Switzerland’s largest city may be compact in size but it’s diverse. Here you’ll find first-rate museums and modernist marvels, all-day coffee bars and nightlife that will keep your tail feathers shaking. There’s also a reliable tram network, a thoughtful assembly of public infrastructure and an airport and Hauptbahnhof that rank alongside some of the best transport hubs in Europe. Many cities can do a few things well but Zürich manages to do most excellently.

Need to know

Get to grips with the basics

  1. Tongue-tied : Switzerland has four official languages. Approximately 63 per cent of the population (mainly in Zürich and other eastern cities) speak Swiss-German, a German dialect with its own flow and nuances.
  2. Good manners: The Swiss have a strict social etiquette that even the more relaxed French cantons in the west of the country respect. In a business setting a firm handshake is the norm and be sure to turn up to meetings
  3. Smooth operator : Switzerland boasts the densest railway network in the world and the central Zürich Hauptbahnhof is the country’s busiest and biggest station. This gargantuan complex is also serviced by bus and tram, and features a market hall and two floors of shops.
  4. Health kick: The Swiss are an active bunch. So active that more than 70 per cent of them hit the ski slopes, hike across the countryside, join a rollerblade tour around town or practise another form of sports at least once a week.

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Hospitality at its finest

  1. Boutique Hotel Helvetia, Werd

    New look

    This 37-room hotel comes complete with Hästens Luxuria beds, Kiehl’s products, parquet flooring and a fine collection of contemporary Swiss art.

  2. Baur au Lac, City

    Top of the lake

    The family-owned Baur au Lac sits in the middle of its own expansive park with uninterrupted water and mountain views.

  3. Four Seasons Hotel des Bergues Geneva, Grottes-Saint-Gervais

    Grande dame

    This was the city’s first hotel when it opened on the shores of Lake Geneva in 1834 and it remains an institution.

  4. Krafft Basel, Altstadt Kleinbasel

    Old and new

    Ernst Krafft commissioned Swiss architect Ferdinand Iselin to amalgamate three medieval houses into a four-story hotel in 1872 and, after a series of renovations, Krafft Basel expanded into the neighbouring building above what's now a charming wine bar.The hotel offers 60 classic yet modern rooms and junior suites. Contemporary furniture – including chairs by Charles & Ray Eames and coffee tables by Isamu Noguchi – sit alongside traditional design details such as the original tiled lobby and spiral staircase. the river-facing rooms are hard to beat.

Food and drink

Smart bites and top stops

  1. The Monocle Café, Seefeld

    Coffee and shopping

    Our Zürich outpost opened in 2018 and we like to think it’s one of the best places in town to grab a coffee and pick up an issue of the magazine.

  2. Panama Bar & Grill, Unterstrass

    Summer staple

    This relaxed restaurant sits on the concrete platforms above favoured river swimming spot Badi Oberer Letten and epitomises how Zürich’s myriad lake and riverside swimming clubs help the city spring to life on sunny days.

  3. Gamper, Langstrasse

    Simple pleasures

    Chef proprietor Marius Frehner’s short, seasonal menu delivers uncomplicated food that emphasises the quality of the produce.

  4. Kronenhalle, Hochschulen

    Plate of the art

    Kronenhalle is one of the few places in the world where you can drink and dine next to works by Miró, Matisse and Picasso. Expect German-Swiss classics and exceptional service.

  5. Bar Sacchi, Sihlfeld

    Cool character

    Claudio Sacchi’s bar is inspired by traditional Italian aperitivo joints, with a contemporary twist. The negronis keep the regulars coming back.

  6. Le Bologne, Grottes-Saint-Gervais

    Meaty subject

    An impeccable offering from Florian Le Bouhec’s stable, with a meat-heavy, French-inspired menu that includes risotto made from celery, served with truffles and foie gras.

  7. Paradiso, Jonction

    Coffee heaven

    This espresso bar and café, opposite the Musée d’Ethnographie de Genève, is a terrazzo-floored paradise with top coffee and fresh food.

  8. La Fourchette, Matthäus

    French fancies

    This is home-style French cuisine at its finest and there’s also an excellent selection of regional wines.


Shop talk

  1. Pelikamo, City

    Dapper dressing

    Zürich-based menswear brand and retailer Pelikamo has garnered a loyal following for its “Made in Italy” pieces.

  2. EnSoie, Lindenhof

    Sister act

    The three-storey flagship of family-run local label EnSoie offers a range of the brand’s homeware, cheery dresses and colourful accessories.

  3. Soeder, Langstrasse

    Understated selection

    Soeder’s Langstrasse shop sells sustainably produced products such as knits and cosmetics.

  4. Horlogerie Desbiolles, Centre-Plainpalais-Acacias

    Old-time dedication

    Yvon Desbiolles and his son Fabien restore watches and clocks here the “old-fashioned way”.

  5. Correspondances, Centre-Plainpalais-Acacias

    Man’s world

    A spacious menswear shop that sells brands such as Engineered Garments and Gitman Vintage.

  6. Grimsel, Vorstädte

    Covetable designs

    Run by graphic designer Alexa Früh and interior architect Bettina Ginsberg, their showroom is filled with pieces from around the world.


Local lingo

  1. En guete: Bon appétit
  2. Grüezi: Hello (formal)
  3. Es Gipfeli: A croissant
  4. Äxgüsi: Excuse me
  5. Gömmer in Apéro?: Shall we go for an aperitif?
  6. Es Chäschüechli: A small cheese quiche
  7. Es Billet: A (train) ticket
  8. Zum Znacht: For dinner
  9. Zum Zmorge: For breakfast
  10. Es Natel: A mobile phone


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