Zurich Restaurants

Since the mid-1990s, Zürich's restaurant trade has boomed. The new establishments, both Swiss and international, tend to favor lighter, leaner meals served in bright spaces that often open out to the street. The traditional cuisine, no longer ubiquitous but still easily found, is called nach Zürcher Art, meaning "cooked in the Zürich style." Think meat, mushrooms, potatoes, butter, cream—an extremely rich cuisine, perfectly suited to the leaded-glass and burnished-oak guildhalls.

In exploring Zürich's core, you will want to enter at least one of these famous medieval "union clubhouses" scattered along the riverfront neighborhoods; the best way is to dine in one, as all but the Zunfthaus zur Meisen, the Zunfthaus zur Saffran, and the Zunfthaus zur Schmide have restaurants open to the public. On your way to the restroom, sneak a peek into their other dining rooms—they are, for the most part, museum-perfect in their leaded-glass and Gothic-wood detail.

Zürich's signature dish, which you'll encounter throughout both French and German Switzerland, is Geschnetzeltes Kalbfleisch, or in French émincé de veau, bite-size slices of milky veal (and sometimes veal kidneys) sautéed in butter and swimming in a rich brown sauce thick with cream, white wine, shallots, and mushrooms. Its closest cousin is Geschnetzeltes Kalbsleber (calf's liver), served much the same way. You may also find Rösti, a kind of hash-brown potatoes, and Spätzle, egg noodles that are either pressed through a sieve or snipped, gnocchi-style, and served in butter.

Another culinary must is Zürich's favorite portable food, sausage and Bürli (a crunchy roll), eaten separately, two-fisted style. The best are to be had at Bellevue at the Sternen Grill; Kalbsbratwurst (veal) is mild, the smaller Cervelat (pork) saltier. Join the locals and munch away while waiting for a tram.

Zürichers also have a definite sweet tooth: refined cafés draw crowds for afternoon pastries, and chocolate shops vie for the unofficial honor of making the best chocolate truffles in town.

Restaurants in Zürich have been smoke-free by law since 2010. Some offer smokers' lounges; otherwise expect smoking at outdoor tables, where it is still allowed.

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  • 1. Ecco

    $$$$ | European

    Tucked inside the luxury hotel Atlantis, this intimate restaurant plays with textures—cool white marble floors, soft leather banquettes, and...Read More

  • 2. Haus zum Rüden

    $$$ | Kreis 1 | Swiss

    The most ambitious of the city's many Zunfthaus dining places, this fine restaurant is also the most spectacular, with a wooden barrel-vaulted...Read More

  • 3. Kaiser's Reblaube

    $$$ | Kreis 1 | Swiss

    Get the most out of the Altstadt experience by eating in one of its most beautiful medieval buildings, which dates back to 1260 and once hosted...Read More

  • 4. Kronenhalle

    $$$ | Kreis 1 | Swiss

    From Stravinsky, Brecht, and Joyce to Nureyev, Deneuve, and Saint Laurent, this beloved landmark has always drawn a stellar crowd. Every panel...Read More

  • 5. Alpenrose

    $$ | Kreis 5 | Swiss

    It doesn't get more Swiss than this: the ingredients, the recipes, the wines, and the decor are all Helvetian. Enjoy seasonal dishes such as...Read More

  • 6. Angkor

    $$ | Kreis 5 | Asian

    A bit of Siem Reap in the middle of Zürich West: the lavish interior is full of stone carvings and wood latticework that seem right out of Ta...Read More

  • 7. Baur au Lac Rive Gauche

    $$$ | Kreis 1 | Eclectic

    Its nondescript entrance off a noisy street corner belies the dark wood and mint-colored leather decor inside, which attracts crowds of hip...Read More

  • 8. Bodega Española

    $$ | Kreis 1 | Spanish

    The coats of arms of old Spanish provinces and garlands of onions and garlic line the dark-paneled interior of this upstairs Niederdorf restaurant...Read More

  • 9. Caduff's Wine Loft

    $$$ | Kreis 4 | European

    In a 19th-century whitewashed former warehouse, industrial lighting, parquet floors, and the occasional strategically placed cactus set the...Read More

  • 10. Hiltl

    $$ | Kreis 1 | Vegetarian

    Founded in 1898, when vegetarians were regarded as "grass eaters," this restaurant has more than proved its staying power, becoming an institution...Read More

  • 11. LaSalle

    $$ | Kreis 5 | European

    This is a favorite haunt of theatergoers heading for the Schauspielhaus Schiffbauhalle—it conveniently shares the same building, where a glass...Read More

  • 12. Les Halles

    $ | Kreis 5 | Mediterranean

    This old warehouse space in Zürich West has not so much been renovated as cleaned up and then highlighted with an eclectic mix of antiques and...Read More

  • 13. Mesa

    $$ | Kreis 6 | Modern European

    Prizewinning cuisine has won this restaurant its following and established it as a special-occasion favorite. Inside, the simple decor allows...Read More

  • 14. Reithalle

    $$ | Kreis 1 | Eclectic

    In a downtown theater complex behind Bahnhofstrasse, this old military riding stable now does its duty as a noisy and popular restaurant where...Read More

  • 15. Seerose

    $$$ | Kreis 2 | Swiss

    As soon as it even vaguely looks like it'll be warm enough, the hip deck-shoe crowd drives, runs, cycles, or even sails to one of the best places...Read More

  • 16. Sprüngli

    $ | Kreis 1 | Swiss

    Zürich's top confectionery, this landmark chocolatier and café for wealthy Bahnhofstrasse habitués concocts heavenly truffles and Luxemburgerli...Read More

  • 17. Sternen Grill

    $ | Kreis 1 | Swiss

    At lunchtime the line for its legendary take-out bratwurst sausages snakes out along a neighboring street, but it moves quickly, because the...Read More

  • 18. Swiss Chuchi

    $$ | Kreis 1 | Swiss

    Right on the Niederdorf's main square, Hirschenplatz, this squeaky-clean Swiss-kitsch restaurant has an airy, modern decor, with Alpine-rustic...Read More

  • 19. Veltliner Keller

    $$$ | Kreis 1 | Swiss

    Though its rich, carved-wood decor borrows from Graubündner Alpine culture, this dining spot is no tourist trap. There is a definite emphasis...Read More

  • 20. Zunfthaus zur Waag

    $$$ | Kreis 1 | Swiss

    With its magnificent Renaissance-inspired facade, this airy guildhall, with whitewashed woodwork and leaded-glass windows looking out to the...Read More

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