From Zurich, with Love

20 Jan 2021

Natural beauty, old culture, and a modern vibe: Zurich has it all. In this guide to bringing back a piece of Switzerland with you, Menorca Chaturvedi prowls inside speciality stores and spots in this city

The sheer varieties of flowers amidst the fresh morning air enthrals me as I walk around the various stalls.

“This reminds me so much of my grandmother’s house and my childhood,” my guide says, as we walk past a beautiful collection of kranz (wreaths). With very few people out and about on a Friday morning rush hour, it’s a luxury to be walking around in an open-air market at the end of one of the costliest shopping streets in the world. Savouring the sights of local cheese and produce while looking out into the beautiful lake Zurich and the snow-capped peaks on the horizon, I thought to myself: isn’t this truly a piece of paradise on earth?

If only there were a way to take a piece of this beauty back home.

Walking along the river Limmat through Zurich’s old town is like strolling through a history book that has come alive. On the one hand, one could admire art and beauty, such as the stained glass windows by Marc Chagall in the Fraumunster church, the twin towers of the Grossmunster cathedral, and Zürich Opera House. Then there’s also the Water Church with Swiss painter’s Augusto Giacometti’s choral windows that contrast a modern man’s life with that of Jesus Christ’s.

On the art front, I find myself walking into in-church performances or chancing upon Blüemlihalle, the most artistic police station foyer. I spot a unique vintage furniture store in a quaint little house further down and then sit for a traditional meal in a historical guild house facing the Chagall windows.

Thanks to my marvellous guide from Zurich Tourism, I got the chance to discover some hidden spots amidst all the history and explore a few of the local stores that give a special touch to the city. In a way, I’ve got the chance to relish the essence of Switzerland in a matter of wonderful, fleeting days.


A Luxurious History

Exiting the central station in Zurich, it’s easy to walk directly into the hub of the shopping area of the city. Bahnhofstrasse, known to be one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world, is lined up with a plethora of luxury and department stores. The Paradeplatz square could also be spotted there, where Zurich’s main financial centre and other important banks are headquartered. It’s not uncommon to see people queuing up in front of these stores even before they open for the day. I couldn’t help but step into the world of watches and jewellery and check out two of the biggest watch stores in Zurich: Bucherer and Beyer.

No sooner did I enter the five-storey Bucherer building that I realised that this is what an amalgamation of history, heritage, and modernism would look like. In theory, this could be your one-stop-shop for all high-end Swiss watches and their in-house jewellery, but the process turns out to be far more customised and personal.

Founded in 1888 in Lucerne, this family-owned store grew by leaps and bounds in the years to come with Rolex as one of their early partners. Back then, trust was especially crucial, as brand names were not established. Browsing through their other collection of certified pre-owned watches and hearing about their stories made me recognise that trust, history, and culture remain essential aspects for them.

Hopping across the street to the Beyer store and watch museum, I get a similar sense of the longing to preserve history, the value of craftsmanship, and the appreciation for natural resources. With the Beyer museum celebrating 50 years in 2021, it is an even better time to visit their impressive collection of watches spanning several centuries.

I’m delighted to stay at the newly opened Hotel Sorell St Peter, a stone’s throw away from Paradeplatz and the Beyer museum. The hotel’s location is perfect for hopping in and out of my room whenever I need to take a break during the city exploration.

Come afternoon, I make my way to La Rotisserie at the Storchen Hotel, the only riverside hotel in Zurich, for my scheduled fine dining experience. Staying in that part of town has its other perks. For instance, I could indulge my sweet tooth into macaroons and desserts at the historical confectionary Sprungli, which is located barely five minutes away or walk to one of the Hiltl restaurants for an all-vegetarian buffet.

When it comes to shopping for gifts, I discover that Marktlücke offers traditional and quirky hand-made gifts made of recycled materials. This quaint shop by the river plays a significant role in sustainable shopping while helping out women in need. Just a few metres ahead, I come across Vock, a vintage furniture store that houses remarkable pieces that are likely not available online.

