A little foodie guide to the city we’ve been calling home for the past 4 years.


Whenever we travel to new places (or even places we know), the first thing we plan for is our meals. Don’t get me wrong, I love learning about a city’s (our country’s) culture and history by visiting museums and landmarks. Nonetheless, I believe the true identity of a culture or community is reflected so well in the local cuisine.

So instead of taking the sightseeing bus and stopping at some touristy restaurant (or, god forbid, McDonald’s) along the way, I usually spend hours before the trip researching where the best restaurants, the most authentic food, the locals’ places-to-be, the hidden foodie gems are to be found. And then I kind of center my itinerary around that. The reason for why I do that is 1) because the best places (and the ones the locals go to) are usually found off the beaten track and 2) because having a rough plan for the limited time you’re spending there (and reservations!) usually makes it a whole lot less stressful during the trip.

Since we’ve been living, working and eating in this beautiful little city called Zurich for quite a while now, I thought it might be about time I shared my favorite places to visit – so you don’t need to research any further in case you’re planning a trip here. I’m going to focus this post on restaurants and bars, but I’m already working on a trip for all the rest there is to see around here. If you have any questions on planning a trip to Zurich, feel free to shoot me a message or leave a comment below!


DINNER RESTAURANTS

Going out for dinner in Zurich can be anything from very traditionally Swiss to fancy-pantsy romantic to very hip and cool. It all depends what you’re going for, but you can find almost anything here. Just be prepared to pay – going out in Switzerland isn’t cheap. But don’t feel the need to tip it off like you would in the US – about 5% (or up to 10% if the service was really good) is more than sufficient (base salaries are already high here).

Things to Eat

The Swiss are very fond of their local products, so restaurants often declare the origin of their products on the menu. Due to the country’s location and the proximity to the mountains, meat and especially beef and veal are very popular. The typical dish in Zurich is “Zürcher Geschnetzeltes”, which is a veal stir-fry in a creamy sauce served with potato “Rösti”. Try it in one of the “Swiss / Typical” restaurants. Also, beef steak tartare is hugely popular in Zurich and shouldn’t be missed. Fish-lovers should try the “Egli”, a small sweetwater fish that’s often served in deep-fried filets on top of a green salad. Personally, I’m not a big fan of Swiss wines, but there are some exceptions.

Photo: Rôtisserie

ROMANTIC / FANCY

Photo: Razzia
  1. Lumière – French bistro style. This one is our absolute favorite restaurant in Zurich, and we come here for birthdays, anniversaries, even our engagement dinner. You have to pre-order the Chateaubriand, there’s nothing better! Also, ask for the “If you see Kay” red wine. None of this is on the menu, though…thank me later!
    Website & Location
  2. Rôtisserie – newly renovated and perfectly situated in the heart of Zurich, this is one of my must-do’s if you like good food in a great athmosphere. I just love it when I open the menu and literally want to order every single item on it. Plus, the view doesn’t disappoint! Ask for a seat on the balcony (in summer) or by the window.
    Website & Location
  3. Fischstube – a beautiful restaurant right at the lake with beautiful sunset views. Perfect in summer but also really good all year around. They have a lounge area outside for drinks & snacks on a sunny weekend, too, but the restaurant is well-worth a visit.
    Website & Location
  4. Tao’s – this is a good place to kick off your Saturday night in the city center. Dim-lit interior, very chic vibes, good cocktails but also great food make for a fun night out when you’re in the mood to dress up.
    Website & Location
  5. Razzia – if you want an interior that wows you, you’ve come to the right place. The building now converted into a chic restaurant used to be a movie theatre. It’s walls and ceiling are still as palatial as they used to, and tables are spread across the terraced room. They serve popcorn with your drinks and the food is delicious. Where the screen used to be, you can now find a bar and, on most days, just pretty curtains. But once a month, they will host a special night with dinner followed by the screening of an old movie. After dinner, head to the Razzia cocktail bar next door.
    Website & Location

