One of the things that surprised me most about Zürich when I first visited it was how many English and Irish pubs there are. Whilst I haven’t gotten to try all of them (that would take some time) I have a few favourites, which I would be more than happy to return to again and again. Here are my recommendations for anyone looking for a little slice of the UK during their time here:
Kennedys is a cornerstone of expat life in Zürich – most of the expats I know have been there at least once (in fact, since it is so close to the main station, it’s usually one of the first places people visit when they move here). Certainly if you’re looking to meet people who speak your language, Kennedys is usually a pretty safe bet. Locals also like it as well, due to its friendly, convivial atmosphere, good drink selection and great food. Kennedys also runs regular pub quizzes, and shows popular sports events on its television screens, so if you follow a particular team, you’ll often find you can watch it in the company of other fans. As a result, Kennedys gets top marks for atmosphere, and is for many, a home away from home. The only downside is that it gets crowded and it can be difficult to get a seat, so get there early! 8/10
Best for: Meeting people
Oliver Twist Pub, Rindermarkt 6, 8001 Zürich
The Oliver Twist is probably my absolute favourite of all of Zürich’s pubs, even though I’ve only been there once in 2015, before I moved here! I love that it is tucked away in the Niederdorf. It really is a hidden gem, you could easily walk past it and miss it. The Oliver Twist’s biggest selling point is its lovely beer garden, where you can eat alfresco. Or if it’s cold out, the pub interior is cozy and warm, with lovely dark wood and traditional booths. The main downside of this pub is that it’s quite small, so I imagine that like Kennedys it would become quite packed, pretty quickly in the evening. 8/10
The Lion pub is quite upmarket for a pub, it feels more grown-up than its counterparts. To me, the Lion is the perfect place to have a quiet chat, or while away an afternoon at a relaxed place. If you’re someone who hates having to shout to be heard or wants to avoid a rowdy crowd, then the Lion is for you. The Lion is slightly more pricey than many of Zürich’s other pubs, but sometimes it’s worth paying a bit more just to get some peace and quiet. I think the Lion would be a good place to start a night out, but if you want somewhere with more of a party atmosphere, then go elsewhere…
The Shamrock Irish pub is a bit off the beaten track, as it’s not in the city centre of Zürich; instead it is located in Zürich’s second district, in Wollishofen. The fact that it is not located in the city centre is actually part of its appeal, as it makes it feel more like a neighbourhood joint than a run of the mill tourist pub. The Shamrock is probably the cheapest of the four pubs on this list, and is also quite family-friendly (the bartender was feeding her baby behind the bar when we went in). Like Kennedys, the Shamrock also runs pub quizzes and screens sports, so a great place to enjoy with friends. The only downside to this pub is the food, which I wouldn’t really recommend as it was a bit cold and bland. The drinks menu is decent though, and it was enjoyably peaceful when we visited one Sunday afternoon. 6/10
Best for: Feeling like a local
Do you have a favourite pub in Zürich? Are there any you think I should visit?
Whilst Switzerland is well-known for its breath-taking mountain hikes, sometimes it’s both cheaper and easier to keep things local. Luckily for me, Zürich canton has plenty of lovely areas to visit for a gentle walk.
Here are my top five places to walk for when I need to get some fresh air, but I don’t want to take three trains and a cable car to get to it:
Pick almost any point along Lake Zürich to walk along and you’re sure to find something of interest. From lidos and places to swim in the summer, to beautiful old towns, to outside bars and solitary view points, Lake Zürich is an ideal starting point for anyone wanting to get to know the canton in a bit more depth. And, if you’re tired out from walking, you can always hop on a boat, bus or tram to get you back into the city.
Walking along the Limmat River is a good way of exploring the city of Zürich itself, as it flows right through the centre of it. Like Lake Zürich, there is a lot to catch the eye along the Limmat River; on just a couple of short walks along it I’ve seen a city farm, numerous cafés and bars, stately old houses, street art and graffiti and people floating past on flamingos and unicorn shaped rafts. There’s definitely a lot going on down by the riverside!
Whilst the Limmat River is located right at the heart of Zürich, walking along the Glatt River is a often a good way to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. Although parts of the Glatt can be very urban, a lot of it is refreshingly green and vibrant, especially if you opt to walk along a part that is away from the centre of town. Living in Bülach, the Glatt River is very close to home, and is therefore one of my favourite options for an easy to navigate walk that requires only a short journey time for me by public transport.
