Zurich on a shoestring

Okay so the title is probably the best juxtaposition I’m ever going to come up with. I am not on about a gilded shoestring or one woven from the feathers of swans threaded with precious gems. I am talking about the ropiest, most frayed on the precipice of snapping muddied shoestring. We planned quite badly, well, very badly. On our trip we’d neglected to pay for one of our hotels in advance not realising it was to be paid on departure… Oops. So a couple of hundred euros lighter and we were at our poorest arriving into the world’s third most expensive city. Not the most ideal of travelling situations. Still, this post was born.

Zurich is a city steeped in the history which follows the winding river through its centre down into lake Zurich. The old town in the heart of the city is a prime example of medieval architecture and beyond. I can’t emphasise enough the pleasure we took in wandering along its cobbled and winding streets into medieval squares and courtyards alike. Aldstadt, as the old town is known, is a great place to people watch, let time pass you by and enjoy a Swiss chocolate in the most chocolate box of settings. The old town is bursting with religious landmarks to be appreciated for the architecture and sheer determination of builders so many years ago in the skill of their efforts alone.

ornate clock tower in the daylight

St. Peter’s clock tower in Zurich’s Old Town, also the largest clock face in Europe.

Beyond the captivating atmosphere of Zurich’s Old Town is a Zurich modern and fleeting against the medieval backdrop, which its society ebbs and flows around into café society, restaurants and bars alike after long hours in the financial district. Zurich is expensive, there is no difference of opinion on the matter and most of the eateries you’ll come across will reflect that. We were desperate to try fondue, but the best we came across was around £50… per person, so on we walked. For a lunch or dinner I’m quick to recommend Rice Up! Located in Zurich’s shopping district, a take on Asian fusion and well-priced given the location, it’s a way to ensure you stay within budget and have a decent and nutritious meal. For breakfast, I’d oddly recommend a department store. Manor. Avoid getting sucked in to convenience food for breakfast from wildly overpriced stalls and head for Manor. On the top floor you’ll find an exceedingly cheap café-slash-restaurant, Manora. Breakfast here is surprisingly good given the price, with a wide selection of hot and cold breakfast items, breads and pastries and mountains of Swiss muesli (which I’d highly recommend picking up a portion of). It’s self-service but if you’re on a shoe string then there’s no reason to complain. A 5 item breakfast and a cup of coffee comes to a mere 6 Swiss Francs (around £4.50 at the time of writing), so you’d struggle to find a more affordable breakfast in Zurich.

Zurich's river with boats and buildings along the banks. In the daytime.

The river flowing through Zurich, facing beyond old town into the more modern city.

The best thing to do in Zurich is free, and that’s possibly the beauty of the city. Taking a seat along Lake Zurich’s shore.  A plethora of seating dominates the bank to the extent you could dip a toe in if you were that way inclined. But make sure you take plenty of bread along to feed the gaggle on gaggle of swans which hound the banks. They’re impressively confident to the extent the ducks and swans alike will take bread straight from your hand (though I urge caution) and make for excellent companions whilst the sun descends across the city. We returned to the lake 3 times in our 2 day stay, each time with an increasing amount of bread.

swans on a lake

A gaggle of swans (and a duck) eyeing up the bread out of shot.

We left Zurich, impressively with our wallet and purse only marginally lighter than we’d arrived. As our train bound for Vienna rolled away from the platform along the lake shore for the Arlberg pass we marvelled at the colour of the lake and the diminishing city behind us. Zurich, Switzerland at large- we’ll come back. Promise.

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