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A Perfect Day in Zurich, Switzerland

by Debra C. Argen
Mr. Harry Hohmeister and SWISS Intl Air Lines Team at Ribbon Cutting at JFK for New A330-300 Plane
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Grossmuenster, Zurich, SwitzerlandDid you ever wish that you could jet set off to an exotic destination for one perfect day? That is exactly what I did on the inaugural SWISS International Air Lines flight from New York to Zurich, Switzerland. Although the Vernon Duke and E.Y. Harburg song extols the virtues of April in Paris, Zurich in April is wonderful.


On April 20, 2009 history was made at JFK International Airport in New York when SWISS International Air Lines rolled out their new long-haul Airbus A330-300 for the inaugural flight from New York to Zurich, which features a complete redesign of their First, Business, and Economy classes. After a proper and celebratory ribbon cutting ceremony, Edward F. Nesta and I boarded the new plane, which still had its fresh from the manufacturer appeal.

Ribbon Cutting with the SWISS International Air Lines Team

The A330-300 plane is visually stunning, very state-of-the-art, and is also a welcome addition on the "green" front using 13% less fuel per passenger than the A330-200, and the new seat technology and in-flight trolleys will further reduce kerosene usage and reduce CO2 emissions.

SWISS A330-300
SWISS A330-300 Airplane

Flying Business Class, we experienced  "A Bed Above the Clouds" with 20.5-inch (52 cm) wide seats, which are fully reclinable and are 79 inches (201 cm) long. In addition, the seats have special lumbar support and feeling rather like Goldilocks we adjusted our seats to make them softer or firmer as desired with a touch of the button, and used the massage feature for an extra comfortable ride.

SWISS Business - A Bed Above The Clouds
SWISS Business – A Bed Above The Clouds

Welcome to SWISS from Ueli SchickAlthough one does not usually equate airline food with a memorable meal, SWISS has a unique program called "SWISS – Taste of Switzerland," with special recipes created for First and Business Class by the top chefs of Switzerland. We were delighted to read the menu and see that Chef Urs Gschwend of Ascona, Switzerland was the featured chef, whom we had met at the 15th Annual St. Moritz Gourmet Festival

For dinner we began with a first course of Seasonal Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette, followed by a main course of Herb Crusted Halibut served with Lobster Sauce, Savoy Cabbage and Baby Carrots, and Chef Urs Gschwend’s recipe for American Beef Tournedos with Ciabatta Crust and Port and Sherry Jus, served with Roasted Spring Vegetables and Thyme Gnocchi.

SWISS Herb Crusted Halibut with Lobster Sauce   SWISS Beef Tournedos by Chef Urs Gschwend
  Herb Crusted Halibut              American Beef Tournedos

A selection of cheeses, Vanilla Mousse with Strawberry, and Swiss chocolates completed our SWISS dining experience before we drifted off to sleep in the comfortable SWISS flatbeds. Waking refreshed, we had a light breakfast just before landing to fuel our perfect day in Zurich. (Read Travel News SWISS International Air Lines – New A330-300 Plane and Redesigned Cabins).

SWISS Vanilla Mousse
Vanilla Mousse

We stayed at the luxurious Baur au Lac, where attentive service began at the Zurich Airport with a uniformed chauffeur who awaited to whisk us from the airport in comfort for the 20 minute drive to the hotel.

Baur au Lac, Zurich, Switzerland
Baur au Lac

The grand dame hotel, the Baur au Lac, built in 1844, is family owned, and features 120 opulently appointed rooms and suites. Located across the street from Lake Zurich and featuring its own private park-like garden overlooking the Schanzengraben River, the hotel provides a tranquil setting amidst the hustle of Switzerland’s largest city with a population of approximately 377,000, and provided us with a perfect location from which to explore the city.

Rive Gauche Baur au Lac, Zurich, Switzerland
Rive Gauche Restaurant and Bar

During our stay at the hotel we had a lovely dinner at the casually elegant Rive Gauche Restaurant and Bar where Chef de Cuisine Olivier Rais focuses on Mediterranean Grill cuisine. The Rive Gauche Restaurant and Bar is open daily from 11:30 am until 11:30 pm.

Read about the Baur au Lac in the Hotels and Resorts, Restaurants, and Chefs’ Recipes (in English, French, and German) sections.

