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Talking Heads and hotels in Zurich

Offbeat Archive

Buildings and rooftops in Zurich with Swiss flags

Our Music Consultant, Simon Eltringham hit Switzerland’s biggest city for a 24-hour trip of David Byrne gigs, record digging and boutique hotels…

Think of Zurich and most will imagine a city full of global banking hubs and insurance firms. Now as uninspiring a city getaway as that might sound, that side of life is of course, only part of the bigger picture here.

Classic Swiss efficiency has me deposited in the city from the airport in just a few minutes, putting the cultural and historical landmarks of this central European beauty at my feet. It’s a surprisingly hip destination, mixing the old world with an arty and bohemian modernism, that’s transformed former industrial spaces into an international foodie hub that’s not all simply made up of chocolate and cheese.

But food isn’t the reason for my trip (this time). I’m here to pay a visit to one of Music Concierge’s European clients - Widder Hotel.

Springing up and out from Switzerland’s best and most famous jazz bar, this 5-star boutique hotel took a decade of painstaking work, lovingly remodelling the interiors of the surrounding 15th century townhouses to create a dazzling yet understated urban escape that mixes super modern with medieval.


An enlivening hour or two, scribbling down fresh ideas and music inspiration, as I soak up our playlists in the Widder Bar & Kitchen, provides the perfect prelude to the evening ahead.

A happy coincidence has put me in town on the same night as the triumphant return of former Talking Heads frontman, David Byrne, performing in the intimate confines of the ‘Theater 11’ venue, uptown. The staging is ambitious, the acoustics in the space are phenomenal, and the show itself is a blur of rapturously received classics spliced with robust new album cuts. The crowd emerge from the show into the warm summer evening air looking elated and dazzled. It’s the perfect end to a great day as I hop onto a tram back to the hotel for some much needed shut eye.


Up with the sun for a sumptuous breakfast followed by a tour of Widder’s extensive wonders and secret spaces, I’ve got a couple of spare hours before my flight, to see what musical gems the city’s record shops have to offer.

It quickly becomes apparent that Zurich has a bank balance troubling network of very good new and second hand stores all within close proximity of each other. My first stop, Hum Records, is a blur of stunning new music and obscure reissues, filled with sunshine and soul. Everything is really well priced too, there’s just so much that I want! I select the essentials then leave before I get a worried phone call from my credit card provider.



A few blocks over is OOR, as good for cutting edge new sounds as it is for imaginative musical categorisation. The likes of ‘Feminist Killjoys’, ‘Wordy Rappinghood’ and ‘Inside The Outside’ may not make sense on paper, but once you’re flicking through the racks, their curious navigation system makes perfect sense. Directly opposite OOR is 16 Tons, a veritable emporium of classic furniture and masses of second hand vinyl. The A-Z’s span jazz in all of its forms, soundtracks, Japanese pop, Mexican folk music and so much more. I find pretty much every record from my most recent wish list, and all in perfect condition. A further string of second hand stores and I’m contemplating a very frugal summer ahead!

Time for a beer and a pretzel at the airport I think…

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