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Switzerland’s largest city may be known for its financial prowess and prosperity but the country’s largest city also brims with plenty cultural bonanza as it is constantly reinventing itself artistically.
There are more than 50 museums, over 100 galleries, an exquisite Opera House as well as a municipal theatre that provides events, exhibitions and performances year-round. And in 2016, the cultural act grew even more intense as the city focused on a year-long celebration of the centenary of Dada, an art movement of the European avant-garde in the early 20th century.
Gaga over Dada
If you’re curious as to how much Zurich loves Dada, just look to its festivities — 165 days of celebration to mark Dada’s centenary are held in this city. Dada is considered the most important art movement to originate in Zurich, and it all began at the renowned Café Voltaire when influential names such as Tristan Tzara, Hugo Ball and Francis Picabia kicked off a real cultural revolution in 1916 that went on to influence many other artistic movements around the world. Not only did this movement revolutionise every art form, from painting to poetry, but its attitude also spread all over the world from New York City to Paris to Berlin.
Caught up in a cultural fever are many of the city’s institutions, including Cabaret Voltaire and the Kunsthaus Zürich.
From 3rd June to 25th September, the Kunsthaus Zurich, one of the city’s most important art museums, presents Picabia, a ground-breaking exhibition, which explores the historical sweep of Picabia’s provocative career.
During the same period, there is also Manifesta, a roving European biennial contemporary art festival featuring international artists; the theme of this year’s edition addresses the question, “What Do People Do for Their Money?”, and the highlight is a floating urban island on Lake Zurich.
Till 18th July, Cabaret Voltaire will host 165 Days of Feast or 165 celebratory days, which look at the ideas behind 165 Dada-related poets, visionaries and thinkers, and includes performances and readings as part of its line-up.
Through the Dada jubilee, locals appear to have finally discovered Dada or come to the realisation that Dada is important and meaningful, noted Adrian Notz, director of Cabaret Voltaire.
Swiss bliss for tourists in Zurich
Yet, Dada is much more than a celebration for locals. For travellers to Switzerland, the city is offering walking tours, which will tell the story of the performance artists and poets that spent their life in the city; expect to visit meaningful locales that were extremely important to the Dadaists. Walking tours start at the Hauptbahnhof (central station), and head down Bahnhofstrasse, Zurich’s main shopping street. Highlights include restaurants, clubs and bars that have remained unchanged to the present day, allowing you to get a glimpse of the magic of the Dada myth.
According to Cabaret Voltaire’s Notz, visitors to Zurich can expect not only to learn historic facts about the movement, but also the real Dada attitude and more insights into Zurich. For instance, as the most important Dada institution in town, Cabaret Voltaire will also be an absolute stop along the route as it has revamped itself as an experimental space for art happenings and boasts an incredibly edgy vibe.
The draw beyond the arts
Not everything is about dadaism, of course. Present-day Zurich beams with a fresh and creative vibe, easily drawing travellers interested in more aspects of arts and culture. In Zurich-West or Kreis 5, a former industrial district, you will find a real hub for contemporary art, design, architecture, ateliers, studios and a culinary paradise teeming with restaurants and bars with a bohemian ambience.
If culture is your number one priority, Kreis 4, which used to be known as the red-light district, surprises with a concoction of artistic locales and vibrant nightlife. Over in Kreis 2, which clasps the west side of Lake Zurich, you will be treated to entertainment aplenty and even sandy beaches at Mythenquai and Landiwiese.
According to Claudia Premoli, project manager at Zurich Tourism, the city is constantly reinventing itself with new neighbourhoods and areas, which teem with quirky shops, cafes and bars. Among the hottest new restaurants in town, she revealed, are Metzg Restaurant and the cosmopolitan Baltho Küche&Bar.
And, if you’re a nature lover, Zurich clearly isn’t short on it. A must-try, added Premoli, are the off-the-beaten-track hiking trails up to the Uetliberg — Zurich’s very own mountain — from where you can enjoy beautiful views of the city’s outline and lake.
For family-friendly activities, Notz of Cabaret Voltaire recommends Museum Mühlerama, where you can make flour, and the Wildtierpark Sihlwald to see some bears and wolves.