As is often customary for most tourists, I swing by a local handicrafts store and browse through some souvenirs and memorabilia to bring home. I take my time to go to Schweizer Heimatwerk, loving their collection of ceramic showpieces, cutlery, fondue cookware, Swiss cookbooks, Alpine cowbells, traditional attire, and more. As I prowl down the merchandise aisles, I find out from a local that some scenes of the popular Korean show Crash Landing on You were also shot in this specific store.

Entering the watch store Messer- Scharf ensured that I didn’t miss out on browsing through the world-famous Swiss knives. After all the long hours of walking around, I knew just what I wanted for the evening: indulge in the Swiss tradition of Apero (social event) with wine and cheese at a beautiful riverside bar called Terrasse.


Into The World Of Chocolate And Cheese

If I had to bring back a favourite memory from Zurich, it would be this: gawking at all the cheese, olives, peppers, pasta and flowers at the Bürkliplatz market. And for a cheese lover like me, the plethora of Swiss cheese selections in front of me was making my mouth water.

As someone who feels the most refreshed and creative when beside a body of water, I love how the views of the lake and the distant snowy peaks present natural visual treats, as well as how the fresh air caresses my face. Right then and there, I take advantage of the clear and sunny weather by hopping on a 30-minute boat ride to Kilchberg with my Zurich City card. It was time to treat my senses even further by visiting the newly opened Lindt Home of Chocolate.

Visiting this piece of chocolate heaven can only be one of the most memorable aspects of one’s trip to Zurich. From the nine-metre-tall chocolate fountain to the world’s biggest Lindt store, a Lindt cafe, an auditorium, an interactive museum showcasing the history of chocolate, and the possibility to make your own chocolate in a workshop – the day slips by quickly. Moreover, the fact that I’m the only adult who has signed up for a workshop in a room full of kids doesn’t deter me from learning from a Maître Chocolatier and decorating my own Lindt bar. Cheese, chocolate, and a lake: I have found the best combination for my own paradise.


Welcome To The Trendy Side

With my taste buds still rife from all the chocolate tasting, I knew I had one more mission for the evening before I could prepare to bid farewell to the city. Thrill fills me up as I had already explored aspects of the traditional, historical, culinary, and luxurious sides of Zurich. Now, it was time to explore the trendy and offbeat Zurich-West. Think: industrial areas, repurposed breweries, street art, fashion, more local shopping, sunset drinks, and culinary delights.

Spotting the overarching Prime Tower from a distance, the first thing that strikes me at Escher-Wyss-Platz was the Towers art installation by Cuban artist duo Los Carpentiros. The five sculptures in the form of screwdrivers and other drilling equipment represent the industrial past of Zurich-West. It was here that ships were built at one point, and several factories existed. Many of these factories are now repurposed, and Zurich has more than 1,300 art pieces outdoors for public access.

An intriguing part of Zurich-West to shop and eat locally is the Im Viadukt, a street lined with an array of stores, a restaurant, and a Markthalle (indoor market area) located under stone railway bridges. The Markthalle hosts several stores offering local and regional products. The gourmet grocery store Berg Und Tal was an extra treat to visit, marvelling at the information about slow-food and niche products they carry. The shopping street itself is filled with several high fashion outlets, second-hand shops, and stores that sell books, furniture, and quirky gifts.

Freitag is our next stop. This Zurich brand makes durable and water-resistant bags out of used truck tarpaulins, discarded seat belts, and bicycle tubes. Targeted initially at bike riders, Freitag now has branches all across the world and has become incredibly popular. I am told that no two bags are the same.

As the sun starts to set and the fairy lights twinkle in the nearby Frau Gerold’s Garten eatery, I pause, unwind, and enjoy a drink here. It’s fascinating to be sitting in an industrial site, with its railway tracks, urban surfing venue, and a flagship store building made of freight containers in the vicinity, knowing that centuries-old architecture and Einstein’s university were just a couple of train stops away on the other side of the city.

Indeed, I found a way to take a piece of Switzerland back with me in more ways than one.