AltstadtStraddling the Limmat and Sihl rivers in Kreis 1, the medieval Old Town can be traced back to the pre-Roman days. At its center is Niederdorfstrasse, a pedestrian street bustling with pricey shops, street cafés and restaurants, where you’ll likely witness jean-clad students rushing by and hear the click of a society lady’s couture shoes on the cobblestones. Scenic views of the river and Lake Zurich can be had a block west on the Limmatquai.
Oberdorfstrasse, which runs along the east side of the Limmat River, is sprinkled with shops and restaurants. The area is marked by the iconic Grossmünster, a 12th-century Romanesque church, and the Hechtplatz Theater and Kunsthaus art museum, are both within easy walking distance. Two funicular lines, part of the public transit system, take off at Tannenstrasse, and the shopping district, Bahnhofstrasse, is located across the river, within walking distance (across the Munsterbrucke and Quaibrucke's bridges).
Around ZurichThese hotels are located outside of the valley of Zurich's city center, but still should provide easy access to Zurich's extensive public transit system (you may have to pay for a second zone, though). Hotels outside the city center can be quite inexpensive, and you may even get some amazing views, to boot.
HottingenSituated on the eastern periphery of Zurich, in the affluent Kreis 7 district, Hottingen has the feel of a small village, replete with quaint cafés, fresh produce markets and picturesque ivy-covered cottages. It's home to the Kunsthaus, Zurich's art museum, and Friedhof Fluntern (the burial place of James Joyce and nobel-prize-winning Swiss author Elias Cantti) is not far away.
The University of Zurich, the central train station, and the Limmat River are all located within a 15-minute walk, and there are plenty buses, trams and funicular stations as well.
LangstrasseThe Langstrasse, a wide thoroughfare filled with adult theaters and various restaurants, runs north from the district courts, cutting west across the train tracks and ending at Limmatplatz near the water. The Kreis 4 ‘hood is home to the city's Red Light District (southwest of the central train station), but it also happens to be the city's youngest and most dynamic quarter of late.
While the side streets branching from Langstrasse may seem seedy at first, you'll also see young women having a fun night out without a care in the world. Keep your wits about you (like in any city) and you'll be fine among some of the city's most cutting-edge galleries and bars. From the Langstrasse, the Bahnhofstrasse shopping district is about a 15-minute walk east, and Old Town is just a bit further, over the Limmat River.
SihlfeldA sleeper community set up at the turn of the 20th century, this leafy neighborhood along the modest Siehl River is largely residential, although a murmur of artsy activities has begun taking place along Stationsstrasse. Without a proper town square, however, Sihlfeld has few attractions of its own. Rather, its proximity to Old Town, Langstrasse and West makes this demure Kreis 3 location a good base in Zurich.
Zurich WestOnce simply referred to as “Industry Quarter,” this western district has been engulfed by the ever-expanding Zurich city proper. A mere few years ago, a recycling plant was built here, with the assumption that gentrification would never come this far (ha!). Today, with new startups and design firms cropping up faster than you can say, “trendy,” Zurich West has become one of the most exciting places to be.
Located just west of Langstrasse and the train station, the vibrant (and still changing) area is home to trendy boutiques, unique art galleries and a slew of in-demand eateries (plus the occasional prostitute). Once a wasteland, the area under the elevated train tracks, has now become prime real estate. Don't forget to check out the Freitag flagship store, which is basically a couple of shipping containers stacked on top of each other.