Arriving to Zurich by plane is a pleasure that few other world-class cities can match. It’s not news that it has been voted the best European airport 15 years and counting. Trains leave the airport weekdays for central Zurich every six minutes and every 10 on weekends. In under 15-minutes you arrive at the Hauptbahnhof, Zurich’s spotless main train station. The “birthplace of cleanliness,” Zurich has so much to offer whether for two days or two weeks. Top notch museums, shopping, restaurants, hiking, local wineries, and so much more.
The 25Hours Hotel Langstrasse is an easy, flat 10-minute walk from the Hauptbahnhof, via Europaalley, a very pleasant pedestrian street with shops, cafés, and restaurants. In keeping with the gentrified area, 25Hours is likewise cool and hip with quirky cuteness. Its elevator’s neon sign says, “Up, up and away,” and when you connect onto 25Hours Wi-Fi, you’re blissfully informed that “25Hours loves you.”
The lobby is industrial chic with cement flooring, and multi-colored, recycled tote bags artfully hang from an intricate pulley system. The front desk is a shop’s repurposed glass counter housing ships-in-a-bottle, vintage cameras, and typewriters. The first floor’s workspace has pin ball machines to assist in getting your game on. The 7th floor has Technogym equipment, showers, locker room, sauna, and outdoor solarium overlooking the Hauptbahnhof to aid in dreaming of your next destination. Despite its proximity to the station, 25Hours is blissfully quiet.
There are 170 rooms ranging from 180-square foot singles to 350-square foot suites, each designed a bit differently. Mine called a large, contained 260-square feet. The bed was outstanding, and cute pillows boasted sayings, “Let’s spend the night together” and “Almost home,” made dreams sweet. The room had a coffee station, stocked mini-bar, tiny desk with colored pencils, flatscreen television, hardwood and polished cement floors, and colorful wallpaper on one wall resembling a tropical forest. The large, walk-in rain shower was excellent and there were several interesting books in the room and some fun toys.
The Cinchona Bar has a snazzy brass counter, wide leather couches, and a vintage bike artfully hanging. The colorful tile wall, exposed ceiling, and floating mobile mirrored art kept me mesmerized even before any liquid assistance.
NENI, located off 25Hours lobby, stands for the initial of each of matriarch and food goddess Haya Molcho’s four sons. With Israeli, Romanian, and Spanish roots, Haya’s dishes are a detonation of distinct, delicious flavors that together demonstrate the Israeli concept of balagan – my second favorite word in the Hebrew language – meaning enjoyable chaos. (My favorite word is the greeting Shalom, meaning peace.)
There were plenty of appetizing meat dishes on the menu, but I’d arrived quite late. So I ordered Gabrannte grilled eggplant with Har Bracha tahini, tomato salsa, and green chile that exploded with flavor. Following, King Oyster Mushroom Shawarma bathed in miso Harissa glaze, tahini, amba, and herbs on grilled laffa flatbread. Either dish could’ve converted my carnivorous tendencies to vegetarianism. NENI’s Klassiker, a house-made Muscovado ice cream with toasted sesames, halva, raw tahini, date syrup, and caramelized pecans was a confluence of utter perfection. When you die and go to heaven, Klassiker is on the menu.
If you are near Zurich’s magnificent Opera House, or Lake Zurich near the Burkliplatz, pop into NZZ Am Bellevue in NZZ’s newspaper’s main building. A bar, club, and restaurant, provides great people watching and “up-to-the-minute content,” while serving aesthetically pleasing, freshly prepared food. The Asian-style salad and salmon poke bowl was fresh and satisfying.
Six years ago Bank Helvetiaplatz was repurposed into a bar and restaurant serving comfort food and a pleasant 10-minute walk from 25Hours. The tuna tartar with avocado and pomegranate in a light, tangy mango sauce was exquisite, and the Marrakech salad fresh and perfectly dressed. In this Boho area, Bank is framed by Lutherwiese, where executions were apparently carried out during the Middle Ages. Happily, instead of necktie parties, now there’s a farmer’s market Tuesday and Friday mornings, and nearby, a flea market.
