Zürich – A Box Filled With Chocolates
23 November, 2015
“It turns out that in 1917, Einstein, Lenin and Joyce coincided in Zürich.There, Einstein lectured at the ETH, Lenin busied himself preparing the Russian revolution, while Joyce wrote Ulysses. The city is growing on me every day.”
These lines were posted in the Facebook profile of a Spanish friend living in Switzerland’s largest city. She also writes, and is somewhat revolutionary. She doesn’t lecture, that we know of, but it’s early days still. What is such a Mediterranean girl doing in a place like that? The moment we arrived there we had our answer. You can enjoy the vibrant cultural scene, its restaurants, its lake, the river Limmat, its parks, the silence and its modest size as cities go, meaning you can cross it by tram, or be tempted to cycle or walk around it.
Did you know that what the Swiss miss most when they travel is bread? That the owner of the legendary Café Odeon was able to build it thanks to the money he won on the Spanish lottery? That muesli was invented by the physician, Maximilian Bircher-Benner, from Zürich University, and that the historic Opfelchammer restaurant, a favourite of the local novelist, Gottfried Keller, allow you to carve your name on the beams if you drink enough wine? You imagine there is a luxurious city awaiting you, having forgotten that the Protestant Reformation started precisely here 500 years ago and that all ostentation was banned. Like filled chocolates, Zürich holds out surprises. You never know what you’re likely to come across.
Zürichis not an economical destination, but there are ways of reining in your expenditure. Before setting out to discover the city, buy a ZürichCARD. It permits you to catch the train from the airport to the city, where you can take all the tram lines and gain free (or discounted) entry to over 90 establishments.
If you fancy dining at a traditional – yet modern – spot, make sure you head for Haus Hiltl, Europe’s longest surviving vegetarian restaurant, dating from 1898. It offers a buffet with a choice of over 100 specialities – you pay according to how much you fill your plate – in addition to a bookshop, store, culinary studio and bar lounge.
If you’re into the eclectic, you should drop in on Les Halles, an erstwhile warehouse which doubles as a restaurant and market and is famous for its moules frites (mussels with fries). There, you can also buy and eat sausage, cheeses, wines and other delicacies from the old Europe.
If you prefer to dine in a formal atmosphere, make your way to La Salle. They serve a fine steak tartare, various fresh pasta dishes and a classic, homemade meat pie with red wine and mashed potato sauce which you really must try.
You can while your way into the night at numerous bars and clubs, such as the Nietturm Bar, located on the top floor above La Salle. This stylish locale serves the Hugo cocktail (prosecco, elderflower syrup, sparkling water, mint, lime and ice), or you could order a glass of local Zürich wine while taking in the breathtaking views over the city.
If the weather turns nasty or you’re numbed by the cold, go on a cruise around Lake Zurich. And, while you’re at it, enjoy a Swiss brunch – with cheese, bread, salmon, jam, fruit and pastries – while vineyards and fairytale houses parade before your eyes as you drift soothingly along. The brunch-cruise only operates on Sundays and you must book beforehand through Zürichsee Schifffahrt.
If, on the contrary, what you fancy is hoofing it as much as you can, go for their street food. You can wolf down the sausages at Sternen Grill, a hot soup at La Zoupa and marroni (roast chestnuts) at the street stalls. If your stay takes in more than just the weekend, make sure you try their looped pretzels and the other bäckerei (bakery) specialities in season at Vohdin (Oberdorfstrasse, 12), a shop front that has been open since 1626.
If you can afford it, take up lodgings on the 10th floor of the Sheraton Zürich Hotel, located in Zürich–West, the in district. The rooms are spacious, bright and comfortable; wifi is free-of-charge and there are two culinary options – the Route Twenty-Six restaurant (from the 26 Swiss cantons), featuring sumptuous breakfast buffets, and the Café & Bar Nuovo,ideal for afternoon coffee or a nighttime Qüollfrisch naturtrüb beer.
If you fancy bringing back a genuine souvenir in your suitcase, head for a local supermarket and get yourself a mini fondue of Gerber cheese and a bag of Frey chocolates, two historic brands that will sit sweet on the palate. Although – be warned – it will never be the same as having a fondue at Adler’s Swiss Chuchi or hot chocolate at Péclard.
Make haste and savour the Swiss delights of Zürich! Check out our flights here.
Text by Carme Gasull (Gastronomistas)
Photos by Mireia Aranda and Zurich Tourism
23 November, 2015