Sometimes, the family road trip is a whole lot more peaceful in theory than in reality... more >>
Zurich Travel GuideZürich – for the Swiss Miss Family
More idyllic than even the white picket fence, Zürich is picture perfect for families. Set against a backdrop of stunning mountains and gorgeous Lake Zürich, this is a city where your kids will frolic to their heart’s content. Your time in Zürich will be spent as if you live there, playing the role of one of the perfect Swiss Miss Families. To experience Zürich with your children is to immerse yourself in the active lifestyle – and to experience city life that is both modern and old. You may even consider Swiss boarding school – for the whole family.
Logistics, like a Swiss Machine
For a family-friendly destination, the hotels in Zürich lack the robust kids’ clubs that you’ll find in other destinations. Instead, the philosophy here is that the hotels aren’t the main attraction. It’s the outdoor sights that are the real draw, like Lake Zürich and hiking in the mountains. That doesn’t mean, though, that you’ll miss out on any creature comforts. The Bauer Lac, arguably the plushest hotel in Zürich, will warmly welcome you and your brood. A traditionally decorated hotel set in its own private park, you’ll feel like you’re in the country instead of in the center of the city. And, while we didn’t see children running freely through their private park, by all means yours should.
On the opposite end of the décor spectrum, it’s the chic Park Hyatt that caters most to families. The hotel is just off the Bahnhofstrasse, Zürich’s ritzy shopping street, and it’s a quick walk across the bridge to the historic area of Aldstadt. The Park Hyatt offers a special to families of 50% off the second room, and at these prices, every last bit helps. With its large rooms and high-end appointments, it’s one of the finest Park Hyatt properties in Europe. For points value, this could be one of the optimal places to use your Hyatt points. The only bad news is that your kids will have a hard time roughing it when they return on their own.
At minimum, you’ll need a quality travel stroller and extra hands to help if you have more than two kids. Zürich is a walking and public transport city; taxis are few and far between and charge exorbitant fares. The trams are top-notch and easy to navigate. Our advice is to approach Zürich in a precise Swiss manner: Map out your sights by geographical location and get the kids psyched up for their walking adventure. Also, ask your concierge for a tourist discount card for entry to the zoo and other museums plus public transport discounts. Zürich also has excellent side trips, which will give you the full Swiss experience. Get ready to take the efficient Swiss train system or rent a car.
The Perfect Swiss Miss Family
The Swiss are active; Lake Zurich is a natural attraction where you want to be on a boat, and not like the S&L skit. The public boats aren’t bad for an hour and a half or so on the lake. You can buy tickets at the pier at the end of Bahnhofstrasse. As long as it’s not the dead of winter, your children will also love the pedalo boats. In the summer, the Swiss delight in splashing in the lake and your kids will have the chance to slide until they can’t slide anymore on the waterslides. To continue with the water theme, take a side trip to Küsnacht Waterfront Park, and make sure to bring the sun block. For après waterpark fun, kick back at the Hotel Sonne café where hungry kids can refuel over snacks while adults can cocktail as the sun goes down.
For all four seasons, a must-see highlight is the Zürich Zoo, where the little ones can marvel at families of lions, pink flamingos, and critters from all over the world. Even if they’re zoo connoisseurs, your kids will be impressed. The zoo has four restaurants, which range from the nicest cafeteria you’ll ever eat in to a traditional Swiss restaurant. This time, it’s the parents who will be impressed.
As for culture, Zürich is filled withit: Show your kids the colorful Chagall windows in the Fraumünster Church, and visit themodern art at Foundation Beyelerand the Kunsthaus Zürich. Both of which offer top-notch children’sprograms. If your kids are sporty, head to the suburb of Üetliberg, a 30-minute train ride from Zürich, where you can hike to the Üetliberg summit in ten minutes for a taste of the calm, natural beauty that Switzerland is famous for. In the area, keep an eye out for one of the neighborhood fire pits. Zürich families have a strong sense of community, and almost every neighborhood features a community fire pit, where locals gather to grill sausages and munch on s’mores. Being consummate hosts, they’ll probably ask you to join in, making a perfect day even more perfect.
No W(h)ining, Just Dining
Start out the day out right with the breakfast of champions. The Swiss make a decadent Bircher muesli, which is a concoction of muesli with shredded apples, nuts, cream or yogurt, and a touch of honey. Also on the buffet table are whole grain cereals, many of which are sugar-free and all of which are delicious. When all else fails, the Park Hyatt makes a killer pain au chocolat that gives the corner French bakery a run for their money.
Switzerland is not an inexpensive place to travel, so use some tricks of the trade to get your breakfast gratis. American Express offers free breakfast through the Fine Resorts & Hotels amenities, as does a Leading Hotels of the World membership. A weekend brunch worth paying for is at the popular Terrasse. Mom and Dad can go for drinks in the evening, while on the weekends, it evolves into a kid-friendly brunch spot.
During the weekday you won’t see children lunching. Being good children, they’re all in school. You can take your kids to virtually any of Zürich’s restaurants, which are quick to accommodate with a schnitzel or pasta. Casual faves include Babu’s Bakery and Coffeehouse for simple high-quality sandwiches and pastries; and the Swiss sausage stand at the Sternen Grill. For dinner, head to Fischers Fritz, a casual lakefront eatery, where kids can feast on Fischknusperli (fish and chips), while you fill up on sushi.
For your special family dinner – lederhosen not required – go to Kronenhalle, Zürich’s iconic and historic Swiss restaurant. Kronenhalle is where VIPs, and now your VICs – very important children – tuck into traditional dishes like schnitzel and international cuisine.
Life is Like a Box of Chocolates
The Swiss, of course, are famous for their chocolate, a distinction you’ll agree is well deserved once you’ve sampled a truffle from Sprungli, the legendary chocolatier. Willy Wonka has nothing on Lindt and Sprungli. To blend in with the kiddie locals, upgrade their wardrobe at Bobo L'Escargot, which sells high-end clothing and toys. Life will bring lots of challenges and like that box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get. For your family time in Zurich though, life will be nothing but sweet.