The European breakfasts at 25Hours have the expected hearty breads and pastries, cheeses, sausages, fruits and yogurts, and also Mediterranean offerings such as fresh labneh, hummus, and babaganoush.
Whether you are getting acquainted or reacquainted with Zurich, a good place to get one’s bearings is to stroll the Bahnhofstrasse starting at the Hauptbahnhof, and ending a mile later at Burkliplatz and Lake Zurich.
Originally built atop a sewage-filled moat and unceremoniously filled in 1864, Bahnhofstrasse went from a malodorous canal to a world-renowned boulevard with snazzy shops. There are the usual big names: Gucci, Prada, Hermes, Piaget, Henry Winston, and of course, specialty chocolates, including ganache with panache Teuscher, and chocolatier Sprungli.
The narrow side streets of the Altstad have plenty of cafes, restaurants, and shops on cobblestone streets, including the minuscule kitschy, but comic, Donde Art Gallery with an embossed violin bearing Marilyn Monroe. Nearby, Galerie Am Linden Hof also had some interesting surrealist pieces.
Koppler Hof Square is a peaceful, lawned courtyard where you can terrace dine or drink at the 1886-established Old Fashioned Bar. Or head inside where wood walls and period chandeliers reign. Stained-glass aficionados will want to see the intricate Marc Chagal, Augusto Giacometti, and Clement John Heaton windows in the nearby, imposing Fraumunster Church.
On now though January 8, 2023, the Kunsthaus Museum is hosting a mind-boggling Niki de Saint Phalle retrospective. This fantastically curated exhibition boasts over 100 pieces from every stage of this remarkable artist’s noteworthy career. Her multi-faceted creative output was enormous: paintings, sculptures, furniture designs, perfume development, filmmaking, and screenwriting. Her work was simultaneously colorful and humorous, while concurrently emotional, dark, brutal, and most of all, socially challenging.
The Tuesday and Friday morning Market Burkliplatz has cheeses, fruits, vegan meals, and regional specialties. Excellent for picnic supplies to enjoy Lake Zurich by the water’s edge, or on one of the boats departing Burkliplatz that cruise the lake. Especially lovely at sunset, where light sparkles off the lake and the ever-present snow-capped mountains.
Despite several visits to Zurich and being the self-anointed President and CEO of the imaginary Chocoholic’s Anonymous Society, on this trip I finally made it to the Lindt Home of Chocolate.
The grounds house a massive factory equal in size to a football field with over 660 chocolatiers, a 27-foot chocolate fountain – and yes I wanted to dive in and only barely controlled myself – suspended walkways resembling a chocolate conveyer belt, and a beautiful and informative museum reflecting 5,000 years of chocolate’s history, from 3,500 BC to present. This included a Who’s Who of chocolate: Cailler, Nestle, Peter, Tobler, Suchard, Lindt – who invented the conche that forever changed chocolate manufacturing, bless him – and Sprungli. Naturally it houses the world’s largest Lindt chocolate shop where I would like to permanently reside.
The Lessons Learned
Stores are open until 8 or 9 and closed Sundays, but there are always vending machines for after hours. Even for fresh flowers, farm products, or if your bike gets a flat, inner tubes!
James Joyce, who is buried at the Zurich-Fluntern cemetery, once said, “Zurich’s Bahnhofstrasse is so clean that one could drink minestrone soup off it.” Frankly, it’s still so blissfully clean, that one could eat an entire five-course meal there. Except now travelers would have a choice of Israeli, Swiss, Thai, or any other cuisine one could fancy. In this regard, happily not a thing has changed since the early 20th century.
As I was getting ready to leave Zurich, I thought of Niki de St. Phalle’s words, “The important thing is to fall in love. Therefore you can fall in love at any age. It doesn’t have to be a person. It can be a new civilization or what you will.” As for me, I’m very happily continuously in love with Zurich. And of course with chocolate. Happy Travels!
Written by Julie L. Kessler
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