With its glittering lights and gluhwein, the cheerful holiday season in Zürich is festive enough to make us forget the biting chill in the air and overcast skies blanketing the city. But come January, when Switzerland is stripped bare of its sparkling strands of lights and Christmas markets, we’re left with nothing more than another two or three months of cold, gray days. It’s enough to give anyone a terrible case of the winter blues.
Of course, many people in Switzerland take to the slopes this time of year. But if you’re a non-skier and equate swooshing down an Alpine slope with imminent death, there isn’t much to do but patiently wait out the rest of the winter season. So, here’s what Zuri Girl does to survive the bleak months of January and February (and March) until the glorious, sunny days of spring arrive.
See an Opera at the Opernhaus. La Scala may be one of the world’s most famous opera houses, but with the Zürich Opernhaus, it isn’t necessary to travel all the way to Milan to see Verdi or Puccini. Residing near the lake at Bellevue, the Opernhaus was designed by a Viennese architect and has been the home of opera in Zürich since 1891. Its season runs from fall to mid-summer, and there are performances nearly every night.
We love live theatre, but, with few performances in English in Zürich, it can be a little tricky. That’s what makes a night at the opera so great – you don’t need to understand the language to enjoy the show. And if you’re not in the mood for an opera, you can always see a ballet instead.
Eat Fondue. As one of the country’s national dishes, there’s certainly no shortage of fondue restaurants in Zürich. But, with a little help from local friends, we’ve learned that some fondue restaurants are better than others. One of Zuri Girl’s favorite places is the Fribourger Fonduestübli in the city center on Rotwandstrasse. Decorated in a traditional Swiss style, the Fribourger Fonduestübli is a small restaurant specializing in and serving only fondue. And because fondue is the perfect meal on a cold, winter’s night (the Swiss would never think to eat fondue during the sultry summer season), and to be honest, we go out for fondue about once a month during winter.
Drink Hot Chocolate. Although there is some debate as to whether fondue or raclette is Switzerland’s most-loved deligh, there’s no arguing that chocolate is its most cherished sweet. And during the freezing days of winter, there’s nothing more delightful than stepping out of the cold and into a cozy cafe for hot chocolate.
Zuri Girl’s absolute favorite place for hot chocolate in Zürich is Café Peclard in Conditorei Schober. Not only does Café Peclard serve smooth, chocolaty hot chocolate (don’t forget to ask for whipped cream), it also boasts a beautiful, vintage interior. And if the richness of the chocolate isn’t enough to satisfy your sweet tooth, there’s an array of indulgent desserts to tempt you further. It’s a dangerous place to visit, for sure.
Take a Day Trip to the Alps. Even if don’t ski, it doesn’t mean you can’t après ski. The options are limitless, but we like to escape to the Alpine villages of Zermatt and Mürren (among many others!) to take in the beauty of the majestic, snow-capped mountains. And if you want to enjoy the journey from a panoramic train window, take a ride on the Glacier Express.
For non-skiers, there is always plenty to do, including walking through snow covered villages, enjoying the local cafe scene, shopping adorable boutiques and…of course…meeting your friends at a meeting point on the slopes for the après ski scene.
Ice-Skate at the Dolder Grand. For those days when you can’t get away but still want to enjoy everything the winter season has to offer, all you have to do is ride along the snowy tracks of Zürich’s Dolderbahn railway to the Dolder Grand hotel. During the winter season, the Dolder Grand, which sits atop a hill in Zürich, opens its 6,000 square meter open-air ice rink – the largest in Europe. It’s so much fun to glide along the ice, and if your toes get cold while skating, you can thaw out inside the ice rink’s adjoining café.
Winter is almost over, so we are hoping the weather will soon start to turn. Until it does, we’ll go out for more fondue and hot chocolate. What is your cure for the winter blues in Zürich?
Article and photos contributed by: Zuri Girl Jennifer D’Angelo Swain, a writer living in Zürich since the fall of 2012. When not working on her next screenplay or story, she is likely to be traveling or indulging in different kinds of cuisine.
In her past life, as she calls it, Jennifer practiced trademark and copyright law in the United States and wasn’t having nearly as much fun as she is now.
Read tales of Jennifer’s new life in Europe on This Off Script Life.