International hospitality from Iceland to Bosnia
In just under a decade, Zurich has successfully shed its staid banking image to reveal a fresh and creative sensibility. Gone are the days when most visitors came only to check on their private bank accounts; today the city attracts a variety of world travellers, many lured by the city’s new retail offerings.
As they have in the past, the mainstream and upmarket shops that pepper the Altstadt (Old Town) still cater to a core of designer label-conscious locals and visitors (just take note of the number of Louis Vuitton bags carried along the main shopping street, the Bahnhofstrasse). But today, the transformed former industrial district of Kreis 5 in Zurich West has come alive with studios, ateliers and shops that are as trendy as those found in Berlin or Barcelona, and are edgy enough to snap at the überstyled heels of London's Shoreditch or New York's Meatpacking districts.
Despite being Switzerland's largest city, Zurich is compact and easy for shoppers to navigate, with an efficient tram, bus and boat service each offering their own glimpses of urban life. But often the best way to shop in Zurich is simply to walk. The area around Kreis 5 can be covered on foot in a day, and there are plenty of cafes, restaurants and bars in which to take a break (or as they say in Zurich, a “kleine Pause”) along the way.
Where to shop
Many of the stores and ateliers in Kreis 5 are run by independent designers, and thus are open later in the day and have sporadic hours throughout the week. Generally, Wednesdays, Thursday, Fridays and Saturday afternoons are the best times to find open shops – but this route will ensure you make the most of your time.
Start your shopping trip at the Freitag Flagship Store on Geroldstrasse, which opens at 11 am every weekday and 10 am on Saturdays. Like the rest of Zurich, it is closed on Sundays. The business, founded by two brothers, has become a symbol of Zurich's pared down industrial style. And the shop -- full of unique recycled tarpaulin bags in styles ranging from messengers to rucksacks and accessories like mobile phone and tablet covers -- is an architectural oddity made from five stacked freight containers.
Located on either side of Freitag are Bogen 33 and Walter, two vintage furniture stores selling design classics and quirky pieces from the 1950s onwards. Bogen 33, one of the first stores to open in Kreis 5, is a subterranean den with original, colourful pop-art designer chairs, tables, sofas and lights. Walter is a brighter ground level space that contains a number of solid wooden pieces like original sideboards and drinks cabinets that hark back to the Mad Men-era of the late 1950s and early 1960s.
After you have mentally redecorated your home, follow Geroldstrasse past the cluster of techno clubs to Im Viadukt, a group of newly renovated railway arches that now house about 30 independent shops, selling everything from clothing to kitchenware. Fashionslave, with its graphic design-inspired fittings, was one of the city’s first stores to cater to the fashion-conscious male, with personal grooming in one section of the shop and a stylist on hand to help you select the best European designer threads.
Im Viadukt’s food hall, Markthalle, sells fresh local ingredients and speciality foods from Switzerland and abroad. Take a break at Restaurant Markthalle, the food hall’s child-friendly lunch spot, which offers a seasonal menu of wholesome local organic produce, served in a rustic style (and one of the only venues in Zurich to serve all-day brunch on Sundays). Try the mountain lamb chops from the canton of Graubünden, or mixed sliced meat platters called Metzgerei. Vegetarians will have at least a couple of options on the menu, and many of the products are also available to buy from the adjacent food hall. Try to avoid the noon rush, when most Zürchers have lunch.
After lunch, head across the street to Heinrichstrasse 177, where you will find the charming compact and bijou studio of Anne-Martine Perriard, a women's wear designer who specialises in decadent silk and velvet clothes in muted tones. Her recent collection represents a contemporary take on 1940s French fashion, and in keeping with her preference for the most tactile of materials, she recently branched out into creating soft fabric and leather handbags and purses.