Zurich has always had a staid reputation associated with banking, luxury watches, and premium chocolates. However, it has undergone a startling transformation in the past few years. This culturally dynamic city can now give Berlin a run for its money! Nowhere is this more apparent than in Zurich West, a former industrial area now converted into a cultural district.
Here, under defunct railway arches and in disused warehouses, a community of entrepreneurs, artists, and restaurateurs is hard at work.
Here’s what to see and do, and where to eat and shop in Zurich’s most happening kreis (district).
Go art hopping
When the Löwenbräu brewery shuttered in 1986, it transformed into a base for young artists. Today, the late-19th-century red brick building is synonymous with Zurich’s contemporary art scene. It recently underwent a huge transformation with the addition of three new glass-and-steel blocks and an asymmetric black tower protruding from the centre.
The Löwenbräu-Areal (Complex) houses some of the most important museums in Switzerland. Kunsthalle Zurich is the most prominent amongst them, showcasing works of established and upcoming contemporary artists. The museum has a rotating calendar of exhibitions and also holds regular film screenings, events, and talks with artists. The Migros Museum tries to make contemporary art more accessible to the public by exhibiting works that take a stance on social issues.
The Löwenbräu Complex is also home to several art galleries like Hauser & Wirth, Galerie Francesca Pia, Bob van Orsouw, etc. There’s also a delightful art bookshop, Kunstgriff, on the ground floor. While the art galleries are free to enter, there’s a combined admission ticket for the two museums.
Catch a concert
Zurich West’s premier music and performing arts venue is the Schiffbau. This handsome sandstone-coloured brick building was formerly a shipbuilding factory. The cavernous building now houses a theatre, jazz club, and a restaurant. The building retains many of its original features such as the exposed walls and tall, arched windows.
The theatre venue Schauspielhaus im Schiffbau has three separate stages and hosts a running calendar of performances. If you’re planning to catch a show, go on a Monday when the theatre offers half-price tickets in all the venues. Schiffbau also houses La Salle, a chic French-Italian restaurant with modern glass-walled ambience.
Moods im Schiffbau is an atmospheric venue for jazz, soul, and blues music, and stages more than 200 shows a year. It is one of Europe’s best jazz clubs and draws both local and international bands. Housed in a glass cube above the Schiffbau is Nietturm Bar, a stylish bar with a stunning view of the city’s skyline.
Pick up culinary souvenirs
Markthalle at Im Viadukt is the central, indoor food market and a mecca for the gourmands. Shop for fruits, vegetables, cheese, deli meats, and even flowers if you so fancy.
I recommend Berg und Tal (which translates into Mountain & Valley), a slow-food speciality store where you will find all sorts of Swiss gourmet products from small, independent producers.
Take your pick from local honey, mustard, dry sausages, cold-pressed oils, and more.
Other shops worth checking out are Gusto for all things Italian, Tokyo Tapas for fresh sushi and sashimi, and St. Jakob Beck for a range of pralines, pastries, and other sweet nothings. Restaurant Markthalle, located within the food court, is a buzzing restaurant, especially during lunch.
Grab a beer in the garden
My favourite spot in Zurich West is Frau Gerolds Garten, an open-air restaurant and bar with long tables and canvas tents, set amidst a grungy garden.
Here, you can savour cold beer and grilled sausages in summer, and dip into piping hot fondues during winter.
Shop for cool accessories
One of Zurich West’s most iconic structures is the Freitag Tower. Freitag is a cult label in Zurich known for its industrial chic bags. These are handmade from recycled truck tarpaulin, seat belts, airbags, and bicycle inner tubes.
The brand’s flagship store in Zurich West is appropriately cool. The four-level building is made entirely by piling up disused freight containers one atop the other. Step in and choose from hardy, colourful handbags, backpacks, and purses.
Later climb all the way to the rooftop ‘observation deck’ for a bird’s eye view Zurich West.
Have you been to Zurich? What was your favourite place? Leave us a message below.
This article was commissioned by Jet Airways’ in-flight magazine, Jet Wings. An extended version of this post appeared in their November 2017 issue (international edition). Read it here.