The main shopping street ends at the pier at Quaibrücke, at the confluence of the river and the lake. This is where the Old Town opens to incredible views of Lake Zurich and, on sunny days, the high Alps. The sensation of having the sun on your skin, the wind in your face, and the snowcapped mountains in your line of sight is something I have felt only in Zurich. To make the experience last, I boarded one of the many ferries that ply these waters on a regular basis for an inexpensive boat ride. These boats (free to people holding a ZürichCard travel card) operate year-round, linking lakeside towns to downtown Zurich, and they are nearly as enjoyable in the winter as they are during the summer months, when the narrow lake is filled with sailboats taking advantage of the reliable winds.



If You Want To See What I Saw...

Beyer Chronometrie
011-41-43-344-6363
www.beyer-ch.com

Bodega Española 
011-41-44-251-2310

Brasserie Lipp
011-41-43-888-6666
www.brasserie-lipp.ch

H. Schwarzenbach
011-41-44-2611-315

Kunsthaus Zürich 
011-41-44-253-8484
www.kunsthaus.ch

Moods in Schiffbau
011-41-44-276-8000
www.moods.ch

Coiffeur du Théatre
011-41-44-252-3801

Zoo Zürich 
011-41-848-966-983
www.zoo.ch

American Airlines operates daily nonstop service to Zurich from Dallas/Fort Worth and New York/JFK.

Aboard the ferry, the cold wind was bracing, and some found that it made for a romantic experience. One young couple sat outside in the stern of the vessel, exposed to the icy snap of winter air, and kissed for the entire 90-minute ride.

Nighttime in Zurich presents some perplexing choices. The restaurants, nightclubs, and beer halls in both parts of the Old Town are fantastic and are usually filled with tourists and locals alike. There are fancy, sit-down restaurants as well as street stalls serving delicious kebabs and grilled bratwurst. But a short streetcar ride away is Zurich West; once a decaying, nearly abandoned industrial district, it is now the center of nightlife for the younger crowd that flocks to the all-night clubs set up in the former factories.

In the early 1980s and before, when the shipbuilders and breweries moved out, this area seemed destined for oblivion. Then, in the latter part in the decade, city planners decided to turn the old buildings into warehouse-size restaurants, bars, clubs, and theaters. It was an undertaking that has paid off handsomely, revitalizing an entire part of the city and, at the same time, saving impressive old buildings from demolition. I got a kick out of the way Zurich has saved part of its heritage by giving the buildings a completely new and modern use. Most nights, I combined the old and the new, starting out with an excellent, indulgent dinner in a restaurant for grown-ups in the Old Town and then making my way slowly to Zurich West so that I could hear a set or two of live music when the scene got going, around midnight. But typically, I was in bed at my hotel by 2:30 in the morning, when the hard-core clubbers were just hitting their stride.

I prefer the pleasures that can be found earlier in the night at places like Brasserie Lipp. Everyone knows this famous old landmark in Paris, with its opulent belle-epoque look and its traditional French food and extensive wine selection. But few people know that there is one in Zurich, with the same beautiful feel to it and topped by the Jules Verne Panorama Bar, a fantastic spot providing a view of the city from a perch atop a 10-story tower. It was odd at first to sit in Zurich and experience being in Paris, but the sensation became authentic with the first sip of wine. The light, the tiles, the paintings, the mirrors - everything says Brasserie Lipp, including the occasional annoying Parisian yap of the small dogs brought in by some of the patrons. This is a place to indulge: bouillabaisse with a dry white wine, followed by a country-style cassoulet and some hearty red wine, will make any night enjoyable.

In Zurich West, American music is very popular, and many European students get their first dose of old-fashioned soul in Zurich's bars. One of my favorite clubs was Moods, where the motto is "Real funk for real people." It's set in the cavernous Schiffbau, once used for assembling ships. It was great to see a whole new generation exposed to the classic soul hits of James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Ike and Tina Turner, performed live by Soul Survivor, a band whose lead singers are backed by powerful horns, gutbucket guitar, gyrating backup singers, and a solid drummer.

But there is much more than soul music available here. Jazz, blues, hip-hop, and European house music are all represented, and the energy usually peaks at about three or four in the morning. The all-night scene has become a magnet for young people throughout Europe, and some don't even bother to get a hotel. They arrive in the evening, hit the clubs, party all night, stumble out at dawn, have a hot breakfast in a café, and then board a train to go back home.

At the ornate central train station next to the Limmat River, it's not unusual to see tired young rockers with burgundy-tinted Mohawks stumble onto trains at eight a.m. as well-dressed bankers and insurance executives disembark for another day at the office. In fact, it's pure Zurich.