Claire is a Zurich-based contributing editor to Time Out
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Claire is a Zurich-based contributing editor to Time Out
Who says romance is dead? Certainly not us, as we’ve put together the ultimate guide to romantic Switzerland. Maybe you’re looking for somewhere great to go on Valentine’s Day or perhaps you’ve even seeking a unique place to pop the big question – or maybe you just want to treat that special someone in your life, because why not? Whatever you need, we‘ve got you covered with our ultimate list of restaurants, hotels, spas and romantic activities and things to do, to ensure you and your beloved have an unforgettable day with the romance factor cranked right up to 11.
With the Swiss school holidays falling in October, it's a great time of year to explore these family-friendly museums, attractions, parks, cafes plus a few places to chill out and wind down in too.
Planning on starting a new life in Switzerland? Take the plunge with our guide from local expats on making the most of the Swiss lifestyle.
Zurich is Switzerland's biggest city, with a population of around 380,000, rising to around 1 million for "greater Zurich" around the lake. Zurich is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland but you'll find most people speak enough English here for you to get by. The main tourist office is at Zurich's Hauptbahnhof train station. Below are our top tips for getting started in when you move to Zurich.
Welcome to Switzerland! We’ve put together a short taster guide on some of the stuff people moving to Switzerland need to know, plus a few great tips so you can begin exploring this incredible, jaw-droppingly beautiful country. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a great place to start.
Here's our pick of some of the best spots to swim in Zurich and on the Zurichsee when the mercury rises this summer.
Zurich Film Festival (ZFF), now in its 11th year, is a well-respected fixture of the internatonal film festival circuit. The 11-day festival attracts some big names and around 80,000 attendees to its premieres, screenings, galas and red carpet events. Featuring the work of emerging and established filmmakers, ZFF presents films in a range of languages, but predominantly English and German. Find below your full guide to the Zurich Film Festival 2015.
With its gastropub feel and location in a park by the River Sihl, the Fork & Bottle has become somewhat of an expat hub in Zurich for English speakers. And this is by no means a bad thing. The convivial atmosphere and friendly, efficient staff (many of them native Brits themselves) make for a splendid meal, whether it's Sunday brunch (try the eggs Benedict if you can resist the full English) or a bang-up pub meal from the seasonal menu at other times. Top it off with craft beer or a cocktail and, if you've got room left, the English-style cakes and pastries on offer are also excellent. Fork & Bottle is a popular spot for celebrations and parties so be sure to book ahead on weekends. The pub also hosts a range of events and for those with families, this spot is a godsend, with a large, dedicated kids' playroom upstairs chock-full of toys, as well as an outdoor play area.
Sternen Grill at Bellevue is well-known as possibly the best place in town for this Swiss-German cheap eat. If you like sausages that is. And bread. The classic is a St Galler bratwurst or Cervelat sausage, which comes accompanied with a crusty bread roll, ketchup and/or mustard. At street level it's all "take-away" (although there's a plenty of tables where you can perch briefly to devour your meal). Those on a more leisurely schedule may prefer to head up to the first floor where a sit-down restaurant serves pretty much the same menu, with a few more salads and sides on offer. If you're into foodie souvenirs, you can purchase branded goods including Sternen Senf (mustard) and Sternen Bier (beer) here too.
Kilchberg badi is located about 20 minutes by train or car from central Zurich on the Zurichsee. It also happens to be right next to the Lindt & Sprungli factory so provides a feast for the senses as you enjoy the cool, clear waters of the lake while wafted with the fresh chocolate smell. There's a large grassy area to spread out on (note: plastic-backed picnic rugs are not allowed) and lake access is via steps, a waterslide or from a rocky "beach" area. If the lake is too chilly, there's a man-made outdoor pool that's heated to the temperature of the cholcolate factory, 22°C to 26°C. Food is provided by Hiltl and is the usual delicious vegetarian buffet. And there's a nice kids area with a paddling pool and play equiment. On warm summer weekends this place is mobbed with families and the small carpark fills up fast, so it's worth arriving early to stake out a spot.
Switzerland has 11 UNESCO sites – three outstanding natural phenomena and eight cultural heritage locations. For the first time this June, Switzerland will celebrate its UNESCO sites with a two-day event centred on the Old Town of Bern (a UNESCO Cultural Heritage site) and beyond. Berne’s UNESCO-listed Old City will host two days of free cultural events, including an exhibition about Switzerland’s World Heritage properties and a World Heritage market on the Münsterplattform. Switzerland’s other UNESCO sites including The Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes, the Castles of Bellinzona, Lavaux Vineyards, the Swiss Alps around Jungfraujoch railway station and St Gallen are also putting on special programmes, tours, talks and foodie events. Read more about the events and activities at all 11 sites for UNESCO World Heritage Days Switzerland on the Time Out Switzerland blog.
