- Lifestyle & Sports
- 23 Oct 14
Artistic, modern, full of rich men in suits, the largest city in Switzerland, Zurich, is a scenic destination for every season. For those who can afford it!
Where is it?
In northern Switzerland, just south of Germany.
How do I get there?
Aer Lingus has daily flights from Dublin. With Teutonic precision, Zurich airport offers three ways of traveling to the centre of the city: tram, train or bus.
What language do they speak?
Switzerland has three primary national languages; French, Italian and German. Close to Germany, Zurich is German-speaking, albeit with a Swiss dialectical twist. The residents may initially seem abrupt. If you demonstrate you are at least trying to pick up the lingo they will melt in front of you (not literally), smile and reply in English.
What is the local beer?
Bottled and barrelled freshly in Zurich, Turbinenbräu has a selection of worthwhile brews. Gold Sprint is stocked across Switzerland, Start is the wheaty brother and Rekord is exceedingly malty, similar to what you might find at Oktoberfest.
Apenzella, a local ‘Alpenbitter’, is worth a try. Be careful: it is potent – the drink of hardy, bearded mountain-folk. The recipe calls for a ridiculous 42 herbs and spices. It can be mixed into cocktails, but is best enjoyed at its purest, on the rocks. Drinking, as with everything in Switzerland, costs money. Lots and lots of money. Expect to spend between 10-20CHF (€9-17) on a spirit and mixer, or similar drink. Stick to safe, predictable beer and wine which will be a (slightly) more reasonable 5-10CHF (€4-8).
What is transport like?
Buy a weekend or week-long travel card for best value. Public transport functions in zones. You can use your travel card on boats along the river and the Poly Bahn, an archaic ‘cable railway’ from the 19th century.
What is the food like?
Try a Cervelat sausage. Smokier and thicker than the Frankfurter, brains featured in the original recipe (a traditional mercifully abandoned).
Fondue is the mountain dish you’ve most likely have heard of. Both it and Cervelat can be served with Rösti, a potato dish like the crispy outer edge of a hash brown. For vegetarians Zurich is home to Hiltl. Advertised as the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world, Hiltl was founded in 1898 – pretty darned forward-thinking, you’ll agree. The food is amazing. There is also buffet, where you pay according to the weight of your plate.
What is the nightlife like?
The nightlife is eclectic, but expensive (are you spotting a pattern?). Bars and clubs tend to have smoking rooms rather than dedicated outside areas: the law is relaxed in such matters. After midnight rules are rolled back further. It is not surprising to see people lighting up on the dance-floor. For beers, head to Langstrasse, the red light district. Popular bars include Gonzo, which has an unlikely Hunter S. Thompson theme. Zukunft, meanwhile, caters to those who appreciate shiny mirror balls in really dark rooms. Later, hit the Plaza for student discounts and mainstream DJ sets.
Why should I go?
Zurich is beautiful and relatively unspoiled by tourists. Lake Zurich is gorgeous on a sunny day – the views from the city’s third level institutions, UZH and ETH, are especially impressive. Plus, there are rail-links to Germany, Italy and France. Trains can be pricey (has the penny dropped yet?): booking in advance is recommended. However, the experience of chugging through the mountains is not to be missed.
What are the touristy things to do?
No trip to Zurich would be complete without climbing The Grossmünster, one of three major churches in the city. From there you can enjoy amazing views. Bahnhoffstrasse, from the main train station (the Bahnhoff) to the lake, is one of the most expensive shopping streets in Europe, perhaps the world.
A few stops from the train station Freitag is a store fashioned from 19 shipping containers stacked on top of one another. There’s a bar just behind with festival vibe and views of Prime Tower, the highest building in Zurich.
Anything to avoid?
You may want to avoid following the river out of the city. It is possible you will come across nudist beaches. This is not quite the stuff of fantasy: Zurich nudists are pasty, weathered and hairy.
What should I bring home?
Fill your pockets, shoes, mouths and any other available orifices with cheese. I recommend traditional Swiss Gruyère: nutty, mature, yet smooth.
When Shall I go?
Zurich is great any time of the year. Winter turns the city into a snowy wonderland, spring is pleasantly warm, summer surprisingly hot.
What is my challenge?
Climb Uetliberg, a mountain adjacent to the city. You can cheat and take the train. However, there’s something to be said for slogging all the way on foot and basking in the view.
What is the currency?
The Swiss Franc (CHF).
Something to remember
Your coat, during winter.