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.
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.
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 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.
You might just not know where all those people came from on a warm weekday summer evening. And because there are so many, you might not even understand where they all got their drinks from. Ideally located between the headquarters of all the big banks and insurers, Talacker is one of Zurich's most popular after work locations. The drink of choice is Apérol Spritz, and you might want to get a nibble with it as you meet new people, have a chat and totally forget about dinner.
One of the best places for a cocktail in Geneva, the drinks in this small neighbourhood bar are a cut above the over-priced, sickly creations in some of the city’s flashier city-centre bars. Here, the cocktails are wonderfully imaginative, expertly mixed and will likely blow your head off – in a good way. The copious menu includes both classic cocktails and more inventive creations (aperol, chilli-pepper and kumquat is one) and if you’re picky enough to not find what you want on the list, the talented barmen will mix you up something original. Prices are reasonable too, so it’s no surprise this place gets stupidly busy sometimes.
This is the sort of place that makes you forget you’re in Geneva. A self-proclaimed speakeasy, it evokes the dirty glamour and clandestine excitement of prohibition-era America. Its 1920s shabby-chic style is a cross between your granny’s sitting room and a charity shop in Kensington – think vintage glasses, mismatched chairs, crystal vases and kitsch knick knacks including a ceramic bird in a cage. The cocktails are equally idiosyncratic. This isn’t a place to stick to mojitos and dacquiris; instead throw caution to the wind and plump for a Malice in Wonderland (oolong tea gin, champagne, licorice), or a Mata Hari and cherry amaretto sour. Tucked down a side street in the Quartier des Bains, it’s off the tourist trail, too.
The main reason to visit this rather slick bar is, as you might guess, its rooftop. Above a commercial building on Geneva’s posh Rue du Rhône (taking the lift up from the lobby feels like you’re going to a business meeting rather than embarking on a night out), this bar’s outdoor terrace sports a fantastic view over the city, lake and jet d’eau. Inside, it’s less remarkable – the contemporary decor is smart but characterless, but it attracts a steady stream of Geneva’s work-hard, party harder set nonetheless. They come for decent cocktails, a varied food menu (burgers, sushi and much in between) and regular DJ sets that continue into the small hours.
Lively, low-lit and a bit grungy, there’s good reason this pub has a devoted clientele: it brews its own beer on site. Choose from one of seven homebrews including a classic IPA, a best-selling red ale, a ginger beer (of the alcoholic variety) and a surprise beer of the month. While probably not quite up to Italian standards, the bar’s extensive menu of pizzas happily satisfies the inevitable munchies that come with sampling all seven beers. The dark red walls and coloured lanterns hanging from the ceiling give the place a cosy feel which is best suited to winter - though it can get a bit hot and sweaty at times. There are often live music and DJ nights too.
This cocktail bar and tapas restaurant takes inspiration from all over the world to produce an intriguing menu with diverse flavours. Your culinary road-trip could include Japanese tuna sashimi, Jamaican jerk chicken, Vietnamese spring rolls or Tunisian-style salad – choose carefully, lest you arrive at a palate-confusing combination. Plates are small, so you need multiples to make a decent-sized dinner (this is no cheap night out), but the quality is high. Cocktails are equally pricey but just as classy. Again, flavours are worldly and interesting – no Sex on the Beach in sight. Instead try the Black Pearl, a sweet-sharp mix of rum, ginger, lime and cardamom.
The Balz Klub in the middle of Gross Basel is a bar and music venue that exudes a warm and friendly vibe by combining different styles of music to attract a mixed clientele. Its Thursday night sessions are renowned as a place to get the weekend started with the help of a student-friendly party night. Fridays and Saturdays are more grown up, with various genres on offer and a mixture of local acts and distinguished international guests. Balz also hosts a stand-up comedy night on the first Wednesday of every month to keep things interesting.
One of Basel’s trendiest nightspots, this lounge bar and Italian restaurant makes the most of its setting in a renovated waterworks.
A cosy and unusual hotel, restaurant and cultural venue, Der Teufelhof manages to excel at wearing various different hats. Created from two historic townhouses, the interiors offer plenty of quirky and unexpected spaces for activities including wine tasting, theatre and cabaret performances, and fine dining. The kitchen embraces 'fancy food' with gusto, serving up dishes that are pleasing to the eye and exciting to the palate; foodies with a proper appetite will also appreciate that it doesn’t skimp on the portion sizes. A substantial wine list with over 450 choices makes it a good venue if you want try something new or impress your date, but the inviting surroundings take the edge off any pretension. Upstairs, 33 rooms form the hotel side of the business – these offer accommodation with plenty of character, although the plain white furnishings and sloping ceilings in some rooms might not be to everyone’s taste. Free wifi is available throughout the building.
A stylish locale that peddles wine, salami and cheese as its produce of choice, Consum is a favourite on the Basel bar scene. Situated in the heart of Klein Basel, the large windows invite you to peer in on your way past and the clever combination of cosy sofas for gossiping plus high tables for bar hoppers allows it to cater to different classes of drinker. If you’re new to Swiss gastronomy, this would be a low-effort place to start, thanks to the broad selection of artisanal tapas plates source from small-scale local producers. The wine menu features Swiss vintages too, although the wine list is extensive and regularly updated to include wines and ports from around the world.
Show up at Bird’s Eye on one of five evenings during the week and you’ll be treated to an intimate jazz concert, likely featuring a renowned artist. The cosy low-lit setting allows the musicians to connect with the audience, with many performers descending from the stage to mingle and joke to hugely entertaining effect. Bird’s Eye doesn’t only focus on established performers, but also showcases new talent. Meanwhile, regarded as one of Europe’s finest jazz clubs, it boasts great acoustics. You can turn up any time during the evening, even after the concert has started, but booking is recommended. During concerts the staff serve drinks and light snacks.
Anchored on the edge of the River Rhine, Schiff is a cultural centre with a restaurant and bar that extends over three decks.
Housed in a former power station, Dampfzentrale is a cultural centre that comes as close as Switzerland gets to an edgy, urban venue. That’s not to talk it down – a splendid river side location river makes it a good choice if you want to a change from the narrow streets of the old city. The restaurant is a destination in itself, particularly for its riverside terrace, and serves everything from light bites to upmarket cuisine depending on the time of day. Dampfzentrale also offers a broad and innovative programme of music, dance and performance that includes leading international names in electronica and contemporary dance.
This convivial lunch spot has the authentic atmosphere of a bustling beer hall, without the kitsch that can overwhelm such venues. Well known in Bern for its dedication to the art of beer, this former tram depot-cum-brewery is worth a visit for its beverages, which are brewed on the premises twice a week in full view of customers. If you are a beer buff, you might also appreciate the guided tours. While the cuisine doesn’t diverge far from würst-based Bavarian fare, there’s nothing wrong with the simple and hearty menu. Adding further to the venue's character is its location overlooking the Bear Park, so you can watch Bern’s most famous inhabitants frolic in their riverside enclosure while you drink up.