Zürich: Expectations vs. Reality

Switzerland without mountain views

When I say Switzerland, you would definitely shout out The Alps! Anyway, Zürich, second-largest city in the entire country is not only about that. What is more, it’s not even about Swiss watches and happy retirees. Zürich surprises you with teal-water lake, human-size swans, and vegetarian paradise (more on that later).

Old city

The view from Lindenhof

Old city is always old city — some-century churches, plenty of museums, like-a-local cafés, and all that stuff. Zürich has its unbeliavably beautiful lake on top of that. You will definitely like walking through the streets in the center, just don’t spend too much time there. The city has a lot of spots hidden from backpackers that are fond of Starbucks (that’s about us and yeah, Starbucks is all over the city).

Start your walk at the train station and follow the path to Platzpromenade park. After that, just follow the lakeside for the best views. Try not to spend ages feeding the swans — remember, they are the only ones who gets food for free in Zürich.

Food in Zürich: Veggie is Life

Best coffee in town at MAME

As soon as you are tired and hungry from walking — oops, it’s time to spend a fortune on food :( Actually, while living here is surely expensive, the difference in prices between Switzerland and Germany is a few euros in most cases. Since you have to choose thoroughly what to spend money on, here is my piece of advise.

Tip: Locals have passion towards veggie places. The world oldest vegetarian restaurant was opened in Zürich in 1898 — Hiltl House. Or, for example, at Tibits you can try basically all specialties on the same plate.

If you are into coffee, skip Starbucks (that’s always the rule) and go to MAME. Locals say they serve best coffee in town, and we proved it’s true. Whether you want to taste different coffee bean flavours or just have a special dessert (espresso over ice cream), here is the place.

Zürich West: Young and Wild

After 11 kms of walking, we did a walking tour. And don’t be surprised, I advise you to do the same thing. Meeting point is Prime Tower, the building that is easy to find and astonishingly (I mean, astonishingly) high for Zürich. The thing is, Swiss have to get permission of people living in the area to construct any high building. Prime Tower managed to get enough ‘okays’ to become the highest one in the entire city.

Kornhaus Zürich: grain elevator

Second-highest building is Kornhaus Zürich, the highest grain elevator in the world. After voting to give a permission for its construction, the Swiss were disappointed at the appearance of the Kornhaus. They tried to cover the grey walls with flowers and leaves but the entire thing proved to be too expensive even for Switzerland.

FREITAG bag shop in Zürich West

Zürich has more to offer but old churches and crystal clear lake. This part of the city is famous for its FREITAG bag shop, artificial surfing park, experimental theater Schiffbau, as well as plenty of pubs, bars, and clubs. While people usually call Zürich West industrial, don’t expect to see dark-grey smoke — because of clean sustainable technologies, recycling factories here greet you with white clouds.

Recycling factory in Zürich West

Zürich: To Go or Not to Go

Travelling to Switzerland is usually costly, so should you actually spend money and time to visit Zürich? If you only plan to visit the city, it doesn’t make sense. Combining day trip to Zürich (don’t stay overnight, one day is absolutely enough) with mountain hiking in another town is your best choice.

The only final thought I want to share: Zürich is for living, not for traveling. Tram in the morning, vegetarian lunch at noon, and picnic at the lake in the evening are the kind of things you have to try to feel like a Swiss.

I write stories about my experiences and lessons learned in UX and product. https://www.linkedin.com/in/myroslava-domanitska/

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