Zurich has a staid reputation, but if you explore the city like a local you'll discover plenty of ways to enjoy this surprisingly trendy town.
Zurich might have an efficient airport and sedate, almost straight-laced appearance, but don't be deceived. Switzerland's premier city isn't just a place to transit through but enjoy at your leisure. It has history, personality and far more than just the tourist sights that line the Limmat River and fancy Bahnhofstrasse, with its über-luxury boutiques and private banks. Certainly the locals know how to have fun, and you only have to look beneath the surface of this financial centre to discover great bars, cafés, avant-garde art, hip neighbourhoods and unexpected pleasures. What's more, its scenic alpine surrounds are also well worth exploring. Here are some top ways to kick back and enjoy Zurich like a local.
Sitting on the 'wrong' side of the railways tracks, this former industrial district around Langstrasse is the latest trendy neighbourhood, its rundown warehouses and factories now transformed into art galleries, hip hotels, nightclubs and eateries. Go shopping for interesting boutique Swiss fashion and homeware brands such as Freitag, Einzigart and Erfolg. See www.zuerich.com
Zurich Police Station
Few people want to end up in a police station while overseas, but make an exception for the Bahnhofquai's police HQ, which has an entrance lobby that makes you think you're tripping on 1960s acid. The eye-popping, cellar-like hall is covered in orange and yellow flowers in a fresco painted by Augusto Giacometti. See www.stadt-zuerich.ch
It's easy to miss this gorgeous café in the old town, whose warren of rooms hides behind the cake-crammed front patisserie. Decorative themes include a conservatory of painted birds and a Victorian-era salon in lush red. Just the place for afternoon tea and a spot of romance. See www.conditorei-cafe-schober.ch www.peclard-zurich.ch
With its city centre hugging the Limmat River, it's easy to overlook the lake, whose long promenades are lined with gorgeous flowerbeds in summer and have view towards the Alps. Take a lake steamer on a scenic excursion to Rapperswil at the lake's far end for a pleasant afternoon's outing. See www.zsg.ch
So much for staid Zurich: the city's art museum is particularly strong on surrealist paintings, especially those of the Dada movement founded in the city itself in 1916. The anti-establishment movement went on to influence pop art and punk rock. Hello, deconstructed pig's faces and blobs that represent dancing girls. See www.kunsthaus.ch
George Bar & Grill
One of the newest arrivals on the evening scene, this penthouse restaurant with a lounge and expansive terrace hangs over Zurich's sober rooftops and provides an elegant space for a great night out, especially in high summer, when the bar is packed and the music burbles. See www.george-grill.ch
They're mostly overlooked by visitors, but if you have children don't miss the highly interactive Zoological Museum (giant fossils, dinosaurs, live insects) and Zurich Zoo, which is one of Europe's best zoos. The greenhouse rainforest is full of chameleons, lemurs and improbably coloured frogs. See zm.uzh.ch and www.zoo.ch
Zurich's local mountain is by Swiss standards just a hill, but practically in the suburbs. Hike to the summit, or take the railway, for great views and activities such as mountain biking, paragliding and snowshoeing. If winter fog closes in, Uetliberg's summit is often happily sunny. See www.uetliberg.ch
Jules Verne Bar
Head into Brasserie Lipp, squeeze into a tiny lift and emerge at a bar with a 360-degree view over Zurich, especially gorgeous in the direction of the lake, where it's framed in church spires. Fantastic as a light-twinkled background to cocktails. See www.jules-verne.ch
Think the Swiss are conformists? Not architect Le Corbusier, pioneer of modernist design, whose work is highlighted here. The museum is housed inside one of Le Corbusier's most brilliant buildings in glass, steel and coloured enamel plates that sits on the lakefront like something out of Austin Powers. See www.centerlecorbusier.com
Never mind the great Swiss food: the décor alone is worth dinner in Zurich's latest hotspot. The dramatic restaurant is housed in a former 1920s cinema with frescoed ceilings, tasselled chandeliers, velvet banquettes and (for some reason) a life-size stuffed giraffe. Fabulous, darling. See razzia-www.zuerich.ch
Get out and explore Zurich's surrounds. Einsiedeln is an hour's train ride away and has a marvellously over-the-top baroque church and huge abbey; the December Christmas market is lovely. The surrounds provide plenty of cow-clanking alpine landscapes for hiking, progressively glorious as you head towards Mythen mountain. See www.einsiedeln-tourismus.ch
On the beach
As soon as the sun comes out, Zurichers strip off and flock to the lakeshore for picnics, Frisbee, tattoo-envy and swimming. There are nearly 20 lidos such as Seebad Enge, child-oriented Strandbad Tiefenbrunnen or women-only Frauenbadi. At night, many reinvent themselves as live-music and cocktail venues. See www.zuerich.com
If you want to mingle with the cool crowd, nestle into a sofa or perch yourself at the huge bar of this minimalist watering hole. The eye-catching bottles hanging from the ceiling will give inspire your cocktail choice, then you can kick back to the sounds of DJ-spun music. See www.raygrodski.ch
Swiss flies to Zurich from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. swiss.com
The ZurichCARD is valid for 24 or 72 hours and is a great way for urban explorers to reduce their costs. It covers unlimited public transport in the city and surrounds, free or reduced admission into most museums, half-price fares on Zurich Tourism city tours and discounts in participating stores. See www.zvv.ch
Marktgasse Hotel provides an impressive minimalist, contemporary redesign to an old-town building and has very comfortable beds. Rooms for two from SFR 249 ($350) including taxes. Phone +41 44 266 1010, see www.marktgassehotel.ch
This article brought to you by Switzerland Tourism.