So, we landed in Switzerland a week before Christmas. Zurich sort of feels like the inside of a snow globe – tiny cobblestoned streets, church spires rising into the sky and twinkly lights dangling above the roads. It is the perfect place to get you into the Holiday spirit. It is also small and there’s something so nice about that. We only had two days there and whilst we did not get to see everything, we certainly felt we got a good taste for the city.
Walk. The city is small enough that you can walk most places. The above ground trams are great but don’t be afraid to just walk it.
Old town. I think 3pm is the perfect time to go visit. See the churches and the architecture in the daylight. Once it goes dark, the city lights up and old town is filled with alleyways and Holiday markets.
Holiday markets. Even if you are a scrooge, these will get you in the spirit. The markets are buzzing with people and there are so many delicious Swiss goodies on display – eat wurst here with some hot mustard and a paper plate. Grab a glass of Glühwein (hot mulled wine) and walk the market with a rosy glow to your cheeks. Holiday markets are everywhere, be sure to visit the one in the train station – it has a huge Swarovski Chritmas tree. The best market is the one with the singing Christmas tree in Werdmühleplatz. A big platform shaped as a christmas tree with 5-9 year olds packed into it singing carols. It is the physical embodiment of Christmas spirit.
Visit Kreis 4 and 5. This is the new, hip area of Zurich. It’s a little more industrial but it is very cool. It’s nice to see the young life in a city so old. The tallest building in Zurich is there (a whopping 36 stories) as well as Im Viaduct, which is a series of shops set into the old stone railway arches under a bridge. Im Viaduct is a little pricey but it is a cool place to see and there’s lots of shopping to be had.
Walk to Lake Zurich. It is a beautiful view of the city and there are thousands of swans!
Les Halles is an adorable Swiss restaurant that was recommended to us by a friend who lives there. It is packed with people. You seat yourself wherever you can find a table. You go up and order mussels or wurst, you drink Swiss beer and listen to the loud chatter.
Zim Guten Gluck is great for lunch or breakfast. It is a hip little restuarnt that reminded us a lot of Brooklyn (except there was only one person manning the kitchen and there is a smoking room). The food was absolutely delicious and they serve your basic Swiss meals – mind-blowing muesli etc. But they also serve some Swiss delicacies that we’d never heard of – Pufferli. Try them. Trust me. Delicious.
Babu had the best pastries and cappuccino (as well as free wifi). It is the perfect place to stop and catch your breath (and a delicious sweet treat).
Sprüngli, Sprüngli, Sprüngli. The chocolate heaven in Zurich. They have stores all over the city but try to make it to their flagship on Bahnhoffstrasse. Glass cabinets filled with truffles all in a row – it was maybe my favorite part. Their chocolate truffles were out of this world. Plus, it is the best place to buy a yummy souvenir from your trip.
Frey is a great Swiss chocolate that they sell in grocery stores. It is very high quality and far more affordable than Sprüngli!
Food there is expensive. It was rare to find a meal less than 25 Swiss Francs – even at small, dinky restaurants. We were on a budget so we saved our good meals for the places above and made frequent trips to Migros the Swiss grocery store. First, I should say, I love being in European grocery stores. I could spend hours in the cookie aisle, the cereal aisle and the toiletries aisle. Second, the produce in Switzerland is excellent so why not enjoy a $4 meal of cheese and apples whilst you walk the city streets?
Public transportation is excellent. Truly. It is clean. It is on time. And, it is above ground so you actually get to see the city. Take the train from the airport – it takes 15 minutes to get into the city center. It is maybe the easiest, most comfortable airport to city journey I have ever experienced.
Place I wanted to visit but didn’t make it to: Volkhaus, for a hip meal.