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Zürich’s relationship to the world is not of the spirit, but of commerce.
Not so long ago, ZÜRICH was famed for being the cleanest, most icily calm and efficient city in Europe: apocryphal stories abound from the 1960s and 1970s of the gentle tranquillity of the midweek lunch hour in the financial district, of tourists embarking on efforts to find a cigarette butt or an empty crisp packet discarded on the streets – and drawing a blank every time. No more. If you live in a big city yourself and are tiring of Switzerland’s picture-perfect country towns, visiting Zürich will be like coming home – finally you can walk on crowded, multi-ethnic streets, buy a kebab, get a drink after midnight, feel a lived-in urban buzz. There’s been a massive explosion in the city’s arts and popular culture over the last two years, expressing itself most tangibly in a host of clubs and a thriving underground dance scene. Wry Zürchers like to make much of how apt it is that you have to tut, purse your lips and clear your throat to say the city’s name (tsoorikh in dialect), but this stereotype no longer conveys the essence of what is now a dynamic, exciting city.
You’re likely to find that this most beautiful of Swiss cities, astride a river and turned towards a crystal-clear lake and distant snowy peaks, has plenty to keep you amused. The medieval Old Town, characterized by steep, cobbled alleys and attractive, small-scale architecture, comprises a substantial part of the city centre and is perfect for exploratory wanderings. With a handful of medieval churches to take in, a spectacular art gallery, the most engaging café culture in German-speaking Switzerland and a wealth of nightlife, you could easily spend days here. To do so, however, you’ll have to marry up the appeal of the place with its expense – prohibitive even by Swiss standards. Alternatively, you could base yourself in either of two towns near Zürich – Winterthur or Baden – both of which have museums and galleries of their own, and much more affordable accommodation than you’ll find in Zürich itself.
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