Business trip: Zurich
The hotel’s minimalist guest rooms have cedar wood accents, starkly modern photographs and prints from the building's historic industrial days. The spa-like bathrooms have drenching rainfall showerheads. Best of all? At the end of a busy day, guests can take a relaxing soak in the hotel's rooftop thermal baths.
Call early to secure a table at Aura, a multi-level space located next to Paradeplatz, the busy, downtown traffic square near Bahnhofstrasse, Zurich’s main shopping street. This uber-chic address features a trendy restaurant on the bottom level, a sexy cocktail lounge on the second floor and a swath of new banquet space further up that morphs into a bumping nightclub on Saturday evenings. Its 360-degree projection system lights up the walls with colourful, moving images.
On the restaurant level, the open kitchen will keep you entertained while you dine on dishes like Swiss veal chops, grilled bison fillets and pumpkin ravioli. Due to strict Swiss rules against smoking indoors, the separate upstairs cigar bar is a posh place to see, puff and be seen.
All eyes are on Zurich West these days, and the Clouds rooftop restaurant and bar sits on the top level of Switzerland's tallest skyscraper, the 36-storey Prime Tower. Home to accounting firms, technology companies and a few start-up businesses, this glass tower provides unending views of the city's sprawl, the captivating Lake Zurich that seemingly floats in the middle of town and the distant, snow-capped Alps as a backdrop. Hardly cheap (though, is anything in Switzerland?), Clouds is the kind of place you take a client to seal the deal. Starched white linens and contemporary glass plates top the tables, where marinated beef cubes over a bed of garlic-infused risotto and the sautéed pike perch with fingerling potatoes count as favourites.
If casual snacking is more your thing, shop the small local retailers in Zurich West’s Markthalle underneath the old Viadukt. Once used for transporting water around the area, it is now home to nearly 50 vendors selling everything from tango lessons to designer jeans. The food stalls in the main market building sell artisanal Swiss cheeses, cured meats, racks of spices, fresh pastas, rows of sweet cakes and pastries and a rainbow of produce and fruit.
Foodies line up at the world's oldest official vegetarian restaurant (according to the Guinness Book of World Records), Hiltl, located just a short stroll from the main train station. Open since 1898, this dual-level restaurant serves a la carte and buffet fare of impeccable variety and quality. While dinner for two could set you back more than 100 francs, more than a dozen styles of spicy curries, fresh vegetables and fruits, and tofu prepared in unthinkably delicious fashion make the high price tag worth it.
Another landmark eatery is the waterfront Kronenhalle restaurant, made famous by past literary and art glitterati who sought refuge from the Nazis in Switzerland during WWII. This expensive, refined eatery serves comforting Swiss cuisine, such as their famous sliced veal served with roesti (shredded, fried potatoes), to a global, jet-setting clientele. The bill is certain to be, at least, in the triple digits, but when dining in the presence of authentic paintings by Picasso, Miro, and Matisse – that is to be expected.
Off the clock
If you are stressed after a day of hard work, head to the Huerlimann Thermalbad and Spa. Housed in the same converted brewery as the B2 Boutique Hotel, visitors can soak in old wooden beer vats now filled with healing, bubbling water from nearby springs. The most enjoyable time to visit is around sunset when the open-air terrace views are at their best.
Like a local
While it may be a bit daring, follow the stream of locals who trade their business suit for a swimsuit and hop into Lake Zurich for a refreshing lunchtime swim in the warmer months of May to September. Most people prefer the Rentenwiese lawn close to the Mythenquai beach area as a jumping-in spot. Bathers can be back at their desks within an hour of taking their first dip.