If you are in the process of planning a trip to Switzerland, you might be surprised to find out that there is fantastic coffee therein addition to the chocolate and cheese that the area is known for. Drinking coffee is largely a social activity that allows for conversation and comradery, just like drinking liquor when the day is at an end. Swiss coffees often are rooted in Italian coffee culture, which means Robusta blends and dark roasts are common. The most common coffee flavor for a customer to ask for is something with little acidity and notes of chocolate or nuts.
No matter what city you visit in Switzerland, you’ll find some outstanding coffee to try. Bern, Geneva, Lucerne, St. Gallen, and more have their own coffee culture that is impossible to experience elsewhere. You can expect to see lots of espresso and milk drinks, with filter coffee being less popular. Milk and sugar accompany Swiss coffee and you may see coffeehouse visitors munching on croissants with the first drink of the day.
When visiting Switzerland, there are tons of coffee shops to experience, and we will go over some of the best of them below. We’ll also consider travel tips when visiting Switzerland, as well as other coffee related topics specific to this beautiful country. If you are dreaming of a weeklong vacation in Switzerland, you’ll have all the information you need by the time we’re done. Let’s start with a few facts about Switzerland that you may not already know.
Important Things to Know About Switzerland Before Visiting
Switzerland is known for its famed chocolate and being home to the Alps, which makes it a popular destination to visit. The country is located in central Europe and borders Germany, France, Italy, Austria, and Liechtenstein. The country is known for its high-quality cheese and chocolate. There are four national languages there including French, German, Italian, and Romansh. If you’re heading there for a vacation, you may already know these things. However, there are a few other things you should be aware of in advance of your travels.
Multiple National Languages
We mentioned the official languages in Switzerland are German, French, Italian, and Romansh. The most spoken language in the country is German. Some of the western areas speak French while some southern areas speak mostly in Italian. Overall, German is the most used and the dialect is much different than traditional German out of Germany. Romansh is used the least of the four languages and mostly will be found in the southeastern part of the country. If you speak English, don’t worry too much. Many of the Swiss people have some knowledge of the language.
Lack of Small Talk
With a multilingual country like Switzerland, you might be surprised to find that small talk isn’t prevalent in the area. Showing warmth and friendliness to strangers isn’t part of the Swiss culture. Chatting up waiters and cashiers is also very uncommon and even discouraged. That isn’t to say you can’t be chatty and friendly, but you shouldn’t take it personally if others don’t treat you in the same way.
Switzerland Has Tons of Lakes
Nearly every city and town that you explore in Switzerland is going to have a lake or two. They are often filled with elegant swans who are fun to watch. There are a couple of things to be aware of in terms of the lakes in Switzerland. The first is that if you are in the country in the summer near a lake, you may see some of the liveliest people in Switzerland. This can be a bit shocking after mostly being around polite and quiet Swiss residents. However, the warm weather seems to bring out a lot of excitement. The second thing to know is that the swans can be fierce so it’s best to stay far from them.
Days Start Early in Switzerland
The work ethic in Switzerland is rigid and you shouldn’t be surprised to find that days start early in the country. For night owls, that also means that things are going to close earlier than you might be used to. Expect to see cafes opening as early as six, classes starting at eight, and so on. If you eat a later dinner, make sure you find a grocery store early because most of them are going to be closed by 7 pm. Of course, those who are also early risers may appreciate this aspect of Swiss culture.
Nightlife is Scarce to Come By
Those who are big fans of going to clubs or hanging out at bars may find Switzerland not to their liking. If that is something you want to experience, you’ll want to make sure to spend time in Lausanne, popular with students and young adults. However, the experience isn’t going to be the same as you might expect from cities like New York City or Paris. If you decide to head out for the night to try your luck, make sure you check the public transit schedules first. Many forms of transportation stop at around midnight.
Public Transit is Excellent
You can expect the transit in Switzerland to be very reliable. You can download an app that shows schedules for metro, trains, and other forms of public transportation. Those who spend time in smaller towns may only have buses available, which often stop running at about 9 pm. In larger areas, that won’t be as much of a problem. In the biggest cities, there will be trams running at all times of the day and night. If you plan to use the public transit, it’s a good idea to get a SwissPass card which lets you ride as much as you want for a certain period of time.
