Even though I’ve only been living in Switzerland since May, I’ve already had three people to visit, and my parents are in town this evening! Having visitors certainly helps to conquer expat loneliness, and also offers the opportunity to explore more of Zürich and try things I might not necessarily do on my own. Here’s what I’ve got up to with my visitors so far, as well as a few things I plan on doing with my parents this weekend:
1. Go swimming in the lake
Now that it’s getting colder, this may not be such a good idea, but if you’re an expat living near Zürich and you have people to visit during the summer, then get into the water – that’s what the Swiss do! I must confess, it’s not actually my favourite thing to do in Zürich [I don’t really enjoy the sun glaring into my eyes when I’m in the water, as it gives me a headache] but my boyfriend and my friend visiting really seemed to really enjoy it, and it is one of the few free [or very cheap] things to do in the city.
2. Go on a boat trip
This is a great way to explore Zürich in more depth, and see another side to the area. Boat tours usually last around two hours, and what’s more are often included in your travel ticket [we took the boat from Rapperswil, and our train ticket to Rapperswil also covered our boat fare]. Boat trips are also good to do if it’s raining, as they all have indoor seating, and many of them have a restaurant and bar on board as well.
3. Go out for a meal
Yes, Zürich is expensive, especially when it comes to eating out, but I think it’s important for visitors to try and sample at least one restaurant meal when they come to see you. Food is an important part of every culture, and Switzerland is no exception. Besides, as I’ve said before, the food is delicious, and your friends will be missing out if they don’t get the chance to try it!
4. Go for a hike
It was rare for me to go hiking when I lived in London, but here it is a normal part of Swiss life [ok, it’s still quite rare for me to go hiking, but I am doing it a bit more regularly than I used to!] The whole of Switzerland is basically one long hiking trail, with trails clearly marked everywhere – google short walks near Zürich and you’re bound to find a decent route. Hiking is admittedly quite relaxing [so long as you’re not crawling up a cliff-face] and offers the chance to have an in-depth conversation with your friends.
5. Explore Zürich’s old town
I’ve already mentioned on this blog how much I love Zürich’s old town, and chances are, your visitors will be charmed by it too. It is definitely the part of town with the most eclectic shops, bars and restaurants, and it’s certainly the prettiest part of town too. I could spend hours wandering round the winding streets, getting lost. It’s the part of Zürich that I most want my guests to see, though actually I’ve only shown my friends who’ve visited me, a tiny part of it, and my other friend did a tour of the old town on his own, so I haven’t actually done this tour properly as a host – but I plan to give my parents the full version tomorrow!
6. Visit Grossmünster
Grossmünster is Zürich’s most iconic landmark, and is open to the public to visit. Even if you’re not religious, it is a very striking building, and if you’re willing to pay a few francs to climb up one of the towers, it offers a great view over the city. I will be taking my parents there tomorrow, but I think we’ll avoid climbing the tower as my Mum has vertigo.
7. Chill out at home
Site-seeing can be really fun, but also really tiring! I think most guests will be happy to spend at least some time relaxing with you in your home, after all, hopefully their primary aim of the visit is to spend quality time with YOU, and not just have a holiday on the cheap. On every visit so far, I’ve spent some time with my guests just relaxing, and for me, it was one of the best parts of their time here.
8. Show off where you live
I can’t afford to live in the centre of Zürich, so I live in a small town called Bülach, about 25 minutes from Zürich’s main station. Bülach may be small, but it is pretty and is good for a short walk after lunch – you don’t always have to take your guests far in order for them to see something new – I personally love seeing people’s towns, it gives me a better understanding of what their life may be like.
9. Have a picnic
If the weather is good, then I think picnics are a great way to enjoy a meal outside cheaply. Head to Migros or Coop [though Migros has better sandwiches!] and stock up, then head lake-side to enjoy Zürich’s unique, laid-back ambience.
10. Get out of town
I think you could easily spend a few days exploring Zürich, but sometimes it’s good to have a change of pace, and there are plenty of places to visit for a day trip that are easy accessible by public transport. I took my friend to Rapperswil, which is nickamed the city of roses [for good reason, there are roses everywhere in the summer] and is about 40 minutes from Zürich by train. I like Rapperswil, because it really feels different to the UK – I feel like I’m on holiday whenever I go there due to the cafe culture it has. In the UK, it’s rare for me to see people sitting outside at a cafe, even in summer, but in Rapperswil, it’s the norm [though I imagine they sit indoors during the winter]. It’s definitely worth a visit if you like traditional architecture, and want a glimpse into how Switzerland looked centuries ago.