Nicknamed Zürich’s “Little Mountain”, the Utelilberg offers people who have no experience with hiking an easy way to get into it. Popular with families, the Uetlilberg has lots of clearly-marked hiking routes, with the most well-known being the Planetweg, which takes two hours to get to Felsenegg, where a conveniently located cable car is waiting to take you back down again. The Planetweg is essentially a “map” of the solar system, with the miles between the “planets” represented by metres. The Uteilberg is also home to the impressive Uto Klum Hotel, which offers panoramic views of the city below.
Perhaps not as famous as the Uteliburg, but still just as good an option for walking, the Zürichberg has a lot to offer visitors and locals. The Zürichberg is covered in walking trails that wind in and out of woods, past residential areas, offering stunning views of the Alps and of Zürich (though when we went yesterday, everything was covered in fog…oh well!). There are short trails and longer ones, and it would honestly take several months to explore them all. The Zürichberg is also home to the Dolderbahn and the Seilbahn Rigiblick, a cog-wheeled railway and cable car respectively, that make it incredibly easy to get up the hill and start trekking.
After months and months of only knowing a handful of people as an expat, I’ve suddenly acquired a bunch of new friends, which has given me the chance to sample some of Zürich’s cafes through several coffee dates. It’s fun getting to know Zürich in more depth and discovering my favourite places to hang out and chat. The pictures are all from google as I find it a bit awkward taking photos when I’m actually inside a café or a restaurant. I hope you don’t mind! Here, in no particular order are my favourite cafés in Zürich so far:
This wins the title of “best located” for me. Just three minutes from Zürich main station, this has become a bit of a regular. I’ve been there three times, and I love the warm atmosphere, the service and the delicious tasting coffee. This café also has plenty of seating, and offers affordable (for Zürich) Italian food, so its also a handy lunch spot, though I’ve not eaten there yet. Spiga also has a fun play area for under 4s, making it perfect for families. 8/10
I love the look of café Zähringer. It’s cozy, unpretentious and lively, and I feel certain that if I was a student, I would frequent it often. Zähringer is in Zürich’s old town, easily the most interesting and liveliest part of the city. It is the ideal spot to hole up on a cold winter’s day, though it does get a bit crowded as it is very popular. There is a great selection of hot and cold drinks, as well as some light bites, and I believe it even has a range of board games to keep you entertained with your mates. Great for a low key afternoon, though the staff can seem a bit preoccupied at times. 7/10
Whilst small, cozy cafés can be charming, I tend to gravitate towards cafés that have a bit more space, and this fits the bill perfectly. Whilst some might argue that it’s a bit lacking in atmosphere or a bit corporate, in its defence, it has excellent service, the strongest coffee I’ve tried so far in Zürich (a big plus!) and it is fantastic for people watching, with its big windows all along one side. It’s also in one of my favourite parts of town, Europallee, which is Züruch’s newest neighbourhood, with parts of it still under construction, so all the cafes and restaurants are recent additions to Zürich’s social scene and they look and feel fresh and modern as a result. Europallee is also located very close to the main station so its perfect if you don’t want to travel too far. 8/10
This is the most stylish café I’ve seen in Zürich. My friend told me it’s made it’s way onto quite a few instagram pages for Zürich, thanks to its colourful decor and sophisticated feel. Beetnut bills itself as the perfect choice for health food lovers, with its range of smoothies and health bowls. I ordered a delicious smoothie there, which was incredibly rich and sumptuous (though a bit hard to drink as it was so thick!) Beetnut is also in Europallee, so again, it’s very close to the main station. In fact Beetnut is just a few doors down from Il Caffe, so you could check out both in an afternoon if you felt so inclined! 7/10
Best for: Health enthusiasts
Do you have any café recommendations for Zürich for me to try out?
Switzerland is famous for having spectacular scenery, but it also has more than its fair share of beautiful towns. As I’ve visited quite a few, I thought it would be fun to share my favourite picture from some of the towns and cities I’ve visited so far. I hope they inspire you to get out and explore more of Switzerland if you live here, or give you ideas of where to go for day trips or places to stay if you come here on holiday. Enjoy!
