SUMMER IS THE PERFECT TIME to visit Zürich. Plants have burst into profuse bloom, showering the city with color. Restaurants and cafés set up tables on outdoor terraces and wide sidewalks. For more than three weeks, Zürich’s Tonhalle concert hall hosts the Zürich Festival with top opera, dance, and theatrical events. July is the month for the Züri Fäscht, a long weekend of outdoor concerts, dances, family attractions, and fireworks displays. History is all around you in Zürich. Streets abound in medieval architecture—residential, municipal, and commercial. One of the world’s major financial capitals, Zürich is home to elegant shops, perfectly dressed citizens, and excellent services for locals and tourists alike. But Zürich exudes more than wealth: It’s a hip, art-oriented city that’s emerging as one of Europe’s hot spots. With more than 40 museums, an on-time public transportation system, and a stunning location at the head of Lake Zürich on the Limmat River, Zürich earns repeated recognition as the world’s most livable city.
Author Nick Malgieri Photography Andrea Pistolesi
DAY TWO / Get an early start today and take a five-minute ride on tram No. 4 to the Hauptbahnhof, Zürich’s main station, for the train to Lucerne. Have a quick breakfast at one of the many venues in the station, or pick up a portable breakfast for the train. Departures to Lucerne are at nine and 35 minutes after the hour.
The hourlong ride takes you above Lake Zürich and alongside Lake Zug. Stop at the Lucerne Tourism office in the train station and buy tickets for the Golden Round Trip. You’ll take the ferry, available from May to October, to the foot of Mount Pilatus at Alpnachstad. Ascend to the summit via the Pilatus Cog Railway (in operation since 1889) for magnificent views; then spend a few hours doing light to moderately strenuous walking and hiking along a variety of airy Alpine paths. One of the longer trails reaches the Tomlishorn, Pilatus’ highest peak at 2,132 meters (6,995 feet).
Still atop Pilatus, you’ve earned a hearty lunch at the Hotel Pilatus Kulm and its traditional Swiss restaurant, the Taverne, a cozy room perfect for tasting local specialties. Fondue is a popular and substantial choice, as is the Käsewahe, or cheese tart.
Descend via cable car to Fräkmüntegg and change to the panorama gondola for the descent to Kriens. Take the No. 1 bus that leaves Kriens every seven or eight minutes for the 15-minute ride back to the Lucerne train station. Pause outside the station at Konditorei Heini, the best pastry shop in central Switzerland. Bruno and Hans Heini operate the business, started by their grandfather. Try Suleikas Torte, an exotic combination of chocolate cake, orange marmalade, and fruit-studded rum cake. From the train station, return to Zürich and exit the back (east) side of the station for tram 4 or 15 back to the hotel.
After a short rest, head to Wings Airline Bar & Lounge for a cocktail before dinner. It’s on a quaintly arcaded portion of the Limmatquai and feels like a private club.
Then enjoy dinner on the riverfront balcony at the Storchen. Don’t miss chef Fredi Nussbaum’s lobster bisque or honey balsamic–glazed duck breast. Save room—the desserts are splendid. Have a nightcap at the intimate Storchen bar on the same floor as the restaurant.