If you’re looking for a place to try out Switzerland’s specialties, look no further than Zurich. It has everything from the best Swiss cheeses to the finest chocolates. And with a picturesque view of the converging Lake Zurich and Limmat River, and the breathtaking Swiss Alps, it’s no wonder many consider a trip to this luxurious city a must.
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City of luxury and all things Swiss
Dubbed the banking capital of Switzerland, Zurich is often thought of as a boring, not to mention pricey, destination for tourists. But what people don’t know is this modern fairy tale city is a one-stop shop for everything Swiss. You will find the best of Zurich’s local delicacies, traditional dishes from across the country’s 26 cantons (Swiss federal states), and worldly cuisines here.
Thanks to Switzerland’s ideal location, Zurich not only lies at the heart of Europe but is also surrounded by four beautiful countries—Germany, France, Italy and Austria—to which it owes some of its food traditions. Rich in dairy, heavy on meat, and first-class in chocolates, Zurich has plenty of things foodies and travellers alike will fall for.
So plan a trip and use this guide to find the best eats, drinks, and spots in this luxurious Swiss city.
What to Eat
Cheese fondue and raclette
Cheese fondue is a classic Swiss dish that consists of gruyère and emmental cheeses melted with white wine and kirsch. It’s served on a communal pot placed over a portable stove lit with a candle. Fondue is traditionally served with cubes of bread dipped in the gooey cheese using a long fork. Many believe that the Alpine farmers started this tradition when they melted leftover cheese and paired it with old bread to encourage minimal food waste. Then it became popular when the Swiss Cheese Union officially promoted the recipe.
Raclette, on the other hand, is a little more exciting as it comes with various dippers like potatoes, onions, cured meat, and pickled fruit. It’s either served by scraping cheese onto your plate or, as others prefer it today, into a raclette grill with your own combination of dippers and melted cheese.
Zürcher Geschnetzeltes and rösti
Zürcher Geschnetzeltes or “Zurich-style sliced meat” is one quintessential dish you can’t miss in Zurich. Though hard to pronounce, it is a simple and delicious dish with pan-fried veal cutlets, mushrooms, cream, onions and wine. It is typically served with rösti or coarsely grated potato formed into a cake and fried. This combo meal is probably the most local meal you will ever try in the city.
Another Zurich original is the famous breakfast meal, birchermüesli. Originally invented as a nutritious diet for patients, muesli was invented by Dr Maximilian Bircher-Brenner as a healthy mix of rolled oats, nuts, apples or berries, water and condensed milk. When Birch-Brenned published a copy of his recipe, it was not seriously considered a proper meal, having raw ingredients and fruits in the list. Now, it’s considered one of the healthiest meals for breakfast in the world.
Literally translates to “braid,” zopf is a plaited bread made from white flour, milk, eggs, butter, and yeast. The dough is brushed with egg yolk before baking, lending it a golden crust. While it is typically eaten on Sunday mornings, you can buy it all week long from most bakeries.
If you need a light snack or something to take home, tirggel is your best option. Traditionally a Christmas biscuit, this hard, thin and sweet cookie is an elegant specialty produced year-round in Zurich. This cookie is made from honey, ginger, aniseed, coriander, rosewater, and flour, and pressed with elaborate moulds depicting different traditional or regional motifs.
What to Drink
Often dubbed as the “German cocktail”, hugo is a famous summer drink that is of Italian origin. It was invented by a local barman from the town of Naturno in the province of South Tyrol, Italy until it grew popular in the neighbouring countries of Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. Today, locals and tourists in the city enjoy this unique mix of elderflower syrup, prosecco, sparkling wine, and fresh mint leaves, especially during the hot days.
Schümli pflümli and holdrio
Schümli pflümli and holdrio are two of the most popular winter warmers in the country. They are both perfect to drink while skiing or after. Both made with plum schnapps, schümli pflümli is a mix of coffee and whipped cream, while holdrio is concocted with rosehip tea and sugar.
