How to explore the stunning City of Zurich on a Weekend
Old and new, small and big, breathtaking landscapes - the Swiss capital city is full of surprises. In this article, you will find my best tips for hotels and sightseeing in Zurich.
Photo: City close to nature - Lake Zurich with the Alps in the backdrop
Zurich - perfect for a City Break in every Season
„Little big City“ – this former slogan of the city of Zurich says everything in a nutshell. The Swiss metropolis is sort of provincial but also has a touch of a cosmopolitan international city. Ulta-modern architecture in contrast with elegant historic buildings. Big city feeling without the typical problems of other capitals, paired with an unbeatable location on the Lake Zurich with the impressive Swiss Alps in the background. Locals are mostly relaxed and friendly. In short – Zurich is ideal for a city break year-round, also in combination with a trip to the mountains. During my last visit, I have explored spas, tested cool hotels and conquered Zurich`s „own“ mountain, the Uetliberg.
Photo: A river runs through it - the picturesque downtown of Zurich
Time to spa!
My first destination is the luxury hotel Atlantis by Giardino, to be precise the hotel spa with its Ayurveda department. Located on a hill (but yet centric), is this hotel popular with international business people and tourists. Even celebrities love to stay here – artists like Grace Jones and Rihanna have relaxed in the Atlantis by Giardino after their concerts in Zurich. The property belongs to the royal family of Qatar – that`s why there is a whole floor in an Arabian style which can also be booked by „normal“ guests (if the family is not in town). Many guests – including locals – like to enjoy the spa and to get professional advice in the Ayurveda department.
Photo: A great city resort in summer - ©Atlantis by Giardino
I have already engaged myself a bit with this ancient art of healing from India, so I booked an ayurvedic massage right away. Stephanie Albert has been working in the hotel for more than two years. She is a lecturer at the European Academy for Ayurveda and simply THE expert for ayurvedic nutrition and treatments.
Photo: Ayurveda expert Stephanie at work
Ayurveda and a vegan Dinner
No wonder that many guests with migraine, gastric diseases, skin problems, stress issues, and insomnia are looking for her advice. After a short dialogue, it`s time for the treatment. „ We have to reduce your VATA“, says Stephanie. My feet are warmed up prior to the massage. „This will help to get your thoughts out of your head,“ explains Stephanie. I already feel like meditating. And I almost forget about the world while being rubbed with well- tempered oils. If there were just not these nasty indurations in my neck which Stephanie has quickly discovered with her nimble hands. A slight snap tells me that she is about to eliminate the nuisance. No doubt – I have to get through this and to focus on the following relaxation. The next day, I already feel the extremely positive effect, my whole neck is already a lot more flexible. „You should get massages more often and take care that you don`t pull up your shoulders when exercising," says Stephanie. Well, there is always something you have to learn when working out in the gym, right? What else? „Enjoy a lovely ayurvedic dinner in our Hide & Seek Restaurant tonight, but preferably without animal proteins and alcohol to allow your body a real detox.“ Ok, I will obey in order to enjoy the full effect of the massage. After all, the vegan food at the Hide & Seek is fantastic, I will get back on that.
Photo: A happy guy after a fantastic massage
Prior to dinner, I have a quick look at the hotel spa with various treatment rooms, a steam bath as well as indoor and outdoor pools. „Our treatments are like a ceremony,“ says Karin, the deputy spa manager. „The natural cosmetic products of our Dipiu line are only available in our four Atlantis by Giardino Hotels as well as in our online shop. For the flavors, we use Merlot grapes from a vineyard in the Ticino (South of Switzerland)." If I am not allowed to have a glass of wine today, I can put it on my skin instead :-). Iris Berben, one of Germany´s most popular actresses, was so enthused about her treatment in the Giardino Hotel in Ascona that she has become an ambassador for Ayurveda by Giardino.
Photo: Yes, a quick swim is a must in this beautiful place!
In the meantime, dinner is waiting in the casual but elegant Hide & Seek Restaurant. An awesome view of Zurich, a cool design and a menu on an iPad.
