Last year, I worked for a travel company that had its Head Quarters located in Switzerland. It happened, that I was asked twice to hop on a plane for a very short Zurich city break. This was a fantastic perk, but, as this was a work trip, my time exploring the city was always cut short. BUGGER!
BUT in the few visits that I’ve been there, I have seen and experienced a bit of Zurich.
Do you have plans to travel to Zurich too but only have time, let’s say 1 day in Zurich? Perfect, then you may want to read on.
*Side Note: I’m aware “Zürich” is written with an Umlaut, but to make my post more user and search-friendly, I will refer to the city in my post as “Zurich”.*
Arrival, First Impressions & What To Expect
Most cities in Switzerland are fairly small and easily manageable in terms of sightseeing. Zurich makes no exception. It’s a very picturesque spot surrounded by the Alps with a refreshing charm. It feels like you’ve stepped into a different world once you get off a 2h flight from London. The pace of life is much slower in Zurich and its calm nature immediately hugs you a warm welcome.
The city is handsomely small and the centre can easily be seen in a few hours. Everything is safe and walkable. It’s a stark contrast to London where most of your time is taken up with travel that equals a world tour. Zurich is a city of short distances. My journey from the terminal building to my desk at the office located right at Lake Zurich took me 30 minutes.
The journey was comfortable and you’ll notice the Swiss value high-quality trains. I got the impression that the quality of life is extremely high: the streets are impeccably neat, the houses have beautiful facades and people are very happy and friendly. A stroll along the city centre makes it very obvious, that this is a culturally rich and affluent city that has a strong economy and attracts a lot of international businesses.
Zurich is located in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. It is the country’s second-largest city and very affluent.
The Bahnhofstrasse is plastered with designer shops. People cycle or walk which all contributes to a healthier work-life balance. All of this sounds amazing and thriving, however, it’s a different picture come 6 pm. Zurich’s energies slow down dramatically after work hours and the centre is dead.
Living in such a high-quality city comes at a price and the tag is hefty! Switzerland is known for its quality of life and higher wages. This comes with a notorious nature for extensive living costs, so be prepared! You may get a shock if your lunch amounts to £30 per person, but it’s completely normal in Zurich.
Food in Zurich
When you travel to Zurich, you’ll see that it has a superb dining scene. What would a trip to Switzerland be without the national classic Cheese Fondue? But there are other cultural cuisines, which are worth exploring. On all my trips, I never ate badly in Zurich.
Thanks to work expenses, I treated myself to a typical Swiss dinner at Le Dézaley for Cheese Fondue. On another night, I discovered Australian cuisine at Outback Lodge. The dining scene is a diverse mix of cultures and quality. If you’re like me and are adventurous with food, you will definitely venture into new culinary territory.
Here are my recommendations:
Lunch Options in Zurich
££ Puro or Milchbar (Paradeplatz)
Both are lovely bistro-style restaurants and offer healthy and quick lunch options. There are salads on the go or you can also sit down for lunch. The menu changes quite often but you’ll always find a mix of healthy meals teamed up with local cuisine. Plus a safe Italian option (pasta mostly). Lunch comes around £30-50 for starter/main/dessert
£ Bakery Jung (Paradeplatz West) has some very nice German sandwiches. Think seeded sourdough bread filled with salad and brie. Absolutely delicious! You can also order freshly pressed orange juice and buy typical German pastries. Sandwich and juice come £15, pastries around £5.
If you fancy some quick and easy fast food, B.Good (Old Town, £) might be the place for you. They serve the usual sweet potato or chunky fries alongside build-your-own-burgers. It’s usually pretty busy around lunch but luckily there’s a high turnover so you don’t have to wait too long for a seat. Your lunch will cost around £16.
Dinner Time: Swiss or International Cuisine – You Have Choices!
A typical Swiss restaurant is Zunfthaus zur Zimmerleuten (Old Town, Limmat Ufer, £££). Here they serve Rösti, Cordon Bleu, Schnitzel, skinless pork (aka fat) and other savoury dishes. Be prepared for a massive food coma afterwards. Swiss, and generally German, food is very heavy and takes a lot of time to digest. I ordered the Zurich Stew (Zürcher Geschnetzeltes) which was made from pork and came with a lovely potato rösti. It was exactly what I needed after a long day at work and a cold -6 degrees outside. They do serve Fondue. However, they only do so in winter and only outside since the Fondue makes a lot of steam. The steam and smell would cloud their cosy restaurant chamber and is therefore served outside.