Popping up in a purpose-built pavilion on ETH Polyterrase for one month, Tastelab bills itself as a "Love affair between cooking and science." The brainchild of five friends who are all ETH alumni, the food/science mix is apt, since ETH Zurich is one of the world's top universities for science and technology. At Tastelab you’ll get your dose of science with daily demos on things like espresso making, the alchemy of hollandaise sauce and how chocolate is crystallised. The cooking comes in several delicious forms. Book the seven-course dinner degustation or a weekend brunch, or pop by to sample the first-come-first-served daily changing lunch menu. There's also a cafe serving coffee and Friday nights are all about cocktails. The impressive architect-designed structure of recycled wood and steel has huge windows and is the first of its kind to be built on the location. And what a location - perched high above central Zurich with amazing views of the city and lake and even its own dedicated quirky transport (catch the Polybahn up for the full experience). According to Tastelab’s Susanne Tobler, it took six months to gain permission from ETH to build here and the structure will be dismantled after the restaurant closes in early June. Let’s hope it becomes a tradition – Zurich’s own Serpentine Pavilion starts here?
Brisket is hipster Zurich at its tastiest. At lunchtime there's a short menu where, really, it's all about the melt-in-the-mouth pulled pork sandwiches - served with chilli on brioche-style hot-dog buns with a changing choice of side-salad including potato, green leaf or coleslaw. Enjoy one with an iced tea (served in a mason jar, naturally) or an American bottled beer and you'll be well content for the rest of the afternoon. For dinner, there's more of the same, but the Southern BBQ menu is extended to include a coffee and black pepper brisket, spare ribs, pork belly, chicken wings, and a daily-changing vegetarian option. Sides continue the all-American theme: mac'n'cheese, nachos and pickles. But why pick just one? There's a range of dinner platters so you can try a mix of what's on offer, including the Grand Slam, where those with a large appetite can get a bit of everything. Meanwhile, the bar serves up some rather delicious, old-school style cocktails.
As airports go, Zurich Flughaven is one of the nicest around, which makes arriving in or departing from Switzerland from here a rather pleasant experience. Zurich Kloten is spacious, generally calm and easy to navigate through. There's a slew of all the usual duty free shops, with a focus on local products, so if you've left your Swiss chocolate or high-end watch shopping until the last minute, you need not despair. Although it's worth noting that it can take up to 30 minutes to get to some of the further-away gates, so don't get distracted with shopping and forget the time! The airport also has great family facilities including an observation deck and kids' mini-airport play area that can be accessed whether you're travelling or not (it costs CHF5 and you'll need to go through security, but it's worth it). Getting to and from Zurich airport is no problem - there's excellent public transport links to central Zurich and the nearby hub of Oerlikon via tram, train or bus.
This fascinating exhibition takes you on a journey to the rarely-seen depths of the world's oceans. Up until around 100 years ago, people thought nothing lived this far below the surface. In fact, it's a rich and intriguing place that's one of the world's final frontiers for science and exploration. Before entering the exhibition, you're issued with a guidebook (in either French or English) complete with a light, which comes in handy, as the rooms are mostly in darkness, with large illuminated photos and tanks showing taxidermy displays of the weird and wonderful creatures that dwell down where sunlight doesn’t penetrate. The show is divided into several zones for different levels of depth and exploration, with information in both English and French, and makes for a thoroughly enjoyable and enlightening way to spend a few hours in Neuchâtel.
This stylish mountain retreat is owned by none other than Sir Richard Branson. So if you want to party like the Virgin boss, this place is for you. The chalet comprises nine bedrooms with accommodation for 18 people, a basement pool as well as both indoor and outdoor Jacuzzis. In winter, The Lodge offers impeccable access to Verbier's stunning ski slopes and during the warmer months, there's a range of active alpine activities on offer from this pretty spot. Rates depend on whether you're booking individual rooms, or the whole place for the exclusive use of yourself and your mates. Either way, accommodation comes complete with a team of in-house staff including a spa therapist and a Michelin-star trained chef, who will be on hand to ensure your stay is as comfortable as possible.
