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Weekend in Zurich: Our guide to the best things to do

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Alessia Armenise
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A small city tucked in the Alps, surrounded by lush vegetation and blue skies, Zurich is not your usual financial hub. 

Forget foggy London and buzzing Paris, Switzerland is all about understated elegance.

The river that goes through Zurich adds even more charm to a city that already looks like something out of a fairytale. Charming pebbled streets, shimmering waters (lakes and rivers, they have it all), majestic mountains and gorgeous architecture – the Swiss capital is a surprisingly peaceful oasis in the heart of Europe.

Best places to stay in Zurich

Swissotel Zurich

A fully equipped gym, right next to your bed. 

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Ideally located between the airport and the old town (5 minutes away from the first one, 8 minutes from the second by train), Swissotel is the best choice for a quick weekend getaway. 

If you plan to relax, make sure to book their newest creation: The Vitality Suite. A space conceived to maximise your wellbeing, the suite is complete of a chromotherapy bath, a mini gym and a range of beauty products created with organic Swiss plants exclusively for the hotel. A compact wellness retreat, just for you.

Book here: Swissotel

Dolder Grand Hotel

It’s impossible to not feel like a princess here.

An institution in Zurich, the Dodler hotel is a lavish castle-like resort located on a hill, not far from the city centre. A Michelin starred restaurant, a dreamy Spa and the best view you could imagine over the city, the lake and the Alps – looking around the hotel, it’s easy to see why it has become so iconic. 

If splendour and comfort weren’t enough, the Dolder also boasts an incredible art collection that includes pieces by Joan Miró, Keith Haring and Takashi Murakami. Luxury at its best.

Book here: Doodler Grand Hotel

Baur Au Lac

Having breakfast while enjoying a lovely garden view it’s a good way to start the day. 

Marble, paintings and fine fabrics, entering the Baur au Lac is a treat for the eyes. A little oasis in the heart of in Zurich’s financial district, the incredibly luxurious hotel is a must visit once in the city. If you are unable to stay the night, the Michelin starred restaurant Pavillon will give you a taste of what the hotel is about: sophistication, splendour and an excellent service.

Book here: Baur au Lac

Widder

One of the best views of Zurich, on Widder’s rooftop. 

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A historic hotel in the heart of the charming old town, Widder is a unique place to spend your holiday in Zurich. The nine townhouses that make up the hotel show off the seven hundred years of history enclosed between the Widder’s walls, while the inside is finely curated to embrace modern Swiss design. An old building with a young spirit, the Widder is without a doubt the coolest hotel in town.

Book here: Widder

Radisson Blu Hotel

What about having a nice dinner while waiting for your flight? 

If you are in town for business but you don’t want to miss your chance to explore and relax, look no further – the Radisson Blu Hotel will be your home away from home. Located next to the airport, it’s the perfect solution for the early flyers but also close to all the main attractions. Only a 10-minute train ride into downtown Zurich, you’ll have no excuses but to make the most of your time in the city. 

In need of a break? Their Pace Fitness Club features a sauna, Kneipp-pool (walking pool) and steam bath alongside gym equipment. Everything you need to make your business trip a pleasure.

Book here: Radisson Blu Hotel

Best places to eat in Zurich

Kronenhalle

The restaurant that hides a private museum. 

Once a retreat for painters, musicians and intellectuals from all over the world, Kronenhalle is still one of the best restaurants in Zurich. A legendary spot with works by Picasso, Chagall and Mirò on display, the Kronenhalle is a treat for your eyes as well as your tastebuds. 

If you are hoping to get a good shot in front of one of their beautiful paintings though, you will be disappointed. Laptop and cameras are off limits in the restaurant – Instagram will have to wait.

Discover here: Kronenhalle

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Rosi

A feast at the Rosi.

A must-try for foodies, Rosi restaurant is the place to go if you want high end food in a trendy and cosy atmosphere. After working in London for five years at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck, head chef Markus Stoeckle decided to explore his Bavarian roots and open his own place in Zurich. The result is a modern take to Germanic cuisine, garnished with a high dose of coolness that makes the Rosi Zurich’s unequivocal hotspot.

Discover here: Rosi

Bauern Schaenke

The best lavish tapas to treat yourself. 

At Bauern Schaenke, food is better enjoyed together. The ever-changing menu has been thought like a lavish tapas feast – colourful, delicious and perfect to be shared. Following the seasons and depending on what the market offers, the Bauern Schaenke creates elaborate dishes that will delight both your eyes and your palate.

Discover here: Bauern Schaenke

Restaurant Lumière

Need a spoon? 

A little taste of Paris in the German part of Switzerland, Restaurant Lumière is the local’s favourite comfort food retreat. Indulge in some French classics like coque au vin, magret de canard or a very creamy crème brûlée. The ultimate cosy spot for a chilly Swiss night out.

Discover here: Restaurant Lumière

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Wesley’s Kitchen

A little taste of China in the heart of Zurich. 

