Coming from Dubai, several things about Zurich immediately make an impression on you: the cool Swiss air (an average of 11 degrees at this time of year) will fill the lungs, while skyscrapers are shunned in favour of 18th and 19th Century houses, and the whole city is nestled between snowcapped mountains and the shores of the epic Lake Zurich. Although a great number of people use it as a base from which to explore the Alps, over the years many artists, thinkers and scientists have made Zurich their home, including the dandelion-haired Albert Einstein.
Anyone who happens to be in Zurich on 1 August should avoid trying to get an early night, since Switzerland’s national day will be celebrated in grand style all over town. Beginning mid-morning at Werdmühleplatz square, a parade will snake through the streets, which are lined with folk dancers, and traditional food and ales. The whole shebang culminates with a huge fireworks display over Lake Zurich and partying into the night.
Choc-full of history, Switzerland’s biggest city is home to countless museums and 12th and 13th Century churches. Meanwhile, there’s enough to wear the kids out with the toy museum and zoo each being surprisingly worthy of a visit. Fine dining options abound: Kaiser’s Reblaube, set in a 13th Century house and serving Swiss cuisine is notable, and uses ingredients bought at the local market. Put all its wonderful characteristics together and Zurich is a magical city ideal for couples families and lone explorers alike.
While you’re there...
Party In Style
Kaufleuten’s reputation has meant that it’s welcomed the likes of Robbie Williams, Prince and Madonna to its bosom. Four bars over two floors cover vibes ranging from chandeliered glitz, to the more laid-back heavily cushioned lounge. If warm, the terrace is worth investigating.
Enjoy The View
No visit to Zurich is complete without taking in the views of the stunning Rhine Falls. Catching the train from Zurich station to Schloss Laufen a.R., Parkplatz, most people take in the view from there. But for one of the best vistas you’ll lay eyes upon walk through the souvenir shop in the chateau-like house near the train stop, descend the steps on the other side and hold on to your jaw.
Zurich’s Asia Spa is open until midnight every night and features a traditional hammam and countless treatments to relieve limbs tired from ambling down twisty cobbled streets. Meditation pools and saunas complete the relaxation package and will have you waking up ready to ascend the Monte Rosa the next day.
Where to stay...
(www.thedoldergrand.com, +41 44 456 6000)
The Dolder Grand hasn’t been bestowed its title for nothing. With the external appearance of a Swiss castle and a palatial interior, it’s home to a two Michelin-star restaurant (‘The Restaurant’) and its own spa. The 100 Suite – inspired by the Rolling Stones – sits atop the spa, and enjoys unparalleled views over Lake Zurich.
(www.hotelschweizerhof.com, +41 44 218 81 29)
Ideal for anyone hoping for easy access to the Museum of Art (Kunsthaus Zurich) and opera house. Built in 1876 with views over the Limmat river, gazing from the window of your room you half expect to see Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne being pursued down Bahnhofstrasse. The large windows and perky décor keep the rooms bright.
(www.hotel-alexander.ch, +41 44 251 8203)
Priding itself on its polite and welcoming Swiss hospitality, Alexander Hotel Zurich sits on the corner of a cobbled market street in the old part of the city. The rooms are bright, clean and airy, but the main attractions are all outside. The hotel has its own bar but there are plenty of dining and party venues a short stroll away.
Former tennis hunk Boris Becker has a home in Zurich.