December 17, 2010 / 10:11 AM / 8 years ago

Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Zurich at Christmas

ZURICH (Reuters Life!) - Famed as a private banking fortress where the wealthy come to stash their cash, Zurich’s abundance of culture make it an attractive destination for all, not just the rich and famous.

Shoppers walk under Christmas illuminations on Rennweg street in Zurich November 21, 2009. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Spread along the shores of its magnificent lake with beaches and lidos for swimming in summer, Switzerland’s largest city also provides easy access to fabulous winter skiing and walking in the nearby Alps.

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a short stay in the city.


3 p.m. On stepping out of the train at Zurich’s main station, get straight into the festive spirit with a warming gluehwein (mulled wine) in between browsing the many food and craft stalls on the Christmas market in the spacious arrival hall, used for many other public events throughout the year like the city’s own mini Oktoberfest.

The hall is dominated by a colorful angel made by French artist Nicki de Saint Phalle hovering above the crowds on golden wings and, at this time of year, a huge Christmas tree dripping with thousands of glittering ornaments from crystal maker Swarovski.

5 p.m. Soak up that gluehwein with traditional Swiss fare at the Volkshaus Restaurant before heading on to Kreis 5, Zurich’s former industrial area now favored by the city’s arty crowd thanks to its “cultural mile’ of galleries, clubs and bars.

8 p.m. Visit one of the excellent theatres in the Schiffbau, where Lake Zurich’s paddle steamers were built at the turn of the 20th Century but which has since been converted into an impressive cultural center. Music lovers can plump for one of the top international acts appearing in the intimate setting of Moods jazz club, also housed there.


9 a.m. Start the day with a leisurely stroll down posh shopping street Bahnhofstrasse, where you can buy jewelry, designer clothes and, of course, fine Swiss watches and chocolates.

11 a.m. People-watching at chic Cafe Spruengli, where celebrities like Mirka Federer can sometimes be seen taking a break between shopping and a trip to one of the private banks clustered around Paradeplatz.

12 p.m. Head on foot through the medieval old town to the Fraumuenster, which boasts a cycle of stained glass church windows by Marc Chagall. On the opposite bank of the River Limmat check out the colorful windows by German Sigmar Polke in the twin-towered Grossmuenster.

1 p.m. Stop by the stand outside Restaurant Vorderer Sternen close to the lakeside to taste Zurich’s best bratwurst (grilled sausage) and hottest mustard, accompanied by a lunchtime beer.

2 p.m. Wander the halls of Kunsthaus Zurich, currently celebrating its centenary by revisiting its landmark 1932 Picasso exhibition, allowing the 21st century public to view the Spanish artist’s groundbreaking work afresh with 70 works from the original show.

6 p.m. Dinner at Die Blinde Kuh (The Blind Cow), where you will rely on taste alone to sample food served in total darkness by blind and partially sighted staff.

9 p.m. Enjoy a pint or two of Irish stout at the James Joyce, named after the Irish writer who wrote part of his masterpiece Ulysses in exile in Zurich. The pub’s late-19th century interior originates from Jury’s Hotel in Dublin.

11 p.m. If you still have the energy after a busy day sightseeing, sample Zurich’s renowned nightlife with DJs at Valmann, Jade or Amber.


9 a.m. Chill out with Sunday papers bought from the station and enjoy a lavish Sunday morning breakfast buffet at Hiltl, Europe’s oldest vegetarian restaurant and loved by herbivores and meat-eaters alike.

12 p.m. Take a look at the Cabaret Voltaire, home of Dada, an anti-establishment movement formed in Zurich by artists railing against the horrors of World War I.

1 p.m. Head up the funicular to Dolder, where a huge outdoor ice rink awaits you in a tranquil forest setting. Alternatively take a cable car or train up local mountain Uetliberg for breath-taking views over the city and lake.

4 p.m. Grab one last coffee and a snack before heading home at the Jugendstil Grand Cafe Odeon, frequented over the years by famous patrons like Joyce, Albert Einstein and Vladimir Lenin.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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