I had heard all kinds of opinions about Luxembourg – none of which were particularly negative, nor excessively positive – middle of the road statements like “it’s quite small,” or “there’s not a lot to do there.” So, I decided to see for myself.
Hosted by Visit Luxembourg, the tourism agency of Luxembourg, I was able to spend a lovely three day weekend in this beautiful country. My observation? Well, it really is a lovely place, and in my opinion, definitely worth at least ONE visit!! If you really want to delve into the fascinating history and have time to see the surrounding areas (not just downtown Luxembourg City), it would be ideal to have at least one week in the country, or come back for multiple trips. Also, having visited in early December, I am a huge advocate for the pre-Christmas time given the spectacular Christmas markets that Luxembourg puts on, though I would also love to see it in the spring/summer months.
Let me bring you along on my little Luxembourg journey…
Christmas time in Luxembourg is a magical time
I arrived to Luxembourg City by train from Switzerland on a Friday evening and it was just beginning to get dark. As with many European train stations, Gare Luxembourg is absolutely beautiful, and quite unique from anything else I’ve seen thus far. The city is well-connected by public transport (mostly bus in the downtown area), so a quick bus brought us to our hotel – Hotel Vauban, located directly on the Place Guillaume in the heart of downtown Luxembourg City, and the perfect location as a base for exploring the city.
We passed at least two small Christmas markets and tons of shimmering lights just on the short drive from the station to our hotel, and to our very happy surprise, discovered that our hotel was not only situated in the midst of a very lively market, but that it was within 5 min walking distance of two of the other best markets in town!
We dropped our things at the hotel, which was simple, cozy and clean, and bundled up for an evening at the markets. First, we visited the market right across from our hotel, in the partially-enclosed Place Guillaume, which focused on food, drinks and fun loud music, with a gorgeously-illuminated ice skating rink and beautiful Christmas lights strewn over the buildings and sparkling from the tops of trees. We ate a typically Germanic sausage dog for dinner, preceded (and followed) by Glühwein (hot/mulled wine), the staple drink of Christmas markets and European winter season, generally.
We visited one more market before turning in for the evening, just around the corner at the Place d’Armes, which boasts a giant lighted Christmas tree and the “Lights of Luxembourg” sign. This market is significantly larger, with many stalls serving different types of food, drink (also Glühwein, of course – at this market they served it in the cute colorful boot mugs, which we of course took as souvenirs), and knickknacks of all sorts. Towards the back of the market near a carousel was a Christmas tree display featuring a variety of decorations that seem to have been done by local schoolchildren.
All things UNESCO – a city full of history
Our first morning and full day in Luxembourg was dedicated to exploring some of the most famous landmarks and historical areas of the city. The city’s fortifications and historical quarter were recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1994, and it is possible to see nearly all, if not all, of the included attractions in one afternoon of exploring. Visit Luxembourg has a recommended walking route to complete a tour of all the UNESCO sites; my path was a bit different as I wanted to experience the full mix of classic, contemporary and medieval architecture that the city has to offer.
Downtown Luxembourg City and Pont Adolphe
We explored downtown a bit to see the mix of architecture, featuring various governmental-related buildings with beautiful designs and a street lined with remarkable buildings, reminiscent of the French style. Next we visited Adolphe bridge, which is lovely from all angles and has beautiful and intriguing ruins underneath it, and several walking paths.
Notre Dame Cathedral and Casemates du Bock
Notre-Dame’s cornerstone was first laid in 1613, and after passing through various phases and different religious associations, was refurbished in neo-gothic style from 1854. The inside of the cathedral is classic and elegant, with expansive ceilings and richly colored stained glass displays. Even if you don’t have a lot of time to explore or sit inside, it is worth peeking in and open to the public (except perhaps during certain masses).
We walked from the downtown area of Notre Dame to Casemates du Bock, which led us down various quaint cobblestone alleys and past multiple styles of architecture; walking around the city really is the best way to see it properly.
A bit of history about the Casemates from Visit Luxembourg: In 963, Count Siegfried built a fortified castle on the Bock promontory, which was soon to become the cradle of the city. In the course of the centuries, on the western side, mighty ring walls were added, which, however, did not foil the Burgundians in their attempt to conquer the city in 1443. The best builder-engineers of the new masters (the Burgundians, the Spaniards, the French, the Austrians and the German Confederation) eventually turned the city into one of the most powerful emplacements in the world, the “Gibraltar of the North”. Its defences were bolstered by three fortified rings with 24 forts, 16 other strong defensive works and a unique 23 km long network of casemates: these could not only shelter thousands of soldiers and their horses, but also housed workshops, kitchens, bakeries, slaughter-houses etc. In 1867, after the declaration of neutrality,the military withdrew from the fortress and during the following 16 years 90% of the defences were demolished. In 1875, the superstructure of the Bock, a tremendous construction, was razed. However, it proved to be impossible to blow up the casemates, without also demolishing part of the city, so the entrances and the key connecting galleries were sealed. In spite of this, 17 kilometres of tunnels remain, often on different levels and tremendous stairways penetrate up to 40 metres inside the rock face.
As per the tourism website, the Casemates are open for visitation from February through November, so I had just missed the window to go inside, though even from the outside, these ancient walls and fortifications are truly fascinating to see, especially when one imagines just how old it all is, and the history behind its making.
