Cutting-edge art, panoramic views and mouth-watering chocolates make a tour of Zurich a treat for the senses, says Jenny Southan.
1. Lindenhof Hill
Climb a flight of stone steps leading up from Rennweg to reach the top of this ancient hill, which offers a picture-postcard view of the old town on the west side and the Limmat river flowing from the lake. Local men play giant chess beneath the linden trees on one side of the plateau almost every day of the year, while on the other side is one of the 1,300 fountains to be found in the centre of Zurich, all of which are cleaned every two weeks. The water spurting from it is a cocktail of 70 per cent processed lake water, 15 per cent ground water and 15 per cent spring water, and has been passed by the authorities as safe to drink.
From this side of the Lindenhof, you can spot many well-known landmarks including the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, which produced 21 Nobel prize-winners including Albert Einstein; the twin towers of Grossmunster Cathedral, nestled among the tall, shuttered buildings of the Niederdorf; and, facing the lake, the three bridges that join the two sides of the city.
2. Fraumunster and Munsterhof
Head down the cobbled street of Strehlgasse towards Weinplatz, and walk along the river towards the lake. When you come to the next bridge – Munsterbrucke – turn right, and you’ll see Fraumunster directly opposite Grossmunster. It is best to visit this church in the late morning, when sunlight floods through the ten-metre high stained-glass windows overlooking the river, which were designed by the Russian-French artist Marc Chagall in 1970. Make sure you also look out for his stunning blue rosette-shaped window high in the simple white wall opposite the entrance.
Outside, in Munsterhof square, a plaque in the ground commemorates Winston Churchill’s famous “Europe Arise” speech, given at Zurich University in 1946, in which he laid out his vision for rebuilding Europe after the Second World War. Fraumunster opening times: Apr-Oct Mon-Sat 10am-6pm, Sunday 11.15am-6pm; Nov-Mar Mon-Sat 10am-4pm, Sunday 11.15am-4pm. Entry is free. Visit fraumuensterchor.ch.
3. Paradeplatz and Sprungli
A short walk away is Paradeplatz, formerly a medieval pig market and now the economic centre of the city. The headquarters of Credit Suisse and UBS are to be found here, and far below the feet of the pedestrians and the wheels of the blue-and-white trams lies the true heart of Zurich, the biggest gold and money vaults in the world.
Chocolate lovers, however, are more likely to be interested in the wonderful window displays of Sprungli, on the corner at Bahnhofstrasse 21. Opened in 1859, the elegant store presents tantalising trays of dark truffles, platters of powder-pink Luxemburgerli cookies (launched in 1958), and shelves of gold-rimmed boxes of pralines. Look out for the truffes du jour, the freshest and best. Sprungli also sells cakes, pastries and freshly made sandwiches to go, and there is a café on the first floor. Open Mon-Fri 7.30am-6.30pm, Saturday 8am-4pm. Visit spruengli.ch for more details.
4. Haus Hiltl
Zurich has a long-standing tradition of vegetarian restaurants, but whether you have carnivorous leanings or not, Hiltl (28 Sihlstrasse) is the place to come for an inspiring approach to meat-free cuisine which will leave no one disappointed. Opened in 1898, this forward-thinking restaurant/café/club/bar with free wifi internet access doesn’t have a whiff of hippy about it. From 10.30am to 11pm it serves an impressive buffet of freshly prepared hot and cold dishes, from pesto ravioli, dauphinoise potatoes and stir-fried vegetables, to Greek salad, aubergine caviar, chopped fruit and bread from around the world.
Simply help yourself to what you want and pay at the counter – food is sold by weight and you can eat inside or outside, or get it to go. Alternatively, take a seat in the main restaurant and sample the extensive à la carte menu, which offers everything from starters such as asparagus terrine with truffles and red Thai curry with basmati rice for the main, to Indian desserts such as gulab jamun with rose water, vanilla ice cream and mango sauce. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Call +41 44 227 7000 or visit hiltl.ch for more details.
5. Haus Konstruktiv
After lunch, take a brisk ten-minute, calorie-burning walk west to the Haus Konstruktiv, a converted power plant which houses modern “constructive and concrete” art underpinned by mathematics. Bold, geometric works hang in vast, echoing galleries and thought-provoking installations sit alongside permanent exhibitions such as the Rockefeller Dining Room by Fritz Glarner (a room made up of painted canvas panels – a rare example of concrete interior design).
There are also temporary exhibitions from cutting-edge artists such as the Zurich-born Beat Zoderer (August 29 to October 26) and a solo show for Tino Sehgal, winner of the Zurich Art Prize 2008 – the latter (November 20 to February 1, 2009) will involve “action-orientated situations” using actors, the museum staff and even the visitors themselves to create an “unexpected act”. There will also be a huge exhibition of painting and sculpture by Swiss artist Max Bill covering around 2,000 sqm – the first to occupy the whole building – from November to February. Entry is CHF14 (£7). Open Tues, Thurs, Fri 12-6pm, Wed 12-8pm, Sat-Sun 11am-6pm. Selnaustrasse 25, visit hauskonstruktiv.ch.
6. Jules Verne Panoramabar
When you’ve had your fill of art, head back to the Bahnhofstrasse and around the corner to Brasserie Lipp (serving French cuisine with lots of seafood and fine wine), and take the lift to the bar beneath the Urania Observatory.
The 48-metre high tower offers 360-degree city vistas, and the bar serves up equally heady cocktails – try the Jules Verne Royal with champagne, Grand Marnier, crème de cassis and Angostura(CHF18.50/£9). Although the setting is quintessentially romantic it does get busy, so expect a more buzzing, less intimate atmosphere. On clear nights (except Sundays and Mondays) the observatory is open to the public, and the powerful telescope provides stellar views. The Jules Verne Panoramabar, with a capacity for up to 55 people, can also be hired for private events.
The bar is open Mon-Thurs 11am to midnight, Fri-Sat 11.30am-1am, Sunday 4-11pm (July and August only). The observatory is open 9-11pm in summer and 8-10pm in winter. Uraniastrasse 9; for more information call +41 44 888 666 or visit jules-verne.ch.