Complete Guide To Old Town & Zurich West Nightclubs
There’s something about the name that sounds exciting. Energizing. Exotic.
Add the work “nightlife” to it and it becomes, well, intoxicating to the soul. So just imagine what Zurich nightlife is really like to experience.
In short, it can be whatever one wants it to be: Casual or crazy, lively or laid-back, thriving and driving, or as soothing as a massage.
This is very a manageable city to navigate – many parts are walkable and those that aren’t are a mere 10-minute tram ride away – with, by some counts, more than 350 bars. And one doesn’t even have to go a dance club to dance. On tables.
Yes, Zurich nightlife is indeed vibrant.
A club, the Bierhalle Wolfe and Mark Rosier at the Superior Bar.
Pre-Party – Zurich Nightlife Overview
Not all of the nightlife in Zurich is as prominent as the river that runs through it. Sometimes, it takes turning over a few rocks to find. Like hidden treasures, though, once discovered, the rewards are plentiful, as satisfying for pubclubbers as a pot of fine fondue for diners. So indulge.
There are two primary party places in Zurich, the Niederdorf area of Old Town and the upscale, trendy Zurich West. A third area between the two – in culture as well as distance – is Langstasse Strasse.
Yet hold onto that fondue fork, for there’s even more to explore. Like the beautiful Swiss ladies who inhabit this city, once Zurich takes off its winter coat, it reveals even more radiance in the summertime.
Locals love to hang out by the river in Old Town. They walk around with a beer in hand and stop to drop their feet into the water. It’s okay to be in streets with a drink and people do take advantage of this prrivledge. Some of the bathhouses along the River Limmat turn into bars; the “women’s only” one close to Lake Zurich is especially popular.
It’s a carefree, fun-filled existence followed by a pulsating evening of electrifying nightlife. This summer scene, by the way, is one of PubClub.com’s favorite things about Zurich. A large can of beer by the lake is 6 CHF, and there are hundreds of people walking around and relaxing by the shore. It’s a super scene!
Some bars close between 1:30-2 a.m., while others stay open until 3 or even 4. It’s the cafes and bars that close earliest, while the dance clubs go late into the night. The prime nightlife nights are Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Sundays are the slowest day of the week, the Swiss preferring to spend that time with their families or taking a day of relaxation before the start of the work week.
The drinking age in Switzerland is 16 for beer and wine, 18 for hard liquor. (This would never happen in America.)
Tip: Pat attention to the words night club (separate). These are not dance places but strip or sex clubs.
OLD TOWN/NIEDERDORF AREA BARS
For tourists, college students from Zurich University on the hill and bankers, the place to play is Old Town Zurich.
Niederdorfstrasse is the focal point for the bars. It’s only for pedestrians – and bars. They are a dozen of them sitting there like some type of Swiss sensation.
But save that for later, for the cool place to start in Old Town is Corazon. Corazon is an “anchor bar,” meaning you can start there and then just toss out the anchor.
It means heart in Spanish, and it’s got plenty of it. This is what PubClub.com likes to describe as an “anchor bar.” That is to say it’s the kind of place where it’s tempting to “toss out the anchor” and stay a while, to use nautical terminology. It’s cool and casual, with hip people and a nice and friendly staff. Corazon is a bar/cafe that’s not big in size and the crowd comes and goes during the night. Don’t hestitate to go here early, even using it as a Happy Hour-time landing point.
Located on Froschau-Gasse, there a few other soothing spots in in the neighborhood. Notably from a historic standpoint is Isebahali, one of the oldest bars in the city. It’s small and is like an old railroad car. It’s on the small side streets, Brown-Gasse.
After seeing these places, it’s probably time for dinner and, eventually, to get cranked up for the night. While there are authentic Swiss restaurants – the one in the Hotel Adler is about as authentic as it gets – a much more lively option awaits.
That would be the Bierhalle Wolfe, which is like walking into the Hofbrauhaus tent at Oktoberfest in Munich. There’s a live band playing the familiar drinking songs, beers in big mugs (though not the size of the ones in Munich) and people dancing on the picnic tables. The food is pure German – bratwurst and sausages accompanied by those big beers. Of course, one doesn’t have to eat; merely drinking, dancing on the table and singing is just fine. Look up the word “lively” in the dictionary, and you may see a picture of this place.
Beirhalle Wolf’s main entrance is on Limmat Quai by the river. And while Niederdorfstrasse may have more bars, it is this street that has the more pumping places. Most are small cafes but part of the fun is going in and out of them in what is basically an improvisational Zurich pub crawl.
