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Switzerland’s biggest city is an urban oasis mixing medieval charm with design-forward style

Explore Switzerland’s biggest city, from the charming old town to stunning swim spots.

Switzerland’s biggest city is an urban oasis mixing medieval charm with design-forward style, writes Claire Doble

Zurich is a perennially popular destination for high-end and design-conscious travellers alike. Situated in the heart of Europe, Zurich is a highly attractive city destination in its own right and a fantastic base to explore further afield. The city offers a world-class international airport and superb transport links.

The Limmat River flows through Zurich, Zürich Tourismus
The Limmat River flows through Zurich, Zürich Tourismus

The distinctive double towers of the Grossmünster church
The distinctive double towers of the Grossmünster church

This little-big city is the largest in Switzerland with a population of around 400,000. Its comfortable size provides the buzz of a metropolis mixed with a laid-back, unhurried pleasantness. The sense of space and natural beauty is helped by the town’s location on the shores of sparkling Lake Zurich and along its two main tributaries, the River Limmat and the River Sihl.

Cafes in the Niederdorf district
Cafes in the Niederdorf district

Most visitors’ first impressions of Zurich will be in and around its historic centre. The city is divided into Kreis (districts) and central Zurich (Kreis 1 and 2) has several distinct areas. The main shopping street, Bahnhofstrasse, is as well-known as it is well-trodden. World-famous as one of the most sought-after retail strips on the planet, you’ll find all the big luxury brands here, while still getting a “high street” experience – Vuitton, Dior, Chanel and, naturally, all the top Swiss watch brands from Rolex and Patek Philippe to Swatch. According to Zurich style guru and fashion columnist Jeroen van Rooijen, these days people are seeking out lesser-known, local labels as well.

Contemplating Edvard Munch at the Kunsthaus Zurich
Contemplating Edvard Munch at the Kunsthaus Zurich

“The big brands continue to grow and expand, making Zurich look like any city in the world,” he says, “They want to find a ‘local tone’ again, something special that is unique to a certain town.”

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© This article was first published in June-July 2019 edition of World Travel Magazine.

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