Culturally vibrant, efficiently run and attractively set at the meeting of river and lake, Zürich is regularly recognised as one of the world's most liveable cities. Long known as a savvy, hard-working financial centre, Switzerland's largest and wealthiest metropolis has also emerged in the 21st century as one of central Europe's hippest destinations, with an artsy, post-industrial edge that's epitomised in its exuberant summer Street Parade.
Contemporary Zürich might still be home to the world's fourth-biggest stock exchange and remain Switzerland's financial engine, but it's also (whisper it softly) surprisingly vibrant and trendy. Located on a picturesque river and lake whose water you can drink, easy to get around and a stranger to the hassled lifestyle that defines bigger cities, this affluent, fashion-conscious place enjoys the finest things in life.
Hundreds of new bars, restaurants and clubs have opened since the late 1990s and, since its Street Parade overtook London's Notting Hill Carnival, Zürich now hosts Europe's largest annual street party. Its former industrial quarter brims with nightlife venues catering to a youngish crowd, and this happening 'Züri-West' district has the same buzz as Berlin's Prenzlauerberg or Mitte. The infamous 'gnomes', as the British like to call Zürich's bankers, are still here, but sometimes they can astonish you by whizzing by on a Segway scooter.
Fortunately, the city's Protestant modesty saves it from ever becoming too schmicki-micki (chi-chi). With church steeples rising against a backdrop of hills and mountains, the medieval old town will also appeal to traditionalists.
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