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Top things to do in Zurich

#insiderTips 4 - Hotel Continental Zurich - MGallery by Sofitel

Zurich, the ‘world’s smallest world city’ seduces visitors with its numerous attractions, varied events calendar and its idyllic and animated spots. We asked Muhammad Kashif, Joana and Franziska, our team at the Hotel Continental Zurich, what makes this charming major city so attractive. Does it have any secrets left to tell? Here are their answers.

#insiderTips 4 - Explore Zurich with the team of the Hotel Continental Zurich - MGallery by Sofitel - Hotel Continental Zurich - MGallery by Sofitel

zurich treasure

What is your city’s treasure?

Zurich is known for its ‘Badis’, thermal baths found throughout the city, some of which become trendy bars at night. In the  summer, visitors should definitely spend an evening at Rimini, on the river’s edge, where they can enjoy a drink away from the street, under palm trees. The Lindenhof, an exceptional place, is downtown in the historic district. From this hill, visitors have a beautiful view of the historic district and Niederdörf. The Alps and Lake Zurich are also visible behind the skyline formed by the city and Fraumünster, Grossmünster and St. Peter’s churches.

What monument or building holds a special place in your heart?

Along with the stunning churches that stand out against the Zurich skyline, the Dolder Grand Hotel, built in 1899, is worth a stop. Its sumptuous architecture gives it the look of a castle. In 2008, star architect Norman Foster added two wings to the building. Another building of note is the Hürlimann brewery in the southwest part of the city, which is now home to a spa. Guests can swim in the old mash tubs used for making beer, which overlook the Zurich rooftops. 

Any local celebrities?

A lot of celebrities call Zurich home. Among those who were born here are writer Martin Suter, actor Bruno Ganz, and the politician Alfred Escher, a pioneer in railroad construction responsible for building the Gothard tunnel. Dieter Meier, the versatile talent who brought electronic music to Europe with his group Yello and who now runs an organic farm in Argentina and a restaurant in Zurich, is also from the city.

A not-to-be-missed event?

Seeing the Zürifäscht is a must: this city celebration is held every three years and features music, stands, rides, food stalls and an elaborate fireworks display which transforms all of Zurich into a colorful display. If you come in April, don’t miss the Sechseläuten, or Sächselüüte. After a large parade with the city’s professional corporations, a snowman doll called a Böögg is covered in fireworks and burned. According to tradition, the faster the Böögg burns, the nicer the summer will be.

chocolate zurich

What should visitors definitely take home?
Classic items are chocolate, of course, and fresh Luxemburgerli from the Sprüngli confectionery shop. Friends and family will also love tabakrollen, rolled wafers that are traditionally eaten during Sechseläuten, but can be enjoyed year round!
Where can one find your favorite (sweet or savory) treat?
At Cafe Schober, a little gem in the historic district. At Christmas time, this traditional coffee shop is very elegantly decorated. Their range of pastries is vast, and for those wanting something savory, their tarte flambées are really extraordinary.
What other specialties is the city famous for?
Zurich is of course known for its local minced veal dish, called Züri Gschnetzeltes, served with rösti, vegetables or spätzle.  Öpfelchammer, a traditional tavern in the old town and a big hit with locals, serves a particularly tasty version of this dish. Tirggel, a Christmas pastry made with spices, flour and honey and enjoyed during Sechseläuten, is another typical Zurich treat. 

Zurich Christmas season

What’s the most incredible thing you’ve seen in the city? 
During Christmas season, the “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” display is breathtaking. All of Bahnhofstrasse and small side streets of the historic district are decorated with twinkling lights that look like a thousand stars.  You’ve never seen a Christmas light display like it! The Swarovski Christmas tree at the Christmas market in front of the Main Station, is the finishing touch on this beautiful show.
What languages are spoken in Zurich, and what common words should visitors know?
People here speak Swiss German with a Zurich accent. But when you walk down the street, you hear practically every language spoken in the world. Zurich is an international, cosmopolitan city in which one can get by very well speaking English or French. But some local vocab is useful, for example ‘Göppel’, for bike, ‘Tschugger’, for policeman, ‘Iääs’ for great!, ‘Znacht’, for dinner, and ‘Chrättli’ for bed.

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