Bars in Zurich have seen some dramatic changes in recent years, particularly over in Zurich West. Once dominated by a classic bar and traditional pub scene, a flurry of openings has underlined Zurich's status as Switzerland’s most international city, at least when it comes to drinking. George and Razzia in stylish Seefeld could appeal to the high life denizens of London’s Mayfair area while the New York townhouse vibe of Hotel Rivington & Sons captures many thirty-something bar hoppers' aspirations for a perfect pre-party venue. The vibrancy of the bar scene has been fuelled by the local thirst for the after work “apero” - an aperitif around 5pm – which is now almost a daily obligation, especially among the banking set. It’s all part of Zurich’s love of la dolce vita, so join in and order a Hugo, Aperol Spritz or Lillet Vive to get your Zurich bar crawl under way.
A recent newcomer on the block, with a converted penthouse setting placed right over a casino, George has become the default setting for Zurich's upmarket party people and local celebrity scene. The design follows the same dandy chic look of it's neighbour Helvetia. Black and white tiled floors are softened up by colourful chairs with a 1950's look, all set against some striking neon lighting. It's the kind of place you can start and end a night out in, thanks to it's on site restaurant, and small dancefloor area too. It's summer terrace has superb city views and is always packed. Music wise it's everything from live jazz piano to late night Ibiza style moods. Although it can sometimes feel like everyone is waiting for the party to start but it never quite happens, George is a safe bet for a big night out.
It tries to be old New York but is located in one of Zurich's most prominent new buildings - the fat and shiny Prime Tower next to Hardbrücke. But despite the clashes, this large café bar on two floors does manage to create a comfy and cosy feel and serves good espressos and fine cocktails. If only it wasn't packed with men in suits every evening of the working week.
After all the shabby-chic, Zurich's hip and cool were eager to see something different, and the Raygrodski was welcomed with very open arms when it opened its doors. With its rather minimalistic interiors, Chesterfield sofas and enormous bar counter, it aims to be a classic cocktail bar with a huge selection of both classic and signature drinks. Don't expect personal recommendations on a Friday or Saturday night though - it might be so crowded that you can barely yell your order to the bartender across three rows of people standing packed around the counter.
With its 1,000-bottle library of spirits, its sleek interiors and elegant seating, the Widder Bar is certainly at the very top end of Zurich's establishments. For those who never have to count their change, they offer rare spirits for five-digit prices and exclusive single malts you might only taste once in your lifetime. Everyone else can just enjoy a nice, if not cheap, cocktail or glass of wine and take in the scenery - and the bi-weekly jazz concerts on Tuesday of course.
Despite interiors that might remind you of your own granny's bedroom - note the tiny flower bouquets and the old sofas on either end of the room - this café bar is as close to a local pub as you can get. A meeting point for the girlies and the builders during the day, a lively bar in the afternoons and evenings, it may surprise you with its monthly bash of country music and one of the best Sunday brunches in town.
While the restaurant with its small compartments offers a maximum of privacy, the bar at the Volkshaus is definitely a place to come together, with its large space, long counter and massive leather ensemble seating in the middle of the room. A huge clock face serves as a table, while the grey and white tiles match the overall vintage vibe. A popular place for the typical 'apéro' after work, it also gets crowded on Sundays when the locals gather here for brunch.
This former cinema was Zurich’s most beautiful ruin for many years and has finally been reborn as a fine restaurant. Its interior is classy, stylish and elegant and has the air of a British gentlemen’s club, and the ambiance is great. The menu is on the meaty and the pricey side though, and service can be arrogant, so hold your nose up high when dining here.
It can't get much more historic than this legendary bar, which opened its doors in 1911. Somerset Maugham wrote here, Lenin thought about a revolution and Einstein contemplated relativity. Dadaism was born inside these walls, it was the first place to serve 'Cüpli' (champagne by the glass) and it has been a meeting point for Zurich's gay community for decades. Everybody is welcome and though it might look a bit posh from the outside, you can never be too quirky to fit in here.
It calls itself the very last island on the Sihl – the smaller of the two rivers that run through Zurich – and it lives up to its marine expectations. Decorated with a shark, nautical memorabilia from all over the world and an oversize skeleton hanging from the ceiling, you might have just entered a true pirate's ship. Though the passions celebrated in here go more towards football than sailing, there is always a jolly - and often live - tune playing. In summer, the garden at the banks of the Sihl is packed from early afternoon until the very late - or early - hours. El Lokal is a local legend.
It's a legendary bar that belongs to a legendary restaurant, so its barkeeper must certainly be a legend, too. And indeed he is. Peter Roth has been mixing drinks at the Kronenhalle Bar for over 35 years. He was world champion at bartending in the 80s and is still considered one of the world's best. So sit down in the comfy leather chairs, admire the art on the walls, check out the artfully decorated ladies and gents. And enjoy one of the best drinks you ever had.