A city of history and art
From Casemates du Bock, there is a walking route to the hill, atop which sits MUDAM, the modern art museum of Luxembourg (Musée d’art moderne Grand-Duc Jean). The strikingly modern museum sits on the site of the historical Fort Thüngen in Dräi Eechelen Park, and was inaugurated in 2006. Most of the original fortress (Thüngen) was demolished after the 1867 Treaty of London, which demanded the demolition of Luxembourg City’s numerous fortifications. The three towers and the foundations of the rest of the fort were all that remained. During the 1990s, the site was reconstructed in its entirety, in parallel with the development of the site for the construction of MUDAM. After being fully restored, the building was reopened in 2012 as Musée Dräi Eechelen.
Outside of MUDAM can currently be seen an exhibit titled “Wind Caravan” by Japanese artist Susumu Shingu, whose art is dependent upon wind to exist. His elegant sculptures are animated by the slightest breath and thereby reveal the intangible but omnipresent nature of air. Outside the museum are a set of 21 such sculptures, and inside, his “Water Tree” and various other works driven by the harmonious interactions of wind, water and light in his dedicated exhibit room.
Very near to MUDAM is the Philharmonie, an architectural marvel in itself and really beautiful to see at twilight or after dark, when it is illuminated against the night sky. We stopped by on our way to the bus stop, which took us back to our friendly neighborhood of Christmas markets for the evening.
Our last day in Luxembourg was dedicated to exploring the historical area around Casemates du Bock a bit more thoroughly, and From our hotel, we took the back way through the small alleys down towards the Grund. The Grund is technically a neighborhood of Luxembourg City, and has a very relaxed, historical (cobblestoned streets dating from the 10th century, walls from the 14th) and village-like feel to it; perfect for a quiet Sunday stroll. The path winds downhill along a very scenic route, passing by colorful and quaint houses with lovely views out over the river, Neumünster Abbey (a UNESCO building), and the river, bridges and the Casemates du Bock further in the background – the places we had explored from a new angle!
Near to the Grund is Luxembourg’s National Museum of History and Art, which typically hosts an eclectic variety of classical and historical artwork and artifacts, alongside a selection of contemporary art. This is a good museum for those that are interested in history and other cultures. At the time of my visit, the headline exhibit was about ancient Chinese civilization, a fascinating journey from the beginning of the oldest civilization in the world, through to modern times. There were also some amazing exhibits including paintings and even an exhibit dedicated to the evolution of the national currency of Luxembourg.
I am so glad that I was able to visit Luxembourg myself and experience some of its fascinating culture and history. I honestly expected to come to yet another postage stamp-sized nation with a sort of Liechtensteinien vibe – small but cute, pretty but really not much that you cannot see and do in one day. I was pleasantly surprised at the vastness of Luxembourg’s national history, its present mix of cultures, beautiful architecture and absolute mastery of the Christmas spirit… I would absolutely return for another visit, especially to see more of the surrounding countryside and villages outside of Luxembourg City.
Getting around: The Luxembourg Card, like the one I had provided by Visit Luxembourg, a travel pass which allows travel by all forms of public transport within Luxembourg and entrance into most tourist attractions and museums, is an excellent thing to have for your visit. They are available for 1, 2 or 3 days for individuals or family passes. More info and prices here.
Money: most places around the city accept credit card for typical purchases, but if you want to make smaller purchases or especially, if you visit during Christmas Market season, you’ll want to have some cash – there are plenty of ATMs around the city and Luxembourg’s currency is the Euro, so if you’re already traveling around Europe, you’re in luck!
What to see and do:
get more ideas for your trip from Visit Luxembourg!
I’m currently based in Zürich and had a few days’ off of work for the All Saints’ Day long holiday. I had never been to Liechtenstein (is that a thing?) and so figured why not! I didn’t really know that much about this tiny landlocked nation before visiting – I knew there was a Prince and had heard about it being a friendly billionaire tax-haven. After spending a few days in this country, sandwiched between Switzerland and Austria, I can attest to it being absolutely lovely, and very worth a visit.
To get to the capital city, Vaduz, I took a train from Zürich HB to Sargans, right on the Swiss border and then a bus to Vaduz, Post (quite central). The commute was stunning and I could hardly stop filming out the window – leaving Switzerland, the train passed Walensee with its beautiful turquoise color and quaint sailboats bobbing in the wind, and then once I switched to the bus, the scenery switched to magnificent snowcapped alps. The entire trip only took about 1.5 hours , which was very reachable and even more convenient than several trips I’ve taken within Switzerland!
As it turns out, Vaduz is basically all things pleasant about cute European cities – quaint, pleasantly walkable, nice restaurants, (very) artsy, clean, organized, and photogenic. Not having known what to expect before going, I was pleasantly surprised and certainly happy that I went ahead and made the trip.
Not knowing exactly where the most poppin part of town was when I made an extremely last minute booking, I ended up in a hotel just across the town border in Triesen (only about 20 min walk from downtown Vaduz). The Meierhof Hotel was super comfy, snuggly and the perfect little nest for a few days of exploring Vaduz.
I only spent one night in Liechtenstein and for two partial days of exploring, feel that I saw Vaduz fairly thoroughly. I started with a delicious Italian lunch at Amarone, then headed to see Schloss Vaduz (Vaduz Castle), the current permanent residence of the Prince of Liechtenstein and family.
After stalking the Prince for a while, I continued on through the old part of Vaduz to the Red House, which was built in 1338 and is famous mostly for its color but has also passed ownership various times throughout the years and centuries… as one would hope.
Walking down from the Red House through the old town (Mitteldorf area of Vaduz) was very peaceful and the perfect place to experience a gorgeous sunset, with quaint vineyards of Red House and other small abodes in the foreground and Vaduz Castle, standing in front of impressive alpine peaks as a backdrop to purple billowing clouds.
