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The Insider Guide to Zurich

Alongside its glittering economic credentials, pre-eminent financial industry and international travel links, Zurich regularly ranks highly in annual quality of life surveys, placing second only to Vienna globally in the 2018 edition of Mercer’s Quality of Living survey.

With fewer than 400,000 residents, Zurich is a little big city leading the way on a number of fronts. For one, it is home to an array of emerging fintech companies, particularly in the fields of blockchain and cryptocurrency technology. A wealth of research institutes and entrepreneurial talent use Zurich as key hubs, while the nearby town of Zug – where even wine can be bought in bitcoin – is better known as ‘Crypto Valley’.  A buzzy art scene, world-class wellness facilities and picture-postcard surroundings are further proof that there’s more to Zurich than finance.

Dr Monique Calisti, Zurich resident and CEO of consultancy Martel Innovate, explains why the city is an innovation hotspot and reveals her favourite places to visit.

I’ve lived in Zurich for 16 years. I’m an explorer by nature, so I’m always discovering more about this city. Before my husband and I had kids, we lived in the trendy Kreis 5 area. Now, we live on the outskirts of Zurich in a small village, so we can also explore the beautiful countryside. It’s a lot calmer than the city – sometimes too calm!

Zurich is a very dynamic business city. There’s an array of prestigious and multinational companies that have headquarters or offices here, which means there’s a multicultural influence that makes the whole business environment in Zurich feel global.

There are more chances to meet the people who matter. Because Switzerland is comparatively small, the business community is relatively compact. At events, irrespective of whether they’re social or more focused on business and networking, you’ll often meet people who are unexpectedly connected to each other.

Zurich is a very fertile place for innovation and collaboration. There are premier research institutions and a thriving corporate culture rolled into one city. The fact that my company can work with big names such as Disney Research and ETZ Zurich (one of the world’s top universities for science and technology), both of which are Zurich-based, is very valuable. I travel regularly for business, and there’s an obvious advantage in Zurich being in the geographic centre of Europe.

Sunday brunch is something everyone does, but it’s a new discovery for me. I grew up in Italy, and brunch doesn’t really exist in that culture. A typical Swiss brunch involves a lot of cheese and drei minuten eier (three-minute eggs) possibly sprinkled with Aromat (a seasoning popular in Switzerland). There’s also zopf bread – a traditional Swiss knotted bread that looks like challah. A great place for brunch is Kafi für Dich, which has a cool, Berlin-type vibe. I’d also recommend Bohemia, for its pancakes.

If you’re looking for fine dining, Der Sonnenberg is a good option. It has the most amazing views across Zurich to the Alps. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a menu that focuses on traditional local cuisine, then our favourite place to eat is Chäsalp, which has a rustic, alpine feel and great fondue and raclette.

La Stanza does the best coffee in Zurich. I prefer independent coffee shops over those all-the-same chains; they’re so impersonal. At La Stanza, they have excellent coffee and, depending on the time of day, they also do excellent cocktails.

My insider tip is to check out the amazing stained-glass windows by artist Marc Chagall at Fraumünster Church. It’s very close to Niederdorf, Zurich’s Old Town. Niederdorf is very well preserved, colourful and lively, with good shopping. There’s high fashion and fine food as well as quirky items and locally produced goods.

The best places to chill out are around Escher-Wyss-Platz and Josefwiese. It’s particularly nice in summer because it’s lively and right alongside IM VIADUKT, where there are some great shops. It’s very relaxed and easy-going. The Kreis 5 area has an industrial-chic vibe in the evenings. Another good place to eat or get a drink is La Salle in Schiffbau. Located in a former shipbuilding factory, it has a buzzing atmosphere.

You’re bound to want to take home some chocolate. A fantastic lesser-known chocolatier only found in Zurich is Péclard Schober, in Niederdorf. It is owned by Michel Péclard, who has also lectured in accounting. This is Zurich, after all!

Dr Monique Calisti, who holds a PhD in artificial intelligence from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of Lausanne and a PhD in telecommunications engineering from the University of Bologna, is the CEO of Martel Innovate, a Swiss consultancy that manages research and innovation projects across Europe and worldwide in the field of next-generation internet technologies.

Looking for more?

Watch Dr Monique Calisti’s TEDx talk, “The Human Beauty in the Age of Machines”: