A SUMMER IN SWITZERLAND: Zurich

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Admittedly – it has been a loooong while since our last post – too long. But sometimes it takes a vacation to get back to inspiration. Time – a highly valued commodity in our lives – simply does not always allow us to do what we really love: sharing unforgettable memories, secret places and experiences. There is also something called job and “duties”. But isn’t it the highest discipline to combine all of those things – our job, duties and the things we love in life? Therefore we made the resolution to put “Cashmere and Honey” back to life.

I’ve spent most of the year and summer in Zurich (Switzerland) – unexpectedly, but not at all unwelcome as this city and its people really grew very close to my heart. I am affectionately calling it my “second home” by now – although “home” means “staying in a hotel for the last 9 months” in my case. You might wonder how I can call a hotel home…and I would not have thought this possible either.

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The first time I entered the 25h hotel in Zurich West my immediate thought was that this place was too “hip” for me given I was travelling for business. However, I very quickly started to realize that giving it a second chance was a very good decision: the staff is super friendly, rooms are stylish (make sure you take a “gold” category room though), breakfast is really yummy (try the Croissants!!), the little gym, sauna and adjacent rooftop terrace are mostly empty (making it veeeery relaxing) and the location (Kreis 5) is absolutely “up and coming”.

“Up and coming” is the general theme that I have (surprisingly!) come across all over Zurich. So I’d like to prove wrong everyone believing that Zurich is a sleepy little Swiss town where there is “just not that much to do”. It’s actually all about discovering new places while enjoying tradition. It’s about good taste, love to detail and great food. It’s a place where young and hip areas with a refreshing creative lifestyle mix with cozy cobblestoned little streets where time sometimes seems to have stopped. It’s about the mix of contrasts, about the wonderful symbiosis of “calmness” and “vibe”. Zurich – a city that tries to re-discover itself in a time when working hard and enjoying life do not need to be mutually exclusive. I find Zurich surprisingly refreshing. This place makes you (in a very charming way) aware that the good things in life are priceless: like enjoying your morning latte with a view on the Zurich lake and its distant mountains on a sunny day or spending your lunch break swimming in one of the “Badi” on the Limmat (the river running through the city of Zurich) – I never got back to the office after lunch so revitalized!

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THINGS I LOVE MOST ABOUT ZURICH:

  1. Its size – allowing you to explore nearly everything by foot or bike
  2. Its natural beauty – spending just 10 minutes of your lunch break enjoying the view on the lake will re-energize you for the rest of the day – promised!
  3. Its love to detail – just walking through the old part of the city on a sunny day and looking at the beautiful houses and small little boutiques is sooo relaxing
  4. Its green oases – just to name one: the Lindenhof with its beautiful view over the city
  5. Its sweet treats – it is not a preconception, Swiss chocolate IS the best! But what is even better: “Luxemburgerli” from Sprüngli (see below)

So here are my recommendations for “things to do, places to eat, places to drink, places to relax and places to shop”.

THINGS TO DO

Picnic at the lake: Take a stroll from the city center down to the lake; at Bellevue walk down to the lake to find a nice spot for a picnic. If you prefer it a little bit more “lively”, look for a place right at the beginning of the lake, where often artists and musicians entertain; when you like it quiet (like I mostly do) walk a bit further and pass the Badi “Utoquai” before looking for a nice spot to sit down and unpack your picnic hamper ;-). Do not forget to stop by Globus`delicatessa (Bahnhofstrasse or Bellevue) to fill up your basket.