By the time sun had set, my exploring day had just about come to an end and I made it my mission to stop only twice on the way back to the hotel – at the chocolate shop Dolce, (you need this chocolate in your life) and at the Mövenpick wine store (also has wine-tasting available!). I actually made three stops by mistake, as I ended up buying shoes on the way home (eye roll) – they are warm comfy boots, how can you go wrong?!
After a solid night’s sleep and a lovely breakkie at Hotel Meierhof, I set out for exploring day 2, but with a different agenda in mind. I headed directly for Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, the 10 year old modern and contemporary art museum that houses a thoroughly interesting collection, largely comprising of the provate collection of the Principality of Liecthtenstein. The architecture of the building itself is quite renown for its “great structural complexity and and discreet simplicity,” built by Swiss architects and contributing significantly to the overall aesthetic of this central pedestrian street of Vaduz.
At the time of my visit, the featured exhibition was Yuri Albert’s Elitist Democratic Art. This exhibition is the Russian-born artist’s first comprehensive solo exhibit outside of Russia. [In this series the artist contrasts the language of art with the languages of blind or deaf people or also the terminology of sailors and stenographers in order to analyse the individual semiotic systems and the system of art as a whole, their comprehensibility and accessibility. The museum visitor is always an interlocutor in these studies of the relationship between artwork and interpretation, image and text, visibility and invisibility, original and copy. Yuri Albert’s works draw us into a dialogue with and about art, inviting us to ponder the status of art: elitist or democratic.]
After absorbing (or not understanding anything as likely intended this time) of the delicous modern art, I set about buying a few souveneirs with my last hours in Liechtenstein. I visited the main souvenier shop that was open, as Hoi was closed for the public holiday. For souvenir hunters, you needn’t look further than this pedestrian walk, as the Landesmuseum Liechtenstein also has a unique selection, and further up the road, Nimrod AG turns the “traditional to fashionable” with dirndls and lederhosen – Oktoberfest plans, anyone??
For the museum fanatics, there are multiple museums precisely in this area of Vaduz, including the Landesmuseum (country history), Postmuseum (post office, stamps and related history) and various others. I was super content with my dose of contemporary and modern art in the morning, and after grabbing a cold Alpenlager at my hotel, was ready to head out for a leisurely return to Zürich.
Overall – Liechtenstein is just precious. Would I prioritize coming back every year? – maybe not, but if you’re wondering whether it is “worth” visiting (on a super packed Eurotrip, for example), I would say it is! If you are in the area and it is relatively convenient and not extremely expensive to get to, I would 100% recommend this tiny and fabulous mountain nation.
LIECHTENSTEIN IN A FLASH:
Where to stay: Hotel Maierhof
What to do: Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, Vaduz Castle, Walk through old town (downtown), Red House
Where to eat/drink: Local vineyards, Mövenpick Wine Outlet, Dolce, Amarone
Ringed by 72 waterfalls and luscious, rolling green hills, Lauterbrunnen is a spectacularly beautiful place – not only renowned in Switzerland (and understandably, becoming more popular amongst global tourists) – but in the entire world. If you love the outdoors and want to get a bird’s eye perspective on this beautiful valley, there is no better way to acquaint yourself with the area than setting off for a gorgeous hike. Here I aim to provide you with a near-perfect itinerary to get you started on your journey.
In order to plan my hike, I modified this helpful hiking guide. There are many ways you could choose to walk, including starting at the other end of the valley and doing the complete opposite itinerary from what I will lay out. Based on weather, timing and overall experience, I’ve narrowed it down to something doable and enjoyable.
As the link summarizes, this hike can last 2-8 hours, depending on variation. An important thing to also factor in is how long and often you plan on pausing to take photos, picnic, enjoy the views, etc. As with all of my hikes, I did quite a bit of all the above.
While you can complete nearly if not all of this specific route by mechanized means, I only used them a few times; primarily to save time for when the hiking would really count and not waste time walking across less scenic areas. If you plan on moving fast or want more exercise or don’t feel challenged enough, just know that in the following plan, anywhere that I have taken a cable car or bus can be done on foot. My itinerary takes one from Lauterbrunnen Station up to Grütschalp, over Allmendhubel and down to the village of Mürren (part of the hike where I spent the majority of time), then down again to Gimmelwald and back across the valley to Lauterbrunnen.
Prep & Info
Adventurer’s paradise – Jungfrau Region
My Lauterbrunnen Loop Hike Itinerary
1. Cable car from Lauterbrunnen Station to Grütschalp
You can purchase a cable car ticket at Lauterbrunnen Station and discounts are possible with a Swiss Rail GA Pass or 1/2 fare card. There are cars every 10-20 minutes, so you don’t have to plan too precisely. The ride up to Grütschalp only takes about 5 minutes and gives a gorgeous view over Lauterbrunnen valley (at least it would, if the world wasn’t completely socked in with fog like it was when I took this ride). Pro tip: get on very first or last to be near a window, the window facing out over Lauterbrunnen valley (on the left in direction of travel) is obviously best. Have your phone/camera ready for pictures and videos, some of these rides are even better than drone footage!
2. Hike from Grütschalp up and over Allmendhubel, down to Mürren
There is a short and straightforward path easily visible from the Grütschalp train station that leads to Mürren in 45 min – 1 hour, so obviously I chose not to take this path. Instead, once you walk down the path a very short way, there will be a steep gravel and dirt natural path heading clearly and obviously uphill rather than onwards – take this. There are yellow signs at various crossing points pointing towards villages like Mürren; often there are multiple, up to three or four, different paths that lead to the same place, depending simply on the duration and type of hike you are looking for. Follow signs always to Mürren but using up as your guide.
