Last week, a reader wrote to me to say that Swiss Lark had inspired her and her husband to visit Zurich this summer! Naturally, I was thrilled. She was looking for tips, so I offered to put together this post for her. Gathering all these photos and ideas made me remember all the many reasons I love Zurich in the summer! When the weather cooperates, it's pretty tough to beat. All my favorites and must-sees, straight ahead!
The first thing that came to mind was Allianz Cinema (formerly Orange Cinema). To call this an outdoor movie is a massive understatement. A temporary complex of bars, restaurants and stadium seating are erected right on the lakeside. It's dreamy and luxurious, yet intimate and cozy! Go early to reserve good seats and eat dinner on one of the upper decks. Then enjoy an Aperol Spritz as the sun sets ahead of the show. The Zurich dates for 2016 are July 14 - August 14 and you can buy tickets here starting July 1st. Choose an American or other English film that says VO with d/f for subtitles. It will be in English with German and French subtitles. Do not delay in getting tickets on, or shortly after, July 1st! The Swiss think ahead and tickets will sell out quickly. You can read all about when J and I went here.
Frau Gerolds Garten is a super cool, ultramodern outdoor restaurant made from recycled shipping containers. Most of the food is grown on site and the restaurant transitions from hip eatery by day to relaxed, laid back club scene by night. You can read all about it by day here. Frau Gerolds Garten is located in the Hardbrücke area of Zurich, which has lots of good restaurants, bars and nightlife in general.
Grilling by the lakeside is one of the best things about Zurich in the summer. Make sure to snag an airline blanket or two to have for going to the lakeside. Take the 2 or 4 tram to Höschgasse. Then, pop into Coop or Migros and ask for an "Einweggrill". It's a ready-to-go grill, already loaded with charcoal and lighter fluid, and with a little stand. All you need is a match! The Coops and Migros also have loads of ready-to-grill mini meat and veggie kabobs and the like. Grab some red wine, chips, grapes or whatever strikes your fancy. Refrigerated drinks are not super easy to come by, but D-Vino (also at Höschgasse tram stop) has refrigerated champagne and wines. Don't forget cups, wine opener, etc. But, there will also be so many people down at the lake, you can probably ask for whatever you need anyway. :) Go early evening to the Blatterwiese lawn and stay long after the sun sets.
The Zurich Kunsthaus has a really impressive permanent collection and it's free on Wednesday afternoons! Just go into the concierge desk and ask to see the permanent collection and they'll give you a little S badge to clip on your lapel. Lockers and bathrooms are downstairs.
Go swimming. All around the city are public Strandbad, or in Swiss German, Badi, for swimming, relaxing and sunbathing. Our favorites are Tiefenbrunnen and Enge. Bring a towel and suit, picnic and drinks, or purchase on site. There are floating docks, in-lake pools, diving boards, grass and beaches, locker rooms, bathrooms and more. It's pure heaven! Check out all the Badi right here and look for See or Strandbaden.
Take a self-guided walking tour of the Old Town. I've put together a little map for you above. Start at the Neumarkt Tramstop. Walk west toward the Neumarkt square with fountain (1). Then get lost in the little alleys and work your way up over the hill and back down again to the Cabaret Voltaire where the Dada Art Movement was founded (2). Continue on Munstergasse which will take you along some of the shopping area in the Niederdorf. Follow this to the Grossmunster (3). Go inside to see the stained glass windows and on a clear day, climb the stairs to the top for amazing views of the city. From the Grossmunster, go down the stairs to Teddy's Souvenir Shop (4). It is awesome!!! Cross the Helmhaus Bridge and head on into the Fraumunster with the famous Chagall windows (5). Continue on and up through the alleyways to the stairs with Roman ruins (6) leading to St Peterkirche square (7). Then wind your way to Augustinergasse (8), one of the loveliest streets in the city, before finding yourself on the Bahnhofstrasse (9). More on the Bahnhofstrasse later! Finally, head back into the alleyways to make your way up to Rennweg, a cute street with fountains and flags and shopping (10). Finally, climb the long stairway up to Lindenhof where you'll finish with gorgeous views of the river and city. If anyone would like a full size copy of the walking tour map, just email me!