If you are craving Asian flavours, Wesley’s Kitchen is the place. After building a great career in Shanghai, Wesley and Yang moved to Zurich and opened Wesley’s Kitchen, also known as the best Chinese restaurant in town. Taking inspiration from Chinese, Japanese but also European cuisines, the two cooks create a mouth-watering menu that will make you forget you’re in Zurich.

Discover here: Wesley’s Kitchen

Best things to do in Zurich

Hike on the Uetliberg

The best view of Zurich, the Alps and the lake. 

Zurich is a small city full of surprises. Right next to the buzzing financial capital, the most gorgeous countryside is only around 20 minutes away by train. 

If you are up for some sport, you can get to Uetliberg by biking or hiking the mountain (or even running, like a lot of locals do). Once you get to the top, 871 metres above the sea level, a jaw-dropping panorama of the city, the lake and the Alps will open in front of you. If you only do one thing in Zurich, it should be this.

Discover here: Uetliberg

Take the lake-cruise from Bürkliplatz for a one hour boat ride

The best way to explore the city.

River Limmat is the heart of the city, flowing between the old town and the modern financial district. Take a cruise along it to discover the typical houses of the old town, City Hall, the historic Lindenhof site and Grossmünster Church, an impressive 13th-century building that can’t be missed. An easy and charming way of exploring the best bits of Zurich.

Discover here: Lake cruise

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Have a picnic in front of the Chinese Garden

Fancy a dip? 

If you visit the city in the summer and you are blessed with a glorious sunny day, you can’t miss your chance of a picnic on the riverside. Jump on a tram to Bellerive and head to the Chinese Garden. On the outside, you’ll find a Chinese takeaway – perfect if you forgot your packed lunch. Right in front of the garden, there’s lots of grass to lay on and an amazing view of the lake. If you feel brave, you could even attempt a dip…

Discover here: Chinese Garden

Explore Lucerne

An unforgettable (and romantic) day-trip. 

If you have more than a weekend to spend in Zurich, a day-trip to Lucerne is a great way to discover more of Switzerland. The little town is popular for its incredibly well preserved medieval architecture – churches, squares and picturesque houses make Lucerne a little open-air museum, located on the homonym lake. 

Charming architecture, a breath-taking mountainous panorama and the shimmering lake make Lucerne a real Swiss gem that deserves to be discovered.

Discover here: Lucerne

Head to the biggest waterfall in Europe

A natural spectacle that can’t be missed. 

A one-hour long train ride from Zurich, Rhine Falls is a perfect day-trip for any nature lover. The waterfall is the biggest in Europe and promises a stunning spectacle, difficult to forget. If you want to be at the core of the action, many boat trips are organised every day and take the visitors very close to the waterfall. An incredible experience, definitely worth a short journey.

Discover here: Rhine Falls

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Best things to see in Zurich

MFO

A real urban jungle in the heart of Zurich. 

A real urban jungle in the heart of Zurich financial hub, the MFO is far from being a traditional city garden. A metallic construction is home to rampant plants that create an atmosphere of peace, even in the middle of the financial district. Join the locals on their lunch break or head there at sunset to enjoy the beautiful view during golden hour, from the spacious roof terrace.

Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst

Get your art fix at the Museum of Contemporary Arts.

If you want an afternoon of culture, Zurich’s Museum of Contemporary Arts is a great glimpse at the city’s lively art scene. Founded by a Swiss entrepreneur passionate by art in the 1950s, the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst is Zurich’s top spot when it comes to modern art. Thanks to their close collaboration with the artists it presents, the museum managed to find its unique voice, making every visit feel like you’ve discovered something new. 

The old town

Explore the charming pebbly streets of old Zurich. 

The old town is the heart of Zurich. Dine at one of the many restaurants that brighten up the pebbled streets, sip on a cocktail while the sun sinks in the river or shop at the numerous boutiques tucked in every corner – you’ll find there is a lot to discover in this little city. 

National Museum Zurich

The best place to dive in Swiss culture. 

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To dive into Swiss history, head to the National Museum Zurich. The museum – part of the Swiss National Museum – is a sumptuous historical building in the heart of the city (just minutes away from the main station), showcasing history and culture from the beginnings to the modern days. The perfect place to wander around on a rainy day.

Chinese Garden

A taste of Asia in Switzerland. 

A garden and a restaurant at the same time, the Chinese garden is a wonderful place to have lunch surrounded by nature. Gifted to Zurich by their partner town, Kunming, in southwest China, the garden is located right next to the lake, in a larger park, forming a little peaceful oasis in the city. The garden might be small but the trees, the temple and the birds singing will transport you far away, even if it’s just for a couple of hours. 

Autumn is the perfect season to explore Europe one weekend break at the time. Get lost in the beauty of Rome, wander around the streets of Lisbon or enjoy the last sunny days at the beach in Turkey. Your next adventure is just around the corner.

Pictures: Provided/Unsplash/Getty/Alessia Armenise

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Alessia Armenise

Alessia Armenise

Alessia Armenise is picture editor of Stylist and Stylist.co.uk. In her free time you'll find her tasting vegan street food around east London and sharing her (many) opinions on London Fields Radio.

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