{travel tips} Zürich in Summer

I’m just back from a trip to Switzerland and Italy, and wanted to share all of my favorite things in Zürich before I forget them. Zürich in the summer is a wonderful place to visit, with so much to do!

Things to do in Zürich

The hip area of Zürich is called Zuri West, and there are two parts to it. The Langstrasse area offers some indie boutiques and cute cafes. It’s not far from the central train station and can easily be reached by taking a tram to the Museum for Gestaltung and crossing over towards Josefstrasse. Heading a little farther out, you’ll find the Viadukt – a new development of cool, warren-like shops tucked under the train tracks anchored by a food market hall at one end. Take the tram to Dammweg to get there.

At the southwestern end of Viadukt, turn right on Geroldstrasse and head towards the Freitag flagship store. Whether you’re in the market for a recycled bookbag or not, you won’t want to miss their shop made entirely out of shipping containers.

Behind Freitag, there are a couple cute shops and a funky outdoor bar (see Frau Gerolds Garten below) including Bogen 33, a trippy retro antique and furniture store. A few blocks east, you’ll find the Schiffbau, a theater space with a restaurant and jazz club that lives in an old shipbuilding factory. Whether or not you’re seeing a show, it’s fun to take a peek at how they’ve transformed the space.

If you need to cool off, join the locals and jump in a lake. No, really! Zürich’s lake and river are so clean you can see through to the bottom – and they make a refreshing cool-off on a hot summer day. There are several spots to pay for a chair, umbrella, and beer lakeside called “baths.”

If you’re visiting on a summer weekend, you can take a walk along the lake and visit the Le Corbusier house (also called the Heidi Weber Museum.) It’s literally only open a few hours on Saturdays and Sundays in the summer, so if you have the chance and like his work, I recommend checking it out. The entry fee is a little steep (15 CHF) for how small it is, but it’s worth it if you’re a fan. The Swiss like Le Corbusier so much he’s on the 10 franc note!

And of course, no visit to Zürich is complete without several strolls through the charming old town, but that’s sort of a given.

Places to eat and drink in Zürich

Wind your way through the back passageway off Neumarkt and you’ll find the fairy tale garden of Wirtschaft Neumarkt. In fact, the garden seating is so nice, most nights in summer, they don’t even bother to open the dining room. The fish dishes, in particular, are excellent, and the wine list is well-rounded. Wirtschaft Neumarkt: Neumarkt 5.

I can neither spell nor pronounce it, but our dinner at Giesserei Oerlikon was a real treat. It’s housed in an old foundry and offers super fresh, expertly prepared food. Comfortable but stylish, it’s a great place whether you’re on a romantic date or toting the kids. In short, I wish there were a Giesserei Oerlikon in my neighborhood because I would very much like to be a regular there. It’s a bit outside of the tourist center but easy to reach on the fast, reliable tram. To find it, take the #11 tram to the Regensbergbrucke stop, cross the bridge, and turn left on Birchstrasse. Giesserei Oerlikon: Birchstrasse 108. 

If you’re in need of a burger fix, you can’t do better than Korner – it manages to be cool but not too fancy, and the burgers, while expensive, are very high quality. Their specialty cocktails are also top-notch. Korner: Gartenstrasse 10. 

It may sound strange, but one of my favorite meals in Zürich was at a Lebanese restaurant called Le Cedre. In fact, it was probably the best Lebanese food I’ve ever eaten outside of Lebanon. Every single thing we tried was excellent, especially the lamb meatballs in pomegranate sauce. The central location and outdoor seating only add to the appeal. Le Cedre: Schifflände 5, Bellevue Platz. 

For a little drinking al fresco, hit up Hugo, an after-work hotspot that’s literally in a field of grass. They have food, too. Hugo: Talstrasse 82, next to the Barengasse Museum.

Out in hipster Zuri West, there are a couple of interesting choices for eating and drinking. In addition to the casual spots in the Viadukt, Frau Gerolds Garten is a fun outdoor beer and sausage free-for-all that’s mostly formed out of shipping containers, tent fabric, and fairy lights. And nearby Les Halles offers a similarly raucous indoor setting for mussels and frites. Frau Gerolds Garten: Geroldstrasse 23, behind the Freitag tower of shipping containers. Les Halles: Pfingstweidstrasse 6, at Hardbrucke.

No trip to Zürich would be complete without hitting up famed chocolate emporium Sprungli for breakfast or other sweet and savory treats. Beyond their cocoa and marzipan confections, the quiche I got there was one of the best I’ve ever had, and a box of their cheese straws sustained us through several days’ worth of snack time. Sprungli: Bahnhofstrasse 21, Paradeplatz.

A great day trip from Zürich: Luzern

Only an hour away, via one of Swiss Rail’s efficient trains, you’ll find the charming city of Luzern (Lucerne). Luzern is often called “the most beautiful city in Switzerland” and it’s not hard to see why.

Medieval covered wooden bridges, the gloriously painted and decorated buildings straddle a pretty lake and river, and it’s easy to navigate the walkable cobblestone center of town.

Don’t miss a stop at Luzern local Max Chocolatier–I especially recommend their homemade ice cream. For lunch, try a slice of cheese pie (with or without bacon) at Zum Storchen.

And a final note about Swiss chocolate

You don’t need to go to a fancy place like Sprungli for chocolate, but it’s pretty fun. However, the candy aisle at any Coop store will have a lot of great selections, including my personal choice, the milk chocolate bar from local favorite Cailler. Milk chocolate was invented in Switzerland, and Cailler is the only big company that still makes it with milk from Alpine cows. Bring home a stack of bars, as they make great gifts!

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2 Responses

  1. Jenn Every says:

    Switzerland has to be the most beautiful country in the world. When we were there, if it was quiet enough, you could hear the bells on the collars of the Alpine cows in the distance. Did you go to the top of Mount Pilatus? 360 view of the valley and Alps.

    • Karen says:

      @Jenn – I couldn’t agree more! And yes, the bells are so lovely. We were in the Jungfrau/Monch/Eiger region after Zurich, but will put Mount Pilatus on the bucket list. 🙂 Thanks for the suggestion!