Korner serves up a big selection of home-made burgers, with 10 different beefburger styles, as well as a couple of veggie and chicken options on the menu. If you like chilli, we recommend the "Mr Scoville". Plus there's special one-offs with fabulous ingredients such as wild boar, venison or pulled beef. The restaurant on the corner of Stockerstrasse is all exposed brick walls, railway tiles and wooden furniture, but is saved from feeling too clinical by parquetry flooring and the long, comfy banquette running around two sides of the room. Korner's respectable wine list favours reds, as you'd expect with all that beef on the menu, and there's also a good selection of beers and spirits. Korner has lunch specials from CHF5.50 for a soup or salad of the day, up to around CHF25 for something more substantial.
We love Iroquois' American-style hamburgers and fries - choose from beef, chicken, veal, fish or vegi. All are served alongside bottles of locally-produced artisan ketchups. But it's not all about the burgers. There's also a good range of salads and daily specials, as well as a weekend brunch offering, Znüni (morning tea) and a very decent kids' menu, that doubles as a colouring sheet (pencils are provided) - nice. Rounding it off is a drinks list comprising beer, wine, cocktails, coffee, tea, softdrinks and juices. Iroquios hosts seasonal events, such as its annual pumpkin-fest in October, and screens international sports including tennis and the World Cup. The shabby-chic interior offers a comfortable dining space with a tiny art gallery at the far end. In summer, there's a pleasant terrace area where diners can spill out onto leafy Seefeldstrasse for a meal or a beverage.
Josef is one of Zurich's more avant garde restaurants. Don't come here looking for würst, cordon bleu and rosti. For dinner, the seasonal menu features small plates (they reccomend three per person for normal hunger but we were left a little peckish) or there's the Josef Menu of five dishes that's better value, but you don't get to choose them. The space has a good ambiance, with its closely packed tables, pearlescent-tile ceiling and a back wall adorned with arty posters of 70s movie stills. The lunch offering is more traditional with dishes such as roast veal for around CHF23.50 or pasta at CHF15-20. There's also a bar area with a goos selection of wines on offer. A great spot to start your evening out on and around Langstrasse and/or to impress your date if you're into cool food with a twist.
The Bookshop at Orell Fussli is gearing up for a month full of thrills and chills this October. Switzerland’s biggest English-language bookshop in central Zurich presents some exciting events and releases over the next few weeks. As Halloween approaches, you will be able to buy a range of themed American and English snacks, goodies and spooky party decorations from The Bookshop’s dedicated Halloween section. Bridget Jones fans will be gearing up for the latest instalment of Helen Fielding’s bestselling series – Bridget Jones’s Baby. The new novel will be released on October 11 and is available in The Bookshop from then. And, really, where else would you go to purchase this classic? The new Bridget Jones’s Baby film starring Renee Zellweger and Colin Firth is in Swiss cinemas from 20 October (German-speaking side), 5 October (Romandie) and 22 October (Ticino). Finally, to food. As part of October’s Zurich-wide book festival, Zurich Liest, The Bookshop will be hosting an Orell Füssli food tasting afternoon featuring dishes from some of its most popular cookery books. No need to buy tickets, just rock up on Friday October 28 from 3pm. What’s your favourite way to celebrate Halloween in Switzerland? Tell us in the comments below…
Vegan chocolate mousse© Claire Doble In an unusual twist, Zurich’s swanky Rive Gauche restaurant is showcasing vegetarian food for the next two weeks. The restaurant, known for its succulent meat dishes, has created an exciting vegetarian menu for its contribution to this year’s Food Zurich festival. And it’s not just any old vegetarian food, Rive Gauche invited one of the world’s top vegan chefs – Tal Ronnen from Crossroads in L.A. – to devise a delicious tasting menu for the brasserie. As a special treat, Ronnen himself will be in the RG kitchen during the first week of Food Zurich, working alongside Rive’s head chef Olivier Rais. Time Out Switzerland got a taste of Tal’s food today and we were well impressed. Definitely a step beyond Hiltl and Tibits (although we love them too) – Ronnen’s food takes vegan into the realms of haute cuisine. Perhaps one of Ronnen’s most impressive achievements is his vegan cheese, produced by Kite Hill in California. The cheese is made from almond milk -- Ronnen told us his team tested no fewer than 27 different varieties to find one with the right levels of protein – and was created in consultation with French cheesemaker Jean Prevot, so it’s the real deal. (Although, according to Baur au Lac general manager Wilhelm Luxem, the kitchen ran into some Swiss bureaucracy when trying to import it, as the local authorities regard all “cheese” as being made from animal’s milk!) Steinpilzrisotto© Claire Doble We tasted a selection of