After a few months without much travel (apart from a trip home to London for Christmas and a couple of day trips in Switzerland) I’m starting to get itchy feet again, and as a result, I’ve started planning some trips to take in the summer. The planning process has led me to think about what I personally look for in a travel destination, and what makes me choose one place over another:
It has to be affordable for me
Since I only work part-time, my funds are limited, hence when choosing somewhere new to visit, affordability is definitely a big factor for me. As someone living in one of the most expensive countries in the world though, affordable is a relative term. I used to think London was very expensive until I moved to Zürich. Now, whenever I go back home, I’m amazed at how much cheaper it is to go out for a drink or a meal there, when I compare it with doing the same in Switzerland. Living here has definitely skewed my perception of how expensive the rest of the World is, so my definition of an affordable trip usually means that the country is only a short haul flight away.
If I can get there in under four hours then that means I can probably afford to go there, since I won’t have spent too much on the flights, and the accommodation and food will also certainly be cheaper than they would be in Switzerland. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, for instance, at the moment I don’t think I could afford to visit Iceland, despite it being not that far away without saving up for a long time, since according to this article, it seems to be even more expensive than Switzerland on average. That said, there’s no shortage of places that do fit into my current budget, so I plan on making the most of being so well-located to enjoy the rest of Europe.
It has to have good connections/ public transport
Neither my boyfriend and I can drive, so we don’t own a car. Not owing a car has many benefits – it’s greener for one thing and saves us a huge amount of money each year. However, it does mean that when we travel, we need to rely on public transport or tours to get around as we are unable to rent a car due to our lack of licences. Again, this makes Europe a prime destination for me, as it’s so well-connected and easy to get around.
It has to be relatively easy to get to
Since I like travel to be as stress-free as possible, I usually opt for places that I can get to with a direct flight from wherever I live. Multiple stop-overs in multiple airports is off-putting to me, and whenever I’ve done it, I’ve ended up feeling completely exhausted and burnt out. That’s not to say, I won’t ever visit places that are hard to get to (for instance, after watching Disney’s Moana, I really want to visit French Polynesia, which would definitely be a long journey from here) but it is definitely usually a consideration for me when choosing where to go to next, especially when I typically only ever have a few days off at time to travel.
It has to be relatively safe
Some travellers like to go out of their way to see the World’s most dangerous countries and places…but I’m afraid I’m not one of them. Since I primarily travel to relax and to enjoy a change of scenery, the last thing I want to do when I’m away is worry that my life is in danger. Of course, even the safest of countries have their dangers and discomforts, for instance, I remember feeling really scared in Poland when a large dog started growling and snarling at me whilst I was on a walk, but on the whole, wherever I’ve travelled I’ve felt at ease and calm, and truthfully, I enjoy feeling that way. Perhaps as I get older and see more of the World, I’ll feel more confident about venturing outside of my comfort zone (especially as my boyfriend loves adventure) but for now when choosing a destination, safety is of great importance to me.
It has to have enough to do and see
Some places fall into the other categories, they are safe, are easy to get to and are affordable, but there isn’t that much to do once you’re there. As I have a low boredom threshold, I prefer places with multiple attractions or things to see, so that I can have a choice of things to do once I’m there. Tripadvisor is great for giving me ideas of things to do in advance, and is a good way of accessing whether a destination is for me. There’s nothing worse than realising you’ve booked to stay somewhere for a week that you can see the entirety of in an hour or two. I’ve felt that way a few times on holiday, for example, in Marseille in France, in Zakopane in Poland and in Wexford in Ireland. These are all smallish towns with not a lot going on, and I would recommend only staying for a couple of night at most if you find yourself heading to these places, otherwise if you’re anything like me, you will be bored.
On the other hand, staying somewhere small and quiet can make for a more relaxing holiday, as long as there are options to go somewhere else for day trips. So, for that reason Settle in Yorkshire actually made for a good base, since whilst there wasn’t a huge amount to see in the town itself, it was perfectly situated for exploring with good railway and bus connections, so I didn’t feel stranded or stuck there. So long as there are things to do in the neighbouring area, I’m happy to stay somewhere a bit more on the quiet side.
Bearing all these factors in mind, where have I decided to go in the summer? Well, as I mentioned in the above blog about Yorkshire I have been enjoying seeing more of the UK these past two years (I think this is mostly due to my not being there anymore and missing it) so I would like to take a short trip in July to Bristol, as it meets all of the above criteria, and its actually somewhere I’ve always been interested in visiting.
What factors do you take into account when planning your next trip?
Visiting old, beautiful cities is one of my favourite pastimes – as you may have gathered from my other blog posts. After seeing numerous pictures of it online, Bruges has always been high on my list of places to visit, due to its sheer prettiness, and it did not disappoint me. My boyfriend and I took a trip there this past October, and we stayed for five nights.
