Our annual Quality of Life Survey has placed Zürich at the top spot twice and in the top five six times. We’ll soon be opening a new bureau, shop and café in the city, so we thought it was time to put together a directory and map of our favourite spots. But first, here are five quick tips to get you grounded.
01 In numbers Zürich has a growing population of more than 415,682 people, covers 91.9 sq km and has four distinct seasons with average summer highs of 23C and winter lows of -2C.
02 The people are cosmopolitan with a good international mix thanks to the strength of the banking, media and education sectors and the influence of the four official Swiss languages of German, French, Italian and Romansh.
03 Alfresco living is key to Zürich’s high quality of life. It is a city cradled by mountains, fed by rivers and situated around Lake Zürich, which means that there are almost endless options for exercise, open-air activities and outdoor entertaining.
04 Getting around couldn’t be easier with one of Europe’s best international airports just a few minutes from the city centre, easy connections to the rest of Switzerland and Europe via the Swiss Federal Railways, countless trams and bus stops throughout the city and plenty of bicycle lanes.
05 Culinary choice comes when you combine German, French and Italian influences with unbeatable variety for suppliers of high-quality local produce right on the doorstep.
Places to boost your quality of life
01 Run wild and free
Choose a route
Zürich must have been planned and built by runners. The city caters to any jogger’s skill level – from those who want to get their blood pumping with the 42km Green Marathon trek that heads around, through and above the city, to people who prefer a more manageable Vitaparcours route through the forests. Most residents enjoy creating their own courses to suit their pace and mood. On crisp spring mornings, we like to get a good start to the day with a 4k: we head out across the Gessnerbrücke and run along the Schanzengraben section of the river until we get to the lake through the old botanical gardens. We then take a left or right turn and finish at either Strandbad Mythenquai or Strandbad Tiefenbrunnen.
02 Take a swim
During the summer months, Zürich is famed for its outdoor swimming clubs, affectionately known to the locals as Badis, and Monocle staffers can be found whiling away their lunch hours at some of the following watery spots.
Strandbad Wollishofen is a firm favourite among sporty types because of its outdoor beach volleyball court, windsurfing school, swimming kit shop and restaurant and bar. Badis Oberer Letten and Unterer Letten are two popular swimming clubs located on the Limmat river and offer a different experience as swimmers paddle with the flow of the stream. Utoquai is one of Zürich’s best known Badis and a bit of a Swiss icon. Located close to Sechseläuten Platz, Opera House and the Seefeld quarter and something of a sporty counterpart to the grand old restaurant, Utoquai is loved for its outstanding architecture and for providing a feeling of sanctuary from the daily grind.
03 Keep fit
Balboa Gym and Bar
Balboa is an interesting exercise in balance: a gym with a bar attached so that you can work out and wind down without leaving the building. Get moving in a Body Boost class, which combines strength, cardio, stability and mobility, then head to Roots for a beetroot, apple, raspberry and strawberry smoothie. You’ve earned it.
Paco Savio’s Tips
Owner, Balboa Gym and Bar
01 Restaurant Gamper is a down-to-earth taste experience with authentic flavours.
02 A Japanese barista and her French boyfriend prepare incredible Gardelli coffee at their shop Mame.
03 Inspired by South American architecture of the 1950s, Haus Grieder Swarovski in Küsnacht by Theodor Laubi has undergone an incredible renovation.
04 Just 20 minutes by train from the Hauptbahnhof, the Fotomuseum Winterthur is one of the best photographic institutions on the planet.
04 Find a sunny spot
This alfresco enclave is popular with locals for relaxing and the grounds of modernist master Le Corbusier’s Zürichhorn pavilion are the ideal spot to sit in the sun and enjoy a picnic and a bottle of crisp white wine from Ticino.
05 Menswear boutique
Pelikamo mixes its own tailored lines with a tight edit of complementary international brands (including our very own luggage line). The shop’s own collection of accessories – find shoe trees, Nato watch straps and collar stiffeners – are certainly worth a look. But the Pelikamo-brand champagne and spirits are what keep us coming back.
