Go on an Art Crawl in Zürich

1. Where to Stay

The posh Dolder Grand sits atop Adlisberg Hill.Photo: Peter Hebeisen

Admire artwork by Damien Hirst and Dalí at the Dolder Grand (from $470), which completed a $427 million modern renovation in 2009. Don’t miss the hidden, subterranean library or the sprawling spa, which includes an outdoor Jacuzzi overlooking the Adilsberg woods.

Mingle with visiting dignitaries at Baur au Lac (from $600), a posh nineteenth-century mansion swathed in Louis XVI- and regency-style décor. Make sure to request one of the 25 (of 120) rooms that were renovated last year.

Choose your own room theme at Hotel Otter (from $109), where the sixteen rooms have been individually designed by local artists in styles ranging from Pop Art to African Lodge. The best of the bunch is the seventies-inspired Pool Room ($157), which touts a raised bed, corner location, and views of Lake Zurich, just 100 meters away.

2. Where to Eat

Enjoy affordable Swiss dishes at Restaurant Volkshaus.Photo: Courtesy of Volkshaus

Dine beneath paintings by Klee, Chagall, and Kandinsky at Kronenhalle, a sceney, wood-paneled spot. The dishes—like local favorites viande des Grison (dried slices of beef; $38) and Züri Gschnatzlets (creamed veal with wine; $58)—are served from a trolley.

Nibble on affordable café fare like salads and sausages at Restaurant Volkshaus, a red-light district eatery favored by scruffy young designers, architects, and writers. Generous pours of Swiss wine are only $6 a glass.

Admire the Alpine view from Baur au Lac’s rotunda dining room, Pavillion, newly refurbished in 2008 with lavender and moss-colored Art Deco furniture. The haute cuisine is similarly ornate: Veal cutlets are glazed with citrus fruits ($66) and the Jerusalem artichoke gratin is finished with black Périgord truffles ($60). Call a few days in advance to snag a reservation.

3. What to Do

Peruse the Kunsthaus Museum's impressive collection, then shop at the Freitag Store's towering flagship. Photo: Courtesy of Kunsthaus Museum/Freitag

Browse the expansive permanent collection at Kunsthaus Museum ($12), where fifteenth-century Swiss Goths like Hans Leu der Ältere share space with modern American pop artist Alex Katz. The museum is assembling a 60-piece Picasso retrospective in honor of its 100th anniversary this year, opening in October.

Gawk at the flagship Freitag Store, a towering, multilevel structure built from stacked shipping containers. The bag brand’s iconic messenger bags are made of recycled truck tarps and bike tubes. Design your own, or nab one of the exclusive new “Das Magazin” styles ($410), inspired by 1800s horse-messenger totes. Get to the store when it opens at 11 a.m. to borrow one of five new Gorilla fixed-gear bikes that are loaned out daily for free.

Meander among more than 65 galleries in Kreis 4 and Kreis 5 (Districts 4 and 5). Take in oil paintings from L.A. artist Raffi Kalenderian at Peter Kilchmann and Hauser and Wirth, then check out emerging talent at BolteLang, which displays works by lesser-known artists like Czech painter Alice Nikitinová.

4. Insider’s Tip

Sweet-talk a Google employee to get a tour of the company's envy-inducing Zürich campus. Photo: Courtesy of Google

Google’s Zurich campus is an idealized, playlandlike work environment that includes a winding tube slide, a gym, swinglike office chairs, foosball and Ping-Pong tables, pinball machines, a media room, and a spa. Unfortunately, you can only tour the digs if an employee doles out a guest pass. Not Google-connected? The best spot to meet after-hours Googlers is Mascotte bar, where they’re known to congregate for some alt/punk/metal live karaoke after a grueling day at the office.

5. Oddball Day

Add your initials to the wall of the wine room at Öpfelchammer Wine Tavern, founded in 1371.Photo: Courtesy of Restaurant Oepfelchammer

Drink your way through Zürich. Start your morning at Confiserie Sprüngli, an old-fashioned chocolatier founded in 1836 that’s renowned for its hot chocolate and Luxemburgerli macaroon-like cookies (try the caramel or citron). Next, set out on a walking tour of Zürich’s fountains, some 1,200 in all, many of which still provide potable spring water to residents. Start at the gargoyle-adorned Alfred Escher Fountain at Mainstation, then make your way up the hill to the ancient Roman Lindenhof Square, where the lime-tree-shaded Hedwig Fountain and pump station offers great views of town. Stock up on local offerings like Rivella, a local soda made from milk whey, at the Migros grocery store. Then settle in for a rich, boozy lunch of regional specialties like Champagne and cream soup ($13) and Zürcher Kalbsleberspiessli (veal liver, bacon, and sage butter; $34) at the Öpfelchammer Wine Tavern, where you can carve your initials into the wine-room wall. Next, meander toward the Distillerie zur Schnapsboutique (Napfgasse 3), run by an old woman who turns out delicious flavored schnapps, stored in teardrop-shaped tankards. Finally, perk up with a cup of freshly roasted coffee in the 140-year-old Schwarzenbach café, where you can also scoop up high-end teas, honeys, vinegars, and syrups.

6. Links

Art in Switzerland is the quintessential guide to all things gallery-related in Zürich.

Cosmopolis is a monthly English Swiss magazine on arts, politics, history, and culture.

Check weekly cultural happenings and gallery listings at Zueritipp (Google can translate). The print edition runs in the daily newspaper every Thursday.

Check Inside Switzerland magazine for local news on art, design, technology, and fashion.

Go on an Art Crawl in Zürich