Lonely Planet Local Claudia Peter has lived in and around Zürich for her entire life. Despite slinging on her rucksack and heading out as far as Ladakh in India and Lone Pine in the USA, she has always returned to the city’s lakeside splendour in search of good coffee, live music and food that reminds her of her international travels.

Aerial view of historic Zurich city centre
The blue Limmat river cuts through the centre of Zürich's Old Town © canadastock / Shutterstock

When I have friends in town… I take them up to the ETH Zurich, the university for science and technology, via the Polybahn cable car—especially if they haven’t visited Zürich before. The patio offers amazing views over the city. I always make sure we stroll through the Niederdorf (Old Town) for a picnic by the Lake Zürich, and onto Bahnhofstrasse to see where the rich and famous shop at Gucci, Armani and the like. For dinner, I take them to cosy Piccolo Giardino in District 4 which serves excellent burgers and Mediterranean dishes, before finishing with a nightcap at Rio Bar by the Sihl river.

If I need a caffeine hit… I head to Café Noir in District 5. Tucked away down a little side street, there are only a handful of tables in this tiny coffee shop, but they roast their own beans and make a mean brew. It’s the perfect place to start your day.

A typical weekend in Zürich involves… a long brunch and a scour of the flea markets. I love Maison Blunt, a Moroccan restaurant my friends and I eat at if we want a gossip. We usually order two or three of their breakfast platters to share, which include creamy hummus, plump olives and a freshly chopped cucumber and mint salad. Few tourists know about it, but the flea market at Kanzlei-Areal is a treasure trove of vintage fashion and second-hand books.

View of a Saturday flea market in Zurich
Bargain hunters should seek out the Kanzlei-Areal flea market in Zürich © trabantos / Shutterstock

My favourite park in Zürich is the Lindenhof, in the heart of the Niederdorf. It sits high over the Limmat, so you have to wind up through the narrow alleys of the Old Town to reach it. A Roman fort stood here in the 4th century and it’s easy to see why—the whole of city just rolls out in front of your eyes. From here, you can see the shimmering blue of the river, the pointed rooftops, and the hunched mountains on the horizon.

When I am celebrating something special… I make a reservation at a restaurant that combines exquisite dishes with stunning interior design. My favourite at the moment is Co Chin Chin, an industrial-looking Vietnamese spot that is stylishly decorated with a marble bar and loads of greenery. It features a great range of authentic dishes such as bún riêu (a rice noodle soup with crab meat and tofu) alongside fusion cooking like its spicy pho burger.

A good night out in Zürich… is all about live music. Singer-songwriters stalk the bars of District 4 and there is a decent alternative scene even if you like your guitar a little heavier. Try Ebrietas in the Niederdorf for heavy metal or Hafenkneipe if punk rock is more your thing. There are plenty of festivals that take place throughout the year too, but Street Parade is the most unforgettable. This huge techno party is the biggest in Europe and it almost brings the city to a standstill.

Woman reading at the Bäckeranlage skate park in Zürich
Claudia reading at the Bäckeranlage skate park in Zürich © Claudia Peter / Lonely Planet

Zürich is a great spot for a family holiday because… there is always something to do—even if it rains all day. If I have children in tow, I nearly always head to Zoo Zürich where they have tried to create the most realistic natural habitats for the animals as possible. The hot and sticky Masoala Rainforest houses everything from red-fronted lemurs to colourful parrots in a vast tree-filled hall—there’s even a walkway that zigzags through the treetop, offering a completely new perspective.

If I want something cheap to eat… I get creative. The university has a number of canteens selling reasonably priced food like pasta dishes and a tasty salad selection—and you don’t even need student ID. However, my favourite place to eat well and save francs is the Palestine Grill on Langstrasse. The food stall does the tastiest falafel and sabich (an aubergine and egg stuffed pitta) in town.

A row of green tables in Zurich city centre
Zürich's Old Town mixes cobbled streets and cafe terraces © karamysh / Shutterstock

When I want to get out of the city… I take the train to Winterthur, a pleasant, boutique–filled town just 20 minutes from Zürich. It has some amazing sights: two Oskar Reinhardt museums (one which focuses on European masterpieces and a second that covers Swiss, German and Austrian work); a museum of contemporary photography; and Technorama, where kids get a hands-on approach to science. Its charming old town has plenty of decent cafes—my favourite is La Cyma, with its retro-styled interior and imaginative cocktail menu.

Need more city travel inspiration? Check out The Cities Book, a celebration of 200 of the world’s great cities, beautifully photographed and packed with trip advice and recommendations.

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