I go for a banana soup with turmeric, chili, and cocoa nut – what a great combination! For the entree, the charming restaurant manager Veronika recommends eggplant with shitake mushrooms and miso – again an excellent choice and a great proof that vegan dishes are not always boring. In order to fully comply with my detox, I order fennel tea instead of wine. „Next time you should come for breakfast – be early to enjoy the sunrise from our terrace,“ says Veronika before I leave this stunning place. That´s a deal!
Photo: Cool elegance at the Hide & Seek Restaurant
A Boutique Hotel in a former Brewery - just cool
Deeply relaxed I return to the B2 Boutique Hotel + Spa in the state-of-the-art Hürlimann area (Google runs a major office here) where I spend the night in a nicely designed room. The main attraction (at least for me) is the shower framed by glass, with a view into the sleeping area. This way, you are able to watch your partner all the time – and vice-versa, of course. It goes without saying that I sleep like a baby after all the wellness.
Photo: My comfy room in the B2 Boutique Hotel + Spa
The B2 Boutique Hotel + Spa is a former historic brewery on a hill overlooking Zurich that opened its doors in 2012. A perfect combination of industrial charm (beer was brewed here until 1996) and urban chic.
Photo: A brewery that turned into a modern boutique hotel
The Wine Library with its elegant bar, 35,000 books (!) and cool chandeliers made of beer bottles is a true eye-catcher. A stunning breakfast is served here and cannot last long enough. Almost everything is exactly my taste here!
Photo: What an innovative chandelier at the Wine Library / B2 Boutique Hotel + Spa
Zurich`s first Thermal Bath - not to miss!
But more to come – wellness in the adjacent historic thermal bath that is part of Aqua Resorts! It all begins with a swim in the warm infinity pool on the rooftop with an incredible view of Zurich before I pamper my body in Zurich`s first thermal bath, opened in 2011. The roof and arches are the perfect settings for pleasant warm and hot baths. The best is to follow the written instructions and use all the facilities of this giant wellness temple. It bubbles everywhere, the historic walls are dipped in mystical lights. Massage jets, bubbly seats and beds, jacuzzis, an emerald and a meditation bath as well as a hydrotherapy zone guarantee perfect relaxation, with the healing benefit of water coming from an old spring. Boy, I would love to stay here all day but … a lot of Zurich experiences are still waiting. Before leaving the B2 Boutique Hotel + Spa, I have a quick look into the gym, located in the former engine room of the brewery. How cool is that?
Photo: I had this wonderful place just for myself - Zurich`s first thermal bath
Photo: A gym in a former engine room - how cool is that?
My summary: both, the Atlantis by Giardino and the B2 Boutique Hotel + Spa are perfect for demanding visitors of Zurich who wish to pamper their bodies after all the walks and visits in the city.
Zurich - a City close to Nature
After a short trip to the picturesque Lake of Zurich, I conquer the Uetliberg, Zurich`s „own“ mountain with a height of 841 m. You can conveniently reach the Uetliberg by public service, you just have to walk a short distance to reach the summit. For this short effort, you are rewarded with the best view of Zurich. Just too bad that the view is not very clear this day but I can still get a little glimpse of the majestic Swiss Alps in the background. An experience second to none which you should by all means not miss when visiting Zurich. On the Uetliberg you can even go for a nice hike – or sip a coffee in Zurich`s highest located hotel and just enjoy the view. Stunning!
Here`s a short video clip about the Uetliberg:
Needless to say that I also have to visit the trendy West End of Zurich. A lot of concrete, but also cool boutiques, cafés and restaurants and – above all – chic (and mostly young) people. No doubt, this Zurich`s most modern neighborhood. My recommendation for a tasty lunch or dinner: the Yalda, offering a super buffet with Arabian flavors. Vegetarians and even vegans will also like it. So do Zurich`s coolest hipsters!
Photo: Stylish atmosphere at the Yalda Restaurant
Zurich`s traditional Sites
What else not to miss in Zurich? The chic Bahnhofstrasse with all its luxury boutiques for sure. Even better is the Limmatquai just next to the river, a pedestrian area with many cafés, shops, traditional guild houses, the baroque town hall, and the legendary water church. Talking about water – Zurich has a lot of it. Apart from the Zurich Lake, Limmat and Sihl run through the city and provide a very special ambiance. At Limmatquai, I love to have an espresso at the Gran Caffé Motta, Italian coffee culture at its best.
