Daniel Pountney

Got it Vlad

Daniel Pountney
Got it Vlad

VLADIMIR LENIN had a Swiss bank account.

Yes, that champion of sharing society's wealth and property preferred private banking.

This is the kind of fact you often pick up on bus tours for tourists in big European cities.

But bus tours wouldn't work in Zurich, Switzerland's largest city.

The best historic sites are accessible only via steep, narrow, cobbled streets.

A double-decker could not make it up to Lindenhof — a square built 2,000 years ago, which hosts small festivals on summer weekends. Midweek it's populated by groups of pals playing quiet games of petanque, and people enjoying the view with a drink.

Nor could it take in the six-storey properties dating back 600 years that line the banks of the Limmat river.

From there, you have a perfect view of the city's two universities, one of which can boast of 21 Nobel prizes won by its alumni. Albert Einstein got one of them.

The other university was the first in Europe to open its doors to women, in the 1860s.

Lenin's flat is located in another steep and narrow road and just round the corner is St Peter's Square, overlooked by the biggest church clock in Europe. It measures nine metres across and its numbers are covered in 24-carat gold.

I am so glad that places like this are only really accessible by foot or pushbike. The peace is a huge part of their appeal.

For our second day in the city, we took a 90-minute cruise of Lake Zurich and I was delighted to find my ZurichCard — which cost £30 and took care of all second-class travel in the city over 72 hours, as well as entry to most museums — also covered the fare.

On cold, clear days, you can see the Alps from the lake. But with temperatures at 27C during our visit, it was a little too hazy.

The Swiss were making the most of the sunshine and crystal clear water with kayaks and paddleboards as we trundled past on our cruiser, trying to pick out the houses owned by Roger Federer and Tina Turner.

Then it was back to the old town, famed for its well-preserved pubs and drinking dens. But we were aiming for dinner. In this part of Switzerland, the cuisine is influenced by Germany which means huge knuckles of pork, served with potatoes and cabbage.

Vegetables are hard to come by but the local speciality of veal in mushroom sauce with rosti should be sampled. Zeughauskeller, in the old town, is a great place to try it.

Away from the old town, the city has undergone a culinary revolution, with the industrial district of Zurich West at its heart. Between steel and washing powder factories lie surprises such as Markthalle where artisan producers sell cakes, cured meats and preserves.

Free 24-hour bicycle hire is available nearby, theatre spaces are popping up in old factory buildings and at Frau Gerolds Garten, shipping containers have been reused to create a new bar complex — yet another great place to enjoy a drink.

Zurich is a wonderful city for a summer weekend and tourist buses are unnecessary. A guide book and comfortable shoes are all you really need.


This feature first appeared in The Sun newspaper.