There are many places to eat along the Zurich art path, which takes in plenty of significant sites, such as the site of the nightclub Cabaret Voltaire, where the satirical and highly influential art movement Dada was born in 1916. After its brief moment of glory (the club was only open six months), the building was left to decay, used as commercial space, then almost turned into a luxury property before it was occupied in protest to be reclaimed for art over real estate. Today it’s a cool cultural space and a welcome place of wonder in the otherwise rather bourgeois and quiet old town. The city boasts one of Europe's great modern art museums, the Kunsthaus, which has works by Monet, Picasso and more, as well as Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti. Meanwhile the western part of town is home to a host of contemporary art galleries.
The name Hans Hilfiker may not be immediately familiar, but the Zurich-born engineer’s official Swiss railway clock is an iconic piece of twentieth-century design, and can be seen at the city’s many railway stations. You can find a smaller version as a wristwatch at the shop Heimatwerk. The Swiss are not inclined to brag about their talent for design but it can be seen throughout Zurich. In 1993 Markus and Daniel Freitag invented a bike-messenger bag made out of used truck tarpaulin, a huge commercial success, it is now part of the collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The two brothers still work and live in Zurich where they recently launched their first clothing collection, made with 100% sustainable fabric. Their flagship store, Freitag Tower, consists of 19 shipping containers and is an urban artwork in itself. Since the city is relatively small you can easily make your way along the art path on foot.
Every city has places that you have to see to really understand it. For Zurich it’s Kronenhalle, which has been around since the 1920s. Owner and art lover Hulda Zumsteg and her son Gustav have welcomed everybody from Coco Chanel to Pablo Picasso – and even Mother Theresa – to their table. During the Second World War it was a haven for many artists and writers. Neither famous or rich, they left their artworks in return for the food and shelter they were given. Today the Kronenhalle and its bar have an extraordinary collection of paintings from Braque, Matisse and Chagall, which hangs prominently in the dining room. Here you can eat Züri Gschnätzlets, a veal dish in a creamy sauce with potato rösti, or the airy chocolate mousse that is served with a generous serving of double crème. The bar has its own unique charm. It opens at lunchtime and is a wonderful place for a snappy lunch and a Negroni ordered just a tad too early in the day. But then, you don’t get to sit beneath an original Picasso every day. In the evening the bar is a classy and cosy place for a tête-à-tête. While the grand masters of art have long gone, their magic still persists.
Pastry shop Caredda is a hidden gem, and it’ll have you dreaming of its Arragoste: an Italian lobster tail pastry with a crunchy shell filled with super-soft vanilla cream. It’s so good you might want to eat it for lunch. The old-school sign and somewhat outdated furnishings are straight out of an old pasticceria in the south of Italy, but this is one of the best places for pastry and cakes in the city. Paolo Caredda comes from a family of pastry chefs in Ischia, near Naples. He still uses his mother’s recipes for cannoli, tiramisu and wedding cakes. And he knows how to make a decent espresso.
Only a few streets away is the Photobastei, a playground for photography with images from the old masters as well as exciting newcomers. The founders call it "Zurich’s largest photography artwalk", and indeed you’ll need a little time to truly explore all of its rooms. No worry if your art-filled brain needs a break: the outdoor lido Oberer Letten is just across the street. Swimming and sunbathing are truly urban pastimes in Zurich, so dive straight in to the refreshing, crystal-clear water of the river Limmat.
Equally worth a visit is Le Raymond: the coffee bar of the moment in Zurich, where even baristas are known to stop by on their days off. Serving blends from locally made Stoll Kaffee, the cappuccinos are frothy and the espressos good enough that your Italian grandmother would approve. Le Raymond is located behind the bustling Paradeplatz square, and sits quietly on the banks of the Schanzengraben waterway, making it the perfect place to start the day with a morning coffee and newspaper, or the best spot to find a moment of rest during a day of gallery visits. As it is also a bar you might want to come for an early cocktail on a sunny day – order the Apèro plättli piled with local cheeses and dried meats. The patio is a highly coveted place of serenity in the heart of the city.
While Zurich is home to 50 museums and almost 100 galleries, one of its most stunning art collections is a private one, displayed in a non-traditional setting at The Dolder Grand Hotel. This is one of Zurich’s finest hotels, overlooking the city and often a home away from home for rock stars, politicians and the all-round cosmopolitan. However the real stars are the countless art pieces you'll find on the premises. After its full renovation in 2008, main shareholder Urs E Schwarzenbach decided to display his ever-growing private collection in the hotel. An abundance of classic as well as contemporary pieces are presented here: Jean Dubuffet's Tour Aux Figures sculpture, masterpieces by Salvador Dali – and a wall full of Andy Warhols. You don’t have to be a guest to have access to the art: just come for a cup of coffee and cake and the front desk will gladly offer you an iPad guided tour: a virtual art walk with 90 artists represented and 124 works in the house. From the hotel, the Dolderbahn – a small and charming cable railway – will transport you back to the city centre, and will remind you once again why Zurich is such a happy place.
Over the past 20 years the western part of Zurich has been transformed from an industrial district into an art-lovers’ paradise. Its hub is Löwenbräu-Areal, a former brewery that unites a mix of old and new. The red brick building from 1897 has just been renovated and towers 230 feet over the neighbourhood. It is home to museums, publishing houses and prestigious galleries. Next to artspace Kunsthalle, the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst is worth mentioning & equally worth visiting, as it’s a unique institution in Switzerland.