Zürich city guide

Zürich permanently ranks in international comparative studies as being one of the most pleasant cities to live in on earth, sends mixed signals. It’s one part Berlin with its post-industrial, rough architecture and one part Google HQ, all hip with employees playing table tennis during lunch breaks. Many people think Zürich is the capital of Switzerland but that title went to Bern after a compromise between the German and French speaking communities when they had to choose the national capital. But for sure Zürich is the largest city of the country and a main hub for business and international banking. With only 400,000 inhabitants including many expats and young people from all over the world the city is much smaller than it feels.

Zürich started out as a Roman settlement and quickly grew into a significant, European place of power, thanks to its localization but not without its craftsmen and traders that took the city over from the nobles and created the 13 Guilds that ruled it ever since. I bet it was the Freemasons. Zürich is super hip or chill as kids say these days. At the banks of the Limmat, the river that slowly flows through the city’s medieval old town, you can find numerous fashionable bars and stylish restaurants. Do as the locals do and buy for on the go a Bratwurst, Currywurst or another delicious sausage at Sternen Grill in the Theaterstrasse 22 near the lake. Don’t forget the spicy homemade mustard sauce. But be cautious because it’s heavy on the horseradish! Get yourself seated at the Zürichsee (Lake Zürich) and enjoy the beautiful scenery and the buzzing atmosphere of locals, tourists and ducks, a lot of ducks.

The towers of the Fraumunster and St. Peter Church in Zurich with the snow tops of the Swiss Alps at the background

St. Peter and Fraumunster, together with Grossmunster and Predigerkirche the 4 main churches of Zurich

If you want to burn some calories afterwards you can do some hiking. At the SZU, the main station, you can hop on a train that will take you all the way up to Zürich’s backyard mountain, the Uetliberg. At the top you can climb the observation tower and enjoy breath-taking views in all directions. In wintertime sometimes it snows here and then you can sledge down here. Being able to ski so close to the centre of a big and vibrant city is something wonderful. No matter you are a party-animal, bon-vivant, explorer or sports enthusiastic Zürich caters a lot for everyone. And on op of all the great wages: no wonder Zürich people belong the most happiest and satisfied people on earth. Although it is in the German speaking part of Switzerland it has definitely also an Italian look and feel. It is full of fashionable shops and elegantly dressed people who take time for wining and dining. As soon as the weather allows the terraces are literally packed. Everyone will find something worth checking out in Zürich, for me it would be the James Joyce Foundation. Joyce actually wrote the Ulysses while staying in Zürich during the First World War.

Swans at the Limat River in the historical centre of Zurich

The Limat starts at the outfall of Lake Zurich and meets the river Aare, the longest river of Switzerland, 35 km further up north

Numerous art galleries will scratch the itch for art lovers, while the renovated Zürich West; a former industrial quarter is the favourite hangout of Zürich’s alterative crowd, young creatives and hipsters. The area is full of old warehouses and factories that have been transformed into hip bars and restaurants, fashionable shops and galleries and offices of start-up-companies. Zürich West, also called Kreis 5 or Industriequartier is industrial and alternative in Swiss style. So some might find it too polished and will be missing out the more rough and edgy atmosphere they will find in comparable areas in London or Berlin. And of course the price level is according Swiss standards too, but Kreis 5 is definitely a great place you cannot afford to skip when being in Zürich. One of its most popular venues is Frau Gerolds Garten. To the backdrop of converted ship containers, you can visit the Saturday market in summer and a fondue tent during the winter season. There you will also find Rosso, a restaurant that serves the best and most crispy pizzas in town, at least that is what every local and expat living in Zürich will tell you.

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