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Multicultural Metropolis Means Business

Despite gloomy global economic prospects, Zurich remains a bargain for international business ventures and is exceptionally equipped to ease the business visitor’s sojourn, unveils Shalini Mundhra-Rathi

Lights, camera, action! If you’re wondering, whether this is Bollywood, Mumbai? Think again. Hills, lake and blue-and-white trams. You got it. Switzerland it is. Whether it’s the famous Bern clock, Zurich airport, casino of Interlaken or the streets of Lugano, all have been captured on celluloid for the Indian audiences several times over. The Indian film industry is such a familiar sight here that they are almost an integral part of the sights and sounds of Switzerland. Each one of the tourist chariot operators in Bern will tell you which film their chariot has featured in. I remember this one time walking into a Swiss restaurant in Gstaad (another hot favourite locale with Bollywood directors) and being asked by the stewardess there if I was part of the group that keeps singing and dancing every now and then! When I said I was from India but not part of that troupe, in a very conspiratorial tone she asked, “They always say they are shooting for a feature film. Is that true?”

Well one thing is for sure. All the singing and dancing against this exotic backdrop by the Bollywood actors have had hordes of Indian tourists, particularly honeymooners, headed to Switzerland over the last few years. It is, thus, difficult to think of Zurich as a booming metropolis; it looks more like a medieval town that has somehow found itself in the 21st century. But with a population of over 360,000 and thriving business and entertainment districts, it is without doubt Switzerland’s most bustling city. Controversy over money-laundering and Nazi gold, the recent bankruptcy of SwissAir and shake-ups in financial services caused Switzerland to lose some of its sheen. But it remains an extraordinarily successful economic entity for its size. Greater integration into the European Union, without the disadvantages of actual membership, will ensure that Zurich remains a key centre of business.

According to the latest Globalisation Index, a joint product of AT Kearney and Foreign Policy Magazine, Switzerland is in second place after Ireland and just ahead of Singapore, who is in third place. The extent to which the Swiss economy is globalised is reflected in the fact that every second a Swiss franc is earned abroad. Despite a global economic outlook, paradoxically enough, until recently, it was highly improbable if not outright impossible for foreigners to join the board of Swiss companies. Many pundits, in fact, have attributed the collapse of SwissAir to lack of a multinational board even as the air carrier headed towards a more European presence. Most traditional Swiss companies are family-run businesses with a strong culture. However, a lot of that is changing with time.

As part of its development and foreign trade policies, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) has a specifically defined policy towards the emerging markets and markets in transition in the global economy. A Mauritius-based Swiss Technology Venture Capital Fund (SwissTec VCF) has been sponsored by SECO, to focus on selected industries in a number of countries of the Indian Ocean rim; its first and so far only target country is India. It has contributed an initial capital of USD 12 million to the fund for investment in India. Realising the potential of the Indian software industry, a few years ago, Swiss minister for Economic Affairs, Pascal Couchepin even made several visits to India to lure the Indian software companies to set up base in Switzerland.

The influx of international companies into Zurich has had a huge impact on the city, transforming it into a more lively, friendly place. Many leading US companies such as General Motors, Dow Chemical, Hewlett Packard, Philip Morris and Procter & Gamble, have chosen Switzerland as the centre for their international activities. It comes as no surprise that Switzerland’s economy is so strong. Switzerland’s 1999 estimated gross domestic product (GDP) is 395 billion Swiss francs (US$ 272 billion) generating an income per inhabitant of 51,164 Swiss francs (US$ 35,303), placing Switzerland at the top of the developed economies. The 20th century saw the rise of IT, optics, electronics, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. Besides, the city’s academic institutions are noted for their medical research.

Zurich has a strong financial-services sector too, particularly private banking and insurance. The Swiss stock exchange is hoping to grab a larger share of pan-European trading, as indicated by its venture with London-based Tradepoint to create a new virtual exchange, Virt-X.

Switzerland’s reputation for sophistication and efficiency becomes apparent upon arrival at Zurich’s Kloten airport, located approximately 10 km north of the city. Despite the number of people who passed through the terminals, a mere 10-minute train journey and you arrive into the centre of Zurich. Taxis are also readily available at the airport, but they are very expensive and the transport system is so efficient that they could easily be avoided. Within the city, the clattering trams ease short distance travel. This pristine, small city is very easy to negotiate on foot as well. Amenity-wise, Zurich definitely holds its own against other regional capitals. Zurich is an international conference hub, but it does not take long to realise that Zurich has far more to offer.

