Hidden Zürich - Design Bureau

Neumarkt 17 ↓

Maison Blunt ↓

Freitag ↓

Freitag REFERENCE Editorial Space ↓

Thema Selection ↓


Hidden Zürich

Monday, June 27th, 2011

With an area of only 35.5 square miles, Zürich officially qualifies as a small city, but that doesn’t mean that it lacks hip spaces. Behind its reputation as a financial and shipping center is a dynamic cultural scene. And although they may not be completely obvious from the street, edgy hotels, restaurants and fashion houses abound in Zürich’s compact quarters. These hidden gems make Zürich an ideal place to visit for anybody who wants to experience a large amount of culture packed within a small amount of space.

Neumarkt 17

From the outside, Neumarkt 17 appears to be an unassuming white building along a continuous street wall in Zurich’s Old Town.  But inside, the furniture and homewares gallery opens up into a labyrinthine arrangement of sleek display rooms, connected by a drainage grate walkway system and suspended above a cerulean reflecting pool and lush hanging plants. Follow the grates to wend your way through a mock home that is furnished with some of Europe’s most chic interior décor items. Its downplayed façade may be easy to pass up when walking by, but Neumarkt 17 is a must-see.


Maison Blunt

Step out of Zürich and into Morocco within this Bohemian teahouse. A cool crowd convenes here to drink pricey peppermint teas while listening to reggae and sitting atop colorful, oversized pillows. As pictured, the peppermint concoction is served in a full-sized glass with salad-like, leafy-green mint sprigs.


Les Halles

As the story goes, this former vegetable wholesale market started off with just two tables and has since grown to become one of the coolest restaurants in the city. With its mismatched chairs and tables (we dare you to find two exactly alike), sticker-filled walls and ceiling-turned-hanging-bike-rack, Les Halles really is one of a kind. Check out the adjacent organic food market for a bite on the go.



As a producer of cool accessories made from used truck tarpulins, seatbelt straps and airbag innards, Freitag has quickly become synonymous with Zürich’s sustainable street style. When the eco-friendly company needed a new place in which to sell its collections, converting old shipping containers seemed apropos. Zürich firm Spillmann Echsle Architekten piled up 16 gutted and reinforced containers to build out four floors of retail space, and affectionately nicknamed it “bonsai tower.” The Freitag store has become a tourist destination in the hip Zürich West neighborhood, a post-industrial area that went unvisited for years. Freitag’s roof deck even provides a clear view of Zürich’s Hardbrücke transit bridge, the visual inspiration for the Freitag brothers' first line of bags.


REFERENCE Editorial Space

The lesser-known sister to the hippest messenger bag brand in Europe, REFERENCE is more than just an accessories store. Sure, the REFERENCE space also sells bags in a variety of shapes and sizes, but unlike the colorful sacks Freitag is known for, these take inspiration from old horse-riding newspaper messengers and employ a muted color palette. Plus, REFERENCE has its own printing press where it crafts the day’s headlines by cutting and pasting words together from a variety of newspapers. Oh, and it serves coffee, too.


Photos by Nici Jost

Perla Mode

This newsstand and creative space is better described as a house of oddities rather than as an art and design gallery. Don’t believe us? Check out its recent show featuring musical sheep.


Café Schöber

Upon first glance, this coffeehouse appears to be small and cozy, but inside is an enchanting four-story European patisserie and confectionery, with each room revealing a different décor. The café, known for its elaborate wedding-cake creations, is steeped in history: Theodore Schöber started his namesake coffeehouse in 1875, in a building that dates back to 1314.


Thema Selection

This former-butcher-shop-turned-boutique features a well-curated offering of clothing and accessories for men and women. The building, which dates back more than 100 years, still maintains its original flooring, casings and Italian-style frescoed ceiling. Come to check out the colorful scarves from resident designer Sonnhild Kestler, or relax in the reading room with a collection of rare design books and magazines from around the world.



This unassuming store offers an expansive array of design and architecture books, magazines and other periodicals from around the world in—what else—a simple white space.


By Kristin Lamprecht and Kathryn Freeman Rathbone
Photos by Wallo Villacorta

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