Updated: May 26, 2020
A Quick Layover
On one of our trips through Europe, Paris in November, and Loire Valley, we decided to do a quick layover in Switzerland before our flight home. We had never done a layover before and thought that Zurich would be a great layover spot to get our feet wet in layover traveling.
If you have read my other posts about trains in Europe, you'll have noticed that we really like the train travel that has been established. It is just so much easier getting around and efficient than going to an airport. There is less security check points, no checking in bags, no major hassle with checking in. Not to mention you don't have to be at the train station 2 hours before the train leaves. However, if you find yourself in a perpetual state of "i'll be there in 10 minutes" after missing your reservation 20 minutes ago, you will find yourself out of a seat.
I've heard that you can buy the tickets for trains at the station, but I get kind of anal with traveling (not the most relaxed traveler) and I buy all my tickets in advance. Even though you don't have to be at the train station 2 hours before hand, it's best that you are there probably 45 minutes to an hour before the departure(especially if you are bringing any type of luggage). *This is more of a public service announcement for my wife so that we can be at the train station on time!*
When we fly around Europe, and look at where we want to go an what we want to see, we look for whats the cheapest, quickest, and easiest way to travel. We found flights that were leaving from Paris to Zurich that cost approximately 78€ (around $84 right now...jeez the euro really has come down it was closer to $93 when we were traveling...probably time to buy some euros.) That also didn't include checked baggage fees, and other airport fees. So total for two people 156€ before taxes and baggage fees was kind of expensive for just a layover. Here comes the trains! Using one of the standard train websites voyages-sncf.com (the website is in French but you have the ability to change it), I looked up how long and how much tickets were from Paris to Zurich.
"58€ ...for two tickets". And no fees for luggage...Ummm sold? Just got to figure out how long...4 hours. What time-7am gets in at 11am. Ok we can do that, and plus relaxing train travel we can sleep on the train for that price. That's exactly what we did.
The train was relaxing, and the sights were nice. As I've said before I can't recommend traveling by train around Europe enough. Just be prepared to jump on and off the train in an efficient manner.
Welcome to Zurich
When we arrived at the Zurich train station we were greeted in a Santa's village type hangar. There was food, drink, souvenir stands where you could buy items while waiting for your train, or just hang out and get something. We enjoyed this the most while in Zurich; we even came back for strudel.
If you thought you were spending a lot of money in Europe(France, England, Spain) you have not had the chance to really see your money fly out of you hands like Switzerland! The Swiss franc is pretty equivalent to the US dollar, the only exception is that when you see prices like $35 SF for a small cup of soup that's the same as $35 dollars!
We wanted something warm to eat while in the chilly Zurich and found a soup and sandwich location that served their version of Pho. (Have to get our obligatory Vietnamese food at least once or twice during our trips). LeWife got the "Pho", and I got a tomato soup. We talked with the owner of the shop, nice guy, said he lived in the U.S. and Vietnam for a few years, and decided to move to Zurich. Out the door, it was $79 SF, or $79 dollars. Two soups, bread, and two soft drinks. These weren't gigantic bowls or soup either, cups, go to your pantry and pull out one of your cups a little larger than a ramekin and you'll get a picture. This was the standard price for Zurich.
What we found out was that due to Switzerland being so small, and that they had very few natural resources they imported a lot from neighboring countries. The owner of the shop even told us that a lot of Swiss citizens drive to either France or Germany to pick up their groceries due to the significant savings. So when calculating your next trip to Switzerland, keep that in mind.
I'm going to preface this by saying that we were only there for one day, that we stayed a little outside of the city center to be near the airport, and this was at the tail end of our trip. Now that i've given all of the excuses, I feel we saw most of what Zurich had to offer in the one day. The only thing we wished we could've seen or gone to was the mountains. That would probably be the only reason why we'd return to Zurich. Zurich seemed very industrial in an older town body. The Swiss are very practical and like being efficient, and that's what it felt like. The trains ran on time, and people were on time when making reservations. There just didn't have the old world fancy that we were looking for when going to Europe. That on top of how expensive the day was, I don't think we would be able to afford to go back anytime in the near future without clearing out the savings account.
If you are looking to do a layover trip to experience a new country while in Europe this might be a nice option to get your fill in one day(or two if you can make it to the mountains). But i'd reconsider making this a week long destination.