If you have Google Maps, you can also simply walk directly towards the sign for Allmendhubel, which is the (“large hill” if you are from mountains; “mountain” if you are Dutch) that you will crest before descending to Mürren. This hike took me somewhere around 4+hours because I stopped constantly to take photos and admire the views – once the fog cleared. This leg of the hike takes you past beautiful grassy hillside meadows with wildflowers (a few were still left in October!), unique rock formations, and along nearly the entire way, breathtaking views of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountain peaks – I mean WOW. Perhaps about halfway up the fog had finally cleared to reveal these three impressive mountains, and so we stopped near a very rocky area – you’ll know the place when you see it – for a picnic and to enjoy the views. Another way to recognize this spot is by the many rock cairns that hikers have built all over; Norwegian Rock Stacking pros welcome!
3. Descend to Mürren
You will know you are nearly at the top of Allmendhubel when you start seeing lots of ski lifts and a little mini bridge, then a steep gravel hill. Turn left down towards Mürren. Now you will walk past smatterings of small country houses down in green valleys – passing a few of these, I always thought for a brief moment that any of these mountain villages could be Mürren, but be patient. You will see lots of happy cows and as you walk along the winding trail, enjoy the stunning alpine backdrop to the pleasant jingling of cowbells and the crisp mountain air. This section of the hike was probably my absolute favorite because by then, the fog had completely cleared, the sun was out, and clear blue sky illuminated the alps. The descent to Mürren should take about an hour max and again, towards the bottom when you begin to see Mürren (fantastic photo op), there are multiple paths you can choose from to extend this leg of your hike.
4. Break in Mürren
Walking down through Mürren from above, it seemed like the whole village was deserted and very ghost-town style, the only sound to be heard was still cowbells. Finally after passing ski lodges and quiet houses, we came into the main downtown area, where the street was bustling with (mostly tourists). Little restaurants are open for lunch and coffee and there are a few souvenir shops. We simply grabbed a beer at the COOP and sat on a section of sidewalk right in the sun, and observed passerby while enjoying the pleasant ambiance of the village.
5. Cable car down to Gimmelwald
Many people choose to continue their hike to Gimmelwald at least, but due to how much time we had spent up in the hills, it was nearing evening and we wanted to have enough time to experience everything still in daylight, so we chose mechanized means from here. From Mürren Station, cable cars run regularly to Gimmelwald and then onwards to Stechelberg, down on the valley floor. You can choose to buy a ticket just to Gimmelwald or all the way down.
6. Quick stop in Gimmelwald
If you aren’t able to hike down to Gimmelwald, it is nice at least to stop for a short break, even just between cable cars, to see the small village of Gimmelwald. Similar to Mürren but even a bit more quiet, Gimmelwald doesn’t have a lot to see, but is another lovely Swiss village tucked away in the hills.
7. Cable car down to Stechelberg
Pro tip: this is one of the most scenic cable car rides and you will get lovely views over Stechelberg and the valley – try again to get a spot near the window and have your camera ready! Stechelberg is your final village stop in this loop journey before returning to Lauterbrunnen; you can choose to move right through, stop for a drink and dinner, or visit some of the popular attractions nearby, namely several waterfalls like the famous Trummelbach Falls. When we arrived into Stechelberg, it was evening and getting dark, so we vetoed the waterfall exploration idea, as much as we wanted to see them. There was a small local market going on with booths selling meats, cheeses and trinkets, so it was fun just to stroll through this and check out how the locals live. The small green field right next to the station is also apparently a popular landing spot for paragliders, and so we were able to watch several land!
8. Walk or Bus to Lauterbrunnen
Because it was nearly dark and I was feeling lazy, we took the bus; it would take 45 – 1 hour to walk back and in warm summer weather, it would probably be a lovely walk, also passing by a few waterfalls. If there is time, highly recommended. This gets you back to Lauterbrunnen in time for cocktail hour, some warm dinner, and a good night’s sleep.
This itinerary heavily prioritizes time spent on the upper side of Grütschalp, Allmendhubel and on the descent to Mürren; on this itinerary, the majority of your time is spent admiring the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, which in my view is not a bad way to spend a weekend! You can easily choose to hike the parts in between where I took cable cars and buses, or even make the hiking day shorter by taking a proper train between Grütschalp and Mürren! For those traveling with disabilities, injuries or simply not looking for a strenuous and time consuming journey, Mürren and the other villages are quite accessible.
I hope you enjoy exploring and hiking Lauterbrunnen as much as I did!
Feeling cooped up with city life, or simply craving some crisp mountain air? Mount Rigi is the perfect getaway that you can do in one day (or even just a morning/afternoon), and without any special planning or gear. Trains from Zürich HB leave every hour straight to Arth Goldau station, from where the Rigi train departs. Ride the tiny blue train for about 40 minutes uphill at a snail pace, taking in some truly gorgeous views on the way up.
I decided on a whim to visit Mount Rigi one afternoon and took the 2:09PM train from Züruch HB, so I arrived at the end station (Rigi Kulm) just before 4PM. This gave me a few hours to walk around the small peak grassy area and take in the stunning panoramic views of the hills and lakes below, and alpine peaks in the background, before sunset around 6:30PM (in October).
At the top of Rigi Kulm there is a full restaurant that is part of a hotel and it seems to serve proper hot meals all day (it was closed by the time we went but again, it was close to 6PM) – but you can still buy sandwiches, chips, drinks and snacks. We sat on the outdoor patio built like a jetty to jut out over the hill with a beautiful view of the mountains and facing the setting sun.
After having a snack, we made our way down past the wooden lounge chairs to the edge of the fence to witness the stunning golden glow of a magical sunset.
