The warmth of the rising sun creeps through the hanging plants of the apartment balcony on Asylstrasse, Zurich. Today will be another vibrant day. Zurich, as with much of Europe, is experiencing a heat wave this summer. Hot, humid, bright days, cooled by occasional showers bringing much needed relief to the heat. On this gorgeous day, in this beautiful city, the last Friday in July, my brother Gene and his Swiss fiancee Xenia celebrate their love and union amongst family and friends. A time to ignite new bonds and rekindle old relationships. A meeting of family and friends from across the globe. Travellers from Zambia and United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Germany, Slovenia, USA and United Arab Emirates, all to be greeted by warm welcomes from Xenia’s lovely parents and siblings residing in Zurich. Powerful, heartfelt memories will linger: the fragrant scents from bouquets of flowers, the smiles and tears of joy, the emotions created by this place, the occasion and the people.
During this wonderful celebration Xenia’s family spent quality time showing us the sights of Zurich. Thank you family Steffen. The first thing I noticed on entry to the city was the cleanliness. Zurich is a beautiful, spotlessly clean destination. Clean streets and clear waters of the rivers and lake. A few days in Zurich will leave you with memories of beauty, culture, age old architecture and character. Let us not forget some of the things the Swiss are famous for – their chocolate, their cheese, their sausage and their watches.
Here are a few “off the beaten track” things to do during a stay in Zurich:
- Walk around the Old Town. You will find beautiful architecture, unique doorways and ornate window decorations, interesting shops, quirky bars and restaurants. You can enjoy a private tasting service of special whisky at the Whisky Shop Neumarkt or enjoy huge jugs of Swiss beer and some tasty food at Kafi Schoffel.
- Shop in the centre. Bahnhofstrasse is filled will high end shops including those with Swiss favourites (watches, pen knives and cheese), placed a stone’s throw from Zurich main train station. This main shopping street connects Lake Zurich with the station.
- Have a tasty Bloody Mary at Hiltl Restaurant. Set in a building ornately covered in fake grass, this well-known and popular vegetarian restaurant has a street terrace planted with growing vegetables, giving it a more rural, natural feel. Another popular quirky open air restaurant and bar with tasty Bratwurst and Cervelat (Swiss sausages) is Frau Gerolds Garten.
- Cycle around the city and the lake. Hand over your travel documents as a deposit at Gratis Veloverleih von Züri rollt cycle points at various parts of the city and in return you will be provided with a bicycle to use for the day. One location is near pretty Pestalozziwiese Park located by Bahnhofstrasse Globus City department store. Zurich is a relatively small city with little incline. Cycling is a fantastic way to see Zurich. You might stumble upon on street art on Quaibrücke bridge or unique abstract art in the Town Hall building Stadthaus. For chocolate lovers, take a ride to the famous Lindt Chocolate Factory on the west bank of the lake. You can smell the inviting aroma of the freshly made chocolate as you approach.
- For an amazing brunch in a more contemporary bar and grill with some spectacular original art work, try out the varied menu of Bohemia.
- Take a Limmat River cruise or water taxi trip down the Limmat and some parts of the lake. The boats leave from many gorgeous locations. Bürkliplatz, for example has amazing views of Lake Zurich and the Alps in the distance. It is not only a boat dock but also a venue for art and entertainment events. For the more adventurous, some docks offer the option to rent a sail boat.
- Swim. The summer months are perfect to visit the city. The weather can be warm, with a few days of light rain, nevertheless fantastic for swimming in the rivers or lake. The water cleanliness is impeccable and you will be able to see the bottom of the lake when closer to the shore. A sign I noticed on the bridge stating “Keine Haie in der Limmat” – (no sharks in the Limmat) – words you would not expect to see! This is a “de-warning” saying that there are no sharks in the Limmat River – the main river running out of Lake Zurich. The text under the de-warning roughly translates that sharks are not welcome and the river is safe to swim in however should be conducted in “safe” areas i.e. not along boat routes (the Swiss have a curiously dry sense of humour). There are many stunning locations to swim. Here are a selection: on the lake – Enge Wiese in Arboretum Park; on the river – Flussbad Oberer Letten and Unterer Letten.
- Take the red train from Zurich main station to the top of Uetliberg (around 400m higher in altitude than Zurich) for the best view of the city, the lake and the Alps during the day. The walk back down the hill is pleasant in itself.
- Climb to the viewing platform among the twin towers of Grossmünster Church for an awe inspiring and impressive view of Zurich.
- Stroll along Limmatquai promenade on the borders of the Old Town and enjoy a mix of fashion, food and river views with a selection of riverside cafes and trendy shops experience. You can also take a city tour on a “classic trolley” with runs along this famous street.
- Visit a beer garden like Bauschaenzli Biergarten for Swiss beer, traditional food and outdoor dancing. You can check out their metal sculptures too and have a great view of the temporary street art on Quaibrücke bridge.
- Eat a traditional Swiss meal. A few of my favourites are: Rivella, a tasty soft drink made from milk whey; Zuerich Gschnaetzeltes mit Roesti, veal and mushrooms in white sauce with potato rosti; Hackbraten, meatloaf with green beans and potato wedges; Zander Chnuschberli, Swiss style fish and chips; Cervelat, a Swiss sausage. The Marriott Hotel offers a varied traditional food menu.
- Visit on der erste August (1st August). This is Swiss National Day, a national holiday which is a celebration of the formation of 26 member states (cantons) of the Swiss Confederacy. In the city of Zurich the day is celebrated with a street festival involving traditional dancing, music, food and beer. You can watch Alphorn – traditional Swiss horn blowing – along the banks of Lake Zurich. At night, the bonfires and fireworks begin. There are large firework displays over the lake and smaller displays along the rivers. Be warned if you are staying near the rivers, some of the displays carry on until the early hours of the morning. A trip up to Uetliberg will give you the best view of the firework displays.
Lastly, my top tips:
- Accommodation can be pricey. Airbnb proved to be a lifesaver. You will find rooms and apartments for a fraction of the price of hotels.
- Purchase a ZurichCARD travel card which entitles you to travel on public transport within Zurich city (trams, trains, water taxis, buses) and discounts on museum entry. Public transport is well organised, efficient and easy to use.
- Many Zurich residents speak English, however you may want to prepare a few Swiss German phrases to help you get by.
Bis spoeter Zuerich (See you later Zurich)
See more photographs on Facebook: Gregarious Gecko
Special thanks to Doris and Reto Steffen, Xenia and Eugene Goss.
This article is now available for download for offline reading and for obtaining travel directions (by foot, car or bicycle) to the points of interest mentioned. Download here: GPSMyCITY – Keine Haie in der Limmat – Off the Beaten Track in Zurich