I took a fast-paced 8-day solo Couchsurfing trip through much of Switzerland and Liechtenstein to see the region’s historic cities, mountain views, and top-notch hiking without breaking the bank. Follow my blog in its entirety or click here for a travel guide to Switzerland.
Photo: Gerold Cuchi Restaurant
Back In The Big City
I took an early bus to Buchs, just across the Swiss border, where I boarded a train to Sargans which went directly to Zurich. I retracted most of my rail trip from the previous day which I was cool with since it was so scenic.
Once in Zurich, I left my stuff in an 8 franc locker at the train station and set off on foot to Platzspitz, a park on the junction of the city’s two river tributaries that I had read had a historic pavilion. It turned out to be a quite average-looking park, so I crossed over the river and began walking up Limmatstrasse (strasse is German for street) toward some other destinations.
I was craving wifi so I went into a restaurant and told a lie which turned out to be quite genius and useful – I had lost my friend and needed to use their wifi to find him. LOL. It was indeed dishonest, but it was so hard to find wifi because most places that had free wifi (especially chain stories, public places, etc.) required you to send a confirmation text to yourself first…and I couldn’t receive texts on Airplane Mode.
I passed by a school where children were playing an intense game of futbol (don’t know which language that is but it sounds right lol) and then walked into a church across the street and signed up a friend for their email list 🤣 (only to later find out that I put the wrong email 😭).
I was in search of Viaduct, which I’d read was a cool shopping area. It turned out to be a long series of shops built underneath a train track. It’s a great use of space and there’s some restaurants with patio seating as well so it was a fun area to walk through.
Next, I stopped to see the Gerold Cuchi restaurant, which is famous for its ceiling-level display of dozens of umbrellas over its outdoor seating. It’s a very unique and must-see spot – super fun!
Next door, I stopped in the Frau Gerolds Garten, an outdoor bar set in an urban garden and art exhibit next to some train tracks. There were raised garden beds, colorful pillows, sculptures, and tons of space in which to chill out! It was very hipster, post-modern, and one-of-a-kind spot.
I then walked over the train tracks and began making my way toward the center of Zurich.
After walking through a non-distinctive but deliciously non-touristy Zurich neighborhood for a half-hour, I stopped at Park Backeranlage, a pleasant public park, to fill my water bottle in a fountain.
I then crossed over the River Sihl, a tranquil waterway that is lined with miles-long paths you can take. I stepped inside Swiss Casinos and took the elevator up to George Bar, a rooftop bar with nice views of the river and surrounding city. I took a loop around to enjoy the view, then continued a few more minutes to Paradeplatz, one of the city’s main plazas. It’s a bustling place but not nearly as exciting as a Times Square or Shibuya Crossing lol.
I stepped inside Sprungli Chocolate, one of the city’s most popular chocolate shops that has gorgeous displays of not only chocolate but cakes, pastries, sandwiches, and more! I kindly asked for a chocolate sample and was happy to get to choose any piece I wanted. Thankful and having loved my sample, I bought a white chocolate almond chocolate for about 2 franc – so delicious!
Church 1, Church 2
Next, I finally entered Zurich’s Old City. My first stop was the Minister of Our Lady Church (Kirche Fraumunster), probably the most famous cathedral in Zurich. There was a small admission fee but finally my student ID (from 4 years ago 😂) came in handy – students were free! The chapel had a typical, grey, quite nice European-style interior (probably my 20th church of the trip so far so forgive me lol) and a cool crypt in the basement that you can explore.
Outside the chapel is a really cool plaza with patio restaurants, a grand fountain, and great people watching so I hung out there for a few minutes and then navigated through alleys to St. Peter Church, home to the largest clock face in Europe. (Along the way, I passed a literal beekeeper doing his good work outside a storefront – so random.) The clock was obviously gigantic and an amazing sight to gasp at. Inside, St. Peter had a unique all-white with wood framing style on the inside, which I loved, as well as cool pews built into the side walls (for churchgoing wallflowers? 😉).
Zurich City Center
I retracted my steps a bit and walked 15 minutes south to Burkliplatz, a pleasant park on the edge of Lake Zurich. This is where many boat tours depart from and also a great place to relax, people-watch, and lake-watch.
I walked back up toward the center of the city on Bahnhofstrasse, Zurich’s most luxurious street. It’s lined with luxury brand shops, upscale restaurants, and tons of people – you definitely feel like you’re in the most expensive city in the world (which Zurich has been rated!).
My next stop was Augustinergasse, a super charming pedestrian block dating back to medieval times. It is lined with Swiss flags and has some of the cutest, hella old buildings you’ll find in Zurich. This wasn’t something I found on any travel sites before my trip (just happened upon it)…and it turned out to be one of my favorite spots in the city!