Where We Stayed
We stayed at the Hotel Salvators, which was located 10 minutes walk from Bruges’ Market Square, which is the hub of Bruges. The hotel is built in the local Flemish style, with a traditional gabled roof, and prides itself on “not being a Novotel”.
The hotel had a lot going for it, it was in a great location, offered a delicious self-serve breakfast, was surprisingly affordable and was full of charm and quirkiness. The only downside to the hotel was that oddly, the bedsheets smelled overwhelmingly of curry powder. I have no idea why they smelled like that, and it wasn’t only one set of bed sheets either. Each time the sheets were changed, the new ones still smelled of curry powder. Perhaps it was the fault of their laundry detergent? Either way, it was a bit off-putting, and it actually smelled so strong that it was a bit hard to fall asleep…!
Despite the strange smell, I would still recommend the hotel overall due to its positives…just maybe bring some Febreeze with you if you do decide to stay there!
What We Did
What didn’t we do would be the better question. We really packed a lot into our trip – here’s what we got up to:
We often start our trips by doing some sort of tour, as it’s a good way to learn how to navigate a new city. The City Bus Tour appealed to me because it featured a small bus instead of the usual double decker (in my case, the fewer crowds and tourists, the more I enjoy the experience) and also because the tour was only 50 minutes long, which is the ideal amount of time to get a feel for a place and find things we want to see or visit. All throughout the tour, my boyfriend kept finding places he was interested in photographing, so for that reason alone, it was well worth doing.
In addition to doing the City Bus Tour, we also opted to do a free night walking tour. We love walking tours (it’s actually how we met!) because it’s a terrific way to see parts of a city that are tucked away from the well-trodden path. Our tour guide was very charismatic and told us fascinating stories about Bruges’ history, including chilling ghost legends, which added a fun atmosphere to the experience, and prevented the tour from becoming dry or heavy. The tour finished by offering a free beer in a local youth hostel, which I though was a nice touch, and very generous of the company. This was easily one of the best free walking tours I’ve ever done (and I’ve done quite a few), so if you’re looking for a fun way to spend an evening in Bruges without spending too much, then I would recommend doing this particular free walking tour. If you enjoy the tour, you can show your appreciation to the tour guide by making a small donation at the end.
Visiting The Windmills
If you’ve walked round the main touristy part of Bruges and want to get away from the crowds, I suggest you go and check out Bruges’ windmills. The windmills lie in the old city boundary, in a green park that surrounds the city, next to the canals. The windmills are open to the public from April to September (so we just missed being able to go inside) and its worth noting that you can still actually occasionally buy flour from some of them. Walking around the Windmills offered a refreshing change of pace from the very crowded Bruges streets.
This museum was one of the most popular attractions in the city, but it was my least favourite outing. Perhaps this goes without saying, but you have to really be interested in the process of how beer is made to truly get something out of the experience. I enjoy drinking beer, and I like trying different varieties of beer, but truthfully I do not really care how it is made. I realise that this is down to personal preference, and this isn’t a reflection on the museum itself. If you like learning about how things work, you will really enjoy it; the museum is informative and well-laid out, with multiple language guides, making it easy to follow the exhibits. If you don’t enjoy learning about technical things, then you could always just visit the museum’s bar instead, and sample some of Belgium’s tastiest brews.
This was my favourite of Bruges museums! The small cozy museum really gave me an insight into how people in Bruges used to live, and it brought history to life. The museum was divided into several rooms, with each room depicting a different theme or place.
For instance, one room was made up to look like an old school classroom, whilst another room was made to look like a working pharmacy. It really caught my imagination, and my boyfriend enjoyed it as well, as some of the objects placed in the rooms were familiar to him from his own past (I promise he’s not that old!). Another thing I liked about the Volkskundemuseum was the fact that it wasn’t crowded at all – we pretty much had the place to ourselves. In my opinion, I think the museum was one of Bruges’ hidden gems. I’m so glad we discovered it!
On the last morning we still had time to kill so we decided to look around the Bruges Friet Museum. I must admit, it wasn’t a museum that we were particularly interested in, when we first got to Bruges, but we were pleasantly surprised by how fun the museum was! The museum had a range of exhibits, from the history of the humble potato, to how Pommes Frites were invented, to various humorous adverts all featuring fries. It sounds dull, but the museum was actually very interesting, due to its sheer passion and love for all things potato, and that passion swept us along with it. I would definitely add it to a list of niche, eccentric museums that are worth visiting.