SWISS / TYPICAL

Photo: Kronenhalle
  1. Volkshaus – with its large and high room, it’s not exactly snuggly or intimate – but a great place to enjoy authentic Swiss food. Also fun for a sidewalk lunch when it’s sunny.
    Website & Location
  2. Lindenhofkeller – you’d think that a restaurant this famous would surely disappoint – but it really doesn’t. “Keller” means “cellar” in German – so you can imagine it’s cozy and perfect for bad-weather days. Lots of people do their Christmas dinners here. The service is great and the food is Swiss, but with a bit of a modern twist.
    Website & Location
  3. Kronenhalle – there’s a reason all the “good” families and politicians of Zurich dine here regularly. It’s the same reason why I love Zurich’s restaurants in general – there are hardly any “overrated” places here, because these simply wouldn’t last long. People appreciate true quality, good food and proper service, which – to be honest – can be expected for the prices you pay. This traditional restaurant probably does the best “Zürcher Geschnetzeltes” in town – but coming here won’t only satisfy your taste buds. Kronenhalle is also known for it’s museum-worthy art hanging on the walls. There are three dining rooms – the Brasserie hosts a portrait by Varlin, the “Swiss gallery” is dedicated towards pieces by artists like Alberto Giacometti, and the Chagall room is named after Marc Chagall’s sunset painting. The most famous painting, the Picasso, can be found in the bar. All in all it’s a great place for date night, especially in winter!
    Website & Location
  4. Kaufleuten – this place hosts a restaurant, bar and club – and my Swiss friends always say even their parents used to party there. It’s great for lunch, business meetings or dinners with friends on any day, and it serves one of the city’s best steak tartares. Also, in summer, it hosts Zurich’s famous “SaNaPa”, which stands for the German abbreviation for “Saturday Afternoon Party”.
    Website & Location
  5. Kindli – at Kindli, you can feel the Italian influence on Switzerland’s cuisine. The beef filet with truffle noodles is divine, but so is the classic “Zürcher Geschnetzeltes” and the Schnitzel. It’s a cozy place to go for good food and service.
    Website & Location

COOL / TRENDY

Photo: Co Chin Chin
Photo: August
  1. Co Chin Chin – I’m absolutely in love with this rather new in-place just north of the nightlife district – it’s great for summer and winter and we love to do our ladies nights there. It’s all about modern Vietnamese cuisine paired with wine or some great innovative cocktails. Plus, the interior just makes for a good vibe.
    Website & Location
  2. AuGust – if you’re vegetarian, you should probably skip this one (although they do have a pretty awesome avocado-tomato-dish here). It’s all about meat and barbecue here, you can get some great sausages and cold charcuterie. If you ask me, you must try the “Fleischkäse” – it’s such a German dish, but great. I wouldn’t even know how to describe it. It’s like a very finely minced meatloaf, but delish! It’s great for an easygoing dinner after shopping on the Bahnhofstrasse.
    Website & Location
  3. Les Halles – now if you’re looking for a Berlin-level trendy place, you should really come here. It’s crowded, bikes hanging on the walls, and large tables to share with strangers. You’ll need to go to the bar to order drinks and to another to order your “Moules & Frites”, your mussels with french fries (so good), but you can’t not have a fun evening here. It’s a little outside the city center but well-worth the short trip.
    Website & Location
  4. Bebek – another one of our favorites. The interior is very cool and retro with high walls and lots of brass and could easily be in NYC. The food is modern oriental with lots of hummus, meze and feta cheese – the best dish on the menu is definitely the “Iskender Kebap”. The drinks are equally good and creative – try the Oriental Hugo or my absolute favorite, the one with prosecco and blueberry puree.
    Website & Location
  5. Josef – just around the corner from Co Chin Chin and Maison Blunt, this is another favorite. It’s a cool vibe and there’s something special about the food – they are dismissing the concept of “entrées” and “mains” – instead, you can choose from about 15 starter-sized dishes and choose to have between 2 to 7 courses, in whatever order you’d like. They also have a fixed-priced menu that’s really good value. It’s just a great all-round place for any night and crowd.
    Website & Location
  6. George Bar & Grill – just look at their website’s video – and you’ll get why I love this place. Located on the top floor of Zurich’s Casino with a rooftop (sunset views included), it’s a fun place for a quiet date night (especially on Sunday, when they serve their famous Sunday roast!) but especially for a weekend night out with Great Gatsby vibes and great cocktails. They make a pretty great burger and steak, and the Moscow Mule served in a copper mug is one of the many many classics served at their centered, oval bar.
    Website & Location
  7. Rosaly’s – this one’s a small, hidden gem in a tiny alley off the Bellevue square, and they’re (understandably) proud of serving only homemade food (and by that they mean everything) and incorporating seasonal products. I absolutely love their braised veal cheeks (only in fall/winter). The fun thing about this place? Even though it’s small and cozy, it has a bar (mirror ball included) and they turn up the music once people have had their desserts.
    Website & Location