I took this opportunity to test out a few different DSLR settings, but because I struggle with technology, I think some of my iPhone pics might have turned out better – I’ll let you be the judge of that.
The views from up here – and the sunset – are things I could never ever get sick of and it makes me think twice about city life. This is a perfect place to getaway from the hustle and bustle for a bit, even just for a few hours. Take your mind off things, breathe some fresh mountain air and let your soul drink in the beauty of this amazing planet. If you want to make it a longer trip, even for several days, there are several hotels in the area and plenty of daytime activities to keep you and your family busy!
Golden hour at Mount Rigi
There are several trains down for those of you that wish to catch the sunset (highly recommended if you’re already there during the afternoon!!!) I took the 7:00PM train, which sadly no longer connects directly to Arth Goldau, so the way back to Zürich HB involves two middle of nowhere bus connections and then a train, but as with all trips in Switzerland – my recommendation is to simply trust the SBB app to plan your trip, and make sure you have decent phone battery on the way down!
Simply out of the goodness of my own heart (and because you need to know this, obviously), I wish to hereby make it known that you can actually buy flaming yes, flaming beer in Zürich.
Not only is the beer on FIRE, it’s also larger than the average human head (care to drown away your sorrows, anyone…? quite literally).
You can order “Bier Flambé” (supposedly formerly called “Eidgenoss”) at Zeughauskeller, a restaurant in downtown Zürich that is a converted armory from long ago. The interior of the restaurant is reminiscent of Hofbrauhaus München, with long wooden picnic bench tables and a very lively buzz amongst the crowd, which still hadn’t died down whatsoever by 10PM on Monday night! The building’s eclectic decor is rounded out by some ancient-looking suits of armor and medieval weapons that complete the aesthetic.
Pro tip: book online in advance to avoid insane queues:
The restaurant has made its way onto tourists’ must-see bucket list, so book a reservation on the restaurant’s website directly to avoid queuing forever and possibly not getting a spot for dinner. Someone waiting in line behind us mentioned that their hotel had called for them and was informed that making reservations is impossible – this is not in fact that case as I successfully made one online (it is in German, mind you) and after telling the host my name, was soon shown to a table.
Now, down to the important stuff (THE FLAMING BEER!)
Once you have ordered the Bier Flambé, it will be obvious when they bring it to you on the serving cart simply by the sheer size of the glasses (goblets?). You may want to have your (video)camera at the ready, because the preparation is quick but memorable. You will likely catch the attention of nearby diners surprised by the show, as we were because it didn’t seem many people knew about this option and most everyone around us seemed to have ordered the house beer special, which while I am sure is delicious, is far less exciting (and alcoholic).
Step 1: Pour in some sort of cognac/brandy (several shots worth, mind you – the picture doesn’t represent the real size of these fishbowls)
Step 2: FIRE. Light the alcohol on fire and your waiter/waitress will swirl the bright blue flames around for a few seconds before it’s beer time – this moment makes for fun photos and surprised onlookers!
Step 3: Douse the flames with a big bottle of house beer
Now, these babies are all yours to enjoy / try to swim your way to the bottom of by the time you’re also finished with a huge meal of (likely, sausage and potatoes – because why else would you go to Zeughauskeller in the first place).
The food at Zeughauskeller is traditional Swiss German fare and very delicious! I recommend trying a dish that at least includes sausage, as they are famous for the many varieties served here, as well as their house potato salad.
Between two of us, we ordered and shared the special of the month, which included one type of sausage and potato salad, and the “Zeughauskeller Wurstspiess,” #222 on the above menu, which serves a variety of sausages (of the house) on a kebab stick alongside a few pieces of bell pepper and of course, potato salad. The heavy food actually proves quite helpful in soaking up what turns out to be a surprising amount of beer (and straight alcohol at the bottom of your glass).
This place (like many in Switzerland generally) is not cheap – you can get a feel for the prices above, and this special beer costs nearly 16 CHF… but, I would argue that it is both worth it and the equivalent of having several normal, cheaper beers anyway.
Visit Zeughauskeller for the experience and don’t miss the BIER FLAMBÉ – you won’t regret it (though your body might) – these memories last a lifetime.
Any chance you’ve recently drooled over pictures of Canada’s Banff National Park? For very good reason; the stunning turquoise of the glacial lakes, like Lake Louise, is enough to make me want to go right now. Well, I can interestingly say that I’ve found the lake’s European TWIN, in Switzerland! Let me convince you of the likeness with a couple (ok, a TON) of photos.
Gelmersee is a hydroelectric reservoir held by a dam that was constructed in 1932. The “lake” can be reached by taking the Gelmerbahn, a ride of duration 8-10 minutes with a maximum inclination of 106%! According to a map posted at the lake’s entrance, it can also be reached by foot via a hiking trail (in red, below). One can also continue hiking further upwards to reach the Gelmerhütte, a lookout point above the lake.
Gelmersee is an excellent place for a quiet hike and to enjoy the spectacular natural beauty of the glacial water. There is a hiking trail around the entire lake, which takes about two full hours to complete with some stops. If you plan to take 3489283 photos like I did or want extra time to sit and enjoy the views every once and a while, maybe have a picnic halfway on one of the large flat rocks that are perfect for sitting and relaxing, it would be best to allow several hours up at the lake. It is important to plan your visit ahead because there is limited space on the Gelmerbahn and tickets sell out, especially in summer and during nice weather. Read more here about how to plan your trip and riding the Gelmerbahn.
