“Are you going to the beach in Zürich?” one of my geography challenged co-workers asked. Luckily, the seaside was not a prerequisite when a friend and I were deciding on a European city-break to celebrate our mutually milestone-esque birthdays. We narrowed the field to Paris (obvious, always diverting), Frankfurt (she’s a former resident of the German-burg), Berlin (sexy, on the trendy side of edgy), Milan (Italy, enough said) and Zürich. Playing word association with “Switzerland” conjured notions of clocks and watches, chocolates and cheese, banking and piles of money kept discreetly in offshore secret bunkers, the actualization of neutrality and the one famous Swiss guy − tennis legend Roger Federer; images punctuated with the majestic snow-capped Alps. We selected Zürich, Switzerland’s largest city, consistently voted a best place to live because of its wealth and high quality of life.
the Limmat River bisects Zürich flowing from Zürichsee Lake
If rich and exceedingly glamorous people flock via private yacht to St. Tropez or Marbella, more sensible glitzophiles with steady jobs and balance-free American Express cards land in Zürich. Here are my Top 3 city delights.
1. The dining experience.
There is no shortage of choice for trendy, chic, nouveau or old world restaurants housed in everything from 17th century guildhalls to renovated, re-designed industrial spaces. We had the pleasure of dining at LaSalle located in a converted shipbuilding factory. The lovely staff, rustic elegance and luscious cocktails contribute to the restaurant’s charm along with the dining room’s open-and-airy, glass-filled ambiance all of which softens the distress for vegetarians who must turn the other cheek in this carnivore paradise. Bison, rabbit and veal cravings can be quickly satisfied or for the more daring, horse fillet with garlic featured on the menu (horsemeat generously, or rather surprisingly, sourced from Canada and the USA).
after-dinner cocktails at Terrasse Café
Our second evening, dressed for dinner at Kronenhalle, we patronized without our diamonds and pearls and were subsequently relegated to a backroom table in this overly-conservative, stuffy local institution. Only the ability to view original artwork adorning the walls by Picasso, Matisse, Chagall and Kandinsky, abated our feigned indignation.
2. The Spa experience.
I did mention birthdays and along with the calendar demarcation looms an annual contemplation of life. Although I have an inclination to revive the lost art of growing old gracefully, it is not counter-intuitive to another aspiration, namely, professionally-pampering my body. Switzerland has spas aplenty and claims some of the world’s best luxury spas and wellness resorts. We enjoyed The Dolder Grand’s day spa and left this hillside castle hotel feeling refreshed, relaxed and ten-years younger.
hallway to spa heaven
3. The shopping experience.
Zürich has stylish little museums and galleries and the admirably clean, compact city allows ease of navigation through cobblestone streets to churches, courtyards and riverside cafés. Personally, I prefer art and culture to shops and souvenirs but I confess to enjoying Bahnhofstrasse, the broad pedestrianized boulevard of endless retail options. In a daze of merchandize I succumbed to commercialism, purchasing insanely expensive shoes in the form of blue-suede-heels from Bally.
Unquestionably a finance capital, Zürich residents vary across the spectrum from unabashed luxury sedan driving capitalists to young contemporary bike-riding artists; no one overly ostentatious and all seemingly enjoy Zürich’s high standard of living. Peering through a veneer of regulated Protestant-modesty, the city reverberates with comfort and affluence. Pleasant, sophisticated and a river runs through it.
Grossmünster (Great Church) on Limmatquai
Notes from my Learn 1 Thing a Day collection:
Switzerland has four national languages: French, German, Italian and Romansch.
The abbreviation for the Swiss Franc, the country’s currency is CHF because Switzerland, is also known as Confoederatio Helvetica (Latin). The Helvetians were the first tribe to settle in this central European region.
“For all the gnomish bankers and uptight Protestant burghers, Zürich was never simply the soulless, spotless city of reputation, even if James Joyce claimed that if you spilled soup on the Bahnhofstrasse you could lick it up. – Wallpaper City Guide
St. Peters Kirche (Europe’s largest clock face)