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City Guide: Summer in Zürich


Zürich’s Old Town.

Clara Tuma


The Swiss city shines bright in the sun.


Many travelers know Switzerland’s largest city by reputation: bourgeois, austere, and expensive enough to make a backpacker reach for smelling salts. But come to Zürich in the spring and succumb to the joy of fountains abloom with lilies and tulips, hearty street festivals, and views across the lake to the glacier-laden Alps. By summer, the Zürichsee comes alive with sailboats, and the badis – lakeside bathhouses – fill with sunbathers. The River Limmat coursing through the city is normally closed to swimmers in town, but an annual event, the Limmatschwimmen (August 17 this year), draws thousands for a float past the towering church steeples.


Zürich doesn’t just unbutton for outdoor activities. A surprising tapestry of cultures has adopted the city (a boon for dining), and contemporary urban architecture has perked up once forlorn neighborhoods. The Langstrasse district, just west of the train station, is slowly gentrifying through the likes of its Saturday Kanzlei Flea Market, pop-up design shops, and a repertory cinema, Kino Xenix. Cross the tracks to Zürich-West, a former industrial neighborhood that’s further along in its renewal, with restaurants and bars for tamer nightlife.


Dining at Kronenhalle.

Clara Tuma


Eat


Celebrating its centennial this year, city institution Kronenhalle serves Swiss comfort food such as chateaubriand and Zürcher Geschnetzeltes – Zürich-style veal in gravy with rösti – beneath paintings by Marc Chagall, Fernand Léger, and Auguste Rodin.


Inhabiting Credit Suisse’s former Helvetiaplatz location in Langstrasse, Bank packs out for its market-fresh weekend brunch. Come evening, the place swells with cool kids sharing Mediterranean-influenced plates of tuna tartare, kebabs, and lima bean hummus while DJs lay down tracks.


Bar Am Wasser’s Smoke on the Water.

Clara Tuma


Drink


Lakeside lidos are the usual setting for Aperol spritzes in the city, but Urbansurf in Zürich-West offers a wave pool for a parade of surfers (amateur and expert alike) against a backdrop of trains rolling in and out of the central station. Lessons and board rentals are available; BYO swimsuit.


Located next to the historic Quaibrücke (Quay Bridge) over the River Limmat, Bar am Wasser draws an upscale crowd for cocktails in a soothingly lighted nook of velvet-lined seats or on its seasonal terrace. Try the Smoke on the Water, which arrives with a hazy citrus-oil bubble that dissolves into a tarn of Johnnie Walker Black Label, mezcal, and sherry.


Just outside Langstrasse, cheeky Schickeria advertises “bad wines, expensive cocktails, and boring DJs.” The atmosphere is pop-up backyard chic, just this side of John Waters; for fall, the bar adopts a chalet style, with mulled wine and raclette served by the light of a bonfire.


Qwstion’s plant-based fashion.

Clara Tuma


Shop


The concept store Cabinet by designers Nina and Jeroen van Rooijen embraces Zürich-made lifestyle, clothing, and interior design products, with niche labels and Nina’s own jewelry. Find it inside Im Viadukt, a handsome redevelopment project with shops, galleries, and a lively market hall beneath the stone arches of an 1894 railway viaduct.


Honold, Sprüngli, and H. Schwarzenbach are just a few of the fine-chocolate shops tempting visitors, but for a sweet break from the city, take the ferry along the Zürichsee to the Lindt Home of Chocolate. Opened in 2020, the attraction holds the world’s largest Lindt chocolate shop, a towering chocolate fountain, and an interactive tour on the history and production of Switzerland’s most popular export.


Zürich-based sustainable-design star Qwstion uses banana fibers to craft chic, eco-friendly, waterproof totes, laptop sleeves, all-weather coats, and more. The retail shop, located in Langstrasse, showcases the extensive Bananatex line, plus accessories using canvas made from organic cotton.


Lake views from La Réserve Eden au Lac Zurich.


Stay


In a nation of innkeepers, La Réserve Eden au Lac Zurich is an irresistible sleeper hit, hiding behind a Paris Opera-style facade. Philippe Starck tapped into his love of sailing to create an “imaginary yacht club” when remodeling the 40-room property, which is replete with obscure nautical frivolities such as a shelf-top conga line of golden fórcole (Venetian gondola oarlocks). Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a $100 dining credit.


At the center of the pedestrianized Old Town, nine townhouses linked to the medieval butchers’ guild now comprise the Widder Hotel; 49 rooms and suites, plus four apartments, successfully meld the structure’s 700-year-old bones with both midcentury and sleek modern furnishings. Head downstairs to Widder Bar, an elegant hideaway lined with red leather and venerable beams that’s home to a 1,200-bottle spirits library, including dozens of rare whiskies. Virtuoso travelers receive breakfast daily and a $100 dining credit.




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