From mulled wine and chocolate treats, to impressive Christmas trees and sparkly festive lights, Christmas in Zurich is a magical occasion
Zurich is an important financial hub, but there is more to the city than stocks and shares. Switzerland’s largest city is in fact very attractive with a surprisingly edgy shopping and nightlife scene. Come December, Zurich transforms into an enchanting winter wonderland filled with Christmas markets, lights and music – a perfect time to experience the most magical side of Zurich.
The end of November sees the annual “Lucy Lights”, named after the classic Beatles song, turned on along the Bahnhofstrasse. These diamonds in the sky illuminate one of the world’s most famous shopping streets as spectators flock to observe this yearly tradition. Just a few metres away, Werdmühleplatz comes alive with the sound of music as the singing Christmas tree – literally an enormous tree-shaped podium from which local choirs belt out their repertoire of Christmas carols – explodes in full force. Apart from the wonderful sounds of Christmas carols, the smell of mulled wine is delicious and the cheer of Christmas is infectious.
The Old Town’s cobbled streets are charming and the sheer number of Christmas markets in the area easily rivals any German city. Artists and traders from around the world sell their goods at the most traditional and oldest Christmas markets in the city, on Hirschenplatz, Niederdorfstrasse and Rosenhof. But the most impressive of them all is the Christmas Market at the Hauptbahnhof (main railway station). It’s Europe’s biggest indoor market, with more than 150 wooden huts selling all sorts of gifts and treats. Another big draw is the 15m (50ft) tall Christmas tree decorated with thousands of Swarovski crystals – a truly spectacular sight to behold.
Across the river from the station, the narrow lanes of the medieval Niederdorf district are bustling after dark. Among the many cool shops, cafés and galleries, one spot stands out: Cabaret Voltaire (Spiegelgasse 1). This venue is the birthplace of Dada, or Dadaism, an art movement which embraces irrationality and emphasizes anti-bourgeois protests. It now hosts many programs so check out their website www.cabaretvoltaire.ch for more details.
Beyond the Old Town is Zurich West, one of the hippest districts in the city. Brimming with edgy designer boutiques, art spaces, restaurants and clubs, this former industrial district has been revived and transformed into an uber-cool hub. One of the most interesting buildings in the area is the Freitag flagship store (Geroldstrasse 17), a 26m-high (85ft) conceptual structure made out of reclaimed industrial refuse and refurbished shipping containers.
Zurich for foodies
When in Zurich, you have to try the city’s most famous dish, Zurcher Geschnetzeltes: sliced veal in a creamy mushroom sauce, served with rosti, a speciality made of grated potatoes. A particularly tasty version is prepared at the traditional guild house Zunfthaus zur Zimmerleuten (Limmatquai 40). Another Swiss classic is cheese fondue. Tucked-away at the end of a cobbled lane, restaurant Le Dézaley (Römergasse 7) serves one of Zurich’s best fondues with excellent white wine to match.
For fresh produce in a trendy setting, the Viadukt Market Hall in Zurich West certainly delivers. Set under the striking bricked arches of the city’s original viaduct, local farmers, bakers and butchers offer a range of organic products to their many customers, six days a week.
For a sweet treat, no visit to Zurich would be complete without an indulgent stop at Sprüngli (Bahnhofstrasse 21). Despite being the country’s most mouth-watering chocolate shop, the local favourite is the colourful “Luxemburgerli” macaron. Chocolate lovers will also want to check out Läderach (Bahnhofstrasse 106), which sells all sorts of deliciously smooth pralines and truffles as well as colourful chocolate slabs.
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