Photo: A town hall right on the water - that`s Zurich!
A Night spent in a charming Boutique Hotel
I have spent my second (and last) night at Hotel Marktgasse, a lovely little boutique hotel with only 39 rooms right in the middle of the old town. The building dates back to the 15th century, some of the historic elements are protected. At the same time, you can enjoy all the modern comfort. Inclined floors and rather low ceilings here and there – the wording BOING reminds you of those in order to protect your head :-)- are testimonials of ancient times.
Photo: Comfy and colorful - my room at Hotel Marktgasse
Staff are very helpful and breakfast in the cool in-house DELISH Café is fantastic. I love the striking red furniture and the espresso machine in my room and am wondering where the spiral staircase might lead to. What do you think? There is a very cute little rooftop terrace with sunbeds and a breathtaking view of the old town of Zurich. Thumbs up for the Hotel Marktgasse! You can even reach Zurich Central Station in a ten-minute walk, another advantage of this charming boutique hotel.
Photo: Delicacies @Delish Café
Photo: So cute - my rooftop terrace at Hotel Marktgasse
Where to sleep in zurich
Atlantis by Giardino
B2 Boutique Hotel + Spa
Marktgasse Hotel Zürich
Where to eat in zurich
Restaurant Hide & Seek Zürich
Photo ©Atlantis by Giardino
Delish Café Take-Out
Marktgasse 17 CH-8001 Zürich
YALDA – Europaallee
Tips from a very cool Local
Patrick Wörner was born in Germany and has been working as a stylist with Coiffure Valentino als Stylist for the past 30 years. He organizes photo shootings, fashion, TV and stage shows in the sectors of beauty and fashion.
Foto: © Patrick Wörner
Awesome creativity of experimential cooking, nicely presented. The place is not really cozy or elegant but the dishes are worth a visit.
Hopfenstrasse 2 CH-8045 Zürich
Tradition since 1836. One of the most prestigious confectionaries in all of Europe and of the pioneers of the famous Swiss chocolate. The historic head office is located at Paradeplatz, one of the most popular squares in Zurich, just next to the famous Bahnhofstrasse. Here you will also find the oldest shop in Switzerland with a nostalgic café and restaurant and the Boulevard Café.
Bahnhofstrasse 21 CH-8001 Zürich
Photo: ©Sprüngli Confiserie
Has been existing for 150 years. Tasty delicacies, exotic dried fruits, roasted coffee and rare tea. Not to miss - a great piece of culinary Zurich!
Münstergasse 19 CH-8001 Zürich schwarzenbach.ch
Photo: ©Schwarzenbach Kolonialwaren
Turbulent transport nodal point. Here you will find the head offices of major Swiss banks, the luxury hotel Savoy Baur en Ville and the confiserie Sprüngli.
Photo: The beauty of Paradeplatz at night -©Visit Zurich
Swiss and international art from the 15th century until today. Exhibitions with art of Matisse, Picasso, Warhol and modern photography.
You will find further information on zuerich.com and on the Instagram page of Visit Zurich.
TRAVEL TO AND WITHIN SWITZERLAND
Zurich is easy to reach from many European by the Swiss Railway or with one of the many direct flights of SWISS, one of my favorite airlines. Within Switzerland, it is great to travel by train with the Swiss Travel Pass in the First Class, you can obtain it from the Swiss Travel System (STS). With this pass, you can enjoy eight days of free trips within Switzerland - by train, postal bus and boat. Also, public service in 90 cities is likewise included. Apart from that, you have free entrance to over 500 Swiss museums. What are you waiting for?
Switzerland Tourism have an excellent website.
After my stay in Zurich, I have traveled via the picturesque Lucerne to Engelberg, a resort right in the Swiss mountains. Report to follow soon here!
Photo: Tranquility after urban experiences - the majestic Swiss Alps close to Engelberg
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