In our 5 Shops series, we’ll point you in the direction of our favorite independent shops across some of the world’s best cities. From food markets and bookshops to vintage and homegrown design stores, we’ve found a diverse and exciting mix of local retailers where you can pick up one-of-a-kind pieces.
Zürich, Switzerland’s financial beating heart, is a beautiful city for casual wandering. On your perambulations around its charming Old Town or through the industrial-turned-trendy Zürich West neighborhoods, you’ll notice an appealing range of shops. From swanky brand fashion boutiques to brockenhaus (thrift shops) where you can sift through the trash for treasure.
As a writer on Lonely Planet’s Switzerland guidebook, I’ve tracked down some of the city’s best independent shops – all superb places to pick up unique souvenirs and consumer treats that won’t break the bank.
Best for souvenirs: Schweizerisches Landesmuseum
As befitting a country famous for the quality of its design, the history of Switzerland is beautifully presented at the Schweizerisches Landesmuseum (Swiss National Museum). Having taken in the exhibitions, you can’t beat the museum’s amazingly stocked shop for picking up a little piece of Switzerland to take home. There’s the fantastic range of postcards (Sfr 2–2.50) and museum-related books and gifts you’d expect, but also key pieces of local design, from Freitag bags made from recycled truck tarps to the stylish knits of Beige. Among the shop’s most popular items are Heidi illustrated books (Sfr 13.90) and the REX vegetable peeler (Sfr 8.50), an iconic and practical piece of kitchen equipment that no Swiss kitchen is without.
Best local design store: Die Macherei
Kreis 4 was once a dodgy red-light area best avoided. That all changed with the construction of the slick Europaallee office and shopping development that has Google as a main tenant. Fitting right in with the on-trend vibe is Die Macherie (The Makers), the brainchild of Chelsea Morrissey and Stefanie Sixt, a couple of architects turned product designers. They’re part of a collective of (mainly) Zürich-based designers who showcase their products in this shop. Pick up one of Morrissey and Sixt’s reflective Sputnik weatherproof backpacks (around Sfr 229) or the porcelain cups by Studio Sediment printed with charming illustrations by Annina Schaeubl (from Sfr 39) There’s also contemporary fashion and accessories from Gaffer & Fluff, Velvet Novel and Sode. Morrisey also runs regular kokedama (moss ball) workshops at the shop.
Best for vintage/thrift: Zürcher Brockenhaus
There’s nothing I love more than rummaging around vintage stores and thrift shops. Surprisingly, given it is one of the country’s wealthiest cities, Zürich has plenty of them – and the best of the lot is the social enterprise Zürcher Brockenhaus. Founded in 1904, this three-floor treasure house offers a cornucopia of used goods – from clothing, books and vinyl records, to pieces of designer furniture and vintage shop fittings and taxidermy. Not everything is secondhand – shops and business often donate their unsold stock. I found a plug adaptor I needed for just Sfr 2 and managed to snag a Swiss flag mug for the same price. The best news is that the Brocki’s profits go to a wide range of charitable causes.
Best for food: Markthalle Im Viaduct
Protected beneath the late-19th-century stone railway viaduct in Kreis 5 is the superior food market Markthalle Im Viaduct. Stacked with both local and imported fresh foods and artisan products, its one-stop shop for culinary treats is Berg und Tal. Cheese lovers should zone in on Tritt Käse, which stocks over 180 different Swiss, French and Italian cheeses. The staff are happy to let you sample the cheeses before buying – a popular one is the richly flavored Schnebelhorn ( Sfr3.10 for 100g) made in the canton of St Gallen. For Sfr 28 per person, Tritt Käse can also set you up with a DIY fondue set, cheese and bread included, to borrow for a picnic in Josefwiese, a nearby park.
Best for books: The Travel Book Shop
Naturally, I have a soft spot for travel book shops, especially when they’re stacked with Lonely Planet guidebooks I’ve contributed to. Tucked away in Zürich’s Old Town, The Travel Bookshop has been going strong for half a century. Run by genial Regula Weber since 2012, she’s happy to advise on their extensive range of guidebooks, travel literature and inspirational pictorial titles – mostly in German but also in English and French. “We try to cover everything,” says Regula. If you’re planning a hike in the Swiss Alps this is the place to pick up a folding map. And should you like a memento of your Alpine adventures, then I can’t think of anything better than the wooden-framed Kümmerly & Frey 1:500,000 scale relief map of the mountains (Sfr 134).