EASY / CASUAL

Photo: Ooki
  1. La Baracca – located in the western part of town, this cute little place on a street corner serves true Italian comfort food. The menu is almost unreadable, everything from the waiters to the wines is Italian, and the food is to die for (don’t come here if you’re watching your carb intake). The best dish? Definitely the homemade pasta with veal ragout and fresh truffles.
    Website & Location
  2. Sweet Basil – an easy-going Thai restaurant using fresh products and no excessive flavor enhancers. I like the modern interior that doesn’t entail any gold, waving cat figures.
    Website & Location
  3. Korner – very, very good burgers in a cool hotspot.
    Website & Location
  4. Bar Basso – a cool, central place for easy-going dinners with friends. Cuisine is Swiss-Italian with salads, pizza, pasta and more.
    Website & Location
  5. Ah-Hua – you enter Ah-Hua (the one at Helvetiaplatz) and you’ve entered Thailand. It’s loud and usually very crowded (a good sign), waiters speak only Thai and some German, and you’ll get some truly authentic Thai food. Our  favorite by far is #56 – red Panäng Gai curry with chicken. Also, leave room for coconut pudding.
    Website & Location
  6. SO Pizza – we’re really really picky about Pizza and usually never go out to eat it. We have a pizza stone at home and my hubby makes the dough – I’m proud to say he makes the best pizza I’ve ever had. Nonetheless, SO Pizza comes close. It’s a very cool concept, both for lunch and dinner: you pay a fixed price and it’s all-you-can-eat salad and pizza. They’ll put a bowl of salad on your table and then waiters come around with large wooden boards. They’ll tell you the topping they’re serving and you can choose to have a slice or wait for the next waiter to come to your table. That way, you get to try all sorts of pizza toppings! Did I mention it’s all you can eat…
    Website & Location
  7. Totò – maybe not as casual as the ones before, but still an easy-going dinner place on the other side of town. Have some Italian food and enjoy a glass of wine or two. We like to come here with larger groups.
    Website & Location
  8. Ooki Japanese – this Japanese restaurant serves no sushi, but Ramen, Udon and Japanese curries accompanied by a varied selection of Sake. The interior is authentically Japanese, too – if you’re 5 to 8 people, try to book the Tatami room!
    Website & Location

BREAKFAST & BRUNCH

QUICK BREAKFAST

  1. Sprüngli  – this one’s an institution in Zurich. But it’s not only the place to buy chocolates and “Luxemburgerli” (small, Swiss macarons) – it also serves a pretty good breakfast. We always go to the one at the airport when we’re taking a morning flight, but the ones in the city are also worth a pitstop if you’re short on time. Try the Bircher Müsli with berries.
    Website & Location (there are multiple, but this one’s the biggest)

SUNDAY BRUNCH

Photo: Quai 61
  1. Quai 61 – for Sunday brunch right at the lake, with panoramic views all year ’round, this one’s a favorite. They have everything your heart might desire, from healthier choices to pancakes to salmon bagels to eggs. The navy-white interior makes it all the more cozy.
    Website & Location
  2. Maison Blunt – for this one, I had to think long and hard whether to put it under “easygoing dinner” or weekend brunch – they also have really good moroccan food for dinner, especially the tajines. For brunch, there is a slight oriental touch to it (fresh mint tea, greek yoghurt with cinnamon and honey, etc.), but mostly they have great continental breakfast options and a selection of egg dishes.
    Website & Location
  3. Conditorei Schober – imagine a place where Santa Clause resides with his little angels. Now, Café Schober comes very close to this picture in fall/winter. It stretches over multiple tiny floors and rooms, all decorated with lots and lots of Christmas ornaments. It’s in the middle of the Niederdörfli, Zurich’s old town (east side of the Limmat), which is already just idyllic little cobble stone alleys. On the ground floor, you can buy delicious cakes, muffines, scones and truffles to take home – but you should make reservations and head up the stairs to enjoy brunch and hot cocoa. Or even just afternoon tea with scones.
    Website & Location
  4. Henrici – modern, hip and cozy. These guys know how to make a good coffee (and brownies!), and breakfast as well as Sunday brunch is fresh, homemade and just good. You’ll find stuff like eggs on avocado toast and Acai bowls on the menu, which is really quite “modern” for Zurich. Also, it’s really nice for a lunchtime salad or drinks on the small terrace.
    Website & Location