Politics are Taken Seriously
Switzerland is serious about politics and you can expect to see political ads pasted everywhere you go. There are votes a few times a year, which also means that political leaflets are a common sight. Direct democracy is a huge part of Swiss culture and that combined with the fact that only 1% of the population needs to sign a petition to push a vote on a referendum means that the ballots are often filled with all sorts of unique and strange measures.
Local Chocolate is Where it’s At
If you expect to hit up a grocery store and find bars of great Swiss chocolate, you may find yourself disappointed. But that doesn’t mean the famed chocolate isn’t out there. What you need to do is visit a local chocolate maker. There will be tons of wrapped chocolates, as well as some of the best hot chocolate you will ever taste. Below we’ll look at a few coffee shops that are well worth visiting if you happen to be in the city.
Hiking is a Great Activity
While Switzerland can be expensive, it’s also an extremely beautiful country. You’ll see meadows covered in flowers, alpine lakes, and cliff faces along mountains. As such, you can get a lot of enjoyment out of spending time in the great outdoors. Hiking is a great option and you can take part in it regardless of the season. If the snow is thick, you can strap on some snowshoes and check out the landscape of the country that way, instead.
Fondue is Truly Swiss
Even if you’ve experienced fondue at home, you should make sure to try it in Switzerland, as well. Fondue actually started here and became popular back in the 1930s. Many families have regular communal fondue nights with friends and family, especially when it gets chilly outside. The fondue in Switzerland is typically made up of tasty cheese and local breads, but vegetables and fruits may also be available.
Bring a Power Adapter
You are going to need a specific type of adapter to charge your phone, table, or other devices when you are in Switzerland. While most of Europe uses the type F plug, that isn’t the case in this country. Instead, you are going to need a type J. If you plan to visit other locations in Europe, getting a universal adaptor is the best option since it will work with all sorts of plugs.
High Cost of Living
When it comes to cost of living, Switzerland has one of the highest around the globe. Everything from grabbing lunch to getting a water is going to cost more than you expect. Even a taxi ride is quickly going to add up. That doesn’t mean it’s not a place worth visiting but it is a good idea to watch your finances closely, because you could end up running out of money quicker than you expected.
That said, there are a few ways to drop the price of a trip to this beautiful country. We’ll share a few of them below so you can budget appropriately if you aren’t interested in draining your entire bank account:
- Do less traveling – The more time you spend on buses, trains, and in car rentals, the most you are going to spend in terms of money. These things add up fast in Switzerland so rather than visiting every spot you can imagine, pick a few and explore them more thoroughly.
- Cook on your own – Restaurants are pretty expensive in Switzerland and going to eat three times a day will quickly send your budget soaring upward. If you are able to shop at the supermarket and cook your own food, that will save you some serious cash. In addition, be aware that meat is especially expensive. If you don’t mind a plate-based diet, that will save you even more.
- Drink tap water – The water in Switzerland is completely safe and tastes good. Instead of buying bottled water every day, consider bringing along a travel bottle and filling up at spots you plan to visit throughout the day.
- Avoid the alcohol – Another thing that can get expensive quickly is drinking alcohol in Switzerland. While not everyone will want to entirely skip drinking, you can choose to stock up on booze yourself and drink at home if you want to save some extra cash.
Swiss Coffee Culture
While many places in Switzerland have few places to get excellent specialty coffee, that doesn’t apply to Zurich. In fact, some world-renowned baristas make their home in the city. For a coffee hub where you can enjoy the same beverage you have at home, Zurich is the best answer we can give you. It’s certainly not the only place with great coffee, but it has a larger assortment and you can trust the quality. There are many coffee houses in the city, but also in lesser-known areas of the country. We’ll share some of the top spots to visit, no matter where you rest your head at night.
Café Noir – Zurich
If you want to hang out with the locals, Café Noir is a fantastic location to do just that. This is a tiny café with vintage seating, small tables, and herringbone floors which is located near some interesting boutiques. Those who are serious about their coffee will appreciate the fact that the beans used at Café Noir are roasted just down the street. Inside, you’ll find a Dalla Corte espresso maker in the corner along with interesting items for sale. Besides having great coffee, there are also some interesting sodas and smoothies for something different. The café is open from 7am to 8pm on weekdays and 9am to 6pm on Saturday.
