Friday, July 26, 2013

3 Days in Zurich | Julie of Julieann Gregory

Hi Mr. and Mrs. H readers, Julie here of Julieann Gregory & Jewels Blog. I am a New York gal with southern roots, who has recently been whisked off to London with my husband. And you know what living in London means...all of Europe is at my finger tips. Life as an expat is full of constant discovery, everything from local favorites to quaint back alleys, I am constantly inspired. Europe is a designers paradise! My husband and I - plus family joining the journey along the way - just returned from a few week holiday in Switzerland & Italy. After tackling the mounds of laundry and unanswered emails I sifted through some 1,000+ photos and gathered my thoughts to bring you a 3 day guide to Zurich, Switzerland. So grab your notepad & pen and take note.

day 1 

Arise early to battle your way through the chaos of airport security and catch an early morning flight into Zurich (ZRH). The airport is less than 20 minutes from the Old Town, so you can still make the most of the day! Check-in at the hotel, lather on the sunscreen (I don't know if it's the elevation or sunlight reflecting off the lake, but if your not carful you will get fried), grab your camera and hit the streets. My first day in any new city is set aside for exploring - just walk, walk, walk and take it all in. I am not one for making too many plans on vacation. Plans mean structure, and structure means you do not have time to venture off the beaten path because you're sprinting to make your reservation.

The best place to start is with a long walk along the riverside / lakeside promenade. [If you'd rather, you can join a guided city walk] You will find stress free locals taking an afternoon swim to beat the heat, bikers zipping along the sidewalks and lots of clock towers to "ooo" and "ahhh" about. Seriously, the Swiss put clocks on everything - your wrist, your pocket knife and any building over four stories. At least explore the shore until you reach where the river opens into the main lake. When the clocks chime noon, venture to Cafe Bar Odeon, off Bellevue. Decades old, this Zurich institution boasts the patronage of intellectuals like James Joyce and Albert Einstein. Do not be too alarmed by the prices on the menu, it is just Zurich...PRICEY! Switzerland is pristine, but this comes at a price. Be prepared for $7 coffee and $5 bottles of water. After lunch spend the afternoon lounging by the lake, visiting the Museum of Design or shopping in the Bahnhofstrasse precinct. When you find your appetite for dinner, take a short stroll to Restaurant Swiss Chuchi for a boiling pot of traditional Swiss fondue and other local specialties. For me, simply ambling through the Old City on the way back to the hotel is the icing on the cake in a this great city.

day 2

Now that we have our bearings in the city, it's time to explore the surrounding countryside. Just north of Zurich you'll find Rhine Falls in Schloss Laufen near Schaffhausen (two towns which are as fun to say as they are to visit). The falls are Europe's biggest, and worth the trip as they are less than 1 hour from Zurich Hauptbahnhof (HB) train station to Schloss Laufen. After visiting the falls, dine at one of the outdoor restaurants near the falls' ticket office. Post lunch, follow the well-marked walking path along the water towards Schaffhausen. The walk takes about 45 minutes and is totally worth the peace and quiet. If you are not up for a 45 minute return journey, catch a local bus back to the falls for a few francs. PS - Be sure to check the return train schedule to Zurich HB, you do not want to miss the last train 'home'.

After the falls, which can drain your energy, return to the hotel to glam-up a bit and walk to dinner at La Salle, a trendy restaurant in a converted shipping yard right in the heart of the theater district. (To my fellow New Yorkers, this area feels very East Village-ish).

The service was impeccable and the menu was creative (and a bit exotic with horse on the menu, but thankfully not a part of our diets). Le Salle and the surrounding area will leave you feeling like an authentic local, which I like.

day 3 - option a 

For those looking to maximize their experience in Switzerland - your next stop is Lucerne. There are 3-4 trains per hour from Zurich HB directly into the heart of Lucerne. The train ride is short (45 minutes) and beautiful, as the tracks run parallel to several lake shorelines. Once in Lucerne there are a number of great sites: the Kapellebruecke, a cable-car over Lake Lucern, a climb through the old city walls, museums and lots of spots along the water to grab an afternoon cocktail.

Return to Zurich late afternoon, just in time to freshen up for dinner. On the schedule for tonight, Ristorante Bianchi, an authentic Italian spot. This is one spot I suggest booking a reservation, and be sure to request an outside table.

day 3 - option b 

If you want to stay closer to Zurich, but explore the lake opt for a first class ticket on the lake's public transport boat, and take it all the way to the last stop: Rapperswill. The first class ticket gets you a top deck seat, complete with unparalleled views! The boat trip takes just over two hours, but they serve food and drinks, so just sit back and relax over a late breakfast.

When you arrive, explore the medieval alleyways, visit the Rapperswil Castle and grab a pizza by the water. Your boat ticket works for the train too, so if you're feeling a bit sea sick after your stopover in Rapperswil opt for a ~35 minute train ride back to Zurich. On the schedule tonight, an energetic Moroccan style hot spot, Maison Blunt. The decor is pattern-filled and colorful, the service is friendly and the "must order" on the menu is the hummus. Sounds simple, but SO delicious.


*Helvetia - great boutique hotel 

*Hotel Continental Zurich - 6-8 minute walk to Old Town and Zurich HB, comfy bed, clean rooms (lobby is a bit dated) 

*Hotel Rothaus - Central location and close to Zurich HB 

*The Dolder Grand - A ritzy option! This is a true 5 star hotel with a swanky spa and lots of amenities. A short car ride from the city center, but the hotel has a great shuttle service other day trip ideas 

*Take a train from the Zurich HB down to Lugano (next to the Italian border) 

*Take a train from the Zurich HB to Geneva/ Montreau (next to the French border) 

*Another alternative is to take the Swiss Glacier Express (heard it has rave reviews) through the Alps from St Moritz to Zermatt. The latter is home to the Matterhorn a.k.a. the inspiration for my husband's favorite Disneyland ride and the Chocolate Mountain on your Toblerone box...which brings me to chocolate. Zurich is home to world renowned chocolatiers such as Lindt and Sprüngli. If you have a sweet tooth, be sure to book a tour>

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