The highlights are the 01 bar, a small and social place with hip music and a cut-loose crowd. There’s no dance floor, but that doesn’t exactly stop the people from dancing. This is a cool stop along the street. Another fun spot is Forecast, a long and narrow place with cool Euro-style music. Zuri Smack appear to be some type of quick-food place but by night it is, in fact, a hip little bar.
There’s no monkey business at The Blue Monkey, an Asian-themed restaurant and bar on the side street Stüssihofstatt. Head in to the right and head straight to the bar. After receiving the first round, have a look around and see the people – mostly in their 30s – hanging around and having light conversations. The Blue Monkey may not be for monkey business, but it’s a good place to starting getting in the mood for it.
For those preferring the alternative lifestyle, Cranberry, a famous Zurich gay bar, is right around the corner.
On Niederdorfstrasse, pubclubbers can find the Double U Bar with its caprihinas and the Big Ben Pub with its crowded English crowd, among dozens of other places. But for a better time, go up a block to Hurlimann, a very lively cafe, the most lively, in fact, of them all on this street.
For a Spendid time in Zurich, there’s this rockin’ piano place.
It’s no boring man on the piano playing mellow tunes. Nor is the loser kind of bar Billy Joel sang so eloquently about in “Piano Man.”
Is it little wonder why the Splendid Bar is one of PubClub.com’s favorite Zurich bars?
Rather, it’s a rock ‘n roll jammin’ kind of place that grabs your inner party energy and send it out through the very fingetips of your sou. While the action around the corner fades to black about 1:30, the Splendid Bar remains splendi until 3. Or later.
One of the most famous bars in all of Zurich, it’s a raucous piano sing-along lounge with the energy of the dueling piano bars popular in the States. Except there is only one piano. And that is enough.
The 10CHF price for a beer isn’t so splendid but that’s soon forgotten because of the music and the crowd, especially when American Mark Rosier is tickling the ivory. He keeps the crowd active and singing with popular hits from Barry Manilow to Sinatra to even Jimmy Buffett.
When Mark is not there, another piano man takes the seat; the performers rotate on a month-by-month basis. PubClub saw Rod Stewart there in June (well, he looks like Rod Stewart and does an awesome raspy-voiced cover of “Sailing”).
Upstairs is a quite lounge for breaks but the action is always downstairs. The Superior Bar has been around for decades and was once the favorite spot for American servicemen stationed in Europe after World War II.
Across the River Limmat – While the Niederdorf is a largely the spot for the university partiers and like-minded patrons of the bars, others “bank” on the area on the other side of the Limmat.
Zurich is, after all, a banking city and there are places that cater to that clientele. The popular Widder Bar, for instance, is a classy piano bar in the Widder Hotel with 200 different whiskeys and jazz music. The soft piano sounds give way to a more lively beat around 11 when a larger and more energetic crowd packs the place as a warmup to the more active bars and clubs in the neighborhood.
This includes the Coco Grill & Bar. Tucked away from the stratte it’s hardly hidden from locals. It’s a gem, in fact, a thriving bar/restaurant with a very small bar that often gets elbow-to-elbow crowded (which is not at all bad for conversation seekers) . In the summer, the patio is the place for warm weather socializing. Coco’s is located at the Paradeplatz, just down from tram stop and the popular Moonpick restaurant. It’s set back from the street, so look for the Galerie Am Paradeplatz
The Almodo Bar is a nice banker-ish lounge that’s always crowded. It’s located just outside of Old Town in the financial district.
If you’re in Old Town and want to go clubbing, check out Mascotte. It’s across from the Limette River along the main street before the bridge to the steeples. It’s a full-on club and get this – it even rocks on Mondays nights! It’s easy to spot because people start lining up around 11.
ZURICH WEST NIGHTLIFE
The up-and-coming people of Zurich, which is to say those who have good jobs but prefer something other than smoking a stogie in a quiet piano bar – live, work and play here in Zurich West.
This is trendy city, the club culture that goes until 4 in the morning, the host of top European DJs and the centerpiece of Zuich’s nightclub scene. People gather here about 8 for the cinemas or theater, and again around 10 to hit the pubs (or, more appropriately in Zurich West, the lounges) before the courting the clubs.
Zurich West is not one big street lined with lounges and clubs, but rather a collection of new building surrounded by refurbished old factories from Zurich’s mid-1800’s industrial past. One pretty much has to know where to go in this area or it’s a wasted night. And wasted in the wrong way! Following the following guide, one can get wasted in the right way (or just have a great night out in West Zurich).
This old ship building houses a restaurant, two bars and theater.
The old shipping factory for example, now contains a theater for plays, one of the area’s finest restaurants (La Salle) and one of the Zurich West’s top lounges – literally. The Niettum Bar is at the top of the Schiffbau with a glass “cube” overlooking the area. The city’s top jazz club, Mounds, is also here on the first floor.
