One of my favorite ways to check out a new city without the commitment of a full vacation itinerary is the long layover. Ahead of this week’s major storm on the East Coast, United Airlines urged everyone potentially affected by the storm to move their travel itinerary. I took their advice and flew out to Zurich one day early, before catching a flight to my final destination in Kenya. While this meant I had to be away from my little boy for a day longer, it also meant I would get to spend a day in a new country.
With only 23 hours, here’s how I spent my day in Zurich:
Figure out two to three “must dos”. Keep in mind, a 23-hour layover, does not mean you have 23 hours of recreation. You also have to fit in time to exit customs, travel from the airport to the city, check into a hotel, and then do the reverse of that the next day for your flight. There’s a good chance you’re also dealing with jet lag and probably want to get on the time zone of your final destination as quickly as possible. All of this makes it important for you to figure out a couple places you need to visit ahead of time to make the best use of your time.
Find a hotel with a good location: With limited time, finding a hotel that is central to everything is going to save you time and stress when navigating a new city in just a few hours. I stayed at the Zurich Marriott Hotel which is a ten minute train ride from the airport and walking distance to many top attractions, including Lake Zurich. I was lucky to get a river view and was able to watch a beautiful sunset from my window after a long walk.
Try out the local fare: Resist all urges to go with familiar options. Just because there is a Starbucks, doesn’t mean that’s where you should get your coffee from. Check out a local coffee shop and do some people watching. Zurich, for example, is known for their cheese and chocolate, so get your hands on some before you depart. One of my favorites from this trip was the sweets shop Sprüngli, which had some of the most amazing macaroons I’ve ever tasted.
Walk around: Since you’re obviously strapped for time, you might think that means you need to rush everywhere, but often when traveling, walking is always best. I walked from my hotel to the Bahnhofstrasse shopping district and continued the mile or two until I reached Lake Zurich. Bahnhofstrasse is Zurich’s main downtown area, making it a great place for coffee, souvenirs, and people watching. I grabbed the cutest little t-shirt for Jimmy there. After that, I walked over to Lake Zurich and scoped out a nice spot on a park bench to sit and relax for a bit. I lucked out again and had beautiful weather for the day.
Don’t cram too much in: I view long layovers as an awesome added bonus, but it’s important to remember they are not the final destination. I avoid overexerting myself so that I’m rested up for wherever I’m going, and perhaps more importantly, so that I don’t miss my flight the next day. In this case, against all advice, I opted to not go out for dinner and instead ordered room service. The Zurich Marriott Hotel happens to have a Bib Gourmand recommended Thai restaurant (White Elephant) downstairs and seriously it did not disappoint. This might have been the best Thai food I’ve ever had and I’ve been to Thailand before!
Whatever you end up doing on your long layover – have fun and soak it all in!