LUNCH

WEEKDAY LUNCH

Photo: Cantinetta Antinori
  1. Gärtnerei – this one is nothing fancy, but healthy, quick and good. They have three locations in Zurich and they serve salad bowls, healthy burgers and sandwiches, baked potatoes and soups.
    Website & Location
  2. John Baker (Helvetiaplatz) – not only do they make the beast bread in town, but this location is also great fun for a lunch outside right on Helvetiaplatz when the sun’s out and you’re in the western part of the city.
    Website & Location
  3. Gartenhof – these guys know how to cook. Each day, they serve four different lunch menus that are fresh, delicious and homemade. You can sit in a sweet little city garden or in an equally nice setting inside. Also recommendable for summer dinners.
    Website & Location
  4. Cantinetta Antinori – if you’re looking for a business lunch or just a good place to rest in between shops, this one’s always a good choice in the city center.
    Website & Location

SHOPPING PITSTOP

Photo: Bärengasse
  1. BÜ’s – very very central but a bit hidden, this is the place to come for a glass of bubbly, a nice salad and some steak tartare or “Flammkuchen”, a very thin pizza without tomato sauce but with creme fraiche, onions and ham.
    Website & Location
  2. Old Fashion Bar – the interior is old-school, but elegant. I absolutely love their club sandwich with pommes allumettes, and their Wiener Schnitzel! Also good for dinner or just drinks.
    Website & Location
  3. Restaurant Bärengasse – when it’s raining, I love to come here for lunch or just a drink.
    Website & Location
  4. Hotel & Restaurant Helvetia – not only a good hotel and fun place for drinks, this restaurant has one of the best steak tartares in town. You can sit outside by the river, just a short walk from all the shops, and enjoy a little peace and quiet.
    Website & Location 

PEOPLE WATCHING

Photo: Zunfthaus zur Zimmerleuten
  1. Terrasse – definitely a bit overpriced due to its prime location and “to see and to be seen” vibes, but it won’t disappoint. Perfect for people watching with a glass of bubbly. Also great for afterhour cocktails and some dancing until 2am.
    Website & Location
  2. Zunfthaus zur Zimmerleuten – there’s lots of restaurants and bars along the Limmat inviting you to enjoy a drink outside in the sunshine (they all offer blankets in winter) – but our favorite is this one. Watch the people stroll along the river as you munch away on your beef tartare.
    Website & Location

BARS & CAFÉS

The Swiss claim to have invented the “Apero”, also commonly known in Italy as “Aperitivo”. For those unaware of this concept, it basically means pre-dinner drinks. In summer, by 5pm bars and sidewalks will be full with people of all ages enjoying their afterwork beers and Spritz’s. Sometimes, drinks turn into a light dinner when cocktails are accompanied by snack platters of cheese and charcuterie.

WEEKEND COCKTAILS

Photo: Dante Bar
  1. Widder Bar / Garage – while Zurich’s fanciest bar is being renovated, you can grab a great drink at “Widder Garage” around the corner. We can only hope the re-opened bar can live up to its old version!
    Website & Location
  2. Dante – situated in a sidestreet of Langstrasse, the nightlife street, this is one great cocktail bar. The skinny, bearded mixologists wear bow ties and hitched-up sleeves while they celebrate the art of making your favorite drink – all in a dim, old-school setting bustling with people.
    Website & Location
  3. Brick Bar – a bar that makes you feel like you’re enjoying drinks in a NYC brick building. And boy, are they delicious.
    Website & Location
  4. Plaza (club downstairs) – a fun play for Thursday to Saturday where you can start off with a drink at the bar on the ground floor and head downstairs to the club later.
    Website & Location
  5. Tales – they call it Zurich’s “living room for cocktails” – and it really is that cozy, with some of the best bartenders in town.
    Website & Location