"Uganda ist top, Schweiz ist flop" lamented a headline in the BZ Basel newspaper this week, after a survey of expats found that Switzerland polled 61st out of 67 nations in terms of friendliness to foreigners. In a humiliation possibly equal to Switzerland's defeat to Germany in the Olympic beach volleyball competition, the annual Expat Insider survey saw Switzerland finish 31st overall as a top destination for expats – down from 4th in 2014. This year Taiwan topped the list, followed by Malta, Ecuador and Mexico. (Uganda made it to 3rd on the survey’s ‘Ease of Settling In’ index.) And according to InterNations, the expat organisation which conducted the survey, the big reason for Switzerland's decline is perceptions that Swiss locals are not friendly, families with children don’t feel welcomed and that it’s hard for expats to ‘settle in’ here. "Unfortunately, while there are four different coexisting languages and cultures in Switzerland, the acceptance of diversity does not seem to extend to newcomers," InterNations said. Ouch. But as is always the case with surveys of this kind, a little perspective is helpful before comparisons can be made. Few, if any, of those surveyed would have expat experience of both Switzerland and Malta, Ecuador or Mexico. Perceptions of unfriendliness are unlikely to spur Swiss authorities into a charm offensive any time soon, however. Neighbouring Germany achieved similar results to Switzerland – tops for jobs and among the worst for rudenes
Orell Füssli’s English Bookshop has moved out of its premises on Zurich’s Bahnhofstrasse. But don’t worry, the new location is just around the corner, on the third floor of Orell Füssli’s flagship Kramhof store on Füsslistrasse. For many expats, The Bookshop has been a home away from home – a place to come when you’re missing the sights, sounds and language of home. “The concept was always to make it an English-speaking space – with signs, flyers and information all in English,” says Sabine Haarmann, veteran manager of The Bookshop and now managing director of the entire Kramhof store. “The concept remains the same, we’ve retained our staff and our one floor in Kramhof has basically the same floorspace as we had over three levels on Bahnhofstrasse.” Haarmann has worked at The Bookshop for 26 years, since 1990, when she started there as an apprentice. Back in those days, it was Stäheli AG – but it always stocked English-language books since it opened in 1934, with exclusively English books from 1993 onwards. Orell Füssli –Switzerland’s biggest homegrown book retailer – took over The Bookshop in 1999. The Bookshop was, and is, continental Europe’s largest English-language bookstore. The move from Bahnhofstrasse is due to steep rent increases, which will also see iconic toyshop Franz Carl Weber depart the street later this year. Department store Manor's Bahnhofstrasse location is also under threat. “It’s a shame to see Bahnhofstrasse losing some of its character” says Haarmann.
Time Out Switzerland has been going strong for more than two years now and, while we love tourists, today we’d like to give a special shout-out to all the expats in Switzerland who read and share our content on this amazing country. Whether you’ve lived here for a long time, you’ve just moved or if you’re planning to relocate to Switzerland, we’d like to help out. We are in the process of creating a regular section dedicated to the expat community in Switzerland, with articles, guides, blogs and tips for those planning to move to Switzerland, or those wanting to simply make the most of their time here, especially in the areas around Geneva and Zurich. So we want to hear from you! Are you an expat living in Switzerland, in the process of moving here or planning to move here? If so get in touch with us. We'll be running a series of blog posts and content all about expats so we'd love to hear your advice and tips. First up, we're asking all the British Expats to give us their tips for settling into Switzerland. It can be anything from the most essential thing to do when you first arrive, to finding services, making friends or where to find delicious comfort food for when you miss home. We'd love to see some photos as well. Please drop us a line at email@example.com or add your tips to the comments section below.