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Spend the afternoon at one of Zurichs “Badis: I was astonished about the prettiness and cleanness of Zurich’s public places – one of them being its famous lake-side Badis” – outside swimming pools right at the lake or river Limmat (so you basically swim in lake/river water which is super clean here, coming straight from the mountains). What I at first had found quite funny and old fashioned, I have learned to really value in the meantime: genders are strictly separated in most of Zurich’s Badis; a Badi is either dedicated to women or men only. It can be quite relaxing not to think about how you look in your bikini for once (especially when it is still beginning of the summer). For women visit the Badi Stadthausquai – I am sure you will feel like back in the 60s (only Grace Kelly-like bathing suits and swimming caps are missing to complete the scenery); for men visit the Schanzengraben Badi – which at night by the way turns into a really nice bar called Rimini (also women allowed at night!).

An afternoon at the Kunsthaus Zurich: Perhaps the fact that I am definitively not an art expert led me to the very wrong assumption that an art museum in Zurich cannot be that exciting. I was very wrong. Now I am a permanent member – visiting whenever I can spare 30min of my lunch break. Its current exhibition – Cindy Sharman’s “Untitled Horrors” – is definitively worth visiting (the title speaks for itself), but also the permanent exhibition has a great variety of artists and ages.

Explore Kreis 5 and “Im Viadukt”: this is the heart of the above mentioned “up and coming” Zurich. Here, you’ll find lots of very nice & distinct interior design and fashion shops next to a food market. For a break visit Josefwiese (a little park full of young families enjoying their picnic on a Sunday afternoon) or Frau Gerolds Garten. On “Josef Street” explore the nice cafes and little stores lined up next to each other. On some weekends Josef Street hosts a flee market. Also see below for more detail on the “Im Viadukt”.

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RESTAURANTS

A. My favorite Italian places:

Ristorante Italia – my absolut favorite! Very laid-back Italian place. If the weather is nice try to get a table on the terrace. Right away it makes you feel like being on vacation in Italy; try the “Linguine nere con gamberi, panna e pomodori” or “Trofie al pesto Genovese” (my tip: try both by making sure whoever is accompanying you to dinner is sharing with you); try some of the fresh cured meat (or salumi, how it is typically called Italian style) as a starter. Reservation definitively recommended!

Morgenstern – the local Italian restaurant in Kreis 4. Try to get a table in the front. My favorite dish: ravioli burro el salvia.

Bindella Group: Bindella has several Italian Restaurants, all in the city center. Compared to the places mentioned above they are a bit more “upscale”. Food is very good though. Especially when you are after fresh fish Bianchi is a good place to dine. Vallocaia is located in Niederdorf (the old city of Zurich) on a street with several restaurants and bars; the restaurant’s interior will make you feel like being in a lodge in the Italian mountains. Try one of the risotto or pasta dishes.

Gerold Chuchi – do not be scared to enter this place which is hidden in what looks like an old warehouse in Kreis 5. The syle: vintage interior design, chandeliers and checked tablecloth combined with mirror balls and a DJ desk. “Mix and match” is the motto when it comes to food: combine your favorite pasta with one of the frequently changing sauces to select from. Even though the food is basic, it is good and the atmosphere is definitively worth a visit.

Rosso – definitively one of the best (and largest) pizzas I had in a long while. The menu offers traditional pizza as well as new creative interpretations of it. Be sure you are coming hungry… Located in what looks like an old industrial estate, long wooden tables, dimmed light and concrete floor give it a cool and cozy atmosphere at the same time.

B. Lake side places:

They are good for dinner/drinks alike and obviously best during the summer when you can enjoy the outside terrace and lounge areas. I mostly go on Sunday afternoons for an Aperol Spritz and some nibbles: Seerose, Fischers Fritz, Quai 61 (roof top area), Fischerstube.

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C. Quick bites:

Sternengrill at Bellevue – best sausage in town.

FOOD HALL at Globus Bellevue – self-service restaurant, which serves good Asian food as well as Sushi, Tapas, Salads and Sandwiches (good for lunch but also quick dinner).

