The former industrial district of Kreis 5 has come alive with studios, ateliers and shops that are edgy enough to snap at the überstyled heels of London's Shoreditch district.

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.

Next, turn left down Ottostrasse to Neugasse, where there is a Dada-esque quality about the next destination. Estelle Gassmann's witty artworks comprise of household objects, such as china serving platters or simple wire mesh waste paper bins, that are brought to life with sprawling alien-like tendrils made of plastic, porcelain, glass and clay, transforming them into surprisingly beautiful and quirky objets d'art.

From Neugasse, turn left onto Quellenstrasse to reach Josefstrasse, the main drag for most of the studios and boutiques in Kreis 5. Waldraud sells limited-edition contemporary furniture -- such as chairs, tables and lamps -- and fashion for women and men, all from designers as far afield as the Netherlands, Latvia and South Korea.

If you are in need of refreshment, then the cosy, wood-panelled confines of the nearby bar/restaurant Josef will cocoon you until you are ready to set forth again. The cocktails (alcoholic and non) are very tasty, and the vast gin selection is unsurpassed in Zurich. The restaurant is considered one of the best and most reasonably-priced in the city, as you can order tasting menus with  two to five dishes per person, including dessert from 36 Swiss francs to 70 Swiss francs.  The menu is unashamedly fleshy (highlights include pork belly, beef tartare or scallops) but there is always at least one vegetarian option, and the thyme polenta with chanterelle mushrooms is especially recommended.

Across Josefstrasse from Josef, Lesunja Goldschmiede sells bespoke gold jewellery made from new or old pieces, melted down to create a heady mix of delicate and bold new designs. She also takes your old gold as currency for new items. In a unique feature, you can learn how to make you and your partner's wedding rings in her workshops and one-to-one courses. Drop in, or contact her via the website to arrange a personal consultation visit, as schedules vary from course to course. 

On the opposite side of the street, Manu Propria is a spectacles store founded by two opticians who design and construct their own frames. They have made a name for themselves as the trendiest place in Zurich to go for serious specs and beautiful sunglasses. Their frames come in all materials, from traditional bone to contemporary Perspex, and they can tailor your prescription to any of their styles. They also have a charming little spectacle museum in their shop with vintage examples from different eras.

Just two doors down is the award-winning Senior Design Factory. As the name suggests, this is a collaboration between Zurich's older citizens, who teach skills like knitting, crochet and candle and soap-making to young designers, resulting in exciting design fusions, like knitted lampshades and sculptural soaps. They also hold workshops for the public; current course schedules are available on their website.

At their cafe/restaurant project called the Senior Design Cafe, you can see some of their waresin action; huge embellished tea cosies adorn the tables while customers lean on the embroidered seat cushions and sit on trendy reupholstered chairs. The food is great too – try the fresh all-day Z'Morge (breakfast) platter with fresh pancakes and croissants, plus a choice of cooked local organic eggs, meats and sausages and rösti (a buttery Swiss hashed potato dish).

Shopping tips
Do not expect to find a bargain. There is no such thing as cheap in Zurich.  Quality is king and Zurich's residents are often suspicious of reduced prices.

Your product is usually hand crafted by the designer from beginning to end (rare in these globalised times), so it is worth striking up a conversation with them to learn more about your purchase.