Across the street, which is Schiffbaustrasse, is Labor-Bar, which is the set for the Zurich TV show Aeschber. It’s a club/lounge that sometimes attracts Zurich’s VIPs – and paparazzi. On Sundays, it becomes a gay bar.
For an overview of the entire area from a different viewpoint than Nietuum Bar, there’s Hard One. This is an elegant all-in-one venue with a cool bar, lounge and dancing. It’s a regular stop for Europe’s top DJs. Hard One is on top of the Abatton cinema theaters which is yet another area attraction; it has 12 screens for first-run movies.
Bar One is but one of several place in this space, which is known as the Steinfelsplaz. under the freeway not far from the train stop.
A funky, cozy place by Hard One is Steinfels. You won’t find Jerry, Elaine, Kramer or George here, but proably others who might make one laugh. It’s a brewery/restaurant that makes its own beer, but with funky colors and bean-bag chairs, it looks much more like a wine bar than a beer joint. But then again, this is Zurich West. In between Steinfels and Bar One is a very small classy bar called Aya. There’s only about four tables and the place is the size of some Zurich living rooms, and instead of people going at breakneck speed here they are taking a cool, casual break.
That can also be achieved at The Big Ben Pub, which may be the most casual bar in all of West Zurich. It’s at the end of the street past the kabob spots. Or there’s Les Halles, bar/lounge that doesn’t look like much from the outside but inside reveals it’s true pleasures and treasures.
For starters – even breakfast, lunch, catching up on the day’s news or reading from the vast collection of books, there’s Spheres, across from Building 5 near the trams. It’s a classy, mellow place for gathering; sometimes, the area where the books are located turns into a live music stage.
Yes, there are a lot of bars here. And we’ve not even touched on the dance clubs. That is covered in the nightclubs section below.
The funky part of Zurich is along Langstasse. It has artists, hippies and free thinkers. It’s not upscale; quite the opposite, in fact. It’s a place where thrift stores exists instead of a high-fashion boutiques as along Old Town’s Bahnhofstrasse. If San Francisco’s Height-Ashbury district needs a sister neighborhood, this is it.
The culture of Langstasse can be found at the appropriately-named Riftraff, a theater showing independent films. Next door is a bar where people gather to talk about those films, among other creative conversations. Further down, Xenix is another theater featuring these alternative (non-mainstream) films.
Many locals throughout Zurich enjoy the casual Langstasse Bar. Or dancing at the Latin salsa club, Lambada. And hey Americans, there’s even a Hooter’s! There are other places here, as well, a couple of beer halls and funky bars, so it’s open to exploration.
Langstasse is also home to Zurich’s Red Light District. While hardly anything like Amsterdam, there are ladies of the evening on Josefstrasse. There are no windows, mind you, just the girls.
To get to Langstassee, take the #4 tram two stops from Old Town’s Hotel Centraal. The train stop is Limmatplaz, Head down Langstasse; most of the activity is just beyond the overpass.
Head the other direction to a really fun summertime bar that’s open daytime and nighttime from April thru September the very casual Primitivo. It’s one of a few bars right on the water and it’s a casual beer and wine place that’s all outdoor. Bring your bathing suit and jump in the Limmet between beers! Seriously. People do it all the time.
Zurich’s Top Nightclubs & Dance Clubs
On the edge of Old Town by the Paraderplatz is Alte Borse. It’s up, up, up and away at this nightlclub, a spacious top level with a jammin’ dance floor, hip DJ and a dancing crowd.
In Langstasse., right off the Limmatplaz stop, is X-tra. This is a multi-level club that plays a variety of music – salsa, jazz, hip hop,pop, rock, 80s – has specialty music nights and hosts concerts. There’s even a karaoke lounge on Fridays.
In Zurich West, there are several dance clubs. In the old Lowenbrau brewery is Saulenhalle. It’s next to the Contemporary Museum in the same space and is for the very young clubbers, say 20-25 years old. Think about it: The complete culture of a museum sharing the same building with a rocking club of vibrant partiers. Welcome to Zurich West!
Older and more upscale patrons prefer Indochine across the street. This elegant club-lounge has an French Indonesian theme and is especially lively on Thursdays for Ladies Night – two complimentary drinks and free champagne.
In the “main area” of Zurich West – use Steinfelsplaz as the focal point – are other dance spots. In addition to the lounges mentioned earlier, there is Club Supermarket, a youngish and fun dance club with international DJs. House, dance and techno. Take the street to the end, turn left and just past the initially ugly building of Freitag (this popular company uses recycled old shipping containers to comprise the office and the place makes high-quality and stylish handbags).
Salsa, you say? Got it. It’s at Garufa. It’s all part of the party variety in the clubs of Zurich and Zurich West.
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