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Café Henrici – Zurich
Another spot to scope out in Zurich is Café Henrici, which overlooks a beautiful fountain. This café is named after Christian Friedrick Henrici, who was the librettist behind Bach’s Coffee Cantata. You can expect full bodied, smooth espresso drinks to be available here any time the café is open, which is seven days a week and until late. Even the drip coffee is made in pour over style with options for cold brew, too. The café is quite large with tons of tables, but there are also a few stools overlooking the espresso machine if you want a quick drink before heading off on other adventures.
Grande – Zurich
Grande is a hip spot with tables outdoors that look over the Limmat River. It’s also the destination for some seriously amazing coffee. The baristas are dressed up in caps and bowties to serve what many consider the best espresso in the city. The beans change on a seasonal basis so it’s the sort of place you can visit again and again without getting bored. The aesthetic of the café is also quite charming with distressed walls, a wooden bar, flowers in beer bottles, and wooden chairs to sit and enjoy your latte.
La Stanza – Zurich
This is a dream of a café with nicely dressed baristas offering lively espressos from morning until night. You’ll see a crowd as soon as the doors open, which just goes to show how great the coffee beverages are. There’s lots of natural light that comes in through the glass walls and you might experience rock music playing in the background. It’s not just about coffee at La Stanza, as they also serve pastries and there are often newspapers in both German and English to peruse while you visit.
Spheres acts as a café and bookstore during the day and offers exceptional espresso with beans roasted by H. Schwarzenbach. However, once it starts to creep into the evening hours, it turns into a bar that brings in all the creatives in the neighborhood. If you stop in during the later hours, make sure to check out the annex with a glass roof. There are beautiful chairs and tables, lush plants, and a view that simply can’t be beat.
Neue Milchbar – Zurich
This is a small coffee bar in terms of size, but it has a lot of heart. There are numerous brewing methods utilized at the café as well as education information for anyone who has questions about coffee. Beyond offering great coffee, the location offers wine, deli items, and food to provide local and foreign cuisine to all who step inside. The bar itself has only a few seats but the restaurant sits above it. Everything from Aeropress to Chemex, V60, and siphon is available, and the coffees change on a regular basis. There is also a large selection of espresso beverages for those who prefer something a bit more traditional.
Rösterei – Bern
Blaser Café AG, owned by a family in Bern, has been in the business of roasting coffee on a commercial basis for many years. In 2014, the family chose to get involved with the new era of coffee by opening the Rösterei Café. It’s just outside the company factory which is near the center of the city. While the rest of the area is industrial, many people choose to make it here to have a great cup of coffee. The café has many single origin coffees to choose from and everything from Chemex brewing to syphon, V60, and Kalita. There’s also the option of authentic Turkish coffee. If you are feeling peckish, this café also has a small selection of lunch menu items.
Colonial Bar – Bern
The colonial bar is a corner coffee house and café that is a subsidiary of the Berner Institution Adrianos Bar & Café, which is located right nearby. Adrianos is moving toward a more modern coffee environment but mainly focuses on the Italian style of coffee making. Colonial, on the other hand, brews up cold brew, espresso drinks, beer, and aperitifs for residents and visitors to enjoy. Each coffee used here is sourced directly and roasted by Adrianos. There are single origin beans from many places including Costa Rica and Sumatra. On sunny days, the terrace is a great place to enjoy coffee.
Café Tacuba – Lucerne
One of the best places to grab a cup of coffee in Lucerne is at Café Tacuba, which boasts a massive menu and claims to be entirely transparent regarding the variety and origin of the coffees used there. This is a cozy shop with coffee bags all around acting as furniture, along with a small coffee bar with a couple of stools. The baristas are happy to engage with you and answer any questions you have. There is also outdoor garden seating where you can enjoy the coffee and other treats. There are several single origin beans used to offer just the taste you’re looking for.
