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Zurich: pretty perfect

Zurich is as creative and cosmopolitan as any of the world’s big cities, but with the intimate feel of a small village. Even if you are only here for a short visit, there is no escaping the charming blend of avant-garde and unhurriedness so typical for Switzerland: The lake and the nearby mountains have prompted many to stay.

Text:
Daniela Fabian
Photos:
Agi Simoes
A

An urban pearl with a line-up of chic boutiques and exquisite restaurants.

Remember that tune from Walt Disney’s “Jungle Book”, when Baloo the bear sings to Mowgli the man-cub: “Look for the bare necessities, the simple bare necessities, forget about your worries and your strife ...”? Disney’s song was composed in Zurich’s miniature urban jungle. Okay, admittedly that’s not true – some people here in Zurich like to talk big. But no other song captures the atmosphere in the aspiring mini-metropolis better than “Bare Necessities”.

Such grandeur: the Alps on the horizon, the lake and the historic town centre with Zurich’s architectonic landmarks, the Grossmünster (left) and Fraumünster, just a stone’s throw away.

This urban pearl – with its sparkling lake and clear river water, the mountains just a stone’s throw away, with its line-up of chic boutiques, its exquisite hotels and restaurants and rich cultural scene – actually does chase away the worries and the strife. While other cities around the globe experience gridlock on their city streets, travellers reach their destination smoothly and speedily here in Zurich.

Mediterranean flair with a view of the Alps: the perfect place to cool off during the day; in the evening, many of the public baths on the lake turn into charming bars.

Some of the creative minds in this financial hub have even quite explicitly devoted themselves to conviviality: Shooting star Nenad Mlinarevic, for example, awarded two Michelin stars in 2017, now works his culinary magic in a neighbourhood restaurant in downtown Niederdorf rather than at a luxury hotel.

He has the look of a bad boy and the touch of an angel: Nenad Mlinarevic’s cooking is divine. He will soon open his own restaurant, the Bauernschänke. bauernschaenke.ch

Entrepreneur, restaurant owner and artist Dieter Meier, who achieved international renown as one half of the famous techno duo Yello, recently opened a shop selling flavourful chocolate produced by his own company.

Everything he touches turns to gold: Yello superstar Dieter Meier presents his most recent venture – manufacturing his own chocolate to be sold in his new shop. The Zurich native enriches life in his home town and in the rest of the world in his many roles as entrepreneur, musician, artist, organic farmer and restaurant owner.

One of Zurich’s legendary nightclubs, the Kaufleuten, not only attracts the hippest DJs, but also some of the world’s smartest writers and politicians. Author Julian Barnes will be reading there in June.

Hot restaurant and nightclub -  cool chefs: Brothers Stelios (l.) and Seigi Sterkoudis know how to throw a party. Be sure to book in advance! kaufleuten.ch

It is perfectly possible, by the way, that you bump into Tina Turner while strolling down Bahnhofstrasse or spot Roger Federer at the next table during dinner. While their success undoubtedly makes them shine, it is also Zurich’s unhurried friendliness that lights up the faces of stars and tourists alike.

Zurich’s Bahnhofstrasse, leading from the main station directly to the lake, is one of the most elegant, glitzy and expensive shopping strips in the world.

"Zurich is wonderful"

Mr Meier, what is it about your home town Zurich that makes travellers want to stay?

The lake, the view of the Alps, the medieval buildings, the restaurant Kronenhalle, where the walls are decorated with important works of art. The Kunsthaus, the hotels Dolder Grand and Baur au Lac, the coolness of the woods in summer. The list goes on forever. Zurich is wonderful. The Grossmünster cathedral with its stained glass windows by Sigmar Polke, the central station, and the pano-ramic view from the Uetliberg are all must-sees.

What puts you in a romantic mood?

The Pfauen theatre. I went to school nearby and would hang around trying to strike up a conversation with one of the young ladies from the girls’ school.

As a world traveller with residences in the Engadine, on Ibiza and in Argentina, you are constantly on the move. Do you ever get homesick?

I grew up on Hottingerplatz and explored the city from there with my kick scooter. Whenever I’m in Zurich, I walk along those same streets and immediately become that inquisitive little boy “à la recherche du temps perdu”.

Each major city has its own sound: Buenos Aires has the tango, Paris its chansons, and Zurich has Yello. Your music is very technical, the compositions are rhythmically perfect, but there are no extreme highs and lows – the same could be said about Zurich, home of the famous reformer Zwingli. Would you agree?

Yello’s music evokes images and moods. It is a kind of soundtrack to your own internal film.

How would you express your love for your home town?

The place you grow up in burns itself onto your inner hard drive like no other. Certain atmospheres, longings, the smell of rain on hot tarmac, the bakery on Hottingerplatz, where I would get broken pieces of pastry when I went to pick up bread and strawberry tarts, the sandpit in Artergut park, elegant Mrs Zwicky from Kasinostrasse who always wore a little hat and drove a dark red Studebaker, Sturzenegger the carpenter, who taught me some woodwork and told me his favourite proverb “easy come, easy go” every time we said goodbye. Police constable Zingg, whom I admired in uniform but hardly recognised when he wasn’t wearing it. My first bike, a Cilo, like the one Hugo Koblet rode. I always look forward to Zurich. When I am in New York or Los Angeles and step into a SWISS plane, I’m almost home.

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