Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland, located in the Northern part of the country near the parameter of the German border. Bisected by the river Zimmat, the city is an esoterica of coloured buildings, winding metropolitan streets and picturesque riverside views. This is the story of one drab weekend in November (pre Covid of course), when I decided to make the most of my “Voie 7″ card and booked an AirBnB for a brief getaway weekend to the wealthiest and most expensive city in Europe. My preferred method of travel is slightly ‘off the beaten track’, however if you are seeking inspiration of how to design an itinerary for a weekend in Zurich then I hope this post will plant a few seeds at least.
My initial response to arriving in any new city is to soak in the atmosphere and judge the aesthetic landscape. Despite early apprehension upon seeing the drab, grey housing estates in the outer districts, once I stumbled into the centre of the old town everything seemed to take on a brighter hue. Quite literally. The buildings are a higgledy collection of pastel blocks, complementary and charming. My first meal (a selection from Co-Op’s finest salad bar) was significantly improved by the panoramic view of the river and row of shops, framed by spindly autumnal branches.
Things To Do
My priorities when travelling revolve around both nature and city dwelling, and so I tried to divide my time equally between the two in Zurich. Day 1 (Saturday) was all about exploring the city.
One of the most unexpectedly fantastical sights of the entire weekend was the Giacometti hall – or, more simply put, Zurich’s central police station. You enter the building and step into a regular looking police station reception, except – hang on, reception? This is a police station, yet there is a small queue of tourists behind you and a man in uniform asking to see a form of identity. This is because the main hall of the police station is an ostentatious, dazzling beautiful display painted on high, arching vaulted ceilings painted by the Swiss sculptor and painter, Augusto Giacometti. I would highly recommend popping in to see this sight – a municipal building unlike any other!
Cabaret Voltaire (Dada House)
Dadaism was an avart-garde art movement of the early 20th Century, and one of the earliest centres was in Zurich (the Cabaret Voltaire). The Dada movement developed as a reaction to World War I, and it consisted of artists who “rejected the logic, reason and aestheticism of modern capitalist society instead expressing nonsense, irrationality and anti-bourgeois protest in their works” (source). The Cabaret Voltaire museum is a small but phantasmagoric display of boundary-breaking, cutting edge art. Perhaps the nicest touch was sitting in the artsy, spacious bar afterwards sampling the renowned absinthe (served on ice, with water to diffuse).
The Grossmünster Church
Admittedly, I didn’t spend a whole lot of time at this one, as it mostly consisted of posing outside for photos before deciding it was too cold to be standing around posing for photos. However, the impressive monastry church is one of four major churches in the city and it is a Romanesque-style Protestant church well worth a visit (even if just for the photos).
Food and Drink
This restaurant holds a Guinness world record for being the oldest, continuously open vegetarian restaurant in the entire world. The main attraction seemed to be the self service buffet, where you are charged relative to the weight of your food. Despite not being the most incredibly flavoursome vegetarian food I’ve ever sampled, the range was wide and the food scrumptious. The dessert was a particular highlight, with the plum crumble being one of the best crumbles I’ve ever been lucky enough to devour in my life. I’m still searching for that recipe to this day.
I decided to end my trip by making the trek into the Üetliberg moutain, a mountain in the Swiss plateau that is known for it’s scenic hike routes and sweeping views. There is a look out tower once you reach the summit (easily accessible by train from Zurich’s main station). I have to say, the landscape and views over the city were absolutely breathtaking and I only wish I could’ve captured the near-mystical quality of the toy-sized city framed by sweeping mountains on the horizon.
To anyone considering a short stay in Zurich I would highly recommend finding a cheap, central AirBnB room and going for it. The city is bustling, beautiful, unique – and I feel like I only just scratched the surface.