“I have a 12 hour layover in Zurich (10am-10pm) on the way to my final destination and am a freelance writer.
Sadly, I have to work. Gladly, I get to do it from Zurich for a day.
So… I know there are a few train options from the airport. What would you suggest as a relatively simple, English-speaking gal like myself do to find a cafe with some food, lots of coffee, and internet? Please no Starbucks. I know what it tastes like.
Appreciate anything you can advise!
Truth be told, in Zurich Starbucks is the only place where you can sit for hours on end just sipping a latte. Every other café in town will expect you to finish your drink/food and free up the table.
There are however a number of places that are not very crowded in the morning and in the afternoon after 3pm, and there you’d have the best chance of being able to sit for a few hours, slowly getting through your order while you work at your laptop. Just to make sure, I would also purchase a Monzoon wi-fi pre-paid card (info here) when you get to the airport.
Here’s how I would go about it:
- You should be arriving at Arrival terminal 2. Locate the “Switzerland Info” desk. There you can ask where/how to purchase Monzoon prepaid scratchcards and your train ticket. If you only plan to go to Zurich and back you’ll need a daily card from the Airport, which should cost around 12 Swiss Francs. That would also cover a boat trip down the Limmat or on Lake Zurich over your lunch break, if you like.
She might propose that you buy a ZuriCard, which costs CHF 20 but gives you unlimited access to Zurich public transportation for 24 hours as well as free entry to the Zurich Museum of Art (Kunsthaus) and some minor discounts here and there (more info on offers here.) However if you are only staying for 12 hours and you need to work, I’d go for the daily train card.
- Cross the street to the main terminal and follow the directions to the check-in desk to check in your luggage for the evening flight. If for some reason early check-in isn’t available on your flight, you can leave it in a luggage locker at the train station.
- Pick up some cash, unless you already have.
- Go back to the main terminal and go downstairs to the airport’s train station. The S16 train will take you straight to the Main Station (referred to as Zurich HB), but I am not sure how often it travels, probably every 30 minutes. Look at the display, you can jump on any train that lists Zurich HB as a stop, no matter the type of train – just don’t sit in 1st class (unless you paid for 1st class when you bought your ticket.)
- Depending on which train you took, you might get to the station upstairs or downstairs. If upstairs, go towards the main terminal. If you need to store your luggage, the lockets are on floor U1. You will need coins, but there’s plenty of shops and newsstands where you can purchase something small to get change.
- If you don’t have your luggage with you, go to the main terminal and go out the main station entrance (the one with the big arch, between the Nordsee and the Kiosk.) The station street (Bahnhofstrasse) stretches out in front of the main station. By the time you get there it will likely be lunch time, so sitting somewhere in peace to work on your laptop isn’t an option – unless you bought a Monzoon card and you are willing for that somewhere to be out in the open, like in a park or on the lake.
In that case, you can either walk back into the station and out the other side to go to the park behind the Landesmusum(the one that looks like a castle) on the other side of the street, or stay where you are and start walking towards the lake. For the latter, you’ll want to walk towards the left until you come to the river (the Limmat) and then walk alongside the river (towards the right), on either side, until you get to the lake. There are plenty of places to stop on the way, as well, with benches and a nice view of the Limmat and surroundings. When you get to the lake you will also find benches. There are also plenty of places to grab a quick lunch.
- If it’s raining and working outside isn’t an option, walk down the Bahnhofstrasse and stop for lunch. There is a restaurant on top of the Manor department store, which is right on the Bahnhofstrasse, or the Jelmoli department store, which is behind the H&M you will see across the street from Manor. Those are the easiest options, but there are plenty. They will be a bit crowded between 12 and 2pm.
- After 2.30 or 3pm, you should be able to sit and work at the Manor restaurant (Manora.) They have free wifi but it can be sketchy at times, so test it out before you take everything out of your bag and get set up. It’s also a good idea to make sure you have a coffee and dessert or something of the sort on the table so nobody gives you trouble. (You cannot bring food from outside.)
- That should give you a couple of hours in peace, then around 6 the dinner rush will probably start. The shops are open until 9 in the city center, so you can do some shopping or browsing before or after dinner, before you head back to the airport.
May I recommend that you take some time to stop by a Sprüngli (there is one two blocks from Manor on the Bahnhostrasse, as well as 2 more in the main station) and get some of their praline (which are made fresh and just about the best thing you can give to a chocoholic), a few pastries or a box of Luxemburgerli, small macarons that come in lots of flavors.
I hope this helps, and I hope you enjoy your day in Zurich.
All photos © Elisa Bieg. Please do not use without permission.