Starting the hike around Gelmersee – The trail is quite rocky in places and narrow in others (at one point, there is a rope to hang on to for extra balance and security), so it is recommended to bring sturdy walking/hiking shoes with good soles and be relatively sure-footed if you plan to do the whole hike. It is relatively flat, so not very strenuous.
For me, this little piece of the world is a slice of heaven on earth, and I could honestly happily stay here for hours and hours and hours, hiking around the lake again and again, staring into the turquoise water and pondering my existence… alas, I had only booked 2.5 hours at the top before our return trip on the Gelmerbahn, so we had to really make every minute count – which we did!!
Needless to say, Gelmersee has earned a permanent spot on my life’s repeat bucket list, if that’s even a thing (you know, those absolute favorite places you simply must visit, perhaps at least once a year or every few months even?!) The dream is to visit this place in summer – even though I doubt anyone dares to swim in the ice cold glacial waters, I could totally get involved with sunbathing and reading on a rock all day, minus a few layers.
Tips for visiting Gelmersee:
When I visited Zürich two years ago from my base in Germany, I can’t say I was all that impressed with the city. Perhaps it was the rainy, cold gloom that had descended across all of Europe at that time, or the fact that when we went bar and restaurant hunting in the rather quiet and old neighborhood we were staying in, we were greeted with a lot of “closed” signs.
Fast forward two years, when I am calling Zürich home for a few months… and I really only have good things to say about this city! I have been here for a few weeks now and this place is nothing short of lovely. Here are are few things that I have enjoyed most about Zürich, and reasons it should have a spot on your Eurotrip list.
Swiss people are friendly.
Whether you are stopping to ask directions or purchase a Laugenbrötchen from a local bakery, you will find that in general, Swiss people are cute, friendly and overall cuddly – interacting with them is pleasant and you may just want to adopt some of them as your temporary grandparents. As with many European cities, I would say the English level is generally strong, but if you know a few words of German (Hochdeutsch is fine!), they will love you for trying.
It is very Instagrammable.
AKA, the modern way of saying it is simply a gorgeous city with lots of very aesthetically pleasing spots. Photographers love it, but even if you aren’t part of the Instagram game and don’t care to be, there are numerous spots around the city to enjoy a cup of coffee, glass of wine or good book with an absolutely stunning view.
There is a lot of nature.
The fact that downtown Zürich wraps around Lake Zürich automatically gives this city a very unique outdoorsy and water-based vibe. I love being around water and for those of you that miss beaches, oceans, rivers and lakes terribly when living in/visiting cities, Lake Zürich provides the perfect remedy. Swiss people have a strong reputation for loving the outdoors, which is evident by just how packed the waterfront is every evening, really rain or shine – but especially during the long sunny summer days and golden autumn evenings. Nature in Zürich isn’t only limited to the lakeside – there are many green parks throughout the city where you can go for a jog, do some yoga, or again park yourself on a bench with your journal or a good book.
It is an easy walking city.
Even though the city is relatively well-connected by public transport including trams and buses, walking throughout the city and from place to place (even if you have somewhere to be) is both convenient and pleasant. I have simply walked from my home to the Central Station several times, even though it takes 30-45 minutes, simply because it is such a nice walk! Pedestrians always have the right away on crosswalks and drivers are cognizant and courteous to let you cross. When the weather is nice, tons of people have the same idea, and you see more people walking or on bikes than on public transport.
The food is delicious.
While Swiss food is excellent (hello?!, land of CHOCOLATE AND CHEESE!!!), there are so many options if you’re not into more traditional German-esque fare (think sausage, spätzle, bread, cheese, etc.). Zürich offers quite a range of international cuisines and there are many hip restaurants downtown and slightly on the outskirts that seem to be open on weekends (even Sundays) and late into the evening. Even casual restaurants serve mouth-watering food; aka, you don’t have to worry about going hungry in this city, and you will likely love what you eat – it comes at a price though, so be prepared to spend a little more than you likely would at home. Plus, there are COOP, Migros and Denner stores all over the place that sell lovely fresh fruits, veggies, fresh bread and healthy pre-made meals (salads, etc.), fresh bakeries everywhere, and most importantly, LINDT is the mainstream chocolate option… it only gets BETTER from there *drool*. Don’t plan to go on a diet when you visit Zürich.
Fresh salad, Mamarita pizza & wine at STRIPPED PIZZA
There is a lot to do.
If you get tired of long walks by the lakeside (or if the weather prevents these), there are plenty of other activities to keep you entertained during your time in Zürich. In my case, such activities revolve heavily around EATING, but there are many cultural and social things to keep you busy as well! Here are some favorite must-do’s:
Have you been to Zürich? Let me know some of the reasons you enjoyed this city in the comments below!
Set deep in the beautiful green canton of Bern, Switzerland, a little red train car chugs its way up and down a treacherously steep track – adventurous hikers can have the ride (and views!) of a lifetime on the one and only Gelmer Funicular (Gelmerbahn).
The funicular was originally built in the 1920s to haul heavy materials and equipment up to the top of the mountain for the construction of the Gelmersee reservoir and dam. Now, the car shuttles 24 people each time, approximately 30 times per day, with the first ride up at 9:00AM and the last one down around 4:00PM (see the official schedule and book tickets here). The Gelmerbahn only runs in summer/autumn months, usually late May-late October.
The ride takes 8-10 minutes one way (so the videos you have seen on Instagram making the ride look like an insanely fast rollercoaster are on hyper-speed!), and you have plenty of time to enjoy the breathtaking views of the valley and mountains. There is only a drop-down bar (think Ferris wheel style) to keep passengers safe, but the car neither jolts, tilts, nor goes fast enough to worry about safety.
