Never have I fallen so instantly in love with a city, than I did with Zurich.
Let’s rewind a little.
The Boy & I have just returned from an awesome mini-trip; we spent a week driving around Poland, climbing mountains and eating (way too many) pierogi, after which we flew over to Spain to meet some friends of ours for a week of relaxation. True to our old habits, we didn’t book the flights until the last minute, leading to the age-old “Do I pay 50% more and get direct flights, or say f*** it, save some money and spend a night in the airport on a long stopover?” dilemma.
We went with the latter and decided that, given how lucky we are to have the flexibility to do so, we’d spend the extra time and get to explore a new city instead of heading straight home. We flew Malaga-Zurich and landed at about 5pm, giving us a bunch of time to get out of the airport before catching the last train back at half past midnight.
What. A. Place.
Now, travelling for the two of us is usually more focused around what mountains we’re going to climb, or a hike we want to do; we tend to steer away from a lot of cities – especially cities like Zurich which are renowned for being $$$. But we’ve realised, as we always do, that there is a way to do anywhere on a budget – you just have to be willing to have a proper look around.
The train from Zurich Airport to the main station in the city is a mere 9-minute journey, and takes you essentially into the heart of the Old Town; situated along the river Linmat which commences from the stunning Lake Zurich at the top of town, the city sprawls sideways from the banks, with tiny cobbled streets and eclectic buildings abound. We took a walk from the station all the way along the river and to the lake at the head, ogling the clarity and cleanliness of the water – it’s the most vivid turquoise colour and honestly there is not a bit of garbage in sight – somewhat different to the banks of the mighty Thames that we’re used to in the UK. Lined with glamorous looking bars, coffee shops and dainty restaurants, a walk through the city was enough for us to realise we’d need to come back here to spend some real time.
It just so happens that the night we arrived (unbeknownst to us, I should add), Zurich was enjoying a “Block Party” – a get-together of street food stalls, open-air bars, music stages and general good-timers all stuffed into the tiny and bustling back streets of the city.
The Boy & I, upon realising what we’d stumbled upon, immediately ducked into the first off-license we saw. Beer in hand, we knew how we’d be spending our evening.
There were Greek stands selling the most insane gyros; there were stalls with huge vats of the most delicious smelling Indian curries and biryani. A pop-up kitchen was offering plates of gooey, delectable Swiss cheese carved off of monstrous blocks of the stuff – top it off with pickles and shallots and you’re good to go. Gigantic, sizzling bratwurst sausages filled the air with their tantalising scents; some dudes were straight up grilling dirty (the good kind of dirty) burgers and handing them out on plastic plates.
Street food: we live for that shit.
Amongst the food vendors were their beverage-focused counterparts, selling pints of ice cold beer or gin and tonics (alas, at a tenner a go we opted for a second trip to the nearby offy). The lanes were peppered with various stages or speaker systems, and the buzzing crowds danced at any opportunity – from blaring Latin American music to a female DJ killing it on one stage, there was seriously something for everyone. And despite the thrumming crowd, the having to push through throngs of people to get anywhere and the fact that it was still 28 degrees Celsius by 9pm – everyone was clearly having the time of their lives.
After a couple hours of gorging ourselves on great food and perusing the side streets, we retired back to the river’s edge to sit and chill. At sunset the city had been beautiful; with the sun gone down, the water glittered below us, lined by groups of youths who, like ourselves, had taken the budget option this evening – grab your pals, a case of beer and a good place to sit and chat. We people-watched for a while, made comment about the cars going by – there’s money in Zurich, that’s for sure. We drank another beer, made some American friends (REALLY American friends), relaxed, before heading back to the airport to grab a couple hours of sleep (on some mighty uncomfortable metal seating) before our early morning flight home.
That, my friends, is how you spend a stopover.
I know that a lot of people aren’t as lucky as us to have no commitments back home to hurry back for, but honestly kids – I’ve done shitty stopovers before and this was not one of them. We’re so lucky to live in Europe and be surrounded by these incredible places which are so easily accessible; next time you’re faced with the option of spending more to fly direct, or saving a bit and being given the option to explore somewhere new, take it. Spend the money you saved on seeing and experiencing things – even if just for a few hours. And, all of you, please add Zurich to your list of must-visits – yes it’s expensive, but I’ve truly never visited a city (of 48 countries I’ve been to) and so immediately thought, “Yep, I could live here forever.”
Be flexible guys, adapt. You never know what life is going to throw you into next. 🙂