Enjoy brunch at the Landwasserviadukt on World Heritage Days Switzerland Switzerland boasts an impressive 11 UNESCO World Heritage sites. Three of them are natural phenomena, such as the Alps, while eight are areas of cultural significance. You can visit these anytime, and we suggest you do. However, if you're looking for a special reason, this June sees the first edition of UNESCO World Heritage Days in Switzerland. For one weekend, the country’s UNESCO sites throw open their doors - whether actual or metaphorical - to the public with a load of events, many of which are free to attend. While the main exhibition is being held in Bern, all of Switzerland’s 11 UNESCO sites will host various activities, events and celebrations over the weekend 11-12 June. The 11 Swiss UNESCO sites and highlights of their World Heritage days events are as follows: Bern Old TownThe World Heritage Days action centres on the Swiss capital city of Bern, where the entire medieval Old Town is a UNESCO site. Over the weekend, there will be guided tours, talks, a free exhibition and “open doors” to many buildings not usually accessible to the public. Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina LandscapesFind out about new and historic trains at various stations or tuck in to the RhB World Heritage brunch featuring regional products at the foot of the Landwasser viaduct. Swiss Alps Jungfrau-AletschTake the train from Interlaken to Europe’s highest-altitude train station, Jungfraujoch, at the peak of the U
Street food, food trucks and pop-up restaurants are having a moment in Switzerland right now. And, for those of us craving something beyond the usual Swiss restaurant fare of rösti/fondue/cordon bleu (delicious as they may be) it’s a welcome development. Last year saw a mushrooming of foodie festivals, events and pop-ups across the country. From one-off vans selling gourmet sandwiches to food truck festivals in the bigger cities with up to 80 stalls apiece, the street food movement allows for a different, more sociable kind of eat-on-the-go feel. There's also been long-running foodie events such as the Lausanne à Table – two months’ worth of foodie events culminating in a huge communal picnic on Switzerland’s national day – and last year's Zurich Isst: (Zurich Eats) a month-long festival featuring food-on-the go via tram or tuk-tuk, pop-up restaurants, a street food weekend and Slow Food events. In fact, Zurich is planning to launch a new, all-encompassing Street Food brand later this year, so watch this space. Street Food Days World Food Festival This spring the whole street food phenomenon kicks off again. So whether you’re craving a curry, enticed by empanadas or want to grab some gyoza, you’ll find it at one of these fun, open air events. Spring food festivals to look out for include: Street Food Days World Food Festival – kicking off this Friday in Winterthur, with subsequent events in Wetzikon and Baden Food Truck Festival – the next biggie is in Bern, April 29-
We’ve pulled together a roundup of some of the key events in Switzerland, month by month. From huge parties to world-class art, quirky traditional holidays to sports and film festivals, here’s some of the best Swiss events we’re looking forward to in 2016. Basel Fasnacht February is all about Fasnacht. This medieval festival involves dressing up and dancing the night away. It happens throughout Switzerland but the biggest Fasnacht party of all goes for three days and sleepless nights in Basel. In March it’s time to start your engines for the Geneva International Motor Show - one of the world’s top car shows. Exhibitors include the major badges, as well as niche, bespoke and behind-the-scenes carmakers, alongside attendees from all over the world. Come April and it’s time for another quirky Swiss festival – Sechseläuten in Zurich. A day of parades and festivities culminates in a giant snowman called the Bööggbeing set alight. The amount of time it takes for the Böögg’shead to explode predicts the coming summer (eg: a quick explosion indicates a long, hot summer). Fete de la Dance / Tanzfest During May, tap your toes at Fête de la Dance/Das Tanzfest – a national festival of dance in all its forms and disciplines. With performances and participatory events happening across all regions of Switzerland in theatres, cultural centres and public spaces, it’s time to hit the dancefloor! June is Art Basel month. Established in 1970, Art Basel shows 20thand 21st century art from
The 2015 Zurich Film Festival (ZFF) will feature 36 debut films and 14 world premieres, with celebrity guest appearances from Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kiefer Sutherland and Mike Leigh. Now in its 11th year, ZFF has gone from strength to strength, attracting some some of the biggest names in English and German cinema, alongside the work of talented emerging filmmakers from around the globe. The full 2015 festival programme, which was announced yesterday in a press conference at Zurich's Dolder Grand hotel by Festival directors Nadja Schildknecht and Karl Spoerri, boasts 161 films from 27 countries, including nine Swiss-made productions, as well as a spotlight on movies from Iran, Hong Kong and San Sebastian. Some of the 2015 festival's hottest tickets include: "A Conversation With... Arnold Schwarzenegger" - where the Austrian-born ex-governor of California - this year's ZFF Golden Icon winner - will discuss his work, followed by a screening of his latest film Maggie (dir Henry Hobson). 30 Sep A screening of Jim Jarmusch's Night on Earth at which German-born actor Armin Mueller-Stahl will be awarded this year's ZFF Lifetime Achievement Award. 28 Sep Kiefer Sutherland will be presented with the festival's Golden Eye Award at a screening of the actor's latest, Western-style film Forsaken (dir Jon Cassar) 25 Sep A screening of Inglourious Basterds at which German actor Christoph Waltz will discuss his career and his collaboration with Quentin Tarantino 26 Sep Gala Premieres int