Once you reach the top, it is an absolute must to hike around the gorgeous turquoise lake (Gelmersee). This must be the Swiss-Banff equivalent; I swear, I have never seen water of such a stunning color. The hike around the lake takes approximately 2 hours, though if you are in the habit of pausing frequently or taking 23720 pictures (like me), you may want to allow yourself significant extra time, as this is not a place that you want to feel rushed.
Some important facts and tips for your Gelmerbahn trip:
How to get there:
By foot: if you are staying at the closely Handeck Hotel/Naturresort, you will only need to walk 5-10 min, either down the road, or over the hanging bridge (much more fun option) to get to the lower terminal of Gelmerbahn.
By car: there is a parking lot out in the grass/meadow just down the road from the Gelmerbahn (follow signs)
By public transport: 5 min walk from nearby bus station Handegg, Gelmerbahn
My second time to the beautiful land of Croatia did not disappoint – my last visit was in 2014 – four years ago! Not a whole lot has changed; locals are still browner than ever, spending their days sprawled on rocky beaches, swimming in crystal clear waters and munching on crispy calamari – in fact, I would bet that if I compared my photos of this trip to those of the last one, the very same fishing boats will be parked in the main harbor! (Perhaps I should give that a try.)
The main purpose behind my 2014 visit to Croatia was ULTRA music festival, occurring in Europe for the second time – it is hosted at the Stadion Poljud in Split every summer, usually in July. It was one hell of a party, and continued onto Hvar island several days later. Hvar is an equally stunning destination, complete with beaches, lovely ocean walks, delicious sea-to-table cuisine and the one and only Hula Hula Hvar beach bar – lots of great memories there.
This time, I was able to revisit Split on a bit of a last minute, spontaneous trip, and it was wonderful as expected! A few of my very favorite highlights revolve around my favorite things in life: sunshine and FOOD. So here they are!
In Croatia, Life’s a Beach
I stayed at the Radisson Blu Resort for this visit in Split, which is perched on a hill; my room had a stunning view overlooking the ocean and a beach. You can’t imagine how much I wish this were my view waking up every. single. morninggg.
After an epic breakfast buffet each morning, I would pack my bag with some sunscreen and a book and head off for some much needed vitamin SEA. The first day, I spent most of the morning and afternoon doing it “like the locals do,” lounging on the pebbly beach just a short walk from the hotel.
The Croatian coastline (also of Split itself) is lined by multiple little inlets, bays and harbors and around each corner can be found a whole new little secret paradise – just on the walk from Radisson to the main harbor (where the Aci Marina and the major ferry terminals are), there are at least SIX separate inlets – some of which are small, private and calm and others, like Bacvice Beach, that are significantly more wild and touristy.
I loved walking this path every day, as close to the ocean as possible – from the hotel to the main harbor, it took about 30 minutes easy walking. The first evening, we walked into town for dinner. The main harbor at dusk is a truly beautiful sight – the boats swaying gently and fisherman and tour groups wrap up their workday and the sun reflecting off the sparkling water, throwing a golden glow over the beautiful old buildings.
My second full day in Split was a bit more adventurous; I took the same ocean path all the way into the main harbor, soaked everything in and took an obnoxious amount of photos… and then continued on in the same direction beyond Aci Marina and past where the big yachts are docked, right alongside the path – (interesting story, one very friendly Uber driver told us that Split is a beloved getaway for several extremely wealthy Sheikhs and many celebrities like Beyoncé, who usually arrive via yacht, why not). I swear you could get totally lost aboard some of these things – they are legitimately the size of several houses, and I was surprised not to see a bowling alley and golf course on top; they have just about everything else!
The destination of my daytime adventure was a favorite spot amongst locals and tourists alike: a swimming hole/cliff jumping spot called Uvala Ježinac (Jezinac Bay). This is a place that my friends and I walked to every single day that we spent in Split in 2014 – it was the ultimate ULTRA pregame: take a cold Karlovacko, some sunscreen and hit the beach for a glorious sunshine-filled morning before heading out to party. This time, it was just as good, even sans EDM-filled nights.
Eat All The Things
Now on to the really important topic – food and where to find it in Split. The first evening in Split, we ate at a lovely, eclectic little restaurant unassumingly tucked away into a literal hole in the wall, called Artičok. With funky, hipster decor and unexpected jazz music that strangely didn’t clash with the ambiance but in fact added to it, this place is an excellent spot for a date night or nice-casual dinner in downtown. The local wine (we tried one from the island of Brac) is a must – in all restaurants really.
My next top of list recommendation for restaurants while in Split is Bokeria – again, all of my favorite things – snazzy vibes, classy yet funky atmosphere and decor, unique and delicious menu – check check check! We tried the lamb, it was delicious, and this meat and cheese appetizer platter (with cantaloupe accents, fresh jam spread made from local figs and olives) was to die for.
The last day of our visit to Split was a Friday, and luckily we were able to squeeze in one last ocean swim and a lovely lunch (and gelato!) before departing. The last lunch that we had was along the main harbor walkway, where there are many open-air restaurants lining the entire oceanside stretch. We chose The Olive Tree Vintage Caffe. Complete with real olive trees in planters and whimsical decor, this open air cafe is a bit of an experience in itself. I love finding unique, eclectic and out of the ordinary places to eat when I travel; something that connects me with the local cuisine and culture, but also brings some personality and creativity.
I feel the same as I did following my 2014 visit to Split: Croatia is a lovely place and high up on my list of places I would happily revisit time and again. There is certainly something to be said for living in a place that has a ridiculous amount of sunny days per year (something like 320+!!!) and a stunning natural landscape. In case you have any trouble identifying locals from tourists, just look for the extremely tan, fit and beautiful people who clearly live on permanent island time – Croatians all seem to have this very chill, easy going vibe about them, which I love. It is a lifestyle I could get used to!