Baur au Lac, Zurich, Switzerland
Baur au Lac
Talstrasse 1
8001 Zurich, Switzerland
Telephone:    +1-41-44-220-5020
Fax:               +1-44-220-6044

Zurich Electric Train
Zurich Electric Trains

The day was sunny and warm, with bright blue skies that promised endless possibilities, yet with only one day to spend in Zurich, we had to carefully choose how to spend our time. Did we want to take a ride on the bright blue and white electric trains to discover the city from a native’s point of view, visit one of the many museums, go to the zoo, or perhaps take a boat ride and spend a few pleasant hours on Lake Zurich watching the sailboats gracefully glide by?

Zurich Park - Flower Clock
Flower Clock

Debra Argen at Ganymed StatueStrolling along the Bürkliplatz trying to decide how to spend our day, we passed two of Zurich’s famous landmarks, the flower clock and the statue of Ganymed pleading with Zeus (the eagle) from Greek Mythology created by sculptor Hermann Hubacher (152), when suddenly an ornate red and gold Ferris wheel located across the street in the park came into view and caught our attention, as this is not a usual Zurich landmark. Was this something new we wondered?

Speaking with Mr. Bourquin, father of owner René Bourquin, we learned that the Nostalgie Riesenrad Ferris Wheel was there as part of the special celebration in Zurich that was held the previous day. As a way to celebrate the new season, there was a bonfire and a snowman placed in front of the Opera House, and depending on how long it took the fire to melt the snowman, would determine how long the summer would last. Mr. Bourquin told us that the snowman melted quickly ensuring that there would be a long summer in Zurich.

Nostalgie Riesenrad Ferris Wheel
Nostalgie Riesenrad Ferris Wheel

Edward enjoying view from Ferris WheelQuestions answered, and not having been on a Ferris wheel since childhood, we boarded the nostalgic replica Ferris wheel with childlike elation that grew with each revolution as we had an incredible view of the city from our high vantage point. Although we had seen Zurich from the plane as well as from the water, this was our first aerial view from a Ferris wheel of the charming city, where we could see all the way to the Limmat River and the Altstadt (Old Town).

Since we have been to Zurich on numerous occasions, we decided to spend the afternoon strolling through our favorite parts of the city, including the Altstadt (Old Town) that is like taking a step back in time with its narrow and winding cobblestone streets that are lined with shops, outdoor cafés, restaurants, unusual and decorative fountains, historic houses, and churches.

Zurich Fountains   Zurich Fountains
Zurich Fountains

While we walked through the Altstadt we played a game of looking for the many Guild signs that remain like secret codes from the days when twenty-six Guilds ruled Zurich from 1400 – 1800, and the signs are visual clues as to the profession of the Guilds.

Guild SignGuild SignGuild Sign
Guild Signs

Walking over Münsterbrück bridge (1836-1838) we stopped to admire the impressive churches located on either side of the Limmat River, the Romanesque-style Grossmünster and the Gothic Fraumünster, as well as the bronze statue of Bürgermeister Hans Waldmann on horseback, who was the mayor from 1493 – 1489, by the sculptor Hermann Haller.

Burgermeister Hans Waldmann
Bürgermeister Hans Waldmann

Grossmunster, Zurich, SwitzerlandGrossmünster, distinguished by its twin towers that dominate the Zurich landscape, was built in the 11th century and features impressive stained glass windows by Augusto Giacometti and bronze doors by Otto Münch. Hours vary according to the season, open Monday – Saturday from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm, with extended hours in different seasons.

8001 Zurich, Switzerland
Telephone:      +1 41-44252-5949

Fraumuenster, Zurich, SwitzerlandWe also visited Fraumünster, founded by King Ludwig II in 853 as a Benedictine Convent for female members of aristocracy, which later became a Reformed Parish. We admired its famous five stained glass windows by the acclaimed artist, Marc Chagall (1970) and the Chagall rose window (1973), as well as the impressive tall stained glass windows in the north transept by the artist Augusto Giacometti (1945), and the frescoes by Paul Bodmer. Also of interest are the Romanesque choir and the organ, which has 5,793 pipes, and is the largest organ in the Canton.

Fraumünster is open Monday – Saturday from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm and Sunday from 11.15 am -6:00 pm with the exception divine services from April to October; and Monday – Saturday from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm, and Sunday from 11.15 am – 4:00 pm with the exception divine services from November to March.