Over the last decade, Zurich West has emerged as an upmarket nightlife district. Only a few years ago nobody wanted to walk the streets after dark, but today it has been revamped with incredible success. There is no longer anything remotely threatening about it. Among the many new offers in Zurich West is the ‘Schiffbau-Hall’, a former shipbuilder’s shed. This place is back to full bloom.

The combination of the shores of Lake Zurich, the Limmat River, the old town, villas and gardens make Zurich a sublime and diverse city to visit. The Swiss obsession with cleanliness makes this a litter-free city. It is best to start sightseeing in the old town where all the major attractions can be found. The charming pedestrian streets of this quarter contain beautiful courtyards, guildhouses and fountains. Built between the 11th and 13th centuries, the Basilica Fraumunster has spectacular stain-glassed windows by Marc Chagal. Close by is Zurich’s oldest church, St Peter’s. Most of the buildings in the old town are from the Renaissance and Baroque periods and the finest of these are probably the Town Hall and the Zunfthaus sur Meise museum, famous for its collection of Swiss porcelain. Another of the city’s jewels is the world-famous Opera House. Don’t leave without taking a stroll along the shores of Lake Zurich. The lake is 27 km long and, during the summer months, it is a very popular spot for picnics and swimming.

The variety of scenery in Zurich will catch you unawares. At times, it will strike you as a rowdy, throbbing major city, at others - especially in the Old Town - you will find the narrow alleys peaceful and leisurely. For those who are here, the city still remains its usual vibrant, exhausting, sometimes peaceful, and endlessly fascinating self.

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Accommodation

Dolder Grand Hotel
Kurhausstrasse 65, 8032 Zurich

This five-star business hotel is situated in the residential area, away from the hustle and bustle and yet close to the city centre. But its USP is, undoubtedly, the magnificent panoramic views it provides of the lake, city and Alps. The resort offers free shuttle buses to and from the city centre.

Single room (forest) - CHF 420.00 person/night
Double room (forest) - CHF 270.00 person/night
Single room - CHF 490.00 person/night
Double room - CHF 345.00 person/night

Hotel Baur au Lac
Talstrasse 1, 8022 Zurich

Belonging to the same family since its opening in 1844, the hotel resides in its own private park on the shore of the lake at the upper end of fashionable Bahnhofstrasse. It boasts 125 luxuriously appointed rooms, three restaurants, bar, various banquet facilities and a new fitness club.

Single room - CHF 460.00 person/night
Double room - CHF 340.00 person/night

Hotel Widder
Rennweg 7, 8001 Zurich

This unique, five-star hotel, in eight historic buildings in Zurich’s historic centre, is famous for its restaurants and bar with live jazz. The Widder Hotel is only 50 metres off the famous Bahnhofstrasse. The alluring conjunction of ancient and modern - of enduring architectural charm and sophisticated technologies for guest services - results in a magical atmosphere.

Single room - CHF 490.00 person/night
Double room - CHF 345.00 person/night

Zurich Marriott Hotel
Neumuhlequai 42, 8001 Zurich

This first-class hotel in the heart of the city, is a walking distance to the Bahnhofstrasse and the main train station. Guestrooms are fully air-conditioned and equipped with voice mail and data ports, colour-TV, minibar and hairdryer. The hotel has two restaurants, one bar and a health club.

Single room - CHF 300.00 person/night
Double room - CHF 150.00 person/night

After Hours

Join in two famous after-work parties in Zurich:

Carlton Restaurant & Bar
Bahnhofstrasse 41, 8001 Zurich
Tel: 01 227 19 19, Fax: 01 227 19 27
E-mail: info@carlton-zuerich.ch

At the spacious Art Deco Carlton restaurant on the Bahnhofstrasse, the chef has a talent for giving a modern twist to the culinary art. The wine menu, which has been awarded an accolade by the Wine Spectator, features no lesser than 450 wines. The cocktail bar is a stylish place to enjoy an aperitif. Day and Time: Every Tuesday after 6 o’clock.

