin.
The Confiserie Sprüngli is another Zurich institution and a popular place for breakfast. Buy the best quality chocolate or sample the famous macarons. For Italian food, head to the trendy Lupo restaurant; for Turkish, try the Gül. Round off your visit to Zurich with a negroni either in the Dante bar or on the roof terrace of the La Muña restaurant in the La Réserve Eden au Lac hotel on the shores of Lake Zurich. The hotel was recently refurbished by French architect and designer Philippe Starck.