Christmas in Zurich

December is a lovely month to be in Zurich.

Zürich really knows how to do Christmas.  All the main streets are hung with Christmas lights, ceremoniously illuminated in mid-November, every commercial building (and many residential buildings) are decorated for Christmas.  In the early weeks of December there are Christmas markets in all the major plazas – each with dozens of stalls selling seasonal foods, decorations, and beautiful handicrafts.  One platz has a “singing Christmas tree” – a tiered riser, decorated with evergreen boughs to look like a Christmas tree, on which choral groups stand to sing Christmas carols.  Along the lakeshore, an artist installed a Friedenslicht (peace light) that flickers in the lake breeze.  And every café places sheepskin and fleece blankets on their outdoor chairs, so visitors can snuggle while enjoying glüewein or hot chocolate.  We took many strolls about town, exploring these sights and smells.  On Christmas morning, I walked up to my usual viewpoint, then down through town, along the central avenue to the lakeshore, then back through the narrow alleys of old town.  The churches – so numerous – all with their belltowers ringing, called parishioners to morning services.  Lovely!  We finished the day with a fine dinner at the Dolder Grand Hotel – wow.  See the full gallery.

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Another Uetliberg sunset

Another grand sunset above Zurich.

It appeared that another grand sunset was due to grace Zürich, so my father and I took the train to the top of Uetliberg to capture the view of the Alps.  Here is one sample – but check out the gallery for my other favorite photos.  If you’re interested in current conditions, check out the webcam view.

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Another beautiful sunrise

Another beautiful sunrise from Zürichberg.

December 15 – Another beautiful morning in Zurich.  I’ve added these five photos to the sunrise gallery from earlier this week.

Sunrise view of the Alps from Zürichberg.

Trugberg, Mönch, Eiger, and Jungfrau, as seen from Zürichberg at sunrise.
Trugberg, Mönch, Eiger, and Jungfrau, as seen from Zürichberg at sunrise.
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Finsteraarhorn, Lauteraarhorn, Schreckhorn, and Wetterhorn, as seen from Zürichberg at sunrise.

Sunrise view of the Alps from Zürichberg.Sunrise view of the Alps from Zürichberg.

Alpine sunrise

A spectacular sunrise over Zürich.

Every morning I climb Zürich’s steep strasse and steig until I reach the clear ridgeline of the Zürichberg hilltop, with its broad view across the city and Zürichsee lake to the Alps.  Some days I am enveloped in the valley fog common this time of year.  Other days the clouds grudgingly give me glimpses of the Alps beyond the valley.  Today, finally, I was treated to a spectacular sunrise, with a crystal-clear view of the Alps and a sky painted with deep red sunlight.  I picked just five photos for the (must-see!) gallery, and share only one below.

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Uetliberg sunset

A beautiful day to view the sunset over the Alps.

Today was a spectacular day to be high – on a summit, that is.  Mid-afternoon I caught a tram to the west side of town and hoofed it up the steep slopes of Uetliberg, the hill that dominates the western edge of Zürich.  I wish I’d arrived earlier, while the sunlight was still touching the Alpine peaks… but I arrived in time to climb the summit tower and watch the the clouds’ evolving palette of colors for the next half hour.  It was hard to capture the magic of this moment… but I’ve posted a gallery of five favorites.

Sunset view from Uetliberg, Zurich.

Bachtel

A pleasant hike to panoramic views on Bachtel, outside Zurich.

It’s still November and we’re still doing fall hiking, close to Zürich.  Today Andy and I walked from the little village Gibswil, over fresh dusting of snow and through pastures and forests, to the summit of Bachtel.  Although not a high mountain by Swiss standards – only 1,115 meters – it is popular for its panoramic view of the Zürichsee valley and the Alps beyond.  There is a road to the summit, which has a restaurant, a playground, and an observation tower.  Ok, the purist in me would normally avoid such a summit, but there is really something to be said for sitting in a warm restaurant over a plate of raclette and a glass of beer, enjoying the panoramic view.2019-11-30-76225.jpg

Last night there were low clouds hovering over all these hills, leaving behind a dusting of snow at the higher elevations.  We began our hike as those clouds slowly began to dissipate and the sunshine sparkled in the snow.  Sadly, some clouds persisted between Bachtel and the Alps throughout our lunch, and just began to clear as we snapped a few photos and descended toward Wald.  Fortunately the trails and pastures of the descent allowed many fine views toward the Glarusalps over the pretty valley town of Wald.2019-11-30-76314.jpg

I certainly plan to return on some future clear-sky day! Check out the photo gallery. If you want to keep up with our adventures, click “Follow” at right.

Hiking notes:

  • We followed this description, and its gpx file.  We made one slight detour (mistake). Our route ended up being 9.9km, 2.5 hours walking time.  Tram/train/bus from home to Gibswil was about 50 minutes; from Wald to home was about 40 minutes.
  • The summit Bachtel Kulm Restaurant actually has pretty good food and drink, and an extensive ice cream menu 😉