Kaufleuten Club & Restaurant
Pelikanstrasse 18, 8001 Zurich
Tel: 01 225 33 33, Fax: 01 225 33 15
Website: www.kaufleuten.com

Probably the best known club in Zurich, it was recently elected one of Europe’s top 10 locations by an English fashion magazine. Queuing is simply part of the pleasure! The club also has a bar and restaurant. Day and Time: Every Thursday after 6 o’clock.

Basics

Transportation
Regular services will take you out from the bustling city centre to the tranquil countryside in no time at all. Taxis are very expensive. Central Zurich, at any rate, is compact enough to cover on foot. The city’s public transport system, however, is very efficient, particularly the tram service which runs from 5.30 am up until midnight. All tram stops have ticket machines. You can buy a day ticket for CHF 7.20, which can be used for unlimited use on city trams, buses even boats.

Climate
Summer: 25°C - 30°C
Winter: 5°C - 15°C

Bank Holidays - January 1, Good Friday, Easter Monday, May 1, Ascension, Whit Monday, August 1, December 25, 26.

Currency - Swiss Franc

Shopping

Bahnhofstrasse - one of Europe’s most beautiful shopping streets

Zurich is home to Europe’s only shop specialising in items from the middle ages (‘Medieval’, Spiegelgasse 29)

Although Zurich is a highly popular business destination, the city also has a lot to offer in the after-six hours. Bahnhofstrasse - one of Europe’s most beautiful shopping streets - is considered a must see with its elegant fashion emporiums, department stores, retailers selling high-quality shoes, furs, accessories, porcelain, jewellery, watches and more. Not to mention its banks and pastry shops. When it comes to fashion, Zurich is always up-to-date: Versace, Armani, Valentino, Krizia, Lagerfeld or Mugler, all the big names have a presence here. In the Old City to the left of the River Limmat, on Rennweg, Strehlgasse, Augustinergasse, St Peterhofstatt and Munsterhof, there are many boutiques and antique dealers. Langstrasse seems downright Mediterranean, and offers every heart’s desire at a more moderate cost. For seekers of rarities, curios and nostalgic items, the Saturday flea-market on the Burkliplatz (May-October, 6 am-3.30 pm) is at par with the ones in Paris and London. The curio market on the Rosenhof, which is held on Thursdays (10 am- 8 pm) and Saturdays (10 am-4 pm) becomes a veritable cornucopia of manufactured, hand-crafted and chance artefacts.

Numerous antique shops in the old town invite onlookers to peruse old books and magazines. Cheeky boutiques offer outrageous and far-out fashions, while accessories are on sale in countless little shops.

Restaurants

Kronenhalle
Remistrasse 4, 8001 Zurich
Tel: 01 251 66 69, Fax: 01 251 66 81

This world-famous, traditional dining restaurant is a popular haunt of celebrities and corporates alike. The menus include a wide selection of local as well as international specialities complemented by a classic selection of wines. Along with the cuisine, you also get to feast your eyes on original works by Picasso and Chagall.

Hiltl
Sihlstrasse 28, 8001 Zurich
Tel: 01 227 70 00, Fax: 01 227 70 07

Opened in 1898 by Ambrosium Hiltl and completely renovated in the intervening period, this vegetarian restaurant is a mecca for all lovers of vegetarian cuisine. Feast on the city’s largest salad buffet with over 40 varieties, an Indian buffet and freshly pressed fruit juices.

Blindekuh
Muhlebachstrasse 148, 8008 Zurich
Tel: 01 421 50 50, Fax: 01 421 50 55

A feast for the eyes? Not quite, because this restaurant is pitch dark. Eat here and you put yourself entirely in the hands of the blind personnel, who will guide you around. A completely new sensory experience! Make sure you reserve in advance.

Sonnenberg
Hitzigweg 15, 8032 Zurich
Tel: 01 266 97 97, Fax: 01 266 97 98

You will find this gourmet restaurant in the upper price category at the FIFA headquarters. Enjoy the fabulous cooking of top chef Jacky Donatz while you soak in the panoramic views of the city.

LaSalle
Schiffbaustrasse 4, 8005 Zurich
Tel: 01 258 70 71, Fax: 01 259 70 71

This restaurant is part of the new Schauspielhaus complex in Zurich-West and was built in the form of a glass cube with the historic Schiffbau hall as a backdrop.