Am Münsterhofplatz
8001 Zurich, Switzerland
Telephone:     +1 41-44211-4100
Fax:                +1 41-44211-2078

Muensterbroeck Bridge, Zurich, Switzerland
Münsterbrück Bridge

Architecturally interesting, the Altstadt is like opening a treasure chest filled with unusual details. An excellent example of this is the building dated 1757 directly opposite Fraumünster, which features different humorously menacing faces over each of its seven windows.

Zum Thor Building Decorative Facade Zum Thor Building Decorative Facade Zum Thor Building Decorative Facade
Humorously Menacing Faces

Also of interest is the Zum Thor building, which shows three dates on its façade of 1593, 1898, and 1979, and the many decorative and colorful façades that are found throughout the area where it is often the smallest of details that catch the eye.

Decorative Facade
Decorative Dated Façade

In a complete juxtaposition to the Altstadt is the fashionable and affluent Bahnhofstrasse, which for luxury shoppers could easily be called the street of dreams. Major internationally recognized clothing designers line the street and beckon to shoppers with their glamorous windows, which we enjoyed browsing and seeing the latest fashions. Switzerland is renowned for its watches, and prestigious watch manufacturers are also well represented in this high real estate area.

Narrow Streets in the Old City, Zurich, Switzerland
Narrow Cobble Street

Luxembergerli - Jubilee ChampagneAlways a must on our list whenever we are in Zurich is a visit to Confiserie Sprungli founded in 1836 where we had to stop and indulge in experiencing the latest Luxemburgerli creation, namely their Jubilee Champagne, a decadent confection made with champagne, brushed with gold, and filled with white chocolate. If you have never had a Luxemburgerli then you are in for a treat, as they are miniature bites of pleasure. We spent a respectful amount of time there ogling the famous chocolates, the breads, and the elaborate pastries that beckoned invitingly behind the gleaming glass display cases.

Confiserie Sprüngli is open Monday – Friday from 7:30 am – 6:30 pm, Saturday from 8:00 am – 4:00 pm, and is closed on Sunday. Read the article on Confiserie Sprüngli, AG in the Luxury Products section.

Confiserie Sprunglie, AG
Confiserie Sprüngli, AG
Bahnhofstrasse 21, Paradeplatz
CH-8001 Zurich
Telephone:       +1 41 44 224 4646
Fax:                  +1 41 44 224 4735

In the evening we dined at the Rive Gauche Restaurant and Bar at the Baur au Lac, where Chef Olivier Rais clearly shines as Chef de Cuisine. The ambience at the restaurant is a delightful mélange of historic and contemporary elements that blend together beautifully.

Chef Olivier Rais of Rive Gauche Restaurant and Bar at the Baur au Lac
Chef Olivier Rais

Asparagus was in season, and a few of the many tasty highlights of our dinner included White Asparagus served with Vinaigrette; Asparagus Cream Soup with Morels; and Scallops with Asparagus, Morels, and Garlic Vinaigrette. Other highlights included the Marinated Salmon on Cucumber Carpaccio and Tuna Tartar, and the tasty Giant Veal Paillard accompanied with Ratatouille. Rive Gauche Restaurant and Bar is open daily from 11:30 am until 11:30 pm.

Grilled Scallops with Asparagus - Rive Gauche Restaurant and Bar
Grilled Scallops with Asparagus

Read about Rive Gauche Restaurant and Bar in the Restaurants section, and also in Chefs’ Recipes where Chef Olivier Rais shares his recipes in English, French, and German for Tuna Tartar with Citrus Zest and Ginger; Red Wine Risotto with Radicchio; Simmental-Style Beef; Mediterranean Mélange of Vegetables, and Crème Brûlée.

Rive Gauche Restaurant and Bar at the Baur au Lac
Rive Gauche Restaurant and Bar

Baur au Lac
Talstrasse 1
8001 Zurich, Switzerland
Telephone:    +1-41-44220-5020
Fax:               +1-44-220-6044
Email:            info@bauraulac.ch

Baur au Lac

After enjoying a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, a Baur au Lac uniformed chauffeur drove us back to the airport where we did some airport shopping, and then relaxed in the comfortable SWISS Business Lounge before boarding our flight from Zurich to New York.

