Culturally vibrant, efficiently run and attractively set at the meeting of river and lake, Zürich is regularly recognised as one of the world’s most liveable cities. Long known as a savvy, hard-working financial centre, Switzerland’s largest and wealthiest metropolis has also emerged in the 21st century as one of central Europe’s hippest destinations, with an artsy, post-industrial edge that’s epitomised in its exuberant summer Street Parade.
Much of the ancient centre, with its winding lanes and tall church steeples, has been kept lovingly intact. Yet Zürich has also wholeheartedly embraced contemporary trends, with the conversion of old factories into cultural centres and creative new living spaces. Nowhere is that clearer than in Züri-West, the epicentre of the city’s nightlife.
Outside the city, there’s also plenty to explore: Uetliberg with its trails and scenic vistas, pretty lakeside towns such as Rapperswil, and the renowned museums of nearby Winterthur.Zürich is a city whose reputation precedes it - and does it a complete disservice, trashes its name, gives it a good kicking. A boring banking capital? ’Zu Reich’ (too rich), business-minded and uptight? The spotless Singapore of Europe? If Switzerland’s largest metropolis once lived down to those dull descriptions, it certainly no longer does.
Contemporary Zürich might still be home to the world’s fourth-biggest stock exchange and remain Switzerland’s financial engine, but it’s also (whisper it softly) surprisingly vibrant and trendy. Located on a picturesque river and lake whose water you can drink, easy to get around and a stranger to the hassled lifestyle that defines bigger cities, this affluent, fashion-conscious place enjoys the finest things in life.
Hundreds of new bars, restaurants and clubs have opened since the late 1990s and, since its Street Parade overtook London’s Notting Hill Carnival, Zürich now hosts Europe’s largest annual street party. Its former industrial quarter brims with nightlife venues catering to a youngish crowd, and this happening ‘Züri-West’ district has the same buzz as Berlin’s Prenzlauerberg or Mitte. The infamous 'gnomes’, as the British like to call Zürich’s bankers, are still here, but sometimes they can astonish you by whizzing by on a Segway scooter.
Fortunately, the city’s Protestant modesty saves it from ever becoming too schmicki-micki (chi-chi). With church steeples rising against a backdrop of hills and mountains, the medieval old town will also appeal to traditionalists.
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