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Having spent the last 10 years learning German, I felt I could not spend my year abroad in Germany without visiting the other major countries in which German is spoken: Austria and Switzerland. A few days before I flew home to England, my sister and I visited Switzerland’s largest city, Zurich. Despite being there for less than 48 hours, we were able to experience so much of the city. Here are some highlights of the trip, and a few tips for anyone travelling to Zurich!
Exploring Bahnhofstraße and the Altstadt (Old Town)
Known for its banking and celebrated Swatch watches, Switzerland definitely exudes an air of wealth. It also boasts an excellent quality of living, with Zurich placing second on Mercer’s 2016 “Quality of Living Index”. We noticed many indicators of this during our trip, one of which was the quality of water. Dotted throughout the city are 1,200 decorative drinking-water fountains, from which you are not only allowed but are encouraged to drink! Zurich – and the River Limmat flowing through it – is extremely clean and picturesque, but it is also culturally rich, with many historical buildings, churches and museums.
While the Bahnhofstraße is bustling with well-known and luxurious brands, there are lots of small shopping streets winding through the Old Town, where souvenir shops selling cheap piggy banks emblazoned with the Swiss flag are directly next door to pricey boutiques selling jewellery. Despite knowing that Zurich would be expensive, I have to admit that it was startling to see a £12,000 necklace in a shop window, and for it not to be the most expensive piece there!
Classic Swiss cuisine
Switzerland offers a unique dining experience, which is said to combine French, German and Italian cuisine. Specialities to look out for in Zurich eateries include the famous cheese fondue, raclette (a melted cheese dish), Rösti (fried potato cakes) and Zürcher Geschnetzeltes (veal strips and mushrooms in cream sauce). For those looking to marvel at pastries, cakes and chocolate, Confiserie Sprüngli is absolutely unmissable. The first store was opened in Zurich in 1836, and Sprüngli has since blossomed into a high-street favourite, with fourteen shops around the city. Chocolate is crucial to the food scene – after all, Swiss chocolate is world renowned!
However, prices in restaurants and cafes can be outrageous (be prepared to pay the equivalent of £4.76 for a basic latte in a Zurich Starbucks!) If looking at menus here makes you flinch, one tip would be to visit the hot food counters in the Coop shop near the Hauptbahnhof (main train station), where you can weigh and box up food to take away.
The city by boat
Probably the best purchase we made (aside from a fabulous wooden cow) was the “ZürichCARD”. Only £17.50 (CHF 24) for 24 hours, this card offers unlimited 2nd class travel on public transport, free or reduced admission to museums, 10-20% discount in certain shops and many more discounts. After exploring the Old Town on foot on the morning of the first day, we bought this card at around 3.30pm, so that we could use it on both days.
We also used the ZürichCARD to travel to the Uetliberg, a local mountain, where you can get fabulous views of the city, and for boat trips on the river and the lake. The 1.5 hour round-trip on Lake Zurich was probably the most relaxing part of our time here, as we had lunch and just enjoyed the view around us. I can honestly say that the best way to see Zurich is by boat. Weather permitting, of course!
Written by Rachel Morris.
The UoB Linguist Magazine
Guild of Students,
University of Birmingham