SWISS Business - CarpaccioFlying in the daytime afforded us with plenty of opportunity to watch movies as part of the extensive in-flight SWISS entertainment program, and we experienced a last "SWISS – Taste of Switzerland" with Chef Urs Gschwend’s menu of a first course of Carpaccio of Braised Veal with a Herb and Vegetable Vinaigrette, and a Spring Salad with Curly Endive, Snow Pea Julienne, and Pomegranate.

SWISS Business - Herb Marinated Pike-Perch SWISS Business - Asparagus with Truffle Risotto
  Herb Marinated Pike Perch       Asparagus and Truffle Risotto

We continued with main courses of Olive Oil and Herb Marinated Filet of Pike Perch with Spring Onion Cream Sauce and Lemon Potato; and Asparagus and Truffle Risotto with Parmesan, followed by a selection of Swiss cheeses with Pear Bread. For dessert, we had Layered Mousse of Raspberry and Lime with Thyme, and Swiss Chocolates.

SWISS Business - Rasberry Mousse SWISS Business - Cheeses and Pear Bread
         Layered Mousse              Swiss Cheeses and Pear Bread

Although it had been a quick trip to Zurich, it indeed had been a perfect one.

Important information for Switzerland

Switzerland is not part of the European Union, and as such, the currency of Switzerland is the Swiss Franc. As of April 2009, the exchange rate was 1 US Dollar (USD) to 1.15 Swiss Francs (CHF), 1 Euro (EUR) to 1.51 Swiss Francs (CHF). The Swiss Franc coin denominations are: 5, 10, 20, 50 cents and 1, 2, and 5 Francs. Bank note denominations are: 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 1000 Francs.

Zurich is +6 hours ahead of EST, and +1 hour ahead of GMT. Electricity is 220 volts, and use 2-round pin socket. Bring a converter if your appliances do not have dual voltage and plug adapters.

Switzerland is a country with many languages: Swiss German, High German, French, Italian, and Romansch, with the Romansch language mainly spoken in the Engadine St. Moritz region. Swiss German is a spoken language, and High German is the spoken and written language for sixty eight percent of the Swiss population. The rest of the Swiss population speaks French (18%), Italian (12%), or Romansch (approximately 40,000) depending on their geographic location. While many Swiss speak English, it is always helpful to have some basic language knowledge when traveling.

Guide to pronunciation

ß = strong S sound (like a hiss)
j = sounds like y
ie = sounds like ea
ü = sounds like ou
w = sounds like v

Basic Vocabulary




Do you speak English?

Sprechen Sie Englisch?

Excuse me       


I do not understand

Ich verstehe nicht


Guten Tag


Auf Weidersehen

Good Morning

Guten morgen

Good Evening

Guten aben



Thank you










Where is?

Wo is?

The hotel

das Hotel

Train Station



der Flughafen

How much is?

Wieviel kostet?
























die Gesundheit






das Fieber


die Kopfschmerzen










die Kopfschmerzen



das Restaurant














































Ice cream


















Red wine


Sparkling wine


White wine






Read other articles on Zurich, Switzerland in the Hotels and Resorts, Restaurants, Chefs’ Recipes, and Travel News sections.

Read other articles on Switzerland in the Destinations section: (Zurich), Bern, Interlaken, and Lucerne; Hotels and Resorts, Restaurants, Chefs’ Recipes, Spas; in the Liquor Cabinet section: Swiss Vodka – The Art and Science,and Xellent Swiss Vodka, in the Wine Cellar section: Domaine Zweifel – The Art of Making Swiss Wine, and Lattenberg Rauschling 2005, in the Gastronomy section: 15th Annual St. Moritz Gourmet Festival, Emmental – The Art of Making Swiss Cheese, and Gastronomic Evening with Guest Chef Emmanuel Renaut, in the Luxury Products section: Confiserie Sprungli, and in the Adventures section: 24th Cartier Polo World Cup on Snow in St. Moritz, Skiing in St. Moritz, Switzerland, Snowshoeing in Arosa, Switzerland, Skiing in Arosa, Switzerland, Hiking Jungfraujoch, Switzerland, Hiking Mount Pilatus, Switzerland, Paragliding in Interlaken, Switzerland, and Porsche 911 Carrera S Driving Experience.

SWISS International Air LinesFor information on SWISS International Air Lines, please visit the website: www.swiss.com.

For information on Switzerland, please visit the website: www.MySwitzerland.com. For information on Zurich, please visit the website: www.Zuerich.com.

© May 2009. Luxury Experience. www.LuxuryExperience.com. All rights reserved.

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