The Banhofstrasse, the Lindt Factory, and the Sights Around Zurich

This place was my “home base” during my few days stay in Switzerland, and after having a marathon tour through Rapperswil, Bern and Geneva, it was time to slacken the pace, and feel the vibe of this wonderful city. This was may fourth day in Switzerland, and it is part 4 of my story.

It is the country’s most populous city, the center of its world renowned banking industry, and could perhaps be considered its gateway to the rest of the world (having it largest airport). If Bern is the political center, then Zurich is the economic capital.

It is the most populous city in that small part of the world, but in terms of density and “crowdedness”, you could definitely say it’s still laid back, especially for someone used to the organized (sort of) chaos of Manila. The whole of Switzerland is also known for having one of the best public transport systems in the world, yet if we would compare this city to the rest of the country, one could probably say it is better than best. No, I’m not exaggerating – yes, it’s that convenient to move around. Combine the less crowded feel, and the efficiency in moving around, and you get one of the most liveable cities on earth!

The day kicked-off at Bahnhof Altstetten. My wife worked nearby and so I took the bus with her, then took the S-Ban to the Hauptbahnhof (pronounce: hawpt-ban-hof). From there I immediately strode out to the direction of the Bahnhofstrasse, Zurich’s famed shopping street. This street ranks up there along with the likes of Singapore’s Orchard Road and Paris’ Champs Elysee, as one of the world famous high end shopping destinations.

Almost every major German-speaking city has a "Bahnhofstrasse", but none is as famous as Zurich's

My first stop at the Bahnhofstrasse was an artisan chocolate shop called Confiserie Laderach, located on the left hand side of the street, coming from the station. That was actually also my first time to buy chocolate that’s not pre-packed, and instead was sold by the gram (I know there are also such places in Manila by then, but I never got to try any of them. Nothing beats Swiss chocolate right where it came from anyway).

I then continued my leisurely walk through the street, heading southwards, to the direction of Lake Zurich, until I reached the Coop (pronounced: kohp) store somewhere in the middle of the stretch. Coop, together with Migros (prounced: meeg-roh), are the country’s two largest grocery chains, and I’ve found them everywhere I went. These stores are typically not that big, I think their largest ones are sized like Rustan’s Fresh stores here in Manila, and I doubt you could find an SM hypermarket-sized Coop or Migros. In terms of how they organize their inventory, the width of the lanes, and the size of their merchandise, it felt similar to our own Rustans as well. They don’t have extra-wide lanes; and oversized packages of food and drinks typical to stores in the United States, for example, are quite rare. I bought a pack of powdered chocolate drink called Caotina (a richer version of Ovaltine), and then walked out of Coop, and went on with my exploration, heading southward through the street.

Augustinerstrasse, which I passed by while strolling through the Banhofstrasse, give's a colorful glimpse of Zurich's past.

Paradeplatz, which lies along the stretch of the Banhofstrasse, is home to the headquarters of the country's two largest banks, UBS and Credit Suisse. It is the literal hub, of the Swiss banking industry.

The other end of the Bahnhofstrasse leads straight to the shores of Lake Zurich, on a park called the Burkliplatz (you would have come across this place too on part 1 of my story). From there I decided I have walked enough, and boarded the next tram to Bellevue and then on through to the Central Station, along a riverside street called the Limmatquai. This route took me back to the Grossmunster and Fraumunster which I already visited on part 1, but this time I went further downriver.

A tram with special livery (for the Euro 2008 football championships), approaching the Burkliplatz

Towards the other end of the Banhofstrasse

I took the tram to the Central station where I stopped for a hot mug of Starbucks coffee, on the store next to it. Although it was already springtime, and the sun was up (mostly), the winds in Zurich were still a bit cold, and hot coffee was very much welcome. I ordered my mug, then took one of the al-fresco tables along the sidewalk, silently watching as time, people, trams and everything else went by.

Hot mug and a muffin, on a cool spring day.

The area around the Central station is the northern end of the district called the Neiderdorf, which is the part of the old town that lies on the east bank of the river Limmat. This place may feel a little sleepy during the day, but it definitely comes to life in the evening. The place is filled with bars, restaurants and cafes that start filling with people late in the day, and stay open until deep in the evening or early in the morning. This is one of the city’s “gimmick” spots, in Filipino terms. I wasn’t able to spend an evening on the Neiderdorf on this day, but I was able to on one of the latter days of my stay.

My wife decided to leave the office a bit early that day, so after my dose of sight-seeing along the central part of Zurich, I headed back to Altstetten to meet-up with her, for a trip to the nearby town of Kilchberg, the site of the factory of Lindt & Sprungli (makers of the famous Lindt chocolates). From there we made our way to Letzipark, a nearby mall, to buy a few items, then headed back to the Burkliplatz, where we took the bus to Kilchberg.

A house on Kilchberg

As we got off the bus near the factory, my nose was immediately stuffed…no…assaulted, by the smell of cocoa. It was as if I was wearing a mask made of “tablea” over my nose. Imagine the smell of tablea blocks (or chips), being ground by hand while preparing to make “champorado”, and imagine sticking your nose so close to the ground powder, and that’s how it felt. It is a chocolate factory, and there was no way anyone could mistake it for anything else. They have a store inside, and we took a load of the discounted chocolates sold in plastic bags, then left with happy faces, for the ride back to Zurich.

Once we were back at Zurich, the day was capped by dinner at one of the restaurants along the shores of the lake, appropriately named “Lakeside”. It was not fine dining per se, but people there were properly dressed, with trousers and long-sleeved button-down shirts, some with coats.

The lake side, along Zurichsee

The view from Restaurant Lakeside, Zurich.

Being clad in a jacket, t-shirt and jeans, I looked totally out of place, but I didn’t mind, and good thing the maitre’ d didn’t either. Barely anybody in Zurich knew me anyway, I told my self =)

* I strolled around Zurich on May 2008. Photos taken by me on my Nikon L3, and by my wife on her Sony DSC T300.

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