AFTERWORK DRINKS

Photo: La Stanza
  1. La Stanza – this place is bustling with bankers and office people who just got rid of their ties every Thursday. It’s fun for drinks, meeting people and some panini snacks.
    Website & Location
  2. Atelier – the perfect place for afterwork drinks and some Flammkuchen on a Thursday or Friday. My favorite drink is the “Mary” – Prosecco with homemade herb syrup, rosemary and ginger.
    Website & Location
  3. Talacker Bar – similar to the two above, but instead of being located at the sidewalk, you can lounge outside on the plaza. Also a bit more spacious inside. Hop into Kaufleuten for dinner after.
    Website & Location

COFFEE & SPRITZ

Photo: Bovelli
  1. Bovelli – when I’m with the hubby, I like coming here for a Saturday afternoon Prosecco-Negroni and some charcuterie & Swiss cheese. Very central but a little off the beaten track.
    Website & Location
  2. Grande Bar & Café – right at the Limmat riverside, it’s a cute place to pop into on a weekend afternoon or for afterdinner cocktails.
    Website & Location

SPECIALS BY SEASON

SPRING / SUMMER

Photo: Frau Gerolds Garten
Photo: Seebad Enge
Photo: Pumpstation
  • Take a stroll along the lakeside (on the Seefeld side) and stop by “Pumpstation“. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a drink (order “Panache”, beer with lemonade, or “Aperol Spritz”, prosecco mixed with soda and Aperol) on a sunny afternoon – stay until sunset if you’d like! They also serve good snacks, like sausages from the BBQ or fries or a salad with fried fish filets from the lake. Yum!
  • Two other places for drinks or lunch or dinner by the lake are Strozzi’s Strandhaus on the Seefeld side (also reachable by boat) and Fischer’s Fritz on the other lake side. Strozzi’s is the perfect place to enjoy pizza and rosé with a side of the perfect view, while Fischer’s Fritz is great for casual dinners by a lake house – no reservations possible so you’ll mingle with lovely strangers at the big tables. Both of them are a little drive down the lake.
  • If you’re looking for the urban garden, you should really spend an afternoon or evening at “Frau Gerolds Garten” – you’d think you’ve just landed in the hippest place in Berlin. It’s right next to (and overlooking) the train tracks (very close to the main station) and is basically a bunch of shipping containers stacked in a terraced formation with some herbal gardens and some bars in between. There’s no better way to describe it. Anyways, it’s fun for some barbecued snacks and a beer, either for summer afterwork meetups or watching a world cup soccer game on the screens they put up.
  • The best open-air summer parties in Zurich probably happen at Rimini. By day, it’s a “Badi” for swimming in the river, but at night, the wooden beams are crowded with people enjoying their cold drinks and listening to some chillout-party tunes. Summer evenings don’t get any better.
  • Other “Badi’s” to go for swimming in the lake are “Seebad Enge” and “Seebad Utoquai” (“Bad” = “bath”). These wooden structures are built right on the lake for people to sunbathe and go swimming while being able to lock their private belongings and buy some snacks and ice cream in between.
  • The only thing better than enjoying the lake from one of the well-maintained “Badi’s” is from the comfort of your own (rented) boat. Obviously you’re going to need to provide a license to rent a proper boat, but it’s also fun to take one of the pedal or electric boats. You can rent and pre-book them here.

FALL / WINTER

Photo: Conditorei Schober

Now that winter is coming (yes, I do watch GoT), we’re all about sweet, snuggly restaurants and lots of fondues, raclette parties, Glühwein (mulled wine) and gingerbread. Zurich becomes a picturesque little Christmas town in December. If you’re around, you should definitely consider stopping by these places:


HOTELS / ACCOMMODATION

Although I’m not an expert for hotels in Zurich considering I live here permanently, there are three places I can recommend because our parents and friends have stayed here:

  1. Widder Hotel – the best and most representative for Zurich’s understated luxury if you ask me – plus, it’s right in the middle of everything
  2. 25hour hotel Langstrasse – very close to all the bars, nightlife and main station if you’re arriving by plane / train – and just a cool hotel.
  3. Hotel Glockenhof – great breakfast and very central location

Now, we’ve finally come to the end of this long, long list that we’ve curated over the years. I do hope it helps you plan your next trip – Zurich is definitely worth a visit.

I’d love to hear from your experiences and if you have any recommendations I have to try, let me know!

 

(none of the pictures in this post are mine – all from zurich.com or from the restaurants)

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