With Zurich frequently voted as one of the top cities in the world in the terms of quality of life (it was second behind Vienna in 2015), it’s not surprising it’s also a popular tourist destination.
As the largest city in Switzerland, Zurich sits fairly centrally in the country; at the north-west tip of the beautiful Lake Zurich. It may often be regarded as a place for business, but Zurich is not just a financial centre; there’s plenty to do for a city break with sightseeing, shopping and mountains galore.
And if that's not enough to satisfy the traveller in you, the cities of Lausanne and Geneva are also not far away via a beautiful train journey through the mountains.
History and culture
Zurich’s old town boasts medieval history and is a must-visit. If you’re in the mood for some education and culture, take a guided tour around the sights, or just explore on your own.
Start out at the Grossmunster (Great Minister), the two iconic towers that are Zurich’s landmark, one of which you can go up for great views. Then visit Peterskirche (Peter’s Church), famous for being home to Europe’s biggest clock face, while the Fraumunster (Minster of Our Lady) has stained glass windows by artists Chagall and Giacometti. Art lovers also shouldn't miss a visit Kunsthaus museum for a modern art hit.
Hungry? Stop off for tea and cake at the kitsch Conditorei Café Schober while you meander through the narrow shopping streets.
However, if nightlife is more your thing, Zurich also boasts the highest concentration of clubs in Switzerland.
Hiking is a popular pastime in Switzerland, so if you’re feeling adventurous, and want some exercise after all that chocolate and cheese, don those walking boots (trainers will suffice) and head up Uetiliberg for fantastic views across Lake Zurich and the city.
There are several routes to take, some harder than others. If you opt for the former be prepared for some scrambling up steep steps to reach the top. The views are worth the effort though. A train also runs up for those preferring a less-strenuous way of admiring the scenery. Standing 871m above sea level, a hike to the summit of the mountain will take around an hour.
Many take advantage of the warmer summer months to go for a dip in Lake Zurich. Make sure you go to Seebad Enge, a swimming and sunbathing area that was built during the 1960s, to catch some sun and to enjoy the water.
By night, Seebad turns into a bar, which hosts parties and concerts in the summer. Waterskiing and windsurfing on the lake are also popular, but if you’re not keen on taking the plunge, there are plenty of boat trips on the 22-mile long lake. Not got your sea legs? Simply stroll around and stop off for brunch at Quai61 or afternoon refreshment at Fischstube.
For views from the other side of Lake Zurich, take the funicular to the Dolder Grand for afternoon tea.
Shopping and spa time
Switzerland is not a bargain city. In fact, as well as being high on the quality of life scale, it’s also one of the most expensive globally, so be prepared for some fairly steep prices.
However, there are some good spots for shopping, notably the main street Bahnhofstrausse (station street), one of the most exclusive shopping avenues in the world. If you’re in the mood to splash the cash (or perhaps just some window shopping) there are stores selling designer brands such as including Burberry, Chanel and Prada.
Stop off for hot chocolate or coffee at Sprüngli on Paradeplatz (there’s one closer to home on JBR but when in Switzerland we can’t resist). Those with a sweet tooth will marvel at the rows of cakes, macaron and chocolates; don’t forget to buy some truffles to take home for friends.
After all that walking, relax at Thermal Bad. Make your way through the underground caverns through scented steam rooms, plunge into cold pools, warm up in the jacuzzi and freshen up at the exfoliation stations. Don’t miss the heated rooftop pool where you can wallow while admiring spectacular views.
Where to stay
Romantik Seehotel Sonne
A four-star hotel with more than 350 years of history in Küsnacht on the shores of Lake Zurich.
Baur Au Lac
Just a few minutes walk from the main shopping street Bahnhofstrasse, this is a luxury hotel set in its own park.
From Dubai there are two flights daily with Emirates and one with Swiss Air, with a flight time of around six and a half hours. Etihad flies direct once a day from Abu Dhabi, while from Doha you can fly in just over six hours with Qatar Airways. There are also a range of connecting flights from all three via several places.
Zurich is a small city and it is easy to walk around to see most of the main sights. The tram is also a simple way of travelling around, with the Swiss transport system being incredibly efficient. It runs frequently throughout the city with stops every 300m or so. You can also take a bus or taxi, though the latter will be fairly pricey.
For stress-free journeys, buy a ZurichCard on arrival at the airport, which for around Dhs93/QR93 will you allow to travel by train as well as granting access to several museums and boat trips for 24 hours.
If you visit Zurich this summer you’re in for a treat as the Zuri Fascht (July 1-3) is taking place. If you miss it, you’ll have to wait another three years for this mega event. During the first weekend in July, around two million visitors take to streets for a giant festival filled with street food stands and musicians. Another highlight is the two musical firework displays, held on the Friday and Saturday nights.