Le Dézaley (Old Town, £££) was rated by Easyjet Magazine as one of the top-secret spots for Swiss Fondue. On my second visit, I went there of course. Together with my colleague, we ordered two sets: the classic traditional Cheese Fondue and a Black Truffle Fondue, alongside sliced bread.
We’ve been seated by a lovely Swiss waiter. He loved talking to us and was fascinated to learn about our international lifestyle. The whole experience just made you feel welcome and very cosy. The fondue itself is quite the experience. You have an open fire burner station on the table to keep the cheese nice and smooth. The bread is a great addition as you easily overeat the cheese and may feel sick after a while. Having a slice of plain bread clears your palate. For dessert, we ordered Italian Pannacotta which was sheer heaven and super smooth with a lovely vanilla flavour.
Another dining highlight in Zurich was Australian restaurant Outback Lodge (Stadelhofen, near the Opera House, £££). The restaurant is tucked away in the back yard and only the many fairy lights outside hint at the entrance to another world.
In the summer, you can sit outside, literally under the stars, and enjoy amazing food. On my first visit, I ordered their Bushtrucker Rolls (sweetcorn tortillas with lovely Australian chilli) and on my second visit, I went big and tried Kangaroo entrecote with green beans, papadum and tomato salsa. Yum! Both times I loved the food and Outback Lodge was an absolute must for me. Yep, Australian food is absolutely delish.
Switzerland has a variety of cultures and is a multilingual country hence why there are also many Italians living and working here. The best Italian restaurant as recommended by my colleagues is Don Leone (three locations, Waffenplatz, ££).
We had a team dinner after our social and ordered big time: we started with a sharing platter filled with burrata, ham and tomatoes, then went on to pizza, pasta, calzone, Dolcetto, arancini and pannacotta. I have no idea how much we spend in there but the atmosphere was lovely, the food was very authentic and delicious and I would come back anytime.
Where To Get Swiss Chocolate in Zurich?
Oh, what would a Zurich city break be without tasting Switzerland’s world-famous chocolate?!? The “Rolls-Royce” amongst Swiss chocolate is Läderrach and you’ll find their shops on the Swiss High Street. The chocolate is manufactured in big slabs so when you go there you’ll pay by weight (like when you go to the butcher) rather than by bar.
They have all sorts of flavours and combinations, and part of their success is the very smooth texture and a high portion of cocoa beans in the chocolate. A bit more down-to-earth but equally sophisticated is Sprüngli, which has several cafes in the city centre. Their chocolates are very nice and moderately priced. And then there’s, of course, Lindt (to me overrated) and Kambly (try their mountain top biscuits).
What To Do And See During A Short Zurich City Break
The city is surrounded by breath-taking mountain scenery which is approximately 40 minutes away by car. You can go hiking and skiing or just enjoy the sun in one of the many chalets and Après Ski cabins. There’s also Lake Zurich with its crystal-clear water.
When you travel to Zurich in the summer, you can eat ice cream, go swimming or take a boat trip. In general, the Swiss love their rivers and are very outdoorsy people. They love to experiment with water sports. The same applies to the river Limmat which ends in the Lake. Just before the bridge, there’s a women’s lido and you’ll regularly see people jumping into the river in the summer to cool down in their lunch breaks.
Then there’s the Opera House which is stunning at any time of the year but it is especially worth visiting in the pre-Christmas period when the markets are on. Then there’s also the Old Town on the East-side of the river which is a pedestrian zone seamed with old, fairytale gingerbread houses. Independent shops seam the cute little alleys which invite you to get lost.
It feels like you’ve been transported back into medieval times and you’ll find yourself admiring the houses and their delicate facades. There are water fountains telling stories of the area. Keep your eyes open. There’s much to see and to discover in the Old Town part of Zurich.
You can also explore the area in the other direction, around the Opera House. There’s a path along the water which invites for long, relaxing strolls. For excellent views over the town, head to the university on the hill. There’s a tower platform with awkward opening hours but also a viewing platform directly in front of the library. The Polyterrasse offers a gorgeous 260-degree all-around panoramic view over Zurich.