Another favourite soul-warming drink for the Swiss is glühmost. While it is enjoyed traditionally at Christmas time, this apple cider mixed with a cinnamon stick, cloves, sugar, and a slice of orange is available year-round for anyone to try. It either comes boozy or non-alcoholic depending on your choice but will be served warm.
Swiss hot chocolate may not be unique only to Zurich but if you’re already here, you can’t simply miss gulping a thick, gooey slush of chocolate goodness. Yes, it is not the usual hot chocolate you stir into a cup but more of a melted chunk of chocolate mixed with either coffee or cinnamon. Or if you really want it light, you can have it served with more milk and less chocolate.
Bier Paul is a classy, tangy special drink brewed by one of the master brewers in Zurich, Ralf Paul. Although technically it is brewed and produced outside the city, Paul and his team ensure it still offers Zurich’s original flavours. They also offer different specialties according to the season.
Where to Eat
Visit the Sternen Grill if you’re into sausages and beer. A famous spot for locals and tourists alike, this small resto-bar is well-known for their smoky grilled sausage with mustard dip and crusty bürli bread roll combo. If you’re lucky, you might be able to secure a table at this popular place otherwise, you can pick your happy place by the lake to enjoy the meal.
There are plenty of restaurants in the city where you can enjoy a cheese fondue meal but if you want the best, you can never go wrong with Swiss Chuchi. This highly-rated restaurant, located in Zurich Old Town, not only offers the classic dish but also everything delicious and authentic Swiss food. For all the keen tourists who want to sample the city’s local dishes, this is definitely the place to go.
It goes without saying that Switzerland’s dishes are meat and dairy heavy. If you need to cleanse your palate and tummy, go to the Haus Hiltl—the world’s first vegetarian restaurant. They offer more than a hundred meat-free delicacies and freshly squeezed fruit juices, making it heavenly for all veggie lovers. It is located near the most expensive and exclusive shopping avenue in the city of Bahnhofstrasse, where you can either stroll around or do some serious shopping.
As one of the most popular pastry cafes in Switzerland, Confiserie Sprüngli is ubiquitous in almost every big city like Zurich. This Swiss confectionery manufacturer was founded in 1836 and is famous for its fine chocolates and irresistible sweet lollies. If you get to come across one, don’t leave without trying their signature mini macarons called luxemburgerli.
Enjoy a lovely lake view whilst having a delicious glass of wine and a generous plate of fresh fish dishes in this romantic address in Zurich. Fischer’s Fritz is a lovely paradise for every couple or tourist group visiting the city. It is great for a romantic lunch on the balcony, a large meal on the meadow beside the lake, or a drink in the sunset bar.
Phrases to Know
Get around the city and find the best places to go with these basic Swiss phrases.
|Hello!||Hallo!||Hâ-loh! (informal greeting)|
|Goodbye!||Auf Wiedersehen!||Ouf vee-der-zey-en!|
|Do you speak English?||Sprechen Sie Englisch?||ShprêH-en zee êng-lish?|
|I don’t understand.||Ich verstehe nicht.||IH ve-shte-he nickt.|
|What’s your name?||Wie heißen Sie?||Vee hays-en zee?|
|My name is…||Ich heiße…||IH hays-e…|
|I’m hungry.||Ich habe hunger.||Ikh hah-buh hoong-er.|
|Is there a restaurant near here?||Gibt es ein Restaurant hier in der Nähe?||Gib es eh-in res-to-rhan hir en de ni-he?|
|The menu, please.||Die Speisekarte bitte.||Dee shpay-ze kâr-te bi-te.|
|Could you recommend something?||Könnten Sie etwas empfehlen?||Kern-ten zee êt-vas êm-pfey-len?|
|How much is it?||Wie viel kostet das?||Vee feel kos-tet das?|
|That was delicious.||Das war köstlich.||Dahs vahr kust-leekh.|
|The bill, please.||Die Rechnung bitte.||Dee rêH-noong bi-te.|
|Where is the bathroom?||Wo ist die Toilette?||Voh ist dee toy-lêt?|