In Zurich, luxury is written with B for Bahnhofstrasse. Considered one of the most exclusive shopping streets in Europe, it's a Mecca for those seeking ultimate sophistication in the Swiss city. The best known international brands are to be found alongside high class confectioners, national crafts and the stunning facades and interiors of the major Swiss banks. To the south, this stretch of pure luxury and sophistication leads to the bucolic scene of Zurich Lake, which offers each morning a peaceful picture of moored boats, doves and tranquility.
The range of merchandise that can be purchased on Bahnhofstrasse is too wide to do justice to, and it's said that the closer to Zurich Lake, the more exclusive the label. Jewellery lovers won't want to miss dropping by the Louis Vuitton store, nor leave without having taken a look at the diamonds from Tiffany and Gubelin and the sparkle of Swarovski crystals.
If you're looking to update your wardrobe with the most exclusive brands, Chanel is here, with Coco's style written all over the window display, and Prada, Giorgio Armani and Dior are a few of the other essential names. Then, as a finishing touch to the new outfits, why not a scarf or shoes from Hermes? If you don't have much time and want to opt for a single store where exclusive brands such as Chloe, Armani, Dior and Dolce & Gabanna are all to be found under one roof, you should try Grieder.
Perhaps you're hoping to take home a genuine Swiss-designed gift? If so, Schwizer Heimatwerk is the ideal place to look: a shop where you can find everything from children's toys to household products.
To keep your strength up on the shopping trip, there's no need to leave this golden kilometre in the heart of Zurich. The name of Sprungli is well known in the guides, and in the traditional confectioner's shop imbued with the sweet scent of chocolate you'll find such exotic delights on offer as Maracaibo Creole pralines, while coffee is served in the adjoining cafe. An alternative is Teuscher, another fine Swiss confectioners, famous for their truffles (cocoa, orange, Irish cream, champagne…), whose floral-decorated premises offer a perfect spot to recoup your strength.
From near silence in the early morning, with just the rattle of Zurich's omnipresent trams, Bahnhofstrasse builds to a rush hour bustle as lunch time approaches and remains busy all afternoon. When you've had your fill of its luxury, there are two nearby points of particular interest well worth a visit. The first is the Cabaret Voltaire, where Tristan Tzara's Dadaist movement broke with the establishment art of the time; that ground-breaking spirit is kept alive today in the shop and cafe. Finally, a visit to number 14 Spiegelgasse offers a reminder that life is not all designer labels: this is the house where Lenin lived for six months before returning to Russia to lead the revolution and ensure himself a place in the history books forever.
Tips & suggestions
Zurich's official tourist website offers a wealth of advice on accommodation, tours and events in the city. The shops in Zurich are generally open Monday to Friday between 9 am and 6 pm, with longer hours once a week. In the centre of the city, some stores stay open till 8 pm on weekdays, and until 6 pm on Saturdays.
Where to stay
The Seidenh Hotel is famous for its modern, functional accommodation and is just steps from the Bahnhofstrasse, a central location that makes it a perfect base for luxury shopping trips as well as to explore the rest of the city.
Where to eat
An interesting counterpoint to the classic luxury of the Bahnhofstrasse is to opt for eating in Zurich's industrial district, known as Zurich West. The area has been key in the economic development of the city, and now both locals and tourists are rediscovering the appeal of its cultural and gastronomic services. Gnusserei is one such example of this combination of industry and pleasure; located in an old foundry, it offers fine cuisine inspired in traditional home-style cooking with Swiss specialties and delicious handmade sauces, one favourite being a blend of yoghurt, honey and whisky.