Don’t just focus on its famous watches and fine chocolate: Switzerland’s wines are also worth traveling for, especially since less than 2% is exported. While Zurich is a convenient hub to explore the burgeoning winemaking regions of Aargau, Schaffhausen and the Zürcher Weinland nearby, travelers don’t have to venture far to find excellent Swiss wine and food. Here’s where to eat and drink in this postcard-perfect Alpine city.
In addition to its panoramic views of the Alps, Swissôtel, the tallest hotel in Zurich, boasts a colorful farmers’ market in the adjacent square each Wednesday and Saturday. Guest can also enjoy a farm-to-fork dinner or cooking class in the chic open kitchen at the property’s Le Muh restaurant, which offers a carefully curated list of Swiss wines, including excellent pours of Blauburgunder, or Pinot Noir, and Müller-Thurgau. Don’t miss the hotel’s Sunday brunch: wine lovers will appreciate the DIY-mimosa bar alongside an expansive breakfast spread that includes müesli, local cheeses and fresh-baked pastries.
Exploring the city on foot? Carb-load at John Baker, a modern baked goods shop with an ecofriendly ethos. Everything here is certified organic and made from scratch with local ingredients. Plus, you can save some Francs if you forgo a plastic bag. Order the popular hackbraten sandwich (meatloaf with mint and nuts), or a green olive loaf to snack on as you walk.
If you consider cocktails an art, pop by the stately, wood-paneled bar at Kronenhalle to indulge in a few upscale sips (a perfectly executed Kronenhalle Royal crafted by dressed-to-the-nines bartenders makes a great apéritif). The bar is well known for both its private collection of museum-worthy paintings by the likes of Chagall, Mirò, Braque and Matisse, and an extensive classic cocktail menu.
For a taste of the city’s rich German influence, peruse the sausage blackboard at Restaurant August. Updated daily, there’s often wiedikerli würste for lunch, a local pork sausage dotted with onions, parsley and spices from Zürich’s own Butchery Keller. The menu is a carnivore’s dream, with plates of beef jerky and alpine herbs, Zürich-style tripe or sliced veal Zürichoise drizzled with mushroom cream sauce. Nearly all plates use Swiss-sourced meats and pair well with the several local beers on tap, like Ittinger Klosterbräu.
Giving the phrase “watering hole” new meaning, Zürich’s popular badi-bars are not to be missed (picture a swimming spot colliding with a bar). By day, Rimini Bar is a riverside bathing facility for men enclosed by ancient city walls, though there are plenty of women-only and coed facilities throughout the city, too. At night, a young crowd gathers here to drink local beer and wine on the water, as picnic tables, Persian rugs and beanbags encourage informal group gatherings. Rimini Bar’s weekly Monday Market sells second-hand clothes and Zurich-made fashions.
Once an industrial sector, Kreis 5 is the prime neighborhood in Zurich for hip nighttime eats. Buzzing with drinking dens, art galleries and unique restaurants, you can soak up the atmosphere with an extended bar crawl.
Start at Quartier 5 for tapas and sangria, or enjoy a glass of Swiss-made wine from the restaurant’s extensive cellar on a leafy outdoor terrace. Move to Alpenrose to find a true taste of Swiss cuisine. Decorated with paintings of the Matterhorn and other iconic Swiss sites, the German-only menu serves stick-to-your-ribs fare like ham-stuffed pizokel (flour dumplings), or duck breast with dried plum sauce. Finish with a cocktail at the stylish LaSalle, located in the Schiffbau arts center. It’s gained attention for local specialties like boar with red cabbage as well as a stunning dining room marked by a giant crystal chandelier. Its collection of obstbranntwein, Zurich’s favorite nightcap, packs a punch. A regional brandy made from cherries, plums or peaches, it’s the perfect sip to enjoy before turning in for the evening.