International, Travel

A few days in Zurich

Text Vicki Sleet Photographs Vicki Sleet, Caroline Nilson, supplied Having shaken off its priss Swiss image, Zürich is now regarded by many as one of the places to live in Europe. In recent years the lakeside city has lost its stern and serious sheen and in its place is a vibrant atmosphere and a community (Zürich has fewer than 400 000 residents) that makes the most of its city and surrounds. Sure, it’s the gateway to the Alps and in the winter months the white peaks nearby beckon the brave to its snowy wonderland, but it’s the spring and summer months that are the seasonal stars, with the glassy lake forming a postcard-perfect backdrop to days peppered with activity. STAY Locals say that until recently Zürich had a dearth of recommendable hotels, but new developments have changed all that – especially the resurrection of The Dolder Grand ( hotel. The historic (it was built in 1899) 173-room hotel, complete with Michelin-starred restaurant, is nestled under the Dolder mountain overlooking the city and the lake. The four-year R4.4 billion renovation by Brit starchitect Norman Foster is magnificent. The new luxe spa wing boasts designer suites (complete with Bang & Olufsen techno details and private steam shower) as well as a massive 4 000m2 spa characterised by a host of Asian-Euro elements. Order a cocktail and sit in a piping-hot bubbling whirlpool on the outdoor terrace or enjoy the customised snow room after an invigorating sauna. The heated sunaburo pebble baths are a unique relaxation offering from Japan. International spa expert Sylvia Seppielli, the brains behind the spa at The Dolder Grand, took her inspiration for this underground spa’s design from the caverns found in the Swiss Alps, and the stone-clad walls have helped create a temple-like tone throughout. As the name suggests, Hotel Restaurant Helvetia (, situated in the central and trendy area of Kreis 4, wears two hats – and does so with aplomb. The recently reopened restaurant serves modern twists on old-school Swiss cuisine. Also situated in Kreis 4, rubbing shoulders with quaint 19th-century apartment buildings, Hotel Greulich ( is a boutiquey design hotel with a boundary- pushing restaurant and a choice of rooms, suites and longer-stay apartments, each with a distinctive, underplayed sense of style. PLAY Visit Kaufleuten Lounge ( and order one of the killer mojitos; then drink in the style-driven contemporary surrounds, complete with trippy fish tank. If you’re feeling frisky, the club is one of the city’s popular places to be seen. Pop in for a drink or an intimate live performance at Casablanca (, a sexy 1950s-inspired spot on the Langstrasse, formerly the heart of the city’s red-light district. A stylish Friday night drinks destination is the Swarovski-crystal lit Bar at The Dolder Grand. Dramatic black-lacquered interiors coupled with gold-chain curtains set the scene for good times. SHOP One of Switzerland’s edgiest urban brands, Freitag ( built its name on the back of discarded truck tarpaulins, vehicle seat belts and other industrial materials. The result? A bags and fashion accessories label that’s the epitome of recycled chic. Zürich’s main shopping drag is Bahnhofstrasse where Prada rubs shoulders with H&M. To find special one-offs go off the beaten track. Visit Niederdorf and the trendy Kreis 4 and 5 neighbourhoods for small boutiques, and don’t overlook upcoming Kreis 3. Straddling mass appeal with boutique execution is Globus ( It recently hosted a successful South Africa promotion where SA designs were showcased – worth a visit for the displays alone. (The Bahnhofstrasse store and the Bellevue concept store are both great.) Its food hall is sublime. Part 18th-century curiosities store, part exclusive purveyor, Limited Stock ( is a Niederdorf homewares boutique that celebrates the traditions of some of Europe’s finest manufacturers. Browse the beautiful displays of crystal glassware from German brand Lobmeyr, shop for linen-and-cotton mix hand towels from Sweden and stock up on scented candles from the Calming Park brand. Thema Selection ( epitomises the eternal style of its old town surrounds and is the home of a range of clothes and scarves made by cult textile designer Sonnhild Kestler. Vestibule ( is the brainchild of Paris- trained fashion-and marketing whizz Laurence Antiglio who curates a changing selection of feminine offerings. Though Laurence sources key pieces from European designers, her eye for detail resonates with the stylish crowd who shop here. Look out for her range of delicate gold jewellery made in Morocco. For a taste of contemporary fashion from some of Europe’s finest clothing, shoe and jewellery talents, visit Dings ( Don’t go home without at least admiring German jewellery designer Sabrina Dehoff’s cute animal-inspired shiny must-haves. You haven’t been to Zürich until you’ve sampled its myriad chocolate opportunities – from macaroons to truffles and decadent hot chocolate. At Chocomotion ( you’ll find carefully sourced chocolate treats from Switzerland and the rest of the world. And Teuscher ( is an over-the-top chocolate experience – from classic truffles to foiled diamonds and animals and an interior that’s dressed to thrill in a jungle of fake flowers. ZÜRICHER’S HOT SPOTS Caroline Nilson fashion stylist and English teacher ‘My favourite place for late- night cocktails is Talaker 41 because you instantly feel at home – its decor seems to be modelled on a dog-loving grandma stuck in the 1960s – with a huge Doberman painted on the wall, a mish-mash of differently upholstered sofas and retro coffee tables.’ EAT & DRINK Mesa ( is a pricy but absolutely impressive gastronomic experience where chef Marcus Lindner exercises his artistry on each and every plate. The eight-course Symphony of Emotions tasting menu takes diners through the likes of Happiness (duck liver with John Dory, spiced rhubarb and asparagus) leading them to Ecstasy (white-chocolate praline with strawberry and mint granita). The attention to detail is superb – there’s even a stool for your handbag! Maison Blunt ( is a happy haunt for a fashionable set who love the beautiful interiors and Moroccan flavours. Visit on a Sunday afternoon and kick back in the lounge with a magazine and a fresh mint tea while you eavesdrop on local conversations. They have a smorgasbord of authentic mezze and it’s delightfully laid-back – breakfast is served until 4pm! For authentic Italian served in elegant though chaotic surrounds, visit Napoli da Gerardo ( With a Da Vinci-inspired ceiling and walls that are covered with pictures, paintings and old china, this is an Italian feast for the senses. The manager and his team of highly efficient although highly strung waiters will keep you amused with their Fawlty Towers-like antics. Café Terrasse ( is one of the best- loved affordable eateries in Zürich and definitely a place for people watching. Its light and bright interior and Italian-inspired menu is a hit. Try the pistachio-crusted guinea fowl on mushroom risotto. Don’t leave Zürich without tasting a piping hot bratwurst with a roll that’s crisp enough to cut the top of your palate and a dollop of eye-searingly hot mustard. There are stands dotted throughout the city but the selection at the Vorderer Sternen alfresco grill at Bellevue Plaza (next to Globus) are arguably the best. For a real summer treat catch a water taxi for a short ride to Seerose restaurant ( to have some egli- filets, the local fish from the lake. The sweet-toothed should step into a Sprüngli store (there’s a good one on Paradeplatz but there’s also one on Bahnhofstrasse and at the station) and buy a box of their famous multicoloured pastel Luxembürgli macaroons for between shopping and sightseeing sorties. ZÜRICHER’S HOT SPOTS Richard Kaegi, Senior buyer and food scout, Globus department store group ‘On Saturday mornings you’ll find us at Cafe Schober ( in the old Zürich district of Niederdorf for a thick, dark hot chocolate and to feast on the creations of Alain Ducasse and chef-patissier Patrick Mésiano. The tarte au citron is outstanding and we think his croissants are seriously good.’ SEE & DO: Magpies and vintage collectors can be found bright and early at the Saturday Kanzlei flea market ( on Langstrasse where silverware and 1960s collectables jostle for attention on the crammed stalls. No visit to Zürich is complete without a visit to at least one art gallery and the Kunsthaus Zürich ( is a great one-stop-shop. It features works from the European greats (including Swiss- born Giacometti) as well as cutting-edge installations and video works by contemporary talents. The baths or badi culture is big and in the summer months locals decamp to their favourite wooden swimming-bath pontoons to chill out, cool off and have a drink. There are baths dotted all along the lake; some are gender specific or for families only and many of them turn into party places or galleries in the evenings. Though the city’s tram system operates with Swiss precision and is an excellent way to explore your surrounds, you’d do just as well to pick up a bike (for a deposit of a R146) at any of the depots (for locations visit dotted around the city and get your bearings this way – a morning spent exploring the lake’s shores will remain a highlight. ZÜRICHER’S HOT SPOTS Badi culture Malene Charles co-founder and contributing editor ‘Sunday is the big brunch day in Zürich and my favourite spot is La Stanza ( where for R183 you can indulge in unlimited servings of well-made, fresh food. And their cappuccino is divine! My best place for summertime cocktails is Seebad Enge ( on the lake. Berta Bar ( on Idaplatz in the upcoming Kreis 3 neighbourhood is also great. There are lots of small gourmet restaurants and bars popping up round here.’ This article was originally featured in the August 2009 issued of House and Leisure.