I walked a couple blocks to Lindenhof, a park with great views of the River Limmat and the eastern side of the city. It’s an amazing photo op and there’s tons of people around, so it’s a lively place to relax and hang out.
I then walked through French restaurant Brasserie Lipp to take the elevator to my 2nd rooftop bar of the day: Urania Cafe. I was able to take a 360° walk around the building and get wonderful views of many sides of the city. I imagine the menu is expensive but luckily it was a very easy place to walk around without sitting down and ordering anything. I had planned to go across the street to another rooftop bar called Junes Verne, but I could see from Urania that it was much lower to the ground and that the views wouldn’t be nearly as good so I skipped it.
With a few minutes left before meeting my Couchsurfing host at the train station, I stopped in Park Pestalozzianlage in search of the Wallace Fountain, a very special fountain that was designed by a famous Parisian architect and part of a series of fountains that are spread throughout France and some other countries across the world. Unfortunately, no one I asked had any idea where it was or even what it was. Womp!
Climbing for Views
I walked the next couple blocks to the train station and met my host to get the key to his apartment. My host was actually a train driver, so he was able to help me purchase an all-day transport pass that was a good deal.
I then walked over to the Zurich police station headquarters to see what I’d read was a very unique lobby. I had to leave my ID by the entrance – don’t quite understand why but maybe it’s to enforce the no photography policy – and then walked maybe 10 more feet into the lobby and was very impressed by the ceiling and wall murals (Giacometti Murals) which are super colorful and seem to depict historic families. Renowned artist Augustus Giacometti created them when the building used to be an orphanage.
I walked across the River Limmat on Muhlesteg, one of the city’s most famous bridges and was now on the eastern side of the central city. I stopped to use wifi at a cafe on Niederdorfstrasse (one of Zurich’s most famous and lovely historic cobblestone streets) using my “I lost my friend!” white lie, then walked a steep uphill climb to the ETH University Terrace, a food court and open area with fantastic sweeping views of Zurich. I could see both rivers, the lake, several churches, and pretty much everything there is to see in the city – so cool!
I walked back down to Niederdorfstrasse and walked south, enjoying the quaint buildings, some of which had markings indicating what the building used to be during various years of its existence dating back hundreds and hundreds of years. Grossmunster, the most famous church on this side of the river, was unfortunately closed the day I was there. Around the corner, I stopped to peek into Wings, an airplane-themed cafe where (of course) the waiters are flight attendants and the decor is quite modern and tasteful.
Lakeside in Zurich
I now walked for 20 minutes down Quaianlagen, a narrow park and walkway lining the east side of Lake Zurich. The views of the lake in the late afternoon were very pleasant and I was amused to see a mother swan and her babies just hanging out on a patch of grass like a human family.
I made a left turn to walk by Le Corbusier, an art museum with strikingly modern architecture and tranquil gardens with a pond (the outdoor portion is free). I then passed the Chinese Garden, which had a beautiful lion dance-inspired entrance; I didn’t go inside since it had an entrance fee and I had other sights I wanted to spend my time on.
Finally, I made it to Zurichhorn, a lovely park with ponds, an upscale restaurant, and far-sweeping views onto the lake. Done with this part of the city, I hopped on a train and went back into the Old City.
I got off the train and walked over to see Hiltl, the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world that was founded in 1898! Super cool. Since it’s a pretty nice eatery in Zurich and priced accordingly, I didn’t eat anything but took a few moments to soak in the coolness of this special place.
As I again passed the park where I’d been looking for the fountain, I noticed a tiny fountain on the side of the road that did indeed turn out to be the Wallace Fountain I was looking for earlier. It was cute and apparently historically significant but not too exciting lol.
I got on a train and then transferred to a bus to go to Altstetten, the neighborhood where my Couchsurfing host’s apartment was. It wasn’t too far away and I enjoyed taking some time to relax on his couch after a very long day of walking. Before long, my host came home and we had a nice conversation before I headed out to celebrate Zurich Pride.
I took the train and then a short walk into Zurich Pride and was surprised to find that it was super tiny! The Zurich area has over a million people and it’s the only large-scale Pride event in Switzerland so I expected a big party. Instead, it was an area of food trucks and vendors and then a separate larger grassy area with a stage and some tents. However, I found the small size made it very quaint, cozy, and welcoming; the vibe was very positive and relaxed.
On stage, a famous Britney Spears impersonator performed all of the best Britney songs and another act sang a wonderful song in German, which was probably about love or something IDK. It was a fun night, but I was beat from my quite active day so I went back to my home for the night and slept.
Click here to go on to my final Swiss Bliss Day 8 blog in which I return to the French-speaking side of Switzerland and explore the “San Francisco of Switzerland” – Lausanne – or click here to read my Switzerland blog from the beginning.