Thursday, September 24, 2009

Zurich, Switzerland - where wine is cheaper than water

I just got back from a whirlwind weekend trip to Switzerland. Back in June, I found a ridiculously cheap airfare for $230 roundtrip (JFK to Zurich) on Delta. Since I hadn't been there but always wanted to go, I booked it stat.

Zurich is frequently rated one of the most expensive cities in the world as well as the wealthiest (hello Swiss banks), so I was a bit nervous. I found that the only really outrageously expensive thing is the food. Most dishes, even sandwiches, run anywhere from $20 to $30. We made the mistake of getting bottles of water for the table at $6 each. The wine truly is cheaper than the water (at about $5 for house Italian wines)! Coffee is also overpriced at $4-$5 for a small cup. My sister got a grande iced coffee at Starbucks for $7! There's a lot of Italian food there though the food isn't particularly notable.

The exchange rate for the Swiss frank and dollar were nearly even so that helped. We stayed at the Hotel Coronado, a very nice but no frills hotel. It ended up being about $135/night.

I've been to a lot of European cities, but I was impressed with Zurich. It's very clean, and the buildings are beautiful and medieval looking. Plus, it's right on the lovely Lammat River which empties into the Zurichsee (Lake Zurich). The tram system is very efficient (they run every 7.5 minutes). We bought a ZurichCard for $38 (3 days) and had unlimited rides. We also took a boat cruise with the card. Many restaurants also offer a free drink when you show it.

There happened to be a retro Ferris wheel in town while we were there. That offered up some great views of the city. They were playing American music from the fifites. We went once during the day and once at night for $8 each. Zurich at night is a beautiful site.

Here are a few of my other favorite things to do and see in Zurich:

-Kunsthaus Museum. This fabulous museum is loaded with Picasso, Monet, Kandinsky, Matisse, Dali and much more. It's was well worth the $10 entry. Visit the site for more info.

-Zeughauskeller restaurant: This traditional Swiss restaurant in an old armory building is located in the Bahnofstrasse shopping area on Paradeplatz. It's a fun experience and a must-do in Zurich. The restaurant was hopping and had a bit of a wait. I tried a traditional Alpine pasta. They also have sausage meat swords (not appetizing for a vegetarian like myself but still somewhat amusing).

-St. Peter's Church: It has the largest church clock face in the world!

-Merkur Chocolaterie: This chocolate shop in the Bahnofstrasse area is heaven on Earth. It's the place to get chocolate for friends back home. They have these big slabs of chocolate that you can get pieces from. My favorite was dark chocolate with cranberries.

-Altstadt: This old town area is a great area to walk to see all of the gorgeous old buildings.

-B├╝rkliplatz flea market : This flea market open Saturdays May through October was a happening spot. One vendor told us that sellers come from all over Europe to sell their treasures. I found a jewelry box from the 1930s painted by a Swiss lady who painted clocks for a mere $15.

As for my souveniers, in addition to the jewelry box, I brought home chocolate and some really nice, big Bodum mugs with the Swiss flag on them for $8 each. It was a great trip for a long weekend.

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