During the summer months, the areas around the lake and along the Limmat River and the Sihl River are where everyone in Zurich wants to be. This is particularly true of those in search of an evening's entertainment, who are well served by the many bars looking directly out onto the water.
Lake Zurich is one of the top attractions of the Limmatstadt district, which during the summer months attracts hordes of Zurich dwellers fleeing their stuffy offices in search of after-hours drinks.
Unsurprisingly, bars and restaurants jostle for space along the shores of the lake. A fine example is the Pumpstation, a small open-air bar right on the eastern lake promenade in Seefeld. It's the ideal location for sipping a beer while watching the sun sink behind the horizon, and anyone who gets peckish can enjoy a sausage from the BBQ or a salad.
A little further along the promenade is the oldest wooden lido-style bathhouse in Zurich, the Badi Utoquai, where (between April and October) you can take a refreshing dip in the daytime hours and quench your thirst in the nighttime hours. Finally, the trendy Lake Side restaurant and bar beside the Zurichhorn offers delicious morsels in a civilized atmosphere - the ideal place for sundowners when the day's work is done.
Opposite the Zurichhorn, on the other side of the lake, is the Ziegel oh Lac in the Rote Fabrik - a highlight of Zurich's party scene. As well as housing this bar-restaurant, the Rote Fabrik also hosts a packed schedule of live acts and events such as the “Fête de la musique de Zurich.”
Anyone who prefers to gaze out on the water without leaving the city lights behind should seek out El Lokal in Selnau, “the very last island on the Sihl,” which serves up a daily smorgasbord of food, cocktails and music in a Caribbean atmosphere - pina colada and caipirinha are also on offer!
The Kraftwerk Café, just a stone's throw from El Lokal, is also well worth a visit - what was once an electrical power station is now known as one of the hippest bars in the city. And rightly so: With its unique container architecture and culinary delights ranging from tapas to tzatziki to tempura, Kraftwerk has firmly established itself in the Zurich bar circuit. Be sure to try a Doppio Macchiato or a Bottomless Black when you visit!
Anyone in search of a down-to-earth venue will feel right at home in the Panama Bar at the Oberer Letten swimming pool or the Barfussbar (“Barefoot Bar” - yes, you do have to take your shoes off!) at the Frauenbadi public bath.
The Rimini bar, situated on the Schanzengraben - a man-made canal between the Limmat River and the Sihl River - is another laid-back venue, where you can not only enjoy sipping on a drink and listening to music, but also watch soccer games - and even recreate goals and saves on the foosball tables. The Rio Bar, at the confluence of the Sihl River and the Schanzengraben (and just a few minutes' walk from the main train station) also exudes a casual charm and is a great place to catch a quick beer.
Last but not least, anyone looking for a more unorthodox way to spend their evening should try out Citywave, Switzerland's only mobile surf pool, which is located in the hipster district of Kreis 5 within walking distance of the ibis and Novotel Zurich City West hotels, and which naturally has its own bar - cheers!