Zurich, a charming Swiss town set at the tip of it’s very own lake. There’s plenty on offer for all; from culture vultures, to gourmet guzzlers (like myself)!
We were lucky to have visited last weekend and spent three amazing days exploring and immersing ourselves in this gorgeous city. Whilst I may not be able to to give you a full insight into what Zurich has on offer, I shall certainly give you a quick round up of what we were lucky enough to see/eat/do. Hopefully this post will inspire you to go on a Swiss adventure of your own.
We decided to take the train from Geneva which takes around 2 hours and goes direct to Zurich’s main station; Zurich Hauptbahnhof. The train journey starts off adjacent to Lac Leman (Lake Geneva to you and me) taking twists and turns throughout breathtaking scenery and rolling pre-Alps. Fixed time train tickets can be a bargain if bought in advance and the trip should cost you no more than £60 return.
The festive season is in full swing throughout the city – there wasn’t a scrooge in sight. It’s association with Christmas markets is famed across the continents and many people travel every year simply to take in the atmosphere and pick up pre-Christmas bargains. So much so, there are spin offs popping up around the UK, which is great if the budget can’t quite cover the cost of flights (the two I have already visited and would recommend are, Southbank Christmas Market, London and the German Market on New Street, Birmingham). On arriving in Zurich, we were greeted by our first authentic Christmas market – INSIDE the station itself!
We headed to the tourism office in the train station to grab a map. I would certainly recommend you pick up a Zurich card which entitles you to free travel all over the city on the large public transport network, free entry to a whole host of museums and galleries and hundreds of discounts on restaurants and shops in the centre. Plus, a free boat trip around Lake Zurich. We certainly got the most of our our passes! (For 3 days – 80chf /£53)
We stayed at Mercure Hotel Stoller (****), around 10mins outside of the centre. We were lucky enough to book just at the right time and nabbed ourselves a fantastic deal from hotels.com – half the price of more centrally located hotels we were considering previously (£60 p.night for 1 double room). Zurich is extremely accessible with plenty of public transport options available so the journey in and out of town was never a problem nor concern. The hotel is conveniently located a short stroll away from one of the main tram stops (one or two minutes max). The room was clean with ample facilities and even a stocked mini bar which we were able to use free of charge (for all soft drinks / tea / coffee). We felt we had certainly fallen on a real “large hotel chain” gem.
After dropping off our bags at the hotel, we traveled back into the centre to explore and take in the atmosphere. To sum up my first impression in one word, I would probably go for “quaint”. The cobbled streets with gothic architecture are a home to a diverse mix of shops from general high street to high end designer, traditional swiss couture to quirky boutiques. Of course, I made a bee-line for Zurich’s equivilant of Oxford St – Bahnhofstrasse. One mile of pure shopping ecstasy! Just off the main drag, one thing I would certainly recommend is walking up to Lindenhof hill – a small public square with great views of the Limmat river and Schipfe quarter.
To rest our legs, we stopped in for a quick drink at Grand Cafe Motta on Limmatquai which over looks the river and perfectly located for people watching. Oozing Italian elegance, its cocktail menu is extensive (no surprise there!) and we finally managed to decide on two glasses of Prosecco to toast our arrival. Had we not been looking forward to finding the best fondue in Zurich, we would have certainly tucked into one of the sharing platters made up of a variety of antipasti and charcuterie (think olives, parma ham, cheese straws, and bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar). Prime spot for a pre-dinner drink but don’t short change yourself by sitting inside – this place is all about the positioning!
So on to Day 1’s pièce de résistance – the traditional Swiss Fondue. We had spotted an advert in our Zurich guide for Swiss Chuchi – a restaurant settled within Zurich’s Old Town on the busy pedestrianised Hirschenplatz. Embrace the tourist trap as this really is a restaurant offering an immersive experience and we felt, despite expensive, a fondue is a must do in Zurich, so why not spend a little more to be in the busy yet relaxed environment of Swiss Chuchi.
Choose from fondue or raclette, the recipes of which have been passed down through the generations (we had one of each so we could try them both!). The boy chose Adler’s cheese fondue with ham and I chose a raclette with veal escalopes. The raclette was delicious and came with a large tray of crudite (gerkins, sweetcorn, pickled onions etc), potatoes and my own little stove to melt the cheese and fry the veal. A nice addition was some poached pears amongst the crudite. On first thought, I didn’t think the strong flavours of the cheese with the sweetness of the pears would work, but to my surprise, it was utterly delicious! The fondue was served with a large hunk of bread to skewer and smother in the cheesey dip. Complement your fondue or raclette with a pint of ‘bier vom fass’ (local draft beer).
One thing we did miss out on was the ‘rosti’ potatoes so don’t make the same mistake! This restaurant offers good quality traditional Swiss grub. Due to it’s location, it does get very busy so I suggest you reserve a table in advance. Prices start from 25chf per person (£17) for a traditional fondue or raclette
The boy was NOT a keen fan of his fondue, but here he is putting on his bravest face!
That’s it for day one, watch this space for day two.