What we ate
I’ve realised that I need to add a “what we ate section” to these sorts of blog posts, since eating out is such a big part of our trips! This time we sampled quite a few local dishes, since it was the kind of food that was right up our street!
On the first night out we ate one of the best stews I’ve ever tasted, a local Flemish stew made with beef and beer. It was so rich, hearty and comforting, I wish I knew how to make it so that I could have it again. I also ate a similar tasting, and equally delicious rabbit stew for another meal, and a month later, I’m still craving both! Both stews came with a large portion of Bruges’ most famous food, pommes frites or French fries. In fact, we did not have one meal that didn’t come with French fries in Bruges, so if you’re on a diet, you may need to do some extra walking whilst you’re there!
We also ate an array of international dishes, from a superb duck l’orange to incredibly fresh burgers. I ate very, very well and only had one mediocre meal during the entire trip. Tip, all the best restaurants are the ones that are hidden away on the side streets – the worst restaurants are the ones directly located on the market square.
Bruges is a lovely city and is ideal for an affordable getaway in Europe. Whilst it is small in size, it still has a lot to offer and if you want to visit Belgium, but you aren’t sure where to begin, then I would say that Bruges is a great place to start.
I believe that to some extent, we are all shaped by the place we live in. Since living in Switzerland I’ve developed new interests, and different parts of my personality have become emphasised. Here’s how living in Switzerland has changed me:
I’ve become more interested in cooking
Switzerland is so expensive, that we hardly ever eat out. So, we eat almost all of our meals at home, and since eating the same thing all the time is boring, I have been trying out new recipes on a weekly basis. I used to find cooking to be a chore, but now I have my own kitchen that I don’t have to share with roommates and more time than I used to, I find it to be fun and relaxing. I’m really glad that I’ve developed this skill, since it means that I can hopefully save money and eat well for life! I’m still learning, but I’m so much more confident in the kitchen than I used to be since living here.
I’ve become better at saving money
There’s definitely more of a culture of saving money here than in the UK; there are adverts everywhere for digital piggy banks for children, and my bank sends me a quarterly magazine, which always has a feature in it about how saving is key to a successful future. These messages have finally started to sink in over the last year, and now saving regularly is becoming a habit.
I appreciate how lucky I am to actually be in a position where I can save on a regular basis, due to the higher wages here, so I’m trying to make the most of it. The two years before when I was living in London, I barely saved anything, which meant I had to borrow money from my boyfriend to survive the first few months of living here. I’m still paying him back even now, so by moving, I’ve really learnt just how important saving in advance for things can be. Hopefully I can continue to develop good fiscal habits whilst living here!
I have more time to be creative
I’ve always loved creating, since I was a child, but my productivity has certainly increased since being here. Again, this is partly due to my current working pattern. I simply have more time to create here, and my flat is my perfect working environment. It’s spacious, comfortable, quiet, and calm. Also, since I don’t know many people here, I’ve found I’ve developed my inner life more; With time on my hands I’ve developed my imagination by finding new avenues to explore, such as meditation or ASMR, and these new avenues have in turn lead me to have more ideas than ever before. I plan to write this blog for years come, and I have a long list of things I want to write about. In the past, I always only had one or two ideas for future blog posts, now I have loads!
I actually enjoy learning a new language
Alongside maths, German used to be my least favourite subject at school. Whilst it seems churlish, I do blame the teacher, she managed to make a living, breathing language seem irrelevant and dead. It also didn’t help that we spoke English during the entire lesson. Now, thanks to Migros klub Schule and my speaking partner, I actually enjoy learning German. I love seeing a sign and understanding what it means, or being able to ask for something I need in a pharmacy, it makes me feel empowered. Whilst I’m still not comfortable speaking German for extended periods of time, and I still think I speak like a three year old, there is something so satisfying about being able to build on my knowledge and get better little by little. It’s so much easier to learn a language when you are surrounded by it every day.
I prefer a quieter pace of life
Whenever I return to London, I’m always struck by how loud and busy it is! The tube is crowded, people are in a rush, there’s no space to walk, and my find myself getting tired and stressed more easily. I used to think that I was made for living in a big city, now I’m not so sure. I love the space to move about here. Even at peak times, Zürich doesn’t feel too crowded. There’s room to breathe here, and I like that.
How have you changed as an expat? Do you think where we live does have an effect on us?