D. Nice summer places:

Zurich West:
Frau Gerolds Garten, Beer Garden at Josefwiese or Restaurant Viadukt. While enjoying pasta, burger, tarte flambee, a cold beer or a mojito you can feel the typical “vibe” of Zurich West – a meeting place for singles and families alike. Enjoy the summer with tasty simple food, refreshing drinks and good (live) music. Alternatively: have a picnic on Josefwiese – I can promise you, you won’t be the only one with this great idea.

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City centre:
Grieder Roof Top Bar – on top of one of Zurich’s finest shopping addresses you will find a green oasis where between boxwood and Ibiza chillout music you very quickly feel like being on a holiday. Be careful not to forget the time and your next business meeting :-). Serves breakfast as well as lunch and of course Aperol Spritz and Espresso (not open for dinner).

Strozzi – I typically go here to relax and get an Espresso after shopping on a Saturday or to take a quick Italian bite at lunch during the week. Very nice courtyard just off Bahnhofstrasse with a relaxing atmosphere.

E. Other places definitively worth a try:

Times – what looks like a really fancy, old car garage serves fantastic food in a stylish atmosphere – try the Wiener Schnitzel.

Helvti Diner – a typical American Diner with tasty and really big burgers and fries! Try their “creative” sauces on the side.

Gauchos – for me a bit of a hidden gem in a small side street in Kreis 4. You would definitively neither expect such an amazing Argentinian steak nor such a cozy ambience; not a place you just “find” by accident. So here I would like to give a big thank you to a friend who brought me here for dinner after a really stressful day at work – just the right place to enjoy a glass of red wine over dinner and call it a day. Btw – they also have a good lunch menu.

Josef – very much hyped for its style. I have to admit I would grade the food average compared to other places mentioned on this blog – BUT experimental for sure. “Sharing is caring” is the motto at Josef – a restaurant named after the street it is located on. Simply order 3-4 “mini” dishes per person and enjoy mixing and sharing. This is definitively the right place when you are out with a larger group of friends. Good music, young crowd, and not at least the mirror ball atmosphere just put you in the right mood for a Saturday night out.

Maison Blunt – a place I wanted to try in a long while but still have not made it. Supposed to serve really good Moroccan food in a relaxed (not typical Moroccan-like) atmosphere. Swing by Dante for a drink afterwards (see below).

Ginger and Tao – places I also have not tried myself yet – but if you are looking for Asian cuisine or sushi (something the above list does not much focus on) worth trying. Both places are rather “upscale” and located in the city centre.

BARS
La Stanza
 – it does not matter which time during the day or which day during the week, La Stanza is the place to go if you are looking for a relaxing atmosphere and “people watching”. If you are not in the mood (yet) for wine or gin tonic try the really good Italian espresso – the best I had in a looong while. On Saturdays come along for the “Aperitivo”, where pasta and nibbles are served from 4pm or 5pm. PS: do not worry about sitting on the tables/window stills – this is the way to do it here…

Rimini – what normally is the “Männer Badi” during the day becomes accessible also for women at night and turns into a nice summer bar; enjoy relaxed after-work drinks.

Widder Bar – cozy “English-style” bar in the old part of the city center; take a seat on the red leather sofa for a good glass of red wine in chilly winter nights. You might also want to have a look at their life jazz music program.

Terrasse – very conveniently located if you are looking for a sundowner and you are on your way from a shopping trip in the city center to the lake to enjoy the sunset. But make sure you grab a table outside.

0815 – nothing too exciting or special, but conveniently located if you would like to meet for an after-work drink close to the main station.

Rio – during the summer one of the nicest inner-city cafes/bars to get an espresso, Aperol, or gin tonic (depending on the time of the day :-)). The style: urban Zurich mixed with mid-summer party flair. Red metal chairs, gravel floor, colorful fairy lights…

Dante Bar – a local bar with the size of a living room and a clean style. The right place for gin lovers or simply everybody who looks for a trendy “after dinner bar”. The place can be quite crowded and loud on the weekend (but as long as you are not on a romantic date I would regard this as a “plus”). Do not forget to take – or even better: use – one of their napkins – be creative – it might secure your next Saturday night or lunch date in a charming way ;-).

