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Postcard from Zürich

Zürich offers its residents a quality of life that few other cities can match. One of its most frequently cited perks is its combination of urban living and easy access to pristine nature. In the summer months you’d be remiss not to enjoy an occasional dip in Lake Zürich. When the weather becomes a little fresher you can hop on a bike and head for the hills surrounding the city for a stunning mountainous day out – and still make it back in time for an apéro.

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Amble around Zürich and you’ll come across plenty of excellent cafés that marry a Swiss minimalist aesthetic with artisanal baking and expertly brewed espressos but for a truer taste of the city’s gastronomic delights, we recommend that you start your day in the Aussersihl district, officially known as Kreis 4. From Californian-style café (1) Echo Park to (2) Lagotto Feinkost, a modern reimagining of a Mitteleuropean deli, you’re sure to find whatever you’re hankering for here.

When you’re in the bustling city centre, take a moment to admire the network of well-designed trams. Then hop on a bike; a few minutes of pedalling will take you to the impressive riverside boulevards flanked by grand homes and their magnificent gardens. For a glimpse of Zürich’s edgier side, stop off at the (3) Oerlikon Velodrome, an early-20th-century concrete marvel made for fast racing (check the events calendar in advance as access isn’t always guaranteed).

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A further 10-minute ride away from the urban centre will take you to the district of Schwamendingen, a short journey that feels like stepping straight into the countryside. (4) Ziegelhutte restaurant is the best place to stop off if you’re in the mood for something hearty on a chilly day. For a deeper dive into Switzerland’s rural landscape, take the road that loops through the woods and peaks on the eastern side of the lake. Then head towards Gossau, via the villages of Egg and Zumikon, making a stop at Greifensee lake, before returning via the (5) Pfannenstiel, a mountain ridge that’s a firm favourite of many of Zürich’s most dedicated cyclists.

The return journey into the city is fairly easy if you choose to ride along the placid waters of the lake. A stop-off at secluded sauna (6) Stadtoase to soothe your aching muscles will probably make you thirsty for something chilled; thankfully, our itinerary leads you straight to the peerless (7) Gamper Bar, where you can toast your achievements with a well-mixed negroni in the same neighbourhood where you started the day.

Zürich itinerary

1. Echo park

Start your day with a hearty breakfast. Echo Park serves crunchy granola pots, fluffy banana bread and tasty croissants, which you can pair with a strong flat white. With its white walls and floors, concrete bar and unfussy wooden chairs, this newly opened café evokes the effortless cool of the Los Angeles neighbourhood from which it takes its name.

2. Lagotto Feinkost

Before beginning a day of cycling, you’ll need to stock up on snacks. At Lagotto Feinkost, there’s something for everyone. From Italian sausage to olive oil tortas and an amply stocked meat counter, you’ll find plenty to fill up your backpack here.

3. Oerlikon Velodrome 

This outdoor velodrome is more than 100 years old but is still very much in use. Its 333-metre track has hosted several world cycling championships. Every Tuesday during the summer months, professionals whizz around the track, vying to be the fastest of the day. Call ahead to see if there’s a race going on and avoid it if it’s raining: water can transform the track into a slippery slope, making it too dangerous to use.

4. Ziegelhütte 

A 10-minute ride from the velodrome will lead you to this special restaurant in an idyllic spot surrounded by greenery. On the menu you’ll find hearty, locally sourced Swiss dishes, with some of the vegetables harvested from the restaurant’s back garden.

5. Pfannenstihl

Once you’ve properly refuelled, it’s time to leave the city behind in earnest to enjoy the countryside. A loop route can take you through some picturesque villages in the canton and then all the way up to Pfannenstihl, a mountain ridge 13km from Zürich with a splendid panoramic view. Head back down by the lake for a relaxing waterside ride. 

6. Stadtoase 

After the mountain climb, a sauna break is in order to loosen up your aching muscles. Over a large area set in the middle of nature, the Stadtoase complex includes a selection of wooden saunas and plenty of spots for sunbathing. For more than 130 years, people have enjoyed relaxing here surrounded by trees. Wintery temperatures don’t put visitors off; as long as there are no clouds, you’ll find sunbathers here all year round.

7. Gamper Bar

To complete our ride in a neat loop, we return to the area where we started for a final toast. Gamper Bar has a vast selection of wine but also tasty cocktails and delicious tapas that will satisfy your end-of-ride hunger. The bar is walk-in only, so don’t worry about reservations. The Gamper crew will make sure to find a nice spot for a group in need of a recharge.