Maybe Liechtenstein – Part 3 (February 2017)
I left Paris and hopped on my Air France flight to Zurich (still a part of my points ticket) and I got a chance to visit the Air France lounge for Schengen flights. Unfortunately it was far away from my gate since the one closest to my gate was under construction. The lounge was still a nice place to relax before the relatively short flight. There were lots of drink options, including bottles of Evian, wine, and liquor, and a decent selection of food and snacks. My flight was nothing too special, due to the short duration and the fact that “European Business Class” is just regular seats with the middle blocked out.
After a short hop from Paris, I arrived in Zurich slightly before my friend, who was coming from a connecting flight in Amsterdam. There was some crazy weather and most of the flights that day had been cancelled, except for hers luckily! I tried to meet her at the gate, but the plane ended up being diverted to the auxilary gates with a bus ride to the terminal. We ended up meeting at baggage claim to pick up her luggage. Of course, she made the flight but sadly her bag did not, due to a super tight connection. After filing the appropriate paperwork, we were off to Zurich.
We caught the train from the airport to the main station and then went searching for platform 22 for about 10 minutes (signs were not helpful,) until we finally arrived at our Airbnb. It was a very cute one bedroom apartment with lots of room. Very European, with every room being separate, even the toilet! Of course, with all our delays, we arrived too late to do any shopping so ended up ordering in some food and staying in for the evening.
We didn’t have anything specific planned for our time in Zurich, except we knew we wanted to do some wine tasting and pick up some of the free bikes that I found out Zurich provided for a small deposit. Both of these things ended up being thwarted 😦 We found the bike depot and were told it was “finished”. With the difference in languages (Swiss German in this part of the country,) I’m not sure if this means that the program is finished or if they were just out of bicycles at the time. We also discovered that unlike other parts of Switzerland, the vineyards here do not do open tastings. The wine shops in town do wine tastings a few times a month, but you can’t go to a vineyard unless you have an appointment.
Due to the missing luggage fiasco, the first day was spent buying a few essentials and waiting for the bag to be delivered. We celebrated the successful retrieval by going to Elle’n’Belle, a vegan restaurant just north of the main station. It was quite busy as we had forgotten that it was Friday night, but we managed to find space at the bar and order some food. Both the appetizers and desserts we ordered were delicious and really hit the spot. It was a moody bar, but makes a great spot for a nice dinner.
The next day we explored the city, wandering around old town, grabbing a quick lunch at Tibits, and took a long walk down the lake. The day was a bit cloudy in the morning, but it cleared up later on. I even took a bit of time to dip my toes into the cold glacier lake. Yes, in February. There were a number of large park areas by the lake which would be a great place to hang out when it was a bit warmer; there are swimming platforms and water slides and nice entrance stairs into the lake. We managed to walk quite a distance along the lake so we chose to hop on the train to get back to the center of town.
We fist stopped for a quick coffee break in the old town before heading back towards our temporary home. We tried popping into a local wine shop to see if we could grab a bottle of wine for the evening. We didn’t have any cash on us and their card machine was down, but the owner was willing to let us pay later, which was amazing! But then it turned out that he was on vacation and we would be gone by the time he returned. But if you’re ever in Zurich, check out a little wine store in Alt-Wiedikon, Vinothek la seleccion.
One of the things I always like to do in a city is take a free walking tour. They are usually choc full of information and the guides are super helpful. So when we were trying to decide what else we wanted to do in Zurich, we looked up which free walking tours were on offer. The freewalk.ch tours got good reviews and were run on Sundays, so we decided that we would check out the tours the next day. They have many different tours available in Zurich and we decided that we would do the downtown tour, which was a combination of history and general information about the city, as well as the Zurich West tour, which covered a recently developed former industrial area in Zurich. Both tours were fun and informative. We had Jonathan for the Downtown tour, and I can’t remember the name of our guide for the Zurich West tour, but both were great. The tours were very differently paced, but I would recommend doing both to see different parts of the city. The only downside with doing the tours on Sunday was that a lot of the locations were closed so you couldn’t go inside.
We did end up eating in our apartment for most of our trip because it was cheaper and we had a kitchen available. Zurich (and Switzerland in general) is quite expensive for tourists so eating in is a good way to cut down on costs. A dinner out will likely run at least $40-$50 per person, or more if you have some wine. However, if you have access to a kitchen, you can shop at Coop or Migros and have a pretty decent meal for a good price. And there are tons of vegan options in the grocery stores too; we ended up with some lemon pepper “chicken”, some falafel burgers, and some vegan “cheese” which was good for making sandwiches to take with us.
If you are in Zurich on a budget, there are many things to do that are free or fairly cheap. If you’re planning on enjoying a meal out or some museums, you should expect the prices be a little bit more than you might be used to. Some of it is to due with the fact that the Swiss Franc (not the Euro, Switzerland is not in the EU) has steadily increased in value over the last 10 years. It’s now on par was the euro and USD. Most places will exchange or accept either currently at a 1:1 ratio. Not a great deal, but it can be a lifesaver in a pinch. (We were there in February, so this might have changed if the currency fluctuates.)
Our last night in the city was pretty low key as we had to get up early to catch our 9 am train the next morning for a day trip to Lucern. I love Zurich, and Switzerland in general, so i would definitely recommend spending some time in the city if you get the chance.