My trip to Zurich was a bit of a revelation for me. Previously, whenever travelling to any city in Europe or even the US, I’d think about it in the context of living there. Visiting Zurich was the first time I actually thought about home more. It made me realise how much I love living in London. Zurich is beautiful – small, clean and convenient, but I didn’t realise how addicted I am to the pulse of London. I walk out of the tube in the mornings and am immediately energised by the hundreds of people zipping past me. I love the noise and the lights and the countless number of things to do on any given evening. Most of all, I love the fact that you just feel welcome in London – because there are so many nationalities living here, you never feel like an expat. It’s a great feeling to actually live in the city you’d pick if you could live anywhere in the world.
Anyway, this is a long overdue post about a week I spent on a ski trip in St Moritz, Switzerland (I’ll write about that more in another post.) On each side of the ski trip, I was in Zurich. Here’s my city guide to Zurich: where to stay, eat and play 🙂
Where to stay:
Luxury in the heart of the city:
If I could design a hotel, it would be Marktgasse. In the heart of the Old town, this boutique hotel feels luxe but welcoming at the same time – a very difficult combination to achieve. The rooms are huge and open plan, with a big desk and chaise lounge adding a homely feel. Decor is really stylish and the hotel goes the extra mile – think Nespresso machines in every room, and Aesop amenities. In terms of location, it really couldn’t get better. You’re walking distance from everything you need to see and do in Zurich. Also, I love the hotel’s on site restaurant, Delish, which is also accessible from the outside. It’s a cafe style deli where you have breakfast each morning, and it has a lovely vibe.
Quirky and Trendy in Zurich West
Situated about 15 mins outside the city centre, 25 Hours Hotel is located in an up and coming area of Zurich, similar to the Maboneng area in Joburg. It’s quite corporate and modern, and there are a few nice restaurants in the area, as well a really cool matchbox style shopping area that I’ll cover later. The hotel is functional (rooms are small and have very basic amenities), but the vibe of the hotel is awesome – there’s table tennis outside, fun colours and music, and it just feels like a cool place to be. I love the face that it’s slightly offbeat and fun – because if you’re in a city for a quick weekend break, it’s a lot more inspiring to be in that kind of environment vs. somewhere sterile.
We had a great meal at the hotel’s on site restaurant, NENI, which has a mediterranean inspired menu – lots of hummus, and the most delicious, soft pita bread ever. I loved that there was a live dj playing, which made it feel more like a buzzing restaurant and less like a hotel.
What to do:
In a city as small as Zurich, walking is a pleasure. The lake is the center of the city, and on a sunny day it’s lovely to stroll around the lake and watch the ducks. We also went up to a cool viewing point called Lindenhof that was beautiful.
For the best hot chocolate in Zurich, maybe the world, head to Cafe Schober. The only other hot chocolate I’ve tasted that comes close to this is from Angelina’s in Paris.. but this one is probably just as good, if not better.
Sticking with the sweet theme, Sprungli is a hugely popular confectionary shop – the macarons are good (not as good as Laduree though), and they sell specialist chocolate. It also has a nice vibey atmosphere if you want to grab a coffee. Note that not all branches have seating so make sure you’re going to the right one if you want to sit down.
I wouldn’t recommend buying chocolate here though – instead, go to any supermarket, and you’ll be shocked at the range of Lindt and other Swiss chocolate that is available. Lindor balls in every flavour possible! Switzerland is generally very expensive, but chocolate is the one thing you’ll find that is cheaper in Switzerland vs. buying it back home.
For traditional Swiss food in Zurich, Zeughauskeller is a great option. It’s a big, open beer hall, where you can get amazing schnitzel and enjoy a wide variety of beers. Bookings essential.
For something a bit different, try out Brisket for delish pulled pork Sandwiches, yummy nacho’s and every meaty dish you can think of. This area of Zurich (Hardbrucke) is more industrial and modern – it’s nice to check out and experience this area.
If you do find yourself in that area during the day, check out Im Viadukt which is a collection of little shops built under a bridge. There’s also a nice food market, and a few fashion shops. Fun to browse around for an hour or two.
Go on a day trip
Zurich is a great base to explore other cities like Basel and Lucerne. We went to Lucerne for a day trip. It’s incredibly picturesque and was a great way to spend the day – we walked around, visited a farmer’s market and enjoyed the views.
I enjoyed my time in Zurich, but found the city super quiet and subdued. I think I’m used to the craziness of London and also the fact that there’s hustle and bustle on the street 24/7. In Zurich, on Sundays, the city pretty much shuts down. That said, it’s still definitely worth a visit and is probably one of the more international cities in Europe.
More to follow on the ski part of our trip!