Zurich, the cultural heart of Switzerland. Home of secret treaties, financial intrigue, and a laissez-faire attitude of letting anyone do anything, as long as they aren’t breaking Swiss rules. They say there are vaults of gold hidden underneath the streets, while above ground you have a parade of virtually every major name brand in Europe. It’s the only city that consistently gets ranked as being more expensive than Geneva, yet also the only one that consistently is said to have a better standard of living. And they say money doesn’t buy happiness…

Considering Soph and I have been here for over two years now, it borders on being a travesty that we hadn’t yet ventured to Zurich. In truth we’ve been busy going other places, so I don’t feel too guilty, but we had a free weekend and it was time to make the journey. Awaking at the ungodly hour of 8:00 am on a weekend, we caught the early train in the hopes of being able to rush everything in before dinner.

Of course, the real reason we were going was because Zurich is home to one of Switzerland’s only Korean grocery stores. Since Soph has been running extremely low on seaweed for awhile now, this was the only motivation she needed…

For a day trip, Zurich is pretty nice. You can see it fairly quickly if you put your mind to it (and if you skip the museums). Stroll through the old town; see the shopping streets; take a break at a sidewalk cafĂ©…if you’re lucky you’ll even run into a marching band, something that happens way more often than you would think. Like almost every town in Switzerland, Zurich is perched on the edge of a lake, and also sports a river through its center. The old town is then on a slight hill overlooking the lake, which makes the city very scenic. While Geneva has a spattering of ugly, box-shaped buildings that prevent it from having a true “feel”, Zurich seems to have been built prior to the 1950’s, and has that centuries-old atmosphere that makes walking through the streets just a little bit exciting. It also seems well-preserved, and the buildings are solid and clean. Of course, it also does have its fair share of more modern architecture, but the wide tree-lined avenues with the tram running through the center somehow takes you back into an era that you just don’t see too often anymore. That, and there are a lot of interesting side streets. Side streets rule, especially if they have cool stores on them, and finding good side streets is pretty much the best way you can spend a day.

All in all, Zurich is a charming little city definitely worth exploring. Not sure if we’ll be going back, but at least we’ll now know what the hype is all about when it gets yet another “greatest city to live in” award.

Next weekend: Mountain huts!