A week in Switzerland
I am going to spend a week in Switzerland next week (early December) based at my friend's place in Basel. I will try to utliize the great rail system and hit Bern, Zurich, and possibly Lugano (weekend trip) during the time.
Any good local treats, restaurants, culture events at these 4 places would be greatly appreciated!
I did once a week trip in Switz going to Michelin one star restaurants every day for lunch using my Swiss Rail Pass. It was a treat using the SBB rail website getting my routes easily plotted out from my departure point in Interlaken. My favorite places out of the 6 I visited were George Wenger in Le Noirmont in the Swiss Jura and Hotel Bahnhof in Burgdorf in the Swiss Emmental, near Bern. These are doable from Basel by train and you get into some wonderful country side. Burgdorf is an elegant old city well off the tourist beaten path that you may find more interesting than Bern, or do both as you might have to switch trains there.
I dined on the day menu which at that time ran about US$60, did not make reservations, showed up after carefully checking which days each restaurant was closed, and had 5-7 course meals with all the extras were thrown in and totally gracious attention from the owners and chefs who found my adventure novel and admirable and who were very curious about my impressions of their colleagues establishments.
I lived in Basel once and just recently returned and thoroughly enjoyed the BraunerMutz on Barfusser Platz for the Swiss standard of Wurst mut Roesti (Sausage with potato cake). I also love the Silserli (stuffed soft pretzels) at Cafe Suter's which can now be found throughout the city. I love the Brotli Bar for "fast food" Swiss style also on Barfusser Platz.
And no one can beat the Bruderholz outside of Basel on the tram to the Basel Studio tram stop for a world class, expensive lifetime culinary adventure. Chez Donati remains a classic standard for elegance and Italian dining in the heart of Basel by the river. I like old quarters, particularly St Albans and St Albanecke for local dining and now there are many boutique places in the renovated Heuberg area near the University.
You almost cannot go wrong dining in Basel. it is one of Switzerland's great cities. Recently there has been a large influx of immigrant foods as well which were never possible even a few years ago: indian, south asian, latin, etc. Hotel Teufelhof near the Music Academy tram stop is a surprisingly quirky high end dining spot with several levels of dining options. Everything in Basel is easily reachable by their excellent tram system. Riding the Number 6 tram from Allschwil to Rehein and back gives you a great overview of two of the nicest suburbs of this wonderful city.
Wintertime is melted cheese time and besides fondue this also means raclette which I think is alone worth a trip to Switzerland - melted cheese with potatoes garnished with cornichons and pickled onions. There is the Walliserkanne in downtown Basel where you can still get this, or look for specials around town also featuring this at this time of year.
I personally did not like the food at Hotel Violin, which is a novelty spot in Basel since it was their former (and very picturesque) jail in a lovely old park like setting overlooking the city. The food was simply not worth the price. But it does make a cheaper hotel option and perfectly located to stay in their converted prison cells right in downtown.
On our last trip we went to Locarno and Ascona from Interlaken on a long day's trip and were soundly disappointed in the hyper-commercialization of these formerly wonderful lakeside resorts. Perfectly awful food, so I hope you find your trip to Lugano worth it.
Don't overlook heading into the winter wonderland of the Berner Oberland - and a secret special place we keep returning to is the Hostellerie Lindenhof in Brienz, which is known in this area for its very creative menus and spectacular lake views in a beautiful garden setting. It is a short 10 minute walk up the hill from the Brienz train station or you can call their hotel van or use a taxi to get there.
Yes, Zurich and Bern are the larger, better known Swiss cities but I also think the intimacy of other smaller, less intense Swiss towns also very easily accessed by train are also worthy of exploration. The SBB website will become your new BFF as you plan your trips. Enjoy, you are going at a special time and can call Switzerland your own when you get back.
All of those places are worthy of visiting, but think about also going to Solothurn, Luzern, and Aarau. Even Olten (where you will be changing trains is nice enough for a short walk across the river to the old town. I have a particular fondness for Zofingen (I spent a summer working there). It has a beautiful medieval core than be visited in an hour or two.
I live in Zurich and can highly recommend to visit our city. I would walk from the main train station, down on Bahnhofstrasse, up to the lake and walk back on the other side of the Limmat through Niederdorf. Do not forget to go in the Frauenmuenster to see the Chagall windows.
Swiss food is not famously known, but still, if you want to do like to locals try a sausage at Vorderer Sterne, across Bellevue. It is a stand where you will eat your sausage and piece of bread outside. Very famous here! Another treat would be to have a hot chocolate at any Spruengli (Paradeplatz or behind Globus on Bahnhofstrasse) or best at Cafe Schober in Niederdorf or Cafe Felix at Bellevue. Very pricey and grandma style but excellent. If you go to Spruengli in the morning (3 location in Zurich main train station), try the brioche with truffe filling or the famous Swiss muesli. For a very lively restaurant, I would try Zeughauskeller at Paradeplatz. They have a very good Zurich Geschnetzelltes and Roesti.
Enjoy your trip!
Thanks for everyone's input. I did get a taste of Raclette and it was so delicious; I wish we had it here.
That being said, I had an awesome French fare in Basel at Cheval Blanc, a Michelin 2 star. And you know you don't go to Switzerland for bargains. But I truly think this is a great meal to get the best of your money. I had the menu degustation which was 165CHF, very reasonable in my opinion. Also went to Peter Mann's in Zurich. A great experience as well. Sternen Grill in Zurich has some of the best bratwursts for sure. Tried the fondue in Le Dezaley in Zurich. What a packed house near the Grossmunster. Still didn't get a hang of it. Last but not least, I got some really good Italian food down in Lugano. Restaurant Principe Leopoldo was one of them.
Thanks to everyone's contribution. I think it was a great gastronomic trip in Switzerland (believe it or not :)
KB, I am headed to Zug by way of Zurich this coming Saturday with my family (wife, twins 7 and 5 year old-turns 6 on 20) to visit friends and hopefully do a little skiing. We are a family that loves food and have children that are extremely well behaved and have good manners. Do you have suggestions that would be appropriate for our group?