Window Shopping Along Zürich's Bahnhofstrasse
It is probably the cleanest, safest, and possibly the most expensive major city street in the world; a thoroughfare of much-maligned banks, incredible jewelry windows, and exclusive shops. It isn't flashy but you feel the affluence. Never mind the big shot financiers and too-thin ladies in fur coats with small dogs, ordinary bank clerks on this street make $80,000 a year.
We are, of course, talking about Zürich's Bahnhofstrasse. Whenever we're in town, a window-shopping tour of the street is obligatory and almost always includes a walk through the old town across the Limmat. The route makes a rectangular circuit, a sort of "lap around Zürich."
Depending on how long and often you stop along the way, this stroll could take an hour or all day. You can start anywhere, but for these purposes we'll begin at the main rail station and south up the street toward the town center.
• You may want to immediately duck in at St. Gotthard Café (87 Bahnhofstrasse), a clubby, woody room where the speciality is Bouillabaisse.
• Immediately you'll see a McDonald's and a Planet Hollywood. Walk on, pretend they're not there. Across from the latter is MusicHug where you can purchase music tapes or CDs not readily found in the U.S.
• At Uraniastrasse, look left about 50 yards down the street and note Brasserie Lipp, the Zürich branch of the famed Paris bistro, and a popular watering hole. We stopped for a few minutes and tried the daily wine specials. A glass of classy, classified Bordeaux, 1988 Grand-Puy-LaCoste, for CHF 11, and a lovely Sancerre at CHF 8.5, came with little squares of toast and pate. Waiters are brusque but efficient and the people watching is nonpareil. Some take the elevator to the Jules Verne Panorama Room for even pricier drinks and a view of Zürich from on high. Between the Brasserie Lipp and the Heimatwerk is a chic food store that features such items as Balik Salmon, olive oil with truffles (CHF 27.50) and truffle pate (CHF 45).
• At 69a Bahnhofstrasse, it's Séguin-Dorman for porcelain and glassware such as Riedel and Rosenthal. Some handsome Riedel wine glasses at CHF 30 were about $2 less than the same glasses sold at our local wine shop in the U.S.
• If you're short on reading material, across the street is Stäheli English Bookstore. Prices will be substantially higher than in the U.S.
• At number 67 is the inviting Confiserie Sprüngli, the 168-year-old chocolate maker who will deliver all over the world (fax +41/1/224 4735).
• Just across the street at number 58 is Riethmüller AG for fine knives (Henckels), scissors, and small kitchen implements.
• Continuing on the left side you'll come to Pic nic Gourmando, another upscale food shop. When we were there, the window displayed an extraordinary variety of liqueurs and Schnaps. One that caught our eye was an 800 cl bottle of Williams eau-de-vie de Poire (pear Schnapps) priced at CHF 1,350. Within the perfectly clear bottle, in addition to the Schnapps of course, was a perfectly clear glass-blown pear.
• On the right side again, at number 47, is the Rosenthal Studio-Haus with more attractive wine glasses (diVino by Rosenthal: CHF 13 for white wine glasses and CHF 16 for more amply endowed Bordeaux glasses). A small piece of Rosenthal is a can't-miss take home gift.
• At the corner of Kuttel-Gasse and Bahnhofstrasse is Bucherer, Zürich's biggest jeweler, where one can spend $100,000 or more on a wristwatch. Its several windows showcase many dazzling pieces.
• Still on the left side, Louis Vuitton displays a tiny - no bigger than three inches—cube of a purse in powder blue patent-leather with brass clasp for a cool CHF 1,450.
• At 44 is Bruno's where you can purchase men's Borsalino hats for around CHF 500
• Then, on the corner of Münz Platz and Bahnhofstrasse, is Bulgari, another high-end jewelry store.
• Next comes the street's prestige florist, Blumen-Krämer at 38 Bahnhofstrasse.
• On the right side of the street, at the corner of St. Peter Strasse is Vidal, an oriental rug shop displaying some gorgeous goods. Our knowledge of such merchandise is very limited but prices seemed somewhat lower than what we have seen in the U.S. for similar rugs.
• Next to Vidal is Hermes. Their filmy scarves are about $200.
• Staying on the right, a knockout antique store is La Serlas.
• You are now at Paradeplatz, the hub of Zürich's light rail system. Trams continually snake in and around the kiosk, three or four seeming to come and go at intervals of every two or three minutes.
• Across the street is one of Zürich's finest hotels, the Savoy Baur en Ville, flawlessly managed by Manfred Hörger, who wouldn't discount the rack rate on the broom closet if the hotel had been empty for a week. Double rooms are in the $400 to $500 range, 365 days a year. The Savoy Bar is popular with the city's top bankers. Also within a stone's throw of this little platz are several interesting restaurants.
• The most popular of these is Zeughaus Keller. A tourist stop, yes, but also frequented by plenty of locals. In any event the country-style food is excellent and the great open room, adorned with cannons and other armaments, is one of the world's grandest places to eat a sausage - and never mind foot-long, some are more than a yard in length.
• It's time to cross the river to the old city. Walk behind the Savoy (where you may want to spend a few minutes looking at the Marc Chagall stained-glass windows in the Fraumünster Church) and take the Münster bridge.
• The other side of the river is like a different country. Things here can be a little garish, a little loud, a little earthy, and here and there you'll see a few weathered souls.
• The main street meandering the old town is Münstergasse, which is a block or so up the hill from the river. Turn left on it and start back north. Along the way you'll note a number of intersecting alleys and streets, mostly from the right. Exploring these will unearth dozens of interesting small shops, bars and restaurants.
• Continuing on Münstergasse, you may wish to look in at Le Papillon, a 21st century Art Deco furniture store.
• If your walk is at night, you can stop at the Casa Bar for some live Jazz. There is a tiny stage, about a dozen bar stools and a few tables. You are very close to the musicians. The night of our visit, six 60ish Australians, calling themselves the Spirit of New Orleans, wailed away on drums, clarinet/sax, cornet, trombone, bass, and banjo. The Casa Bar is rough-edged and pretty tacky, but well-behaved. There is no cover charge but when the music's on they want CHF 10 for a short beer.
• For a cheap but good meal stop at the corner of Marktgasse, number 19, at Rheinfelder Bier Halle. Further on is another Rheinfelder Bier Halle, but this smaller one has more atmosphere.
Five minutes beyond the Rheinfelder you'll join the busy street fronting the Limmat. Off to your left about 300 yards is the Bahnhof. Your circuit is complete.