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Three Perfect Days: Zürich, Switzerland

SUMMER IS THE PERFECT TIME to visit Zürich. Plants have burst into profuse bloom, showering the city with color. Restaurants and cafés set up tables on outdoor terraces and wide sidewalks. For more than three weeks, Zürich’s Tonhalle concert hall hosts the Zürich Festival with top opera, dance, and theatrical events. July is the month for the Züri Fäscht, a long weekend of outdoor concerts, dances, family attractions, and fireworks displays. History is all around you in Zürich. Streets abound in medieval architecture—residential, municipal, and commercial. One of the world’s major financial capitals, Zürich is home to elegant shops, perfectly dressed citizens, and excellent services for locals and tourists alike. But Zürich exudes more than wealth: It’s a hip, art-oriented city that’s emerging as one of Europe’s hot spots. With more than 40 museums, an on-time public transportation system, and a stunning location at the head of Lake Zürich on the Limmat River, Zürich earns repeated recognition as the world’s most livable city.

Author Nick Malgieri Photography Andrea Pistolesi


DAY ONE / Enjoy that livability at Hotel Zum Storchen, an elegant boutique hotel on the riverbank. The Storchen is home to the medieval Boatmen’s Guild (Zunft zur Schiffleute), and you can see some of the guild’s silver treasures in the lobby, where head concierge Gennaro is sure to greet you warmly.

After breakfast on the hotel’s riverfront balcony, walk directly across the square from the Storchen and along the water through the Schipfe. A remnant of the days when Zürich’s commercial traffic docked on the river, this district is now home to quaint shops and beautiful architecture. At No. 41 Schipfe, Otto Schmid sells antique prints and photos of the city. At nearby No. 31 is Zur Kristall-Höhle, which specializes in minerals and semiprecious stones. As you continue north on Schipfe, take the steps on your left to the Lindenhof, the ruins of Zürich’s original Roman fortification, now a park with impressive city views. Back at Schipfe, stroll northward to Schweizer Heimatwerk (Swiss Crafts) for such Swiss-made items as toys and tableware.

Turn left out of Heimatwerk and follow Uraniastrasse to Bahnhofstrasse, a world-class shopping street. Continue south on Bahnhofstrasse to Bürkliplatz, at the head of the lake. The land side of the square hosts a lively fruit, vegetable, and flower market on Tuesday and Friday mornings, but Bürkliplatz comes into its own on Saturdays, when its massive flea market offers quality antiques and junk in nearly equal proportions. Cross the street to admire Hermann Hubacher’s 1952 bronze statue of the mythological prince Ganymede. Walk left for a view of the lake from the Quai-Brücke (Quai Bridge), or go right to the lakeside arboretum.

Catch the 2, 8, 9, or 11 tram across the street and ride two stops to Paradeplatz. Cross Bahnhofstrasse and take In Gassen to No. 16 and Bierhalle Kropf for traditional Swiss food. Your meal in the main dining room allows you to admire the fanciful paintings on the walls and ceilings of cherubs carrying overflowing mugs of beer and enormous hams. Order the Wurstplatte Kropf, a selection of four sausages served with traditional onion gravy and Switzerland’s gift to potato lovers, Rösti.

Back at Paradeplatz, take tram No. 8 or 9 four stops to Kunsthaus Zürich, the city’s art museum. Opened in 1910 (and expanded enormously since), the Kunsthaus exhibits a diverse collection including medieval altar pieces, works of major Swiss artists such as Alberto Giacometti and Ferdinand Hodler, impressionist and cubist masters Monet and Picasso, and modern masters such as Rothko and Bacon. Return to Paradeplatz on the tram.

Travel In Gassen again to Schlüsselgasse on your left and walk to St. Peter Hofstatt, a serene square opposite the St. Peter Church. Sit on the bench that surrounds the ancient linden tree in the center of the square and watch Zürich: a wedding party posing for photographs, shoppers and residents buzzing in and out of stores and 14th- and 15th-century houses, fellow travelers admiring the beauty of this restful spot. Zürich’s first church was built here in the ninth century. The tower, which sports the largest clock face in Europe, was rebuilt in 1534. The austere church interior is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Follow Thermengasse, a stairway on your left as you exit the church square, to walk over the ruins of a Roman bath. At the end of the stairway you’ll face the side of the Storchen.

Walk to a nearby dinner at Kaiser’s
. Chef and owner Peter Brunner cooks classics the Swiss might describe as “my grand-mother’s cooking prepared by a brilliant chef.” Have the all-out specialty, Geschnetzeltes Kalbfleisch nach Zürcher Art (shredded veal with mushrooms and cream); Brunner’s version is rich, though light and elegant.

After dinner, head to Widder Bar in the hip Widder Hotel. One of the hottest jazz venues in Europe, Widder Bar features such luminaries as Abby Lincoln, Hank Jones, and Phil Woods.

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