Zurich is divided by the Limmat River into two general areas:
Westor Left Bank
This district is dominated by Bahnhofplatz, center of rail connections, and Bahnhofstrasse, which is the main commercial and banking thoroughfare. This is the Zurich world of high finance and elegant shops. The venerable Fraumünster church, on Fraumünsterstrasse, dominates the west bank. Included within the west bank, but somewhat removed from its sense of high-flying prosperity, is the increasingly visible, increasingly gentrified, warehouse-cum-artmeisters district of Zurich West.
East or Right Bank
Opposite Fraumünster, on the other side of the river, rises Grossmünster church, on Grossmünsterplatz; its two Gothic towers are an east-bank landmark. The historic guildhalls of Zurich, such as the Zunfthaus zur Saffran, rise on the east bank of the river. So, too, does the Rathaus, the city's town hall, completed in 1698. On the east bank you can explore the eastern part of Altstadt, strolling along Neumarkt, one of the best preserved of the old streets. The area beyond is Niederdorf, the center of the town's hot spots.
The Renaissance of Zurich West
Change is in the air, as Züri-West or Zurich West, growing into a chic area, is often compared to New York's SoHo district. In a sector of town becoming rapidly gentrified, Zuri West lies only a 10-minute taxi ride from the heart of Zurich.
Sightseers head for the 19th-century red-brick Löwenbräu Brewery at 270 Limmatstrasse (tel. 044/272-15-15) which has been turned into an art center housing a trio of museums; Kunsthalle (tel. 044/272-15-15), the Migros Museum for Contemporary Art (tel. 044/277-20-50), and the Daros Exhibitions (tel. 044/447-70-00).
If you stick around to go dining and night-clubbing, a "hot" address is Club Indochine, 275 Limmatstrasse (tel. 044/448-11-11; www.club-indochine.com), an elegantly decorated Vietnamese restaurant with tasty, spicy food and a lush interior in spite of its lackluster facade. Monsoon, 180 Förrlibuckstrasse (tel. 043/960-36-36), also travels east for its Asian fusion dishes -- its steak frites are the juiciest in town. The setting is one of tropical prints and towering plants.
After a meal in Zuri West, head for the Schiffbau, 6 Schiffbaustrasse, a former shipbuilding factory containing restaurant and bar, LeSalle (tel. 044/276-80-00), with four theaters, a jazz club, plus Nietturm, a dramatic glass tower bar with panoramic views.
Created from a former parking garage, the sleek new 142-room Park Hyatt, Beethovenstrasse 21 (tel. 043/883-12-34) towers over the financial district. This is not some stodgy chain hotel -- its decor veers toward the Zen and its luxury is edged with contemporary art. Its indoor bamboo garden is a special treat on a gray winter day in Zurich. The Onyx Bar lounge has become a rendezvous point for "making the deal," and the Parkhaus is a first-class restaurant with an open kitchen and a grill menu.
Hotel Plattenhof, Plattenstrasse 26 (tel. 044/251-19-10), is the new designer hotel of Zurich. Its traditional facade belies the minimalist, modern decor inside. Each of the designer rooms is equipped with specially created furniture that is streamlined to create more living space on the high-grade oak parquet flooring. You can even select your own room color by using the Artemide lighting.
Come to Segantini, Ankerstrasse 120 (tel. 044/241-07-00; www.segantini.ch), for both the art and the food. Swiss Artist Ugo Rondinone created a floor-to-ceiling mosaic of mirror shards embedded in gold tile. The chef changes the menu daily to take advantage of the freshest ingredients at the market, such as organic beef and fresh fish. In summer, tables spill over into a trestled courtyard.
A converted warehouse, Rosso, Geroldstrasse, off Hardstrasse (tel. 043/818-22-54), uses the old loading docks as terraces for dining. Discovered by media types, artists, and the fashionistas of Zurich, Rosso specializes in pizzas with paper-thin crusts, savory pasta dishes, and it has one of the best cartes for Italian wines in Zurich. Guests sit at communal tables.
Another "in spot" in Zuri West is Café Spheres, Hardturmstrasse 66 (tel. 043/440-66-22), where Zurichers head for drinks, snacks, and relaxation. The cafe is lined with books and magazines. In summer a grill is set up in the rear, turning out succulent steaks, sausages, and chicken.