The Bahnhofstrasse is a must-see, even if you don't buy anything there. You'll find every luxury item in the world from Jimmy Choo to Louis Vuitton. There are loads of jewelers and watchmakers. In fact, a few weeks ago, there was an actual diamond heist on the Bahnhofstrasse. Paradeplatz is home to Credit Suisse and UBS, so you'll see lots of well-dressed bankers out for lunch at noon. And be sure to stop into Sprüngli Confiserie for delectable Luxemburgerli and fine Swiss chocolates.
One of our favorite places to shop is Im Viadukt in Zurich West. It's right near Frau Gerolds Garten, and also just next to the Freitag Flagship Store, another must-see. Im Viadukt opened in 2010. It's a totally unique shopping experience with many restaurants and cafes as well.
The Burkliplatz Market is your quintessential farmers market and flea market. You'll find all sorts of delicious veggies, fruit and local meats and fish. There are also incredible flowers and a really sweet bistro where you can sit for hours chatting with friends and drinking coffee.
Like everything else, food in Zurich is mind-bogglingly expensive. You'll experience enough sticker shock for your entire life while visiting there, so I've chosen some really cheap eats to share with you here.
Spuntino at Bahnhof Tiefenbrunnen doesn't look like much, but it is the best Kebab you'll have in Zurich. Get the Dürüm Kebab mit Pommes. Be sure to add the spicy sauce (Scharf) and you will not be disappointed!
Tschingg on Oberdorfstrasse has awesome takeaway pasta, fresh fruits and smoothies. The pasta is always al dente and the rotating selection of sauces and toppings are authentic and delicious. Try the arrabiatta if it's available!
Miracle Restaurant and Bar was our old neighborhood place, but it's known as being some of the very best pizza in all of Zurich. They're so old school they don't even have a website. Don't let that deter you. Order the pizza with prosciutto and add the mascarpone. It's worth the extra francs!
The trams, trains and boats will take you everywhere you want to go. Depending on how many museums you want to visit, it may make sense to get a ZürichCARD for 24 or 72 hours. My mom and brother did that on one visit and were very happy with it. Otherwise, you can get punch cards for 24-hour tram passes within the city limits. These are available at the ticket windows in the airport or at any train station throughout the city. Don't ever take a taxi - they're prohibitively expensive and totally unnecessary. Depending on where you stay, you might be able to walk most everywhere and won't need to spend much on tram tickets anyway.
One little tip: on every tram ticket machine, you can select a "Kurzstreck" or Short Distance Ticket and it will list the available stops. If you're tired of walking at the end of the day and are within 8 or so stops of where you're going, that can be a good option. But for roundtrips, it's doesn't make sense as for just a few francs more, you can get a full 24-hour ticket. A Kurzstreck is only good for 30 minutes within the allowed stops (usually 8 or so from where you stand).
Where to Stay
This is the hardest recommendation for me to make as I never stayed in a hotel in Zurich! My first recommendation would be to stay in the City Stay Apartments in our old street in Seefeld. It's the perfect location, in my opinion, and also gives you the option of cooking at home rather than eating out. They have weekly rates that aren't terribly reasonable, but aren't outrageously over the top, either. If you look into Airbnb, search for something in the city center or Seefeld. You want to be close to the lake and the tram.
If you're in Zurich on August 13, 2016, you'll be there for Streetparade. We've never been because we always had a baby, but I can tell you that it is insane. The city fills up with people who come from all over Europe. The trams do not run. It's nuts. If you love techno and dancing in the streets and seeing people in crazy half-naked costumes, then you are going to love it. If you would rather avoid that and all the noise that goes along with it, by all means, take a day trip. Luzern and Pilatus is a fantastic option.
One last thing...
If you decide to do a day trip, try to decide ahead of purchasing any tram or train tickets. It may make sense for you to get the Half Fare Card. If you can tell the ticket window person all that you're planning to do during your time in Switzerland, you can trust them to make sure you get the most sensible and best-priced tickets. Also, be sure to have your hotel address handy so they can give you specific directions to get there!
The Swiss are very helpful and organized. It's quite a lovely place to be a tourist. That said, they are very attached to their rules and customs. I would say don't speak loudly on trams or in public. But, no stress. Summer tends to be more relaxed. Soak up the beauty, spend as much time outside as possible and enjoy! xo
(Photos via 1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 21, 23, 25)