Straddling the Limmat River and graced with a mountainous backdrop, Switzerland most financially powerful city capitalizes on natural beauty and cultural riches. Coupled with Basel, Zurich pumps the country’s artistic heart. The birthplace of the Dada movement (1916) has long nurtured creativity and today boasts not only a top-ranked orchestra and superb theater company but a 19th-century opera house acclaimed for its lavish 1,100-seat intimacy and stellar acoustics. Even the delicate-spired Fraumunster and twin-towered Grossmunster churches are testaments to Zurich’s creative leanings, with stained-glass windows by Marc Chagall and Augusto Giacometti. The largest collection of works by Alberto Giacometti (Augusto’s cousin) are displayed along other 19th and early-20thcentury art at the revered Kunsthaus. Recent years have seen the Zurich West neighborhood reinvented, with former factories and an old train viaduct now home to the Kunsthalle contemporary art museum, edgy art galleries, and a bustling nightlife. Popular with the stylish art crowd is the cozy Hotel Helvetia, with a lobby and lively restaurant that showcase contemporary Swiss artists.
Looking down on it all from an extravagant 125-acre park high above town is the castle-like Dolder Grand Hotel, reached by funicular. The Norman Foster-led renovation completed in 2008 refurbished the original 1899 main building of understatedly elegant guest rooms and added two new wings. From the hotel’s acclaimed Mediterranean restaurant to the gorgeous nine-hole golf course and pool with a wave-making machine, everything at the Dolder shares remarkable city views.
Tradition reigns supreme at the well-loved classic Kronenhalle, where every inch of the restaurant’s burnished wood paneling is covered with original works by Klee, Picasso, Kandinsky, and other modern masters. The animated scene here is best enjoyed over delicious standards like steak or sausage and rosti potatoes. Just 6 miles south of town. Rico’s Kunststuben wows its clientele with a market-based cuisine that is almost compulsively inventive, every mouthful a revelation.
BEST TIMES : Apr-Oct for nicest weather; Apr for Sechselauten spring festival; late Jun-mid-Jul for Zurich Festival of performing arts; mid-Aug for dancing at the Street Parade; early Sep for Long Night of Museums.