Known for its striking countryside, snow-capped mountains and cuckoo clocks, Switzerland is not least famed for the fine art of chocolate making. Brands like Lindt and Suchard spring into mind, as well as less known manufacturers like Frey and Sprüngli. It is well worth visiting Switzerland, not only for its idyllic charm, but solely to experience the culinary joys of chocolate. This review takes you on a chocolaty walk through Switzerland’s biggest city, Zurich.
We start on the Bahnhofstrasse – Zurich’s main shopping avenue – just outside the main station. The 150-year-old street is divided into two parts. Up until the exclusive Bally shop, it is lined with average-priced stores like H&M and Mango. The part beyond Bally caters to the wealthy. From Louis Vuitton to Prada, you can find every label known to London, Paris, and New York.
The best way to find our first destination is to close your eyes and breathe deeply. Warm, chocolate fumes will lead you to Merkur, on the left of Bahnhofstrasse. The confectionary sells the widest range of chocolate brands I have ever seen. It offers a live chocolate show and sells chunks of freshly made chocolate. I specially recommend a slice of dark chocolate sprinkled with red pepper corns. Willy Wonka himself couldn’t think of half the creations Merkur sells. From chocolate fondue to chocolate sushi, its chocolatiers come up with new ideas every season.
Along our trip to the next chocolate haven, we must stop outside Kurz watches to enjoy the chimes. A bunch of tourists gather there daily at noon to listen to the sweet sounds of Switzerland. Notice the number of Swiss flags hanging high above the street. I dare say no other country expresses its national pride in such abundance.
Arriving at Bally, we make a slight left turn up into Rennweg. We’re now entering the medieval part of town, where intricate alleys lead to authentic pubs and hidden shops. Rennweg offers a perfect view of Europe’s largest clock face. Nestled between smoking chimneys and red brick roofs lies St. Peter’s church. Explore the area. Stroll up and down the narrow passageways until you reach the church.
St. Peter’s was built around 800 BC. Its clock face measures 8.7 metres and the heaviest of the five bells weighs 6203 kilograms. Classical concerts as well as more pious recitals often take place here, so it’s worth taking a look inside. The shady tree and the rustic benches on the square just outside the church might look like the perfect spot to rest, but bare with me as the best hot chocolate in Zurich awaits just a couple of metres away. Take the steps on the left down to Weggen-Gasse and indulge in very reasonably priced milky goodness at Café Weggen.
After a well deserved break, the city walk continues over the Limmat bridge into the hippie – and more touristy – part of town. Once we cross Zurich’s second river, the Limmat, we enter Niederdorf. The hilly and cobble-stoned roads are lined with restaurants, art galleries and the odd independent second-hand shops. It’s worth a stroll, but do avoid the over-priced restaurants. Back on the Limmatquai (the big street adjacent to the river), we walk towards the lake and take the second bridge to our right. The Fraumünster church we see in front of us has a special appeal. Marc Chagall himself has given Zurich the honour of designing the windows of the cathedral. On a sunny day, the colours sparkle and project a colourful reflection onto the dark, wooden benches.
This is a good time to say that we are about to discover Switzerland’s best kept secret.
We walk past the church across the Münsterhof and along Poststrasse into Paradeplatz. Here Switzerland’s largest banks – UBS and Credit Suisse – have their headquarters, and Café Sprüngli invites for haute cuisine a la Suisse. Sprüngli is the better half of the Lindt&Sprüngli Company. While Lindt exports its chocolate around the world, Sprüngli’s products are only sold within the country, hence retaining its exclusivity and imparting superiority.
It can get pretty crowded both in the shop downstairs and in the restaurant upstairs. I suggest buying souvenirs on a weekday and having your lunch just after lunch time, at around 2.30pm. As to Sprüngli’s menu, choose what your heart desires as no dish lacks the refinement of a three-star meal. Personally, I recommend a lukewarm quiche Lorraine. The prices are a bit above average but worth every single penny.
To digest the delicious food, we walk towards the lake and our final destination: the Lindt&Sprüngli factory. As the factory lies a bit outside of Zurich, we must take the 165 bus which leaves from Bürkliplatz – the square just before the lake – and get off at Schooren. While waiting for the bus, lake Zurich presents a magnificent view. The lake curls up to the left hiding its length of 40 kilometres. On a particularly crisp day the snow-capped mountains become visible – a sensational sight.
The Lindt&Sprüngli factory doesn’t have a museum or any kind of guided tours through its facilities but walking alongside the building and inhaling the chocolaty air will make you forget these slight shortcomings. And besides, there’s the lake with a beautiful beach just across the street from the factory, where sun-craving locals conclude their days of tranquility.
Written by MiraF il.
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