The country of Switzerland is a charmer and as sweet as their chocolate.
From the ice-blue lakes and jagged mountains to cows everywhere you look to little villages tucked atop vibrant green hills, it’s postcard-perfect. I fell for the country the first time I trained through it right after college. But what I didn’t know? Zurich.
And Zurich did right by me. In my mind they city was all business all day. But my recent trip there taught me that Zurich is so much more than that. Museums, opera, high end shopping, lots of history, very international, and a bustling city neighboring a lake so, no matter how hard you’re working, you’re only a few steps from tranquility.
I enjoyed every one of my moments in Zurich but these are the things I dug most:
And, since Switzerland’s in the middle of Europe, well, you can do as I did and use the city as a jumping-off point to then head elsewhere. Oh, and the city itself? It’s right next to one of those icy blue lakes and makes the most of its situation, meaning you can culture yourself in the historic old town then lunch lakeside with locals.
Everywhere we went everybody was beyond friendly (okay, not so much that policeman who fined us for having the wrong train ticket but that was totally on us).
Seriously, people would just strike up conversation and help with anything from selfie assistance to directions.
Cheese and chocolate – need I say more? Okay, if that’s all I said that’d be underselling it.
True, you won’t go without cheese or chocolate anywhere in Switzerland but Zurich also has lots more when it comes to food. There are Swiss classics from Rösti to — my favorite new word — Geschnetzeltes, aka a local Zurich dish of veal in a mushroom sauce.
And The Wine
Aside from the Chasselas wine variety that you can find in some places outside of Switzerland where they serve fondue (they’re considered a food-wine match made in heaven), Swiss wine pretty much stays in Switzerland.
Which means you should make an effort to drink it while you’re in town. There are wineries within the Zurich area and, of all the styles I tried, the Riesling-Silvaner mix — especially from Gottlieb Welti winery — was my favorite.
You know I can’t get far without a good cup of coffee and, lucky for me, the Swiss are the same. From quality espressos to more contemporary coffee (my favorites were at Bovelli café), I was very happily very fully caffeinated alt all times.
And The Cocktails
The only thing they seem to take more pride in than their coffee are the cocktails. I ordered an Aperol Spritz on the regular and lots of Gin and Tonics but that was mostly because it was too hot to drink anything else.
I instantly fell for Milchbar where they served pour-over coffee and Gin and Tonics side-by-side. Also, there were a ton of interesting bars in Zurich West with all sorts of creative drinks but I only got time to explore a few.
The Active Lifestyle
The only way I can manage to travel for more than a few days is if I can be active. We walked and walked and walked around Zurich, clocking in more than 6 miles daily and the locals seemed to walk a ton too.
Also, because it was high summer, everyone was at the lake, doing everything from swimming to pedal boating to sailing. One of my favorite days was getting a taste of local’s summer life at Seebad Enge swim club where I got to sunbathe, swim, and stand up paddleboard with the locals.
Old Meets New
Zurich’s Old Town is breathtakingly quaint so you’re gonna want to play tourist and walk around it. From climbing the Grossemuenster church tower first thing in the morning for an amazing view to walking Bahnhofstrasse for world-class shopping (including the city’s best chocolate shops).
But also make time to explore the up-and-coming neighborhood of Zurich West. That’s I came across Frau Gerold’s Garten, a sort of artsy pop-up mix of boutiques and bars all in a sort of carnival atmosphere.
Yes, Switzerland is more expensive than other parts of Europe but I’ll let you in on a secret: smaller European cities tend to be cheaper to fly into than the major hubs and that’s the case with Zurich.
So, you can fly into Zurich and spend some time there even if you’re eventually heading somewhere else. And that pretty much works year-round because, no matter the weather, the city has super-efficient transportation with pretty much everyone speaking more proper English than I do!
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