Zurich - A Perfect Cigar Weekend
Zurich is not only the home of 200 plus Banks and one of the most expensive cities in the world. No, Zurich is as older than 2000 years and has a lot to offer the tourist. And maybe I have to mention that the cigar shops are amongst the finest in Europe!
The nice and clean city, right by the beautiful lake, is the biggest city in Switzerland counting a little less than 400,000 inhabitants. But still it is very international and has a distinctive feeling that you simply can not find elsewhere! Ever since the beginning, the influences have been manifold and you'll find Indian restaurants, Portuguese comestibles and typical Swiss-German restaurants side by side.
It is as close as a one hour's drive from the famous Swiss Alps and within less than half a day you can make your way to Italy, Germany, France or Austria! Everything is close by and everything is nice and neat (except the price for a cup of coffee ). So it is a perfect place to stay and take day excursions or to consider a longer stopover when travelling from north to south or east to west.
Easily accessible by plane, train or by car, once you get there it is easy to find the city center and explore everything on foot. You may even take a ride in one of the blue and white trams of Zurich.
The smoking ban has not hit Zurich yet, and in most of the restaurants you will find a smoking and non-smoking section. I would not say that you can or should smoke cigars in all the places but there are several hideouts where you can enjoy your smoke in class. When it comes to cigar shops there are so many it would not make sense to name them all. Switzerland is kind of a hub, and the cigar sales are, compared to other countries of the same or even larger size, very high. The prices for Cuban Cigars are very affordable and can only be beaten by Cuba itself, Spain and Andorra (beware of exceptions though). If you buy 50 cigars or more in the Swiss-German part of Switzerland, you'll get a 10% discount when paying in cash (or sometimes with credit cards). In certain shops you do not even have to ask for that discount since it is given right almost automatically. So make sure you calculate that into your plan of action.
The perfect cigar weekend
If you still are reading, here is how the perfect cigar weekend in Zurich would look. And, believe me, only in Zurich it can be as perfect.
You pay a visit to Kreuzlingen, a small city, less than an hour's drive from Zurich right by the German border. There Mr. Portmann can be found. He is amongst the finest, if not the finest cigar vendor in Switzerland. He makes every customer feel as if he is his favourite and opens up a wide range of boxes for you to choose amongst. The walk-in humidor has the size of a large living room and you can easily spend several hours in there smoking, drinking coffee, talking to Mr. Portmann and his staff without noticing the time passing by www.portmanntabak.ch (he closes on 18:30 o'clock on Fridays.)
Dinner at the German Restaurant "Die Bleiche" (die Bleiche) which is within walking distance from Portmann, crossing the Swiss/German border. You can stay there and enjoy a cigar after dinner. So, no hurry.
Pick a hotel in Konstanz, Germany out of the Hotel recommendations at the end of the article. Accommodation is less expensive in Germany than in Switzerland, so why not take the advantage?
You begin the "cigar trail," starting at the Main Railway Station in Zurich after a good breakfast. You'll need all the strength you can get.
Right under the Railway Station's underlying shopping center you'll find your first cigar shop that is part of the Swiss chain "Zigarren Dürr". Nice selection of open boxes, and, open on Sundays till 20:00 (8:00 p.m.) o'clock too. Best if you only select a stick for your way since you do not want to blow all your equity right away.
Coming out of the "Shop Ville" under the Railway Station you'll enter the "Bahnhofstrasse". The Swiss like to call this the most expensive shopping Mile of the world and you'll find whatever you need there! Right at the beginning opposite to the Railway Station you'll find another "Zigarren Dürr". This one has a nice walk-in and they are a Davidoff Deposit too.
Following the "Bahnhofstrasse" in the lakes direction, you'll come to the "Paradeplatz;" a square where the biggest Swiss banks have their mother houses. Right there you'll find the Hotel Savoy on the left hand side. Next to the entrance there is another nice shop with a proper walk-in humidor. This shop was Zurich's first Davidoff and now belongs to - you know it - "Zigarren Dürr". The Savoy Bar can be of help if your feet grew tired and you need a coffee. Maybe you are interested to know that Don Alejandro Robaina was a guest there too, not so long ago...
Since you are at the Paradeplatz go to the "Zeughauskeller" (www.zeughauskeller.ch). Zeughauskeller is a huge restaurant with a rustic feel to it serving all the indigenous plates. Try a "Zürcher Geschnetzeltes" (veal in with a white sauce and potatoes "Rösti" style.) Depending on the season, you might get one of the much sought after seats outside.
