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 THREE / Breakfast at Café Schober at Napfgasse 4, across the river from the hotel and down Münstergasse. A Zürich institution since the mid-19th century, the café is famous for its hot chocolate topped with whipped cream from the café’s own herds. Try it with a piece of gugelhupf, a raisin-studded coffee cake.
After breakfast, walk north on Niederdorfstrasse to Rindermarkt (beef market) and turn right. You’re on a street that existed during Zürich’s Roman days and is now peppered with elegant boutiques and art galleries. The street then becomes Neumarkt, lined with historical houses. No. 3 was the home of Rudolf Brun, who led a quiet coup to overthrow the nobility-controlled town council in 1336. No. 5, the former Zunfthaus Zur Schumacher (shoemakers’ guild house), is now the home of the Theater am Neumarkt. No. 4, the Haus zum unteren Rech, houses the city’s architectural records and a scale model of Zürich as it was in 1800. Back at the junction with Rindermarkt, take the left fork this time and you’ll be in Spiegelgasse. At No. 1, the Café Voltaire was the hotbed of the 20th century’s Dadaist art movement, and No. 17 is the house where Vladimir Lenin lived from 1914 to 1917—they say he still has an unpaid tab at Café Schober. Turn left on Münstergasse to the Grossmünster Zürich cathedral, completed in 1220. Inside you’ll see the tomb of saints Felix and Regula, early Christian martyrs and two of Zürich’s patron saints.
It’s lunchtime, so head down Limmatquai to Bellevueplatz for your do-it-yourself meal at Globus Bellevue, on Theaterstrasse. The ground floor of this department store has stations dispensing hot and cold food, an espresso and dessert counter, and indoor and outdoor seating. Ride tram No. 4 or 15 from Bellevue to Central. You’ll see the entrance to the Polybahn, a little train that will take you to the upper city to the terrace in front of the Polythechnikum, Zürich’s university technical school. The terrace affords the best views of the city, so get out your camera. Then catch the little train back down.
At Central, walk toward the brightly tiled roof of the Schweizer Landesmuseum (Swiss National Museum). Inside, see the history of Switzerland from prehistoric times. The museum is under renovation (expected to be completed in 2013) but remains open. Don’t miss the medieval paintings and statuary, reconstructions of period rooms, and the clothing and uniform exhibits.
Take tram No. 11 from the back of the train station to Paradeplatz for chocolate and desserts. Confiserie Sprüngli has been operating in its present location since 1859. Sprüngli’s all-out blockbusters are Luxembürgerli, delicate macaroons sandwiched with a buttercream or chocolate filling. Up one flight in the elegant tea room, sip a coffee and enjoy a single portion of one of the many desserts, possibly the Truffes (truffles), a chocolate loaf-shaped cake with what looks like a pitched roof on top, all made of chocolate ganache filling.
You’re not far from the hotel, so refresh there before dinner at the Restaurant Kronenhalle, just a few steps up the hill from the Bellevue tram stop. One of the world’s legendary restaurants, the Kronenhalle has walls peppered with paintings by Chagall, Matisse, Picasso, and other modern masters. At the bar, admire the ironwork lamps and decorations by the Giacometti brothers. After a glass of the house champagne served by award-winning head bartender Peter Roth and his charming colleague Hildegard Müllner, request the ground-floor dining room. The walls are painted with the shields of Zürich’s most prominent families, some of whom may be sitting at the next table. Chef Peter Schärer’s extensive menu features house specialties such as the famous Wiener schnitzel. Don’t miss the chocolate mousse for dessert.
After dinner, you’re off to the Zürich Opera, a white and gold jewel box of a theater in operation since 1891. Operas, ballets, and other musical events are offered in repertory. Head back to the Kronenhalle bar for a nightcap and sit on the couch just under the immense Miró canvas to ponder the sights, sounds, and tastes of three perfect days in Zürich. Nick Malgieri is a cookbook author, food and travel writer, and former resident of Zürich who has nurtured a deep affection for and close ties to the city for more than 30 years.
Although landlocked, Zürich, Switzerland, has a climate tempered by the Atlantic Ocean. Summers are warm but comfortable. Occasional hot spells in July can send the mercury into the 80s or even low 90s. Morning lows plunge into the 50s. While sunshine is abundant, summer is also the wettest season. Occcasional afternoon thunderstorms, particularly over the high country, dump brief soaking rain. Winter is cloudy but not excessively cold. Highs reach the 30s, but lows seldom dip below the 20s. Expect occasional dense fog in the valley, particularly in the morning. Spring and fall are changeable and cool.
The Weather Channel
Weather information is provided by The Weather Channel. For more Zürich climatological details, visit weather.com.
A taxi from the airport to the center of the city costs about CHF50. Trains to Zürich’s main station leave the airport around every 10 minutes. The Zürich card is a practical solution for visitors. The 72-hour version costs CHF34 for adults and can be purchased right at the airport train station. You get unlimited tram, bus, local train, and even some lake boat rides, plus admission to all the city’s museums.
A Zoo Zürich and Masoala Rainforest (www.zoo.ch)
Zürichbergstrasse 221 Tel: 41-44-254-2505
B Toy Museum (Spielzeugmuseum) (spielzeugmuseum.ch) Englischviertelstrasse 19B Tel: 41-44-252-7870
C Boat Cruises on the Lake (zsg.ch) Bürkliplatz Boat Dock Tel: 41-44-487-1333
D Tram-Museum Zürich (tram-museum.ch) Zürich Limmatstrasse 260 Tel: 41-44-341-5058
E Urania Observatory Uraniastrasse 9 Tel: 41-44-211-6523