No one travels to Switzerland for its cities. Sure, they run efficiently, have picturesque old towns, and are filled with modern art. But with breathtaking backdrops—mountains, lakes, and more mountains—it’s hard to stay put. You enjoy the multicultural vibe and the high-end shopping, though your mind keeps wandering toward ski slopes and hiking trails (depending on the season), mountainside villages, and alpine cheese. Hold on. Don’t leave Zürich quite yet.
You’ve been to Zürich before. With its international airport and the largest railroad station in the country, Switzerland’s biggest city is an easy spot to begin or end your trip. After one night and a quick walk through the Lindenhof, the oldest section of the city, you inevitably move on to Andermatt, Interlaken, or Zermatt. But perhaps an experimental restaurant and a recently renovated hotel will entice you to stay longer to explore the hip side of the city.
Upon first glance, the Marktgasse Hotel doesn’t appear hip or modern. The building, from the 15th century, was home to one of the oldest inns in the city. It’s on Marktgasse (Market Street) in the middle of Old Town, steps from the Limmat river, and just a short walk from the iconic St. Peter church. Plus it’s filled with uneven floors, protected columns, and historic artwork. But the space was recently renovated. It’s now a boutique hotel with individually decorated rooms, minimal decor, and simple furniture. The downstairs salon has a living-room atmosphere. While the Baltho Bar serves craft cocktails and beer from small breweries.
After an overnight flight, you arrive early enough to snatch the last homemade cinnamon roll at Delish Café and late enough to score an early check-in. You’re tempted to crawl into the king-size bed in your junior suite when you go upstairs, but opt for a hot shower and a carafe of cold water—each floor has a filling station—instead. Then you’re off to Lake Zürich, fed by glaciers in the Glarus Alps, to take in the city’s gorgeous scenery along the waterfront.
When it’s time for dinner, cross the Sihl river into the quiet Aussersihl district to find Maison Manesse. Once again, a historic facade, this time whitewashed brick, hides what’s inside the building. Wooden tables, little black chairs, a green bar, and soft lighting fill the informal interior. The surprises are all in the food.
Maison Manesse tries to bring the fun back into fine dining. The restaurant offers six- and seven-course meals for both meat eaters and vegetarians. Gin and tonics are the signature cocktails. Dinners are slow. The dishes are artful and colorful. While a single word—potato, zucchini, veal, or lobster—is the only description provided on the menu. Your first bite will change the way you think about Zürich—and your trips to Switzerland.