You'll do the second part of the cigar trail. Leaving the "Zeughauskeller," you'll "take a dip into the old-old part of Zurich walking towards the "Limat," one of the two rivers crossing Zurich. The first possible you take a left turn only to see "Wagners Tabaklädeli" (http://www.wagner-tabak-laedeli.com/) a very nice, small cigar shop on the left side of the "Storchengasse" a narrow alley housing some of the world's best know designers. Mr. Wagner, the owner, organizes the tastings for the ECCJ - European Cigar Cult Journal ( www.cigar-cult.com ), a bilingual Austrian cigar magazine. He always does have special cigars like the occasional Cohiba Millenium Edition to sell as singles. You'll never know what you come across there; ask for the goodies you are looking for, since not all the boxes are on display.
Getting back to the "Paradeplatz," you cross it and enter the "Bleicherweg", a street that leads out of the city center. After three or four blocks there is the Casa del Habano (http://www.la-casa-del-habano.ch/), run by Mr. Menzi with the biggest walk-in humi in Zurich. If you have not found the cigars you were looking for by the box, then you'll have to come back again. Because this is the end of the cigar trail.
After all that work you deserve a decent cup of coffee and a piece of cake at the most prestigious pasty shop in Zurich, "Sprüngli" (www.spruengli.ch) it's right by the "Paradeplatz," again. And if your feet are still carrying you to the lake, then enjoy the scenic panorama with the Swiss mountains at the back. Maybe take a stroll through the Niederdorf, an ancient part of Zurich right in the city center by the river "Limat." You can save that promenade for the Sunday too.
After getting some rest at the hotel (or maybe a smoke in a bar,) enjoy a nice dinner at a restaurant with a spectacular wine choice, "Caduffs Wineloft" (www.wineloft.ch). The wine cellar here is as big as the overlying restaurant itself and you get to descend to choose your own bottle. The kitchen offers you a wide variety of well prepared meals that you'll be remembering for a long time still. A taxi is needed since it is not in the immediate city center; it is accessible via tram, too.
If you still are not tired, go to Zurich's best smokers' lounge, the Rex. They have a nice walk-in and a nice ambience too. It's just perfect to finish up your day. Check out the cigar menu, too. The cigars bought there are noticeably more expensive than in retail (not always the case in Swiss Smoker Lounges).
Again choose a hotel from the selection at the end. Try to get some sleep so you'll be fit enough to carry all those bought boxes again.
After a good breakfast, go to visit the "Landesmuseum". It's a museum covering all relevant times of Swiss history. Very interesting.
If you are feeling more like a smoke, try the restaurant Bohemia (www.bohemia.ch). Smoking is allowed.
Have a vegetarian lunch at the traditional "Veggie" restaurant "Hiltl" (www.hiltl.ch). Try the buffet and some of their delicious fruit drinks.
Try the Zurich Zoo, where, amongst unnumbered animals you have a huge building with a perfect microclima Masoala rainforest in it. And what the heck, go for a smoke in one of the many bars in Zurich.
Now how about that for a nice weekend? IF you still have any questions left, come to Zurich and have them answered.
If you are travelling with a not-so-cigar-oriented partner, there are tons of things to do and see in Zurich. From art over concerts/opera to good old shopping! Zurich bears it all.
Hotels in Konstanz (Friday night)
Hotels in Zurich (Name, price class, URL, remarks)
- Widder, Luxurious, www.hotelwidder.ch, top nodge
- Zum Storchen, Luxurious, www.storchen.ch, some of the ECCJ Tastings are done here
- Baur au lac, Luxurious, www.bauraulac.ch, it does not get more exclusive
- Zürich Mariott, upscale , Marriott Zürich, very central, price/value still OK
- Basilea, middle range, www.hotelbasilea.ch, very central
- Zic Zac Rock Hotel, reasonably, Zic Zac Rock Hotel, Zurichs answer to "Hard Rock Café"
- Ibis, inexpensive, Ibis Zürich, not really central, but you can spend the do on cigars
Tom Bolivar is Cigar Weekly's "member-in-residence" in Zurich. He hails from Switzerland. His interests include, what else? Cigars and travelling. He also counts his family an important part of his interests.