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Travel: Swiss spring city

PUBLISHED: 12:12 21 April 2015 | UPDATED: 12:21 21 April 2015

Lindenhof square in the old town. Switzerland Tourism swiss-image.ch/Gian Marco Castelberg and Maurice Haas

Lindenhof square in the old town. Switzerland Tourism swiss-image.ch/Gian Marco Castelberg and Maurice Haas

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Yearning for a spring break, but don’t want to go too far? Consider spending the weekend in Zurich. With Alpine views, a beautiful lake, high-end shopping and Swiss chocolate, Rebecca Underwood had trouble rushing back...

Grossmuenster, River Limmat and the Muenster Bridge. Switzerland Tourism swiss-image.ch/Christof SchuerpfGrossmuenster, River Limmat and the Muenster Bridge. Switzerland Tourism swiss-image.ch/Christof Schuerpf

The largest city in Switzerland, located on the northern shores of a tranquil lake, Zurich is widely regarded as the best in the world for quality of life, and as a centre of finance and banking, remains the wealthiest in Europe.

It’s citizens are clearly dedicated to protecting their environment as the public transport system is used by the vast majority. Trains, trams, electric and diesel buses, river and lake boats as well as a cable car are the preferred modes of transport and this has a positive impact on the quality of the city air. Zurich offers visitors the experience of a thriving and vibrant city, which is not dominated by the car.

Shopping

Stroll along the promenade of Lake Zürich; festooned with colourful flowers that create a heavenly scent hanging in the air. Then head for the meandering cobblestone streets of Aldstadt (the old town) and browse the eclectic art galleries, charming antique shops and book stores. Take a seat outside one of the may coffee shops and while enjoying drinks and a Swiss pastry take in the view of the might snowcapped Alps in the distance.

Flowerbeds along the promenade of Lake Zurich. Switzerland Tourism swiss-image.ch/Stephan EnglerFlowerbeds along the promenade of Lake Zurich. Switzerland Tourism swiss-image.ch/Stephan Engler

For an exceptional shopping experience in the old town, wander along Bahnhofstrasse, one of the world’s most expensive and exclusive shopping avenues. Here the finest stores feature international fashion labels, exquisite jewellery and of course Swiss watches galore. Whether window shopping or parting with a hefty sum of Euros, the glittering displays are a must-see.

For another impressive collection of timepieces, visit the Clock and Watch Museum in the Beyer Chronometrie shop on Bahnhofstrasse. This private collection includes exhibits dating from 1,400 BC to the present day with everything from oil and water clocks to sun dials, hourglasses, table and grandfather clocks and delicate pocket and wristwatches.

After all that time passing by a foodie treat is in order. The nearby Confiserie Sprüngli is Swiss chocolate heaven with mountains of tempting pralines and truffles. The Sprüngli company dates back to 1836 and its chocolatiers are masters in the field. Sample the delicious VIP selection made with butter ganache and a hint of kirsch or rum, or try the chocolate apricot or Tahitian vanilla.

Art and history

Zurich old town. Switzerland Tourism swiss-image.ch/Rubiano SotoZurich old town. Switzerland Tourism swiss-image.ch/Rubiano Soto

A brisk walk after that calorific overload is probably in order, so make your way to Platzspitz Park, the location of the Swiss National Museum for an insight into Swiss culture and history. The museum was built in 1898 by Gustav Gull, and is a striking building reflecting the style of a French Renaissance city chateau with beautiful towers and courtyards. The layout neatly guides the visitor from the prehistoric to ancient history and on to the present day. Artefacts that particularly caught my eye were the colourful costumes, antique furniture, stained glass and selection of weapons, while the mesmerising collection of Gothic art is not to be missed.

The National Museum’s art collection is just the start for art lovers – Zürich has more than 100 galleries and over 50 museums (14 of which are dedicated solely to art). The city’s largest collection of modern art is at the Kunsthaus Museum, which houses the biggest selection of Munch masterpieces outside Norway. Other works here include masterpieces by Chagall, Picasso, Braque, Giacometti and Monet as well as contemporary pieces by Swiss artists including Ferdinand Hodler.

To see more works by Chagall, take in Fraumunster Church. It dates back to the 13th century but the five magnificent stained glass windows were designed by the Russian-French artist. St Peter’s Church is another treasured landmark. Located next to the Lindenhof hill, its towering steeple has the largest clock face in Europe.

For a relaxing afternoon viewing the city from a different angle, take a 90 minute boat cruise on the calm waters of Lake Zurich. The Lake Zurich Navigation Company at Burkliplatz harbour is a short walk from the old town.

Accomodation and dining

The luxurious Baur au Lac Hotel will look after you in style. The hotel is set within its own private park overlooking the lake and the Alps, and is within walking distance of Bahnhofstrasse.

Rooms are spacious, elegant, comfortable and inviting. For an unforgettable lake view, treat yourself to a 70 square metre deluxe suite.

The hotel’s Michelin-starred Pavillon restaurant has an emphasis on contemporary fine dining. The service is first class and the menu (as you would expect) is inspired. I had the gyoza tortellini filled with butternut squash and sweet and sour diced pumpkin, followed by the most delicious steamed sole roulade, garnished with crayfish, Nantua sauce, Swedish turnip and pilaf rice. And the Grand Marnier Soufflé is outstanding.

Should you wish to dine further afield, consider hopping on tram no.4 and head for LaSalle restaurant and bar on Schiffbaustrasse. This stylish glass cubed restaurant is housed in the Schiffbau building, which dates back to 1825 when it was a cotton mill. Steel beams and old rivets remain in place and a trolley crane hangs down from the ceiling. The menu features a wide variety of delicious dishes including a first class squid and papaya salad with chilli and coriander and a mouthwatering braised beef in red wine sauce.

After dinner head next door to Moods. It’s one of the best live jazz clubs in Europe and attracts some of the biggest names in the industry.

For a late night tipple visit Clouds on the 35th floor of the Prime Tower, the tallest building in Switzerland, located on Maagplatz. This contemporary and sophisticated bar and restaurant is set over two floors and features floor to ceiling windows ensuring the visitor has spectacular views over the city.

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Too busy this spring? Visit in June or July when the Zurich Festival (Zürcher Festspiele) takes place with operas, concerts, theatre, dance and open air performances.

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