48 hours in Zurich
Zurich is one of those cities where the old meets the new, and I feel the old city most exemplifies the essence of Zurich. It's unforgivingly modern, but its innovation and grungy grassroots all roll into an unmistakable charm. I always like to start out first in the old city, get the sights in and from there open up to the newer parts of the city. My favourite? It's a walking city! You can cycle or take the tram but walking took me plenty of places in 2 days.
The first time I visited Zurich was on a work trip a lifetime ago, when time and exploration were second to business. I only glimpsed a part of this city and spent most of my time in hotels and restaurants I didn't pick. The second time Zurich beckoned, Shawn and I popped into Zurich as our first stop on a road trip towards Germany. We forgot (again! every time!) that businesses closed early in Europe as well as on Sundays, so we missed out on a few things we really wanted to see. Still, we got quite a good piece of Zurich in 48 hours and I got a second introduction to this lovely Swiss gem.
DAY 1: Zurich OLD TOWN
Start your breakfast in the middle of Altstadt (German for "old city"), where a number of flourishing cafés offer up sumptuous starts to your day. Café Zahringer is one place known for its history, an eco-friendly co-op café (people can co-own the café) with homemade and organic foods. Since Zurich was fairly impromptu for us, we had our morning coffees here while we planned for the rest of the day. We decided since time was short to stay in the old city and explore.
The weather was perfect in November when we visited and great for a lovely stroll by the river after. I LOVE the cold weather. It's the only thing that makes me walk more and my excuse for genuinely not jogging. From Zahringer it's a breezy walk to the Grossmünster cathedral. The most recognisable part of the cathedral are its twin towers.
Walk the length of the river to the far end of the city, past the main street shopping street, Bahnhofstrasse. On weekends, bazaars pop up where you can peruse antiques. There's a lot of curiosity laid out - old spoons, frames, pots and lamps from days gone by.
Neumarkt is just one of many streets in the old city lined with stores that feed a shopper’s art cravings along its stretches. You'll find galleries like Kunstwarenhaus, we like it for its variety in creativity and affordability. There are also many book stores with vintage volumes. You're not likely to find a lot of English language books, but if coffee table books are what you're looking for there's plenty to rummage through here.
I found shopping to be extremely expensive in Zurich. Comparatively we've shopped in Germany and most of Europe quite affordably for lovely quality items. Things of necessity are sometimes also priced above average, which I suppose is good so you don't shell cash out for "treats" too often? I say that to myself thinking back to how easy it is to have MULTIPLE meals in places like Thailand.
When we were done exploring Neumarkt we walked back up to Bahnhofstrasse and stopped by the well known Confiserie Sprüngli for desserts. The cafe is right at the heart of street and a good place to park yourself for a sweet treat while you watch the trams run up and down and some folks out and about on a weekend.
Once you’ve got sightseeing and shopping under your belt, rest up at my favourite place in all Zurich, the restaurant Zeughauskeller, for ale and a meal. I sometimes turn a blind eye to menu items that say "MUST EAT" but in this case I heeded them all and recommend others do the same. We had the whole pork shank, rosti, sausages, and I am in love with the dreamily delicious Kalbsgeschnetzeltes nach Zurcher Art: panfried sliced veal and mushrooms in creamy white wine sauce. Best had with noodles in my opinion.
After dinner walk off the humorously rich meal down Niederdorfstrasse, a cobblestoned part of Zurich’s old town with plenty of bierhalles for evening tipples. The Niederdorf and Oberdorf area are filled with bars, DJs, strip clubs and has quite the raucous nightlife setting, different from when it's just shops in the day. Sometimes there's a lively band playing, if you're lucky, folk music.
DAY 2: Modern Zurich
The old city's vintage-y charm fades with each block that you venture out, past the Zürich Hauptbahnhof train station which is the hub of Zurich's old city. It's a bit of a marvel to look at the apartments and offices that mark a city, always a bit of fun to just stand there and wonder at the inhabitants in there going about their daily lives. I'm always aware how a little creepy that can look like - me just standing at the corner street looking up into windows.
We stopped by Café Lang for a brew to get us started. Very chill vibe and the coffee is good while you people watch. After the morning cuppa, a stroll through the Museum of Design is a great place to look at some really good work, they have exhibits on all things design - typography, polaroids, and more.
The Viadukt is a stretch of shops built under and above the railway viaduct built in the 19th century. The refurbished stretch combines hip eats and boutique labels and is a great look at local designers. If you've been here tell me it's good because we missed out on the one day they're closed and we were so sad staring into darkened windows! Once you've passed the Viadukt you're on your way to the Freitag store, which is worth checking out because the shop is made entirely out of stacking containers. They're a fantastic brand I honestly WANT to own, though I've never been willing to shell out enough to buy one of their designs since I may not use it that often.
So, no surprise, Freitag was also closed. We were really bummed out by everything being closed but we wandered by chance into the Yonex Badminton Halle Hardbrücke and found a bar! Never ever saw this before! We ended up having a few (cheap!) drinks and watched the locals play. So while we didn't do any shopping that day it turned out to be nicely chill and we almost got into the mood to play a few rounds of badminton ourselves.
If you stay in the area the cluster has got some clubs. Club Supermarket, in particular, is well known as a pioneer in the Zurich West nightlife scene for electronic music. It's right next to Frau Gerold’s Garden, a makeshift area of combined stacked containers that forms a restaurant, rooftop bar, fashion shops, and a club complete with a heavy disco bar hanging in the space between stacked containers. The scene changes in summer and winter so there's always something new going on. There's been talk for years of this space being taken back for use to build a commercial mall, but so far they're still going strong!
What do you love to do in Zurich?
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