Out-of-towners generally associate Zurich with a number of clichés, including the Bahnhofstrasse, stressed bankers and expensive Lamborghinis. But there is much more to discover. We will tell you about the many charming facets of this city on the Limmat and explain why a village festival in the city is not a contradiction.
“Chunsch au as Dörflifäscht?” (Are you going to the village festival?) – local Zurich residents would answer this question with a resounding “Yes!” At first, those not from Zurich are confused when they hear about a village festival in the largest city in Switzerland. But on closer examination, it does make sense because “Dörfli” and “Niederdörfli” (small village) are common names for one part of Zurich’s old town. Every summer, a big festival takes place here that includes a wide variety of culinary delights, market stalls, concerts, bars and open-air parties. And it all happens in beautiful Niederdorf.
Culture and shopping at the same time
When the locals talk about Niederdörfli, they mean the entire area that is part of Niederdorf and Oberdorf, which starts at Central close to the Zurich Main Station and stretches along the Limmat river to Bellevue Square. And this is where we are going to start our Royal night out. A small detour down to the shores of Lake Zurich is worthwhile any time of the year. When temperatures are soaring, jumping into the cool water or having an ice cream can provide relief from the heat.
Now we’re off to discover the many small streets of Niederdorf, where some excellent boutiques and charming cafés and restaurants are located. On the way, we come across one of the three most famous churches in Zurich: the Grossmünster. From the Münsterhof church square, we enjoy a view of the river as well as the other famous churches in Zurich, Fraumünster and St. Peter. We will come back to these two later in the evening. For now, we continue on to explore the charming little side streets and look forward to uncovering all of the pearls we find there. There’s nowhere else in Zurich that has more to see than Niederdörfli.
After so much walking, we have earned ourselves some refreshment. And because this city of fountains is most easily explored by foot, we reach the next station in just a few minutes.
Record-breaking culinary delights
Zurich has made it into the Guinness World Records book. And this time, it wasn’t for Swiss chocolate or banking secrets. The star of our story is a restaurant – one that is completely meat-free. The centrally located Haus Hiltl is the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world. Since 1898, it has been treating its guests to delicious dishes from all over the world. Everyone who wants to give their taste buds something special is welcome. Those who like things simple and prefer to try a little of everything will rave about the scrumptious buffet. And those who prefer a more refined atmosphere should reserve a table in the service restaurant and order à la carte.
Hiltl delights your palate with oriental spices and shows that vegetarian cuisine can be much more than just green salad and carrots. The mainly Asian-inspired dishes are prepared fresh daily in the restaurant’s own kitchen and bakery. The juices are freshly squeezed, the lemonades and iced teas are home-made and the brownies will entice all those who have a sweet tooth. Even those who hate to eat their vegetables will forget their usual preferences in the midst of these culinary delights. And guests who really liked what they had can go next door to Vegi-Metzg and stock up on their favourite treats. This shop offers vegetarian and vegan specialities, wines and fine spices to suit every taste. Or you can simply buy one of the Hiltl cookbooks and try the recipes out for yourself.
Sophisticated cocktail sipping
Since Zurich not only offers truly delicious food, but also has the perfect drink for every cocktail fan, the next stop will be to quench our thirst. A seven-minute walk brings us to the Rathausbrücke (city hall bridge). Before we cross the Limmat, which incidentally we have named one of our own drinks after, we take a break for a minute. We marvel at the spires of Fraumünster and of St. Peter, which has the largest church clock face in Europe. One more record set by the small country of Switzerland! Still thirsty, we turn around and after crossing the bridge continue straight ahead about 100 metres and then go right to the final stop of our Royal night out: BarMünster. The elegant, antique interior creates a cosy atmosphere that makes you want to stay for a while. During the week, the doors close at midnight. But on Friday and Saturday, Zurich residents – and, of course, we ourselves – like to stay and enjoy the ambience and wide range of beverages until 2 a.m.
Over 60 different cocktails are on the menu. These include the list of must-have mixed drinks – traditional recipes and new interpretations as well as many creations developed by the talented bartenders. And every night, the bar also has new treats for your ears. Excellent live music is provided by local musicians on the first Sunday of each month. And incidentally, BarMünster has the reputation of being the perfect place for a first date! The music is nice and not too loud, the service is friendly and attentive, and the cocktails are absolutely delicious. And – if necessary – they will help you relax a bit. Our personal favourite, however, is the typical Italian coffee which is prepared by hand using a coffee machine imported from Naples. We don’t want to miss out on this taste of Italy. Not even in the heart of Zurich’s old town. And especially not if there are delicious cakes to go with it.