Snow in the economic heart of Switzerland is not something you see every year. Add some rather strong winds coming down from the nearby Alps and things can get quite chilly, even for someone used to cold temperatures.
No wonder friends and colleagues like to either go skiing or spend their week-ends at home, tweaking their motorbikes in some underground garage, snuggling under blankets and catching up on entire seasons of TV series, reading books or studying for the CFA, CAIA, PMP, FRM and other alphabet soup credentials that usually require twice as much motivation and discipline to go through when the sun is shining and temperatures go back to more bearable levels.
There is a third choice though:
Finding refuge within the city’s tea and coffee shops, bars or restaurants. And some of these spots are worth the lacing of winter shoes and boots. The below list is a very subjective take on where to temporarily hide when the winter comes knocking and week-end hibernation in the confinement of one’s own flatshare, apartment or house just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Then again, before pushing the entrance door to one of these cozy dens, snow and wind in Zurich has its charms and I dare say that on such days, a walk through the old town is all it takes to bring back that inner child – even for those with a severe case of cold aversion.
Without further ado, here are the spots I somehow find myself walking in over and over again:
The Bar of the Hotel Widder is my favourite in Zurich’s old town. On Saturday and Sunday afternoon’s, the place is neither too quiet nor too loud and just the perfect spot to read, write or catch up with someone. On certain evenings (usually Tuesday evenings), jazz artists fill the place with their musical repertoires and give it a whole different flair. There is an egg-shaped bottle of vodka with a silver eagle on top of it that has been sitting in the bar for ages now – not a big fan of vodka but I swore to myself that I would get a shot from this one before I leave town.
Manzoni is where a work colleague made his last (rather emotional) speech before retiring at the tender age of almost 72, praising the place for “best coffee in town”. Breakfast and tea are solid and the white walls and furniture combined with the large bay window turn this light flooded bar into a very good location for starting the week-end or taking a time-out during the afternoon.
The Grand Café Odéon is an institution in Zurich. With a track record of over 100 years of servicing customers since opening in 1911, this is where Albert Einstein, James Joyce, Stefan Zweig and other historical figures (Lenin, Mussolini) were called “regulars”. Go for one of those typical Swiss winter dishes.
Chocolate addicts and worshippers of Luxemburgerli (a particular kind of macaron) flock to Café restaurant Sprüngli. Perfect spot to witness the mingling of cultures and languages. Chocolate attracts the crowds though. Beware.
Tao’s is one of those fine restaurants for Asian fusion style. Located in a more secluded part of the old-town (with a little garden and a terrace around it), yet very close to Paradeplatz, this is a great place to enjoy some excellent food in a very comfortable atmosphere. Does everything well. Never disappoints.
Cantinetta Antinori is really something you should keep in mind for someone special. This is Italian cuisine at it´s finest. You see, my parents still remember to this day that one Saturday evening they spent there. And that´s quite a stunt.
I call this next one the “Embassy of French Gastronomy”. Brasserie Lipp is a piece of France within Zurich. No further questions votre Honneur.
My first bar experience in Zurich was the Rive Gauche Bar. Great for business talks, lunch with friends, afternoon readings or socializing events in the evening. Relaxed ambient, classy without being posh. You get it.
Finally, this list wouldn’t be complete without Takano. Managed by Mr. Takano and his wife, the place embodies typical Japanese values: no ostentatious displays but a strong emphasis on quality. The miso soup is to die for.
Spring and summer are an entirely different game in Zurich and once temperatures are back somewhere between 15°C and 20°C (this is called “warm weather” over here), I will make a post on my prefered locations for those two seasons.
Time to go for a jog now.
Yes, in the snow.