Things to do near Zurich, 2018 Edition
May 29, 2018 7:30 AM   Subscribe

Me: Going from Berlin to Zurich to pick up a synthesizer I bought, staying in a place in Zurich for a couple of days.

What I have: A 4 day train pass between Switzerland and Germany, a vacation rental in Zurich about a 10 minute drive northwest of the train station.

General Itinerary: I'll be in Zurich from June 5th to June 7th. I am planning on taking an OBB overnight train from Zurich to Berlin, but I haven't booked that reservation yet.

My jumbled questions:
Since I'll have the 6th and the 7th to basically fuck off in Switzerland around Zurich with a Eurail pass, what is interesting to go see? I'm thinking about just hopping on trains and farting around the countryside, but I've got no idea what's achievable in a day or even useful to go to.

I'm looking at going Lucerne, is Basel interesting? Are there any small towns around Zurich that lead me to places where I'll be compelled to spin around like Julie Andrews and sing the hills are alive?

I guess I just feel like Switzerland is all this, well, amazing landscapes and awesomeness and I have no clue how to even begin to avail myself to it via train.

I'm also down for any tips on quirky shops and weird things to do in Zurich. If you know of any places that are just a bit too precious and twee as fuck, I'd love to know about them.

Also, I've read the coffee is kinda crap in Zurich. Please help me if you have any leads on the best coffee in Zurich.

Finally, I'm not above bailing on Switzerland entirely (because train pass) and going to Munich on the 6th instead. If that's something that's a better option I'm down to know about what's the awesome shit to do in Munich.
posted by nikaspark to Travel & Transportation around Zürich, Switzerland (6 answers total)
Well Munich is great. It's a big city with a lot of fun things to do. (And also sobering things; Dachau is nearby and worth visiting, but plan for a whole day.)

Zurich is a nice enough town but a little boring, you're smart to look for something else nearby. Swiss trains are phenomenally good and easy. if you want to spin around like Heidi, a nice day trip is to Appenzell (via St. Gallen). Actually there's a lot of places like that in Switzerland, where it's easy to take a train into the mountains, hike for an hour or two, have a glass or nice meal, then pick up a train at another stop to get you home.

I spent 3 months in Zurich and went every weekend touristing nearby. My blog from then might be helpful. Neuchatel, Lucerne, and Lausanne are all places I'd recommend considering. Zermatt was amazing but it's 3+ hours by train. Lugano in Ticino is also a longer trip than you're looking for.
posted by Nelson at 8:08 AM on May 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Most folks never even think to explore the villages around Zurich See, much less the hinterlands. There are so many small, interesting places to spelunk. The end point being Rapperswil. Funky old shops, devoid of most casual tourists, very welcoming, good food and old architecture.

Basel is also very good. The best bet there is to find all the obscure and niche museums. Some really cool things. I’ll post some links tomorrow my time.

I’m not sure where the rep for bad coffee comes from, but it was excellent when I lived there.
posted by michswiss at 8:10 AM on May 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Just a simple afterthought. A dinner at the Kaserne in Basel is cheap, tasty and connecting to the local arts culture.

Switzerland Is all about community. It’s very, very local. I lived there for about a decade. It’s a bit like visiting New England if you’re from California. It feels standoffish, but the people open up beautifully if you’re genuine.
posted by michswiss at 8:24 AM on May 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

Gruyères! Because cheese, H.R. Giger museum and cafe, old castle, and it's beautiful. You probably only need to spend 1 night there (or just a few hours). You can get there with transit.
posted by beyond_pink at 8:28 AM on May 29, 2018 [1 favorite]

I can recommend two specialized points about Zurich. If you are interested in Jung, you can visit the house where he lived until his death and other programs provided by the Jung Institute. Unfortunately, their English-language programs don't begin until mid-June, but there is plenty to just see. If you are interested in Chagall stained glass windows, you will find some in the Fraumünster, which also has other attractions.
posted by ubiquity at 8:35 AM on May 29, 2018

Best answer: Zurich is way, way cooler than a lot of people give it credit for. But as michswiss notes, the Swiss are pretty insular (but open up famously once you get past the outer shell). I spent six years traveling to Zurich for about 2-3 weeks twice a year, so I'm pretty familiar with it from the perspective of an American traveling there for business, and I have a ton of ex-pat friends who live there.

First off, get the SBB app on your phone: it will allow you to navigate the entire Swiss transit system with ease, as well as purchase tickets. Switzerland has a ton of tourists and expats, so the English language support is top-notch if your German isn't great. The SBB app is totally integrated with all of the transit systems in Switzerland, so you can buy an end-to-end ticket that includes whatever local transit and long-distance transit you'll need. If you're planning on doing a lot of traveling, look seriously at the Halbtax. I found that on a normal two-week business trip to Zurich that the annual Halbtax would pay for itself with three long-distance trips (i.e. three weekend days). It also applies to a lot of the very expensive mountain-top Luftseilbahns or cog railways.

Inside of Zurich, a nice walk is to hike up the Üetliberg (take Tram 13 to the end of the line at Albisgütli and follow the walking paths), then walk the Planetenweg to the Felseneggbahn and take the S-4 back from Adliswil.

Lucerne is a great daytrip. Go up Pilatus when you're there; the views are fantastic.

Bern is also fantastic, and only a 45 minute train ride if you get the express. If you're there when it's hot, a hugely popular thing to do is Aareschwimmen. Bring a dry bag, stuff all of your clothes and electronics in there, inflate it a bit and float down the river, taking in the sights. Get out at the end and walk across the town and do it again, or relax with the locals at a riverside cafe.

My all-time favorite daytrip from Zurich is a long one: heading up to Appenzell and hiking to the Berggasthaus Aescher for lunch. Be warned that it gets very, very crowded on the weekends. I still dream about their Rösti mit Spiegelei.

The best coffee I wound up finding in Zurich was La Stanza, but I'm more of a fan of lighter-roast third-wave coffee in the US and typically find the darker European roasts to be offputting. YMMV.
posted by kdar at 11:00 AM on May 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

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