When you think of hip European cities, Zurich might not be top of your list, but it should be. Much more than just watches, bankers and chocolate, Zurich has a design scene and nightlife that begs to be explored by the culturally savvy. Here’s a small taste of what this city has to offer:

To find the coolest parts of Zurich, you need to get away from the historic Old City, where most of the tourists hang out. There are two neighborhoods that you’ll want to devote your time to: Zurich West, a former industrial sector where artists and designers have set up shops, galleries and collectives, and Langstrasse, the former red light district (that has almost been cleaned up, but it still a little seedy in places) that now houses the city’s hottest clubs and bars.

When exploring West Zurich, start out at the Viadukt, a series of railway arches that have been turned into independent boutiques selling designer clothes that you won’t find elsewhere (lots of Swiss and Scandinavian designed togs), accessories and cool stuff for the home. Stop at the Frietag store to grab one of the iconic messenger bags made from truck tarpaulins, and admire the store built from stacked shipping containers. Just wander around, because there are neat places to explore in every side street.

Langstrasse is all set around the main road of the same name, and although there are still girly bars, porno theatres, and a few dubious characters around, this is where Zurich’s beautiful and hip people hang out.

During the daytime, you’ll want to explore underground galleries and boutiques, which are listed in a handy directory named Kreislauf 4 + 5, which you can pick up at any of the stores in the area.

Nightlife in Zurich kicks off late, and it probably isn’t worth hitting any bars until 9pm at the earliest. Start your evening at Volkshaus, a bar and concert venue housed in a heritage workers hall (the night I was there the ax Oasis front man Liam Gallagher was doing a secret gig with his new band Beady Eye). If you’re in the mood for karaoke or a poetry slam, the Acapulco Bar is a local’s favourite that stays open way later than it legally should. Café Casablanca is a smaller, quieter bar with a carefully curated drinks menu. If you’re in the mood for late live music and dancing, then Bagatelle93 is the place to head.

After a crazy night, recover at the Thermalbad Spa, which is housed in an old brewery and harnesses natural hot springs in a series of pools, steam rooms and spas that you make your way through until you reach a roof top pool that affords views over both the Alps and downtown Zurich. Try to be there at sunset, because there’s surely no better way to view it than in warm water on a rooftop overlooking one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.