The city is Europes’ thriving business hub and is well connected to other cities such as Bern or Milan. It is easy to get on a train and do day trips to nearby places.
For a bit more action, I can recommend the Lasertag Arena (Waffenplatz). I’ve never done it before or played paintball, but during one of our team socials, we played two rounds of Lasertag. It was soooooooooooooo cool and so much fun! You’ll be given a laser cannon and wear an electronic vest. Once split into teams you are released into a dark labyrinth with lots of places to hide and the main aim is to “shoot” the other team. It’s a lot of fun, action and a pretty good workout since you’ll be constantly on the move.
Last But Not Least: Where To Stay In Zurich?
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Like everything in Switzerland, accommodation is rather pricey. The Old Town has some small, independent hotels and on both of my visits, I stayed at Hotel Rössli. The rooms are cosy and clean with a modern interior.
The beds are super soft and usually, I’m having a hard time falling asleep in hotels, but here, I actually managed to fully relax. The location in the pedestrian zone of the Old Town guarantees no sirens or heavy traffic will disturb your peace. There may be some drunken people in the pedestrian as there’s a small pub downstairs by the hotel.
So there you go, these are all my insights I can share for any short Zurich city break. It’s a lovely place and ideal for a weekender, pre-Christmas city break or romantic getaway for Valentine’s Day.
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Till next time,
* Cover picture: Picture Credit & Photographer: Switzerland Tourism / Jan Geerk
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Barry7 March 2022 at 11:14 pm
Looks like we walked the same streets and saw the same buildings when I was in Zurich – a beautiful city. I also noted the affluence here, you can’t miss it! I knew nothing about Swiss chocolate but now I feel educated and know my Läderrach from my Sprüngli and Lindt. I have a Lindt store near me in the UK, but have never explored or heard of the other two before. Those restaurants all sound great and if I’m ever back in Zurich I’ll bear them in mind for a visit. That hotel looks fabulous and teh rooms so cosy and modern – it advertises itself as 3 stars but looks more 4/5 stars, I guess that’s Swiss standards for you again.
Paul (Paul Passing Through)8 March 2022 at 8:00 pm
I don’t know why, but it’s so interesting to me that you have to sit outside for fondue at the one place. That must be some steamy cheese! The Old Town sounds love, though, with all the fountains. Last, laser tag is great! We used to play all the time in high school.
Carina | bucketlist2life8 March 2022 at 11:45 pm
You certainly managed to see more in your limited time in Zürich than I did. It’s such a gorgeous city!
Chalk and cheese travels9 March 2022 at 9:58 am
Fondue, chocolate and some great sights sounds like a fantastic place to visit
Tiffany9 March 2022 at 8:06 pm
That black truffle fondue sounds divine! I haven’t been to Zurich since I was a kid, but it still looks as pretty as I remember. Great suggestions on where to eat and what to do.
Clazz - An Orcadian Abroad9 March 2022 at 9:41 pm
Wow, looks like such a beautiful city! I also now really want a cheese fondue. So cool that you got to go there for work! Probably helps make it a bit cheaper that way too, haha.
Pam12 March 2022 at 2:26 pm
Switzerland was so magical to visit – and Zurich looks like it is too! We only got to spend one day in Switzerland. So colorful – and how could you not have fondue!
JoJo Hall12 March 2022 at 2:55 pm
Such a beautiful city with a lot to offer for a traveler. I’d love to visit here one day, explore around, and try some Swiss chocolate and fondue.
Emma12 March 2022 at 3:26 pm
Zurich is certainly pretty enough, not sure about the prices of food though. That will really eat into the budget. But the chocolate and cheese fondue would totally be worth it to me. Lucky you, getting to visit such a lovely place for work
Renee12 March 2022 at 6:04 pm
Cheese and chocolate – yes please! I think I would go to Zurich simply for the food. I also love a good German bakery, so Bakery Jung would be my ideal spot to get a delicious German sandwich or enjoy kaffee kuchen. Nice to know it’s a city where you can spend a day there and still feel like you’ve got a sense of the city in a short time.
Peggy Zipperer17 March 2022 at 10:48 pm
Such a charming & beautiful city. You can’t go wrong with fondue, chocolate and those walkable city views.
Gus21 March 2022 at 8:50 pm
Great short and sweet guide to explore Zurich seems like such a beautiful and fun place to visit!