Best of Zurich This Autumn. Planted at the tip of a long, crescent-shaped lake, Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland, known globally for its highly relaxed metropolis, filled with history, outdoor activity, markets, breathtaking food and drink, polished hotels, and seasonal events that are unmissable. And as even more of an enticement, this premier Swiss transportation hub has direct, non-stop flights from Singapore, making it an effortless getaway from Asia.
Unforgettable experiences in the heart of Zurich
The easiest way to get around the city is to use the Zürich Card. The pass includes public transport (boat rides, funiculars and cable cars as well!), free entrance to museums such as the National Museum and Kunsthalle Zürich, discounts on shopping, restaurants, reduced admission to cinemas and even free entry to the airport observation deck. Priced at only Swiss Francs 27 (about $39) for 24 hours, or Swiss Francs 53 (about S$77) for 72 hours, it’s a smart way to explore this scintillating city.
Use the card to visit Uetliberg, at 870 metres above sea level, the city’s own mountain. Accessed by a 20-minute train ride from the Zürich HB main station, the peak affords views over Zurich’s rooftops, the lake, the Alps, and forests, where in autumn, the spectrum of colours ranges from green to yellow to brown to orange to red, a visual sensation. A culinary feast also awaits at the restaurants on the mountain, a perfect place to fuel up before taking a leisurely walk on the Planet Trail, an easy two-hour hike from the mountain through the countryside to Felsenegg that traverses through a model of the solar system, each metre of the path representing 1,000,000 kilometres in space. Uetliberg is especially popular in November, with the summit sitting above the blanket of fog that sometimes covers the city.
Another beloved viewpoint is in the Old Town of Zurich. Lindenhof, used as a filming location for the Korean drama Crash Landing On You, is a pretty hilltop square that offers sublime vistas. In autumn, the tree leaves turn a brilliant yellow, bathing the square in a bright hue. From the square, visitors will be able to see the Old Town, Grossmünster Church, City Hall, the Limmat River, the university and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (also known as ETH). Lindenhof is also steeped in history: In the fourth century, a Roman fort stood here, while in the ninth century, the grandson of Charlemagne built a stately palace on the site.
Exploration under the ground is the appeal at another exciting excursion in the city. On Truffle Hunts with Emma’s Truffles, subterranean fungus is the prize during a quest with Thierry Garzotto and his friendly Lagotto Romagnolo dog Emma dei Silvanbull. Garzotto explains where truffles can be found in the city, the trees near which they grow, and what signs to look for in the search for black and gold truffles. This is a truly unique urban experience, taking participants along city streets to squares, small patches of greenery and large open parks, a treasure hunt with a heady reward.
Truffles are not the only gastronomical delight hidden in Zurich. There are numerous vineyards and wineries along the lake, with two that maintain their operations within city limits. Zweifel, a family firm that can trace its roots to the 14th century, produces wines with grapes from three sources — vineyards in the city, in the Limmat Valley, and along Lake Zurich in an area called the Gold Coast. At wine tastings at the Zweifel Weinbeiz restaurant, visitors can taste the companies tantalising whites and reds. At the same time, the family also imports select wines from around the world that can be tasted and purchased at its two stores in the city.
The winery Landolt was founded in 1834 in the quarter of Enge, with some of the most beautiful vineyards in the city. The vintner produces 30 different wines using 10 grape varietals from the Zurich Wine Region. This is the largest winegrower in the city, with six hectares of Zurich grape vines, including some next to the main FIFA building. Like Zweifel, Landolt also sells wine at its store.
Find out where to go for some of the best gastronomy & wine experiences in Zurich
After wetting the whistle, it’s time to sate the stomach, and in that regard Zurich has plenty to offer. There are 15 Michelin-starred restaurants here, with dishes that range from molecular to heavy, national to international.
Among them Pavillon, located in the parkland of the Baur au Lac hotel, which has a nine-person kitchen that produces modern-French haute cuisine. Headed by Carlo Rampazzi, Rico’s in Küsnacht welcomes with warm colours and luxurious furnishings, while meals mix the flavours of France, Italy and Asia, served à la carte or in seven-course tasting menus. Hand-crafted walnut-wood chairs at the sushi bar hold diners at Sushi Shin, an intimate restaurant that serves omakase by Chef Kenichi Arimura. The menu changes daily, though it is strong on seafood, with wildly sourced products and an emphasis on quality.
Sustainable products are transformed into visual treats at Equi-Table. Located near Bäckeranlage park, its dishes are made exclusively from seasonal and regional produce and fair trade goods. The city also boasts restaurants with a twist, where live entertainment is as much of a draw as the delectable food.