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CAFES / BRUNCH
Adlisberg
– an old farm house, which serves good Sunday breakfast/brunch buffet in the old cowshed. Optimally located to take a nice walk through the forest and fields after an extensive brunch. How to get there: either go by car or take the Dolderbahn from Römerhof.

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Grieder Roof Top (see above) – just the right place to meet the “girls” for lunch or (in my case) escape from the office for a 30min break to enjoy an Aperol on a sunny summer afternoon.

TeeCafe Schwarzenbach – not only a small café but also an old colonial style “convenience store” selling everything from tea, candied fruits and fresh pasta over the counter.

Goethe Bar – in the summer enjoy sitting outside on the “Sechseläutenplatz” with view on the opera; in the colder months enjoy a hot chocolate at the bar inside. Nice place to meet for lunch or to simply have a coffee while reading the newspaper.

Sprüngli – one of Zurich’s most traditional coffee houses, which has expanded all over Zurich by now. Besides good breakfast (Bircher Muesli – a very traditional Swiss breakfast dish), fresh sandwiches and salads the sweats are a MUST try. One thing I really very quickly got addicted to after “moving” to Zurich were Sprüngli’s Luxemburgerli (the Swiss answer on Laduree’s Macarons – just a thousand times better!); especially the “Gold Champagne Luxemburgerli” are absolutely delicious. Best to go to the branch at Paradeplatz if you would like to sit down; perfect spot for people watching if you manage to grab a table outside.

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WHERE TO RELAX (SPAs)

Labo SPA – heaven on earth. A place to forget everything around you and simply relax – either after a stressful day at work or too much shopping or sightseeing :-). Relax in one of their “cocoons” and try the lime peppermint lemonade before your treatment. Try the “Back in Shape “ massage or a pedicure at their foot lounge.

Beauty Space – you have ruined one of your nails and are urgently looking for a quick fix? Then this is the place to go. Good value for money but the wait can be quite annoying (no appointments); a nice view on the lake and 1, 2 or 3 cups of Nespresso coffee will shorten the wait if you are visiting their Bellevue branch.

Even though very pricy – if you are looking for the ultimate indulgence try the Spa at The Dolder Grand.

WHERE TO SHOP

Im Viadukt – a location not less extraordinary than the stores located in it. The Viadukt is a train bridge built in the late 19th century. Already back then craft shops started to establish themselves under the arches of the Viadukt. Today the Viadukt is hosting interior stores, a food market (offering fresh local as well as exotic products), restaurants, a bike store, galleries and fashion shops. If you are “trophy-hunting” for the latest interior design pieces (be it a vintage side table or a pepper and salt mill in neon orange) Im Viadukt is THE place to look for it. Also do not miss http://www.walterwalter.ch/, a (vintage) furniture and accessories store which is located very close-by on Geroldstrasse 15.

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Zaubernuss – a little store hidden in the old part of the city. Founded by three sisters who are selling hand knitted socks, baby gifts and other individual handcrafted pieces. The place I always go first when I need a cute present for a newborn.

If you are on the other hand “designer brand hunting” and are after the latest fashion trends: Grieder and Grassmann are the department stores to look for them. Also browse through Trois Pommes (Weggengasse 1, Zürich).

 

Ok, this is about it for now. Just one last thing: I have traveled to India to find a “deeper sense of life”, I have traveled to Bali to find calmness and my “inner-self”, I have traveled to the Himalaya to “enjoy the unlimited beauty of nature” – but I think I have never been so much at peace with myself on any of those journeys than since living in Zurich. Even though you would normally associate phrases like “nurturing the soul” and “expanding the horizon” with far away Asian countries – this is what I have actually found in a country in the middle of Europe – Switzerland. So I hope you will take some time to visit and enjoy it.

Day trips and weekend trips from Zurich to follow….

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