For my final long weekend of the semester, I took a three-day trip to Switzerland. I had never been before, and there are direct flights from Prishtina to several Swiss cities. I decided on Zurich, the country’s largest city and, arguably and unfortunately, the most expensive city in Europe if not the world. **
I flew out on Air Berlin Friday morning and returned very early Monday morning (was back by 8:30!). I stayed at a hotel in the old town (Altstadt) that I had found online: appr. 100€/night for double bed, private bathroom, and breakfast. (I find great hotel bargains because I spend hours online searching and book weeks in advance.)
The currency is the Swiss franc: 1 CHF today is about 93¢ (US). Everything is über-expensive, particularly the restaurants. I “ate out” only twice. My first meal was at a McDonald’s (oddly, I get cravings for grease, ketchup, and Diet Coke): $12.50 for a quarter-pound burger combo. My last supper was Malaysian takeout: $20 for stir-fry and a bottle of water. For all other meals (and beverages), I bought groceries at the two large supermarkets (Migros and Coop) and had picnics.
I spent almost all of my time outdoors walking around the city and enjoying the many free sites. Day passes for public transportation cost around $8 and will take you to all sorts of wonderful places. I particularly recommend taking the funiculars up the mountain to the big park. On my third day, I took a six-hour day trip to Lucerne, which is only 50-minutes away by train but costs around $40 for the roundtrip. (Well worth it!)
All of my photos are posted on Facebook:
- Take the train from the airport (Flughafen) to the main station (Hauptbahnhof) at city center . The trip takes 12 minutes and costs $6. Taxis take much longer and cost $60 each way.
- Search online for bargains at hotels in the city center/old town (Altstadt). It may be a bit noisy (always bring earplugs), but it’s wonderful being able to walk to everything within minutes. Read carefully about twin vs. double beds and shared vs. private (ensuite) bathrooms. Also note that, even on warm spring days, the a/c system may not be turned on yet.
- Restaurants are very expensive. Buy groceries at the big supermarkets (Migros and Coop) and have picnics.
- Buy a day pass on public transportation for about $8. This is a great way to see the city and to get from A to B. Take the funicular(s) to the top and explore the park(s). Trains run on schedule.
- The Red Light District (Langestrasse) isn’t quite a “red” or exciting as that of Amsterdam. There are also “red” elements in old town. As in any major European city, the attitudes are more casual than in most of the U.S.
- For internet, if you cannot find a free hotspot, you may want to buy an access card. I opted for a three-hour card for 15 CHF. Not cheap, but what is in Switzerland?!
- Essentials like water may cost $5 at the airport, $3 at a kiosk or restaurant, or $1 at a supermarket…all for the same bottle! Be strategic and save big.
- The weather changes throughout the day: wear layers and carry an umbrella (or slicker).
- Bathrooms are less obvious (look for “WC”), always clean and likely charge a fee. Carry a few 1 and 2 CHF coins with you.
- Zurich and Lucerne make a great package for a long weekend. I recommend basing in Zurich and then taking a day trip (6-8 hours) to Lucerne.