06 Luxe luggage
Designed and developed in Zürich, Qwstion bags combine mobility with flexibility. The shop doubles as a showcase for collaborations with the likes of Julian Zigerli and Soeder and the brands they love such as Folk, Slow Goods and TID Watches.
07 Food market
For fruit and vegetables, Bürklimärt, at the end of Bahnhofstrasse, is hard to beat. Shoppers can be seen leaving with totes stuffed with fresh herbs and cut flowers every Tuesday and Friday morning.
8 Cultural hotspot
A new cultural centre on Lagerstrasse with an event space, cinema, bookshop, bar and bistro, Kosmos is drawing youthful crowds with its packed agenda and promise of full minds and bellies.
09 Visual feast
Museum für Gestaltung
The original Neues Bauen building from the 1930s reopened this month, and the design and visual communications museum feels complete again. Recent exhibitions have included Stefan Sagmeister and Victor Carrasco.
Lunch with legends
Many residents of Zürich will tell you that Kronenhalle, in all its wood-panelled, modern art-adorned glory, is a must-see. It’s certainly one of the world’s greatest dining rooms. Kronenhalle’s austere setting is softened by the warmth of its dark wood walls, the generous spread of the leather banquettes and the lingering presences of artists Pierre Bonnard, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Joan Miró, whose paintings hang casually on walls behind patrons as they dine on delectable sides of Rösti or Spätzli. The menu is short and certain of itself and as reassuring as the solid brass lamps on the bar.
Lotti is a welcome new addition to Zürich’s buzzing food scene, and its cocktail menu can easily make a late lunch last well into the evening. The restaurant has a firm focus on using ingredients from local producers, so you'll quickly get to know suppliers such as Sämi Weidmann the salmon smoker and faithful butchers Silvia and Reto Rust. Try the Lotti Tavolata, a comprehensive tour of the menu that will leave you just enough room for one last glass of the house red.
12 Bar Boucherie Hatecke
The art of butchery
Quite possibly the most chic butcher we have ever visited, Hatecke is a marble dream that presents the best cuts in all of Switzerland. Choose from a wide selection of beautifully sliced, vacuum-packed and boxed meats, such as Panzetta bacon, Augusto pure beef, Agnello pure lamb and Cervo pork.
Owner Ludwig Hatecke opened his first store in his local village, Zernez, which can be found nestled in the Swiss canton of Graubünden. Locations in Scuol and St. Moritz followed before he unveiled his spectacular Zürich shop. If you’ve got a bit of time on your hands, we suggest you stick around and sample some of the cured selection with a glass of the local red wine. Hatecke offers a Friday evening tasting, perfect for getting together with colleagues to imbibe post-work drinks and sample pure Engadin cuts around Löwenplatz.
Located opposite the famous Viadukt, Alpenrose prepares hearty Swiss classics with soul. Set in a traditional Central European-style wooden dining room, the kitchen sends out vinegar-braised beef, whole Bernese trout and crunchy grilled pork belly in a Zürich beer sauce to patrons who wait expectantly during lunch and dinner. The restaurant is one of six establishments in the Stiftung Arbeitskette, a social project that helps mentally impaired teenagers and adults integrate into society via professional activity.
14 Restaurant Bürgli
A little south of the centre on the west bank of the lake in District 2, Bürgli has been supplying the great and good of Zürich with the best steak frites in town. Very little has changed since the place opened in 1864 and a good mix of regular patrons, from slick bankers and lawyers to grand dames and their grandchildren, not to mention dapper regulars and their dogs, all tuck wholeheartedly into an honest menu of bistro classics. The sauce on Sunday’s roast veal is beyond memorable and warrants a trip to Zürich in its own right.
15 Conditorei Schober
The sweet life
Whenever we visit Zürich we crave a bowl of Birchermuesli and fresh fruit after our first morning run – and Péclard im Schober provides the answer. Situated in the middle of the old town in an enclave known locally as “the sweet corner”, Schober is one of Zürich’s – if not all of Switzerland’s – best loved patisseries. It’s true that the Swiss take dessert to new levels, and if you hang around for longer than breakfast, you can pile your plate high with all manner of Törtli and sit on one of the neo-baroque red velvet chairs, or on the terrace outside, to savour slices of Gugelhopf cake to your heart’s content. If you would rather drink your chocolate than eat it, warm up on a cold day with a cup of Schober’s Schoggi Mélange, piled high with whipped cream.
