Coffee culture is a big part of Swiss city life and you don’t have to look far to find a coffee shop, coffee house, tea room or café – Zurich has them all. However they can vary in function, with some, such as the historic Odeon, good for a breakfast gipfeli (the Swiss German word for croissant), others like Sprungli or Kafi Dihei are best for a milchkafi (milky coffee) and cake whilst palces like Grande are great for posing with a laptop or Café des Amis perfect for a hip Sunday brunch. If you are looking for somewhere for a quick lunch or prefer to linger all afternoon reading a book, we run you through a selection of Zurich’s best cafés.
It can't get much more historic than this legendary bar, which opened its doors in 1911. Somerset Maugham wrote here, Lenin thought about a revolution and Einstein contemplated relativity. Dadaism was born inside these walls, it was the first place to serve 'Cüpli' (champagne by the glass) and it has been a meeting point for Zurich's gay community for decades. Everybody is welcome and though it might look a bit posh from the outside, you can never be too quirky to fit in here.
Opened at the height of the wave of openings of the now so typical Zurich cafés with mismatched furniture, retro elements and that slight amateur feel, Kafi für Dich is of course not just a café. It offers free concerts twice a month, some wall space for local artists and a corner where you can let your offspring play all afternoon. Maybe not the most exciting café in town, but definitely a good option if you have small kids and want to meet your friends on a rainy afternoon. And as soon as the sun comes out you can just cross the road and let the kids run free at Bäckeranlage.
With its oh so French feel, cute interiors and lovely outdoor space, this café found the speedway straight into the hearts of Zurich's hip and cool when it opened in 2011. It's a place to chat, to relax, to read - and most of all to have breakfast. But beware, its Sunday brunch is one of the most popular in town and you will have to book a table well in advance.
This bright room with its black and white tiles might have originally been a butcher's shop, but meat is not that much of a concern anymore in a café bar that is famous for its vegan muffins. Not all is lost for the carnivores though, and there is something for everyone on the menu. Try their 'Ufklappti', an unfolded sandwich, and the 'Ofenei', a kind of oven-baked fried egg. It's a popular place for brunch on a Saturday and Sunday, so get there early or book a table.
One of Zurich's most popular establishments, Sprüngli has been selling its famous chocolates and sweets to locals and tourists alike for over 150 years. The café upstairs is equally popular with visitors as it is with the upper class ladies in town, but any rumours you might have heard about it being a place for ageing cougars to pick up young men are pure nonsense. Come here if you are looking for a fair amount of tradition and the best hot chocolate in town, but be patient as service can be slow.
Zurich lost a legend when café El Greco closed in 2011. Many of the locals around Limmatplatz were more than worried that the new tenants of the property might not re-establish that Viennese flair, so that this small piece of outdoor life (at least during the warmer months) would never be revived. But here it is, the new and shiny Café Lang, just as fancy, just as charming, a little bit more edgy and youthful than its predecessor, and certainly a lot more contemporary - a new legend could be in the making.
Some say that La Stanza makes the best coffee in town, some argue that hipsters might never have set foot into Zurich if it were not for this Über-hip little venue in the middle of Zurich’s financial district. You can’t really argue about the coffee (it is indeed excellent), but the beautiful (and often obviously wealthy) crowd tends to be too strained and style-aware for the place to feel cosy.