At Rank, live music on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights follows a dinner of contemporary Zurich cuisine, while at Restaurant Akaraka, the Korean opera singer owners perform during Friday’s and Saturday’s fine dining with live music slot. Both of these are a thrill for the senses, fusing the artistries of gastronomy and performance.
After an exquisite, entertaining meal, Zurich’s chic bars are engaging spots to continue the night. Bar am Wasser, which means bar by the water, is set close to Lake Zurich and morphs from a daytime restaurant/cafe to a cool bar as the day winds down, one with dark parquet flooring and velour sofas. The bar stocks 400 bottles in its two-story high spirits gallery, with 25 signature cocktails organised by flavour rather than alcohol type.
The sky is within touching distance at Clouds, the city’s highest bar, set in the heart of the former industrial area Zürich-West. Located on the 35th floor of the Prime Tower, the views and drink selection impress, with signature cocktails made from the bar’s own award-winning gin, set to vistas of the Limmat Valley, the urban Zürich-West quarter and striking sunsets.
With curling banquettes and spectacular views of the city’s rooftops, Jules Verne Panorama Bar has a curated selection of gins, tequilas, and rums. In the Widder Hotel, the Widder Bar couples live jazz with a deep selection of drinks — its Library of Spirits has more than 1,000 bottles.
Explore the unique shopping experiences in Zurich
More variety is on show at the various shopping sites dotted around the city. Every district has its own local market, a few of them especially renowned. Market Bürkliplatz takes place every Tuesday and Friday morning, the largest market in Zurich, with local seasonal vegetables and fruits, flowers, cheese, meat, and fish from Lake Zurich. The location is memorable, among horse chestnut trees in Bürkliplatz, where the famous shopping street Bahnhofstrasse arrives at Lake Zurich. This square also hosts a flea market every Saturday from May to October, with antiques and special objects from vintage collections, such as old cameras, vinyl discs, furniture, jewellery, and more.
After shopping, a leisurely stroll along the lake beckons. Each Saturday morning on the Rathausbrücke (City Hall Bridge), Gemüsebrücke (meaning vegetable bridge) is a flower and vegetables market that dates to the Middle Ages and some believe that this market is where tourism originated in Zurich.
The permanent Markthalle in the Viaduct in Zürich-West is where to find 20 produce and food stands, as well as restaurants that prepare dishes with seasonal products. Zürich-West is also the location for trendy flagship stores housed in former industrial buildings. Among them the iconic bag brand Freitag (first produced in 1993 in an apartment by the nearby Hardbrücke bridge), set inside a four-floor tower built with shipping containers, and the immersive, interactive European flagship sports shop ON, born in the Swiss Alps.
For a more classic Swiss shopping experience, the 1.4-kilometre long Bahnhofstrasse, stretching from Zürich HB main station to Lake Zurich, brims with jewellery, fashion, art, watch and department stores, and is as popular with locals as with tourists.
Autumn in Zurich: A Series of Exclusive Seasonal Events
Visitors during autumn will be able to enjoy an exclusive series of seasonal events. FOOD ZURICH, from September 8-18, is the largest food festival in the country, with more than 100 events ranging from cooking classes, talks, city walks, brunches, food markets and more, taking place in and around the city.
On September 12, Knabenschiessen is a traditional rifle-shooting competition for local boys and girls that dates to 1656, though today it is accompanied by a public festival with food, amusement rides and market stands.
The Zurich Film Festival, the only film festival with a green carpet, runs from 22 September – 2 October, and witnesses about 160 internationally acclaimed films and numerous premieres by young, emerging filmmakers from all over the world.
Wine lovers will delight at the Expovina Wine Fair, from 3-17 November, an unmissable event held on 12 boats docked in Zurich, with the beautiful backdrop of the lake, an extraordinary setting for an incredible show.
Hotel recommendations for your trip to Zurich
Zurich also promises fabulous lodging to complement its amazing attractions. Uto Kulm hotel and restaurant is on top of Uetliberg, allowing guests ravishing views by day, stargazing at night. Across the city, on a hill facing Uetliberg, The Dolder Grand is a luxury retreat with a two-Michelin-star restaurant, scenic views, 175 luxurious rooms and suites, and a 4,000-square-metre spa.
For those that prefer to be closer to the centre, Sorell Hotel St. Peter is a modern retreat located between the Bahnhofstrasse and the old town, next to St Peter church, which has the largest clock face on a tower in Europe.
On the lakeshore, the Art Deco Ameron Bellerive au Lac offers rooms with views over Zurich’s waterfront promenade, and in autumn the golden morning light is a sight to behold, another reminder of the riches in this stylish, serene Swiss city. ◼
© This article was first published online in Sept 2022 – World Travel Magazine.