With four (soon to be five) cafés across the city, ViCAFE has fast become Zürich’s go-to for a great brew. The team behind the espresso bar chain are known for roasting their own specialist varieties of coffee beans in Eglisau, just outside of Zürich – and the rich, invigorating smell of coffee now wafts through the town’s streets. Committed to quality, ViCAFE sources its coffee from all the best producers across the world, including suppliers based in Tanzania, Brazil, Sumatra, Colombia, Kenya and Honduras. The passionate and innovative group even resurrected an old brand – Vivi Kola, which was first started in 1938 – to add a refreshing Swiss-made soft drink to supplement its interesting and varied menu of caffeinated beverages.
17 Cinchona Bar
Full of spirit
Specialists in highball cocktails, the bartenders at Cinchona mix “the smoothest sours in town.” Inventive new cocktail recipes such as the The Ramos or the Suffering Bar Steward sit comfortably beside more dependable classics, and for those in need of a morning-after pick me up, the “Hangover Service” that runs from 11.30am until 2pm is a surefire rejuvenator. Choose from a non-alcoholic apple, celery, cucumber, lemon and ginger detox juice or the more powerful Fortified Mary: a classic bloody with a kick.
18 Bar Sacchi
For elegant evenings
Zürich has seen a healthy new crop of drinking establishments open in recent months and years, and if it’s neatly dressed, dark-haired Italian bartenders that make you giddy, then head to Sacchi at the beginning of Bertastrasse. The perfectly formed, classically inspired bar is a relative newcomer with long-term designs on the city’s well-stocked scene. The bar’s deep-green frontage with solid stone seating, strong signage and pink-marble bar give us a warm glow – and we can be found lingering, for maybe a little too long, on evenings later in the week. So, make ours a negroni. It’s one of the best in Zürich.
Claudio Sacchi’s tips
Owner, Bar Sacchi
01 Convivio serves delicious dishes with ingredients sourced fresh from the forest.
02 Weingarage/Meierei is a family-run wine bar, restaurant and café in an old garage not far from the city centre.
03 For the best live music head to Boschbar at Profitreff on Mondays.
04 Visitor Store sells great coffee and custom-made surfboards.
05 For real insider tips pass by Bar Sacchi and I’ll tell you the secrets in person!
19 Outdoor drinking spots
Soak up the sun
Come spring, thanks to the city’s accommodating outdoor licensing laws, Zürich’s population pours happily out onto its pavements, down its grassy banks and around its street corners to celebrate sunny days after a long winter spent hibernating mostly indoors. After a leisurely swim in the Zürichsee or after a smooth cycle along the Limmat, we enjoy nothing more than settling into one of our alfresco favourites. Here are a few to whet your whistle:
A cinephile’s dream, Xenix offers a dense programme of cinematic treats and screenings or a simple place to relax and enjoy the city’s lively film scene.
Something of an institution during the summer months, Bar Rimini, an outdoor ode to its namesake, turns 20 this year and there are sure to be some serious celebrations on such an momentous occasion.
The Baur au Lac Park
The garden bar in Zürich’s most famous grand hotel lives up to expectations and offers spectacular uninterrupted views of the city and its shimmering lake.
Frau Gerold’s Garten
This oasis in trendy Kreis 5, under the watchful eye of the Freitag tower, is made up of a city and kitchen garden, market stalls, retail and events space. A real must from spring to autumn.
Sitting pretty on the promenade by the Riesbach harbour, Kiosk serves a Fond du Loup rosé to accompany fish caught directly from the lake it overlooks and pizza heaven-sent from the in-house woodfired oven..
Known as the “Hidden Bar”, this rooftop bar offers some of the best views of the city from its perch above the Ambassador Hotel.
From May 24 to June 3, Food Zurich takes over the city with a street food festival, workshops, kitchen battles, cooking classes and a closing party at Engros Markt, Switzerland’s biggest fresh fruit and vegetable market.