One third of all passengers
arriving at Zurich
Airport are business travellers – a clear indication that this city,
located in Switzerland’s German-speaking northeastern region, is the country’s capital
of commerce. The Swiss economy has weathered the European financial zigzags, a
feat that is partly due to its steadfast efficiency in all areas. With low
unemployment and a highly skilled workforce, it comes as no surprise that the
country's gross domestic product (GDP) grew 0.20% in the fourth quarter of 2012. As a
result, new hotels and restaurants are sprouting up as if this were the best of
Zurich Airport is an easy, manageable
European hub with an enviable record for punctuality that is typically Swiss. Swiss
International Airlines, the reincarnation of the famous Swissair brand, is responsible for more
than half of the airport's traffic, and first, business, and elite frequent flyer
members can round out a long-haul flight with breakfast and a shower in the new
Swiss International Airlines arrivals lounge, opened in April 2012 near baggage
claim. The airport saw a 4% increase in both passenger numbers and flights in
each of the past five years.
Due to high taxi fares
(almost 70 francs in one direction), the speediest and most affordable way into
town is via a 10-minute train journey from the airport (roughly four francs one
way). Trains depart six times an hour to Zurich Central Station, making this
the obvious choice, especially if your office or hotel is located in the city
centre. When you arrive, visit any tourist information desk or train-ticket
outpost to purchase a ZürichCARD,
which grants multi-day access to the city's public transport network including
trains, buses, and trams.
While the city's paramount business-class hotels continue to be the elegant
120-room Baur au Lac facing Lake Zurich and the quieter 173-room Dolder Grand nestled in the hills overlooking the
city centre, there are other, newer choices.
For example, the 300-room Renaissance
Zurich Tower, opened in August 2011, is
a central landmark in the blossoming Zurich West district, a former industrial centre now known as the
city's zone for artists, designers and musicians. Scoring
a room on the hotel’s executive level insures boxes of regional chocolate
delivered nightly, bathrooms stocked with Bulgari toiletries and an ample
breakfast and evening snack spread in the top-floor club lounge, complemented
by wine, beer and soft drinks.
The hotel's one-block
proximity to the Technopark tram station puts it within a half-hour ride of the
airport and within steps of the nightclubs, cafes and corporate towers sprouting
up on every corner. Be sure to "pimp your burger" (as the hotel's
signature Equinox restaurant instructs) with your favourite accoutrements, be it
blue cheese crusts or béarnaise sauce. Or, tuck into the Australian-Swiss chef
Mark Thommen's interpretation of spaetzle: Swiss noodles topped with a poached
Closer to the lake sits the
142-room Park Hyatt Zurich, frequently named a business traveller favourite
on Trip Advisor thanks to its blend of contemporary furnishings and swanky features,
including electronically controlled window blinds and specially blended Blaise
Its location in Zurich’s Enge neighbourhood puts it smack dab amid the city's
banking and financial institution hub. After a day negotiating deals, nuzzle up
to the lobby's modern fireplace with a vintage wine or hand-rolled cigar from ONYX bar.
Like the Renaissance,
the 126-room 25Hours Hotel has been a catalyst for growth in hip Zurich West. Its
playful Alfredo Haeberli-designed interior is startlingly modern and fresh. Rooms
feature vibrant colours with open-plan, glassed-in bathrooms and unique, whimsical
paintings. In the hotel’s lobby, DJs spin tunes on the weekend while guests sip
cocktails around tables topped with glass-enclosed models of the city's famous sights.
Two cherry red Mini Cooper cars sit at the front entrance, waiting to shuttle
guests around town as they wish.
On the other side of town in
the Enge neighbourhood is one of the city's most unique and history-packed
hotels, the 60-room B2 Boutique Hotel and Spa, located in the former Huerlimann brewery
building, which dates from the 19th Century. Perched atop a small
hill, the hotel’s conversation-spurring interiors make use of antique or unwanted
items such as old lamps and chairs that have been repurposed for the modern era.
Also on offer is an organic menu of hyper-local products including Swiss wine
from a nearby vineyard. The lobby
and Library Lounge is packed with nearly 30,000 books stacked in
four-storey shelves; chandeliers fashioned out of old beer bottles hang on
cylindrical racks (once used for drying bottles) suspended from the ceiling.
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.
Don’t do this
The Swiss are fairly reserved and speak softly, so visitors who talk loudly
will stand out. Also, when greeting someone for the first time in a business
setting, both men and women only shake hands. The three alternating kisses that
people sometimes exchange are best reserved for social settings or for those
with whom you are most familiar.
And remember – always be
punctual. Doing business in a city that runs like clockwork involves having a watch
that is set a few minutes early.