melted cheese in Zurich

So excited to be travelling in Europe again, this time starting in Zurich with my boyfriend Robert!

Once we arrived at the train station, we saw how fancy and extravagant the city is. We were warned that it’s an expensive city to travel to and the chandeliers and indoor water fountain made that clear.

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We picked up a poulet currystrudel, wurstweggen, and drank some fountain water. Zurich has over 1000 public water fountains with drinkable water. Remarkably, the water in the fountains is the same as that in tap water. The city’s water is cleaned with ozone and so both sources provide accessible, clean water to all.

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We got to know more about the city through Free Walk Zürich, a group that provides a daily free walking tour of the city. Some of our favourite stories:

  • A new member of the Swiss army got lost and accidentally invaded Liechtenstein.
  • The Rathaus (Zurich’s Town Hall) only has one door. The fire marshall noted that this would be unsafe if the door was blocked during a fire, and so the politicians voted and decided that they would all jump out the first floor window into the river if necessary.
  • The Swiss are apparently very paranoid and have hidden airplanes in nearby mountains and have many bunkers underneath the city in the event of an emergency. Residents are also allowed to own guns, and they have the highest number of guns per capita in Europe.

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Next to the church Grossmünster is a bronze model of the building for visually-impaired visitors. It’s said that the single spire is good luck because it never burned down (unlike the two towers). The metal is shiny and bent, likely from so many tourists touching it. We also visited Fraumünster, a church with stained glass windows designed by Chagall, and St. Peter’s church, which has the largest church clock face in Europe – 8.7 meters in diameter. Look at the number 4 on the clock – do you notice anything different? Some clock/watch makers prefer to use IIII instead of IV because it looks better and more symmetric.

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After the tour, we headed to Zeughauskeller Zürich for traditional swiss cuisine. Our tour guide explained that since Switzerland is land-locked and mountainous, the cuisine centers around meat and potatoes. We tried the Kalbsgeschnetzeltes nach Zürcher Art (panfried sliced veal and mushrooms in a delicious creamy white-wine sauce) and Zürcher Ratsherrenteller (beef, veal, and pork). Both were delicious and came with Rösti, a potato dish similar to hash browns.

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Then we explored the Christmas markets! We first went to the Christkindlimarkt located in the main train station. There were many booths selling Christmas trinkets, cheese, sausages, chocolate, clothing, jewelry, games, etc. We got a cup of Glühwein in a beautiful mug. The Glühwein costed 6CHF and the mug required a 3CHF deposit. We decided to forgo our deposit and keep the cup as a souvenir.

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The Christmas tree was, as expected, extravagantly decorated with Swarovski crystals.

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We tried the Swiss specialty dish raclette, which was melted cheese scraped over potatoes. We also spent about an hour playing a puzzle game at one of the booths which the creators called Yesss! because of how players feel after beating each level.

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Zurich at night is beautiful, especially with the holiday lights. We walked along the Limmat river, through another Christmas market, and in the light-filled streets.

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The next day, we got lunch at the well-known Äss Bar (note the umlaut), a small restaurant that collects pastries and sandwiches from other shops at the end of the day and sells them at a discounted price the next day. It’s a great way to reduce waste and also get some cheaper food.

The weather was perfect for hiking! We went to Uetliberg, Zurich’s little nearby mountain, and followed the Panorama Planet Trail, Planetenweg, which was a 100-minute hike that included small statues of the planets along the way. We missed quite a few, but the planets helped to guide us though the snow. Snow on the trees would occasionally fall on us, and it was like we were in a winter wonderland.

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As we hiked up, we saw beautiful views – although we had no idea what we were looking at! We think it was Zürich and the nearby Alps. We took a break to slide down a small hill using a plastic bag (throwback to the Englisher Gardens in Munich) and cooled our water by leaving the bottle in the snow for a few minutes.

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When we finally made it to the end at Felsenegg, we took the cable car down and then headed back to Zurich.

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Tirggel, a special Christmas pastry, is a honey-based biscuit that we found in Globus, a department store. The honey was very strong and they were fairly hard but they were a good snack on the go.

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Zürcher Wienachtsdorf, the Christmas market near the Opera House, was beautiful and lively. It seemed much more authentic to be at an outdoor market. The food options were multicultural (Indian, Japanese, Afghani, Greek, etc) and there was even a small skating rink.

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We accidentally crashed a small post-church service gathering. They were very welcoming and let us try some cookies, chocolate, and even this odd orange drink made of orange syrup and hot water.

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We had dinner at Le Dézaley, suggested by our Airbnb host. We tried the fondue au fromage and the fondue bourguignonne. Both were delicious! We cooked the beef in the pot of sizzling oil and then dipped it into all of the sauces and the cheese. It was great to alternate between the cheese fondue and the meat (and also with the pickled vegetables) as we definitely would have gotten tired of only cheese on bread. When we thought we finished all the cheese, our waitress came over and scraped the pot for us, stating that the fried cheese stuck to the bottom was the best part. The warm meal was a wonderful way to end our time in Zurich.

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Zurich is an incredibly expensive city but at least there’s free water. There are a fair number of sights to see and, if you get bored, there is hiking and skiing in the nearby mountains!

Logistics/Tips:

  • We purchased a train ticket to travel from the airport to Zurich HB (the main train station), then bought 24-hour bus tickets for use within the city (Zone 110).
  • The Fraumünster church is free for students with student IDs.
  • The four national languages of Switzerland are German, French, Italian, and Romansh, but people in Zurich primarily speak German. Say hi by greeting with Grüezi and thank you is Merci.

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