There is still so much to be seen in the beautiful country of Croatia, and even in the surroundings of Split – this is my Croatia bucket list for future visits:
See you next time, Croatia!
Alexander von Humboldt is quoted as once saying: “I consider the areas of Salzburg, Naples and Constantinople the most beautiful on earth.” After my first visit to Salzburg on a crisp, but clear and sunny October weekend, I must say I agree with his statement (at least as far as Salzburg is concerned).
Salzburg is an enchanting place indeed, combining classic architecture, history, music, culture and style. Edges of a refined urban city meet the gentle touch of ruggedly beautiful terrain, striking a unique balance between urban and natural space.
Granted, I decided to take this trip to Salzburg about one hour before leaving, so planning did not exactly happen. This resulted in my choice to stay rather far from the Old City (historic center, where everything is happening and where most everything is that is worth seeing) … but it was hardly a negative, as it only forced me to get a little extra exercise- in fact, it turned out that my hotel was right at the base of Kapuzinerberg, a small mountain, which, if you’re up for a short hike, provides an excellent view of the city! One must not necessarily be outdoors, nor athletically-inclined to do this hike, but to my nature-deprived self, it was an amazing way to start the day and weekend, get some fresh air, and see the beautiful Austrian terrain in all its glory. Towards the top of Kapuzinerberg, there is a small church as well as restaurant, should you wish to stay longer.
Walking down the other side of Kapuzinerberg brought me close to Mozart’s house, which has since been converted into a full museum. Being on this side of the river, I took the opportunity to stroll around this area, passing the Mozarteum (Mozart-inspired academy of music) as well as up through Mirabellgarten to Schloss Mirabell. It is in these very gardens that you can find the steps from the “Do-Re-Mi” scene in The Sound of Music!
In order to properly acquaint myself with Salzburg, I figured I would try to see it from as many different angles as possible, and so decided to take a river boat tour; the tour began with a cruise up the Salzach, passing many of Salzburg’s beautiful buildings and views. It then continued with a short bus-ride to Hellbrunn Palace, which itself a destination. Built in the 1600s by Marcus Sittikus, Hellbrunn Palace stretches over a vast expanse of land and combines beautiful nature with the art and imaginings of a man with a truly eccentric sense of style, and of humor. Hellbrunn translates closely to “clear water”- the name aptly comes from the fact that within the designated ground of Hellbrunn are at least 7 freshwater spring sources. Water itself plays a hugely important role at the palace, especially in the Wasserspiele, or Trick Fountains. One of the Archbishop’s apparent favorite pastimes involved not only designing and constructing various works of entertainment and decoration that harnessed the power of gravity and water (a remarkable feat of physics for his time,) he also enjoyed playing tricks upon unsuspecting guests during their visits to his grounds. This you really must experience for yourself, though I’ll just say it involves a LOT of hidden water jets- hidden in plain sight as a matter of fact, and right where you’ll be walking. A word to the wise, move quickly, or perhaps aim for a visit during the summertime.
After completing my exploration of Hellbrunn, inside and out, and learning a bit more about the history of Archbiship Sittikus and Salzburg, I made my way back into the heart of the Altstadt (Old City). My evening took me in and out of cute little shops, down cobblestoned streets, past Mozart’s birthplace, and all around this charming area. The Old City really is the place to be, playing host to all manner of restaurants and cafés, shops, and of course, sights. Here you will find some of Salzburg’s most iconic structures: Mozartplatz (Mozart Statue in outdoor plaza), Residenzplatz (another impressive statue) and open square), the Salzburg Museum, Dom zu Salzburg (domed Cathedral as well as museum) and Stiftskirche Sankt Peter (St. Peter’s Church).
I would highly recommend seeing a musical performance while in Salzburg, as you are in fact in the city of music!! Various concerts of classics by Mozart and much more are regularly put on in various locations throughout the city- many of these can be found in conjunction with a river cruise, dinner, or a combination thereof. I chose to attend a piano concert of Mozart music, performed in the “Roman Hall” of St. Peter’s Church. Even if classical music isn’t your thing, there is still nothing quite like the feeling of experiencing the music of Mozart in his city.
Once I had taken care of the whirlwind adventure exploring on my first day, I had an entire Sunday to explore more thoroughly, at my leisure. If you’ve spent much time in Europe, you will sympathize when I say be careful making too many plans on Sundays generally, because there is a European spectrum of Sunday activity (or lack thereof), from slightly-less-busy, to “I hope you went to the grocery store because we might not eat today,” depending on the area of the city you are in. Salzburg isn’t that bad, but all shops, except for the occasional chocolate or souvenir shop, were closed. Take the opportunity to avoid the usual throngs of tourists and enjoy a more peaceful stroll through the center, and perhaps sit in a service at the great dome cathedral.
My last adventure before bidding farewell (for now) to Salzburg was to take the railcar up to the Festung Hohensalzburg (high fortress). Once atop the mountain, I was greeted with an amazing panoramic view of the city, land and surrounding mountains (I had the wonderful luck of visiting on a clear day, and seeing as far as the snow-capped alps!) There are several museums and exhibits throughout the rooms of the fortress, and even a restaurant, with open seating and arguably unbeatable views as far as restaurants go.
Full of crisp, clear Austrian air, interesting tidbits of history and (as always) plenty of chocolate, I bid adieu, adieu to Salzburg, a truly lovely place to which I hope to return very soon.