Koffeinshop – Lucerne
The Koffeinshop, or caffeine store, offers fresh-roasted coffee in a variety of types. This isn’t technically a coffee shop, but it does offer coffee beans as well as the equipment you need to make your own coffee. You’ll find espresso machines, pour over devices, and much more. The shop also carries a selection of replacement parts and accessories. Cleaning and descaling services are available, and a few snacks and treats can be seen in the store at times. It’s somewhere that is worth visiting at least once if only to check out the wares available.
Kaspar – Lucerne
Kaspar isn’t solely a specialty coffeehouse, but the café does offer milk-based drinks and single origin espresso with beans roasted right in Zurich. The inside of the café is quite modern with hanging lanterns in metal coverings. It’s a family friendly location with fun toys and things for the children to occupy themselves. There is a wide range of beverages so you’re likely to find something that suits your tastes and the staff are known for being quite helpful. In addition to offering coffee, there is also beer and some snacks available if your stomach is rumbling.
Hässig &Hässig – Lucerne
This isn’t a café, but it is a roastery that offers a number of great coffees popular in the area. In addition to offering coffee to brew yourself, there are also several espresso machines and coffee grinders available in the store. This micro-roasting plant is located in the break-up quarter of Lucerne and the entire building is very DIY and fun to look at. If you stop in on the first Saturday of any month, you can go to a roasting tour and meet the people who make up Hässig &Hässig.
Les Recyclables – Geneva
If you are tired of big chain cafes and want something a bit quirky and different, there’s nowhere better than Les Recyclables. This café contains a used bookstore, which makes it a fantastic choice for enjoying a drink and pastry while picking up a new book to read. The café is cheerful and friendly with colorful chairs, fairy lights around the windows, and wild flower centerpieces. The menu here is innovative and modern and there’s always a lunch deal. Depending on when you stop in, some dinners are accompanied by live music. There are also debates, literary evenings, and lectures on a regular basis.
Café de la Presse – Geneva
This café got its name thanks to the many newspaper offices in the same area years ago. You could often see reporters writing in notebooks while sipping on Italian coffee beverages. Nowadays, there are no newspapers nearby, but the café is still filled with people who want to enjoy a coffee or lunch in a friendly environment. The café itself is connected to a restaurant which also serves Italian fare, although the café has simpler food that is inexpensive in nature. There are large screen televisions that play sports, and, on the weekends, it opens at 4 am to catch the crowd just going home from the bars.
Café Restaurant du Parc des Bastions – Geneva
This restaurant is located in Bastions park and makes for a relaxing destination for Sunday brunch or lunch on other days of the week. You can dine on the outdoor terrace when the weather is nice or take your meal in the massive conservatory-style interior. However, service can be a bit slow and prices are high, so be sure you are up for that. If you happen to come during the winter, the terrace is turned into an ice rink that you can use for free, skates can be rented for a small amount. It’s a fun thing to take part in, even if you aren’t confident on a pair of skates.
Remor – Geneva
Remor has been around since the 1920s and has stayed largely the same in terms of décor. However, that’s one of the reasons that this café gets so much foot traffic. The other reasons are the great location, the relaxed feel, the free wi-fi and the terrace outside. This café was started by Italian ice cream makers and still offers many ice creams and sorbets, as well as dishes that use them. Of course, there are also great coffee options. There is also food like sandwiches, cheese boards, and pizzas to enjoy. If you stop in at the right time, you may even happen upon a screening of a film by someone local.
La Buvette des Bains – Geneva
This café and restaurant is also part of the spa and swimming baths on the right bank of Lake Geneva. Because of that, it’s the ideal space to enjoy the lake while sipping on a latte or having a light meal. It’s open at all times of year, with summer offering breakfasts on the outdoor terrace and winter known for the heated cabin and selection of fondue. You’ll see people of all sorts here, making it a great place to take in the diversity of the Swedish people. The menu is simple and inexpensive with a deal on one dish each day.
Boréal – Geneva
If you’re looking for a Geneva café that has a modern atmosphere, Boreal is the place to be. It’s comfortable and attracts young professionals, urban dwellers, and students alike. The coffee is some of the best in the city with quick counter service and a selection of snacks and sandwiches for those who need something more filling. It’s a nice location to meet up with friends or work over a few espresso shots. You can get free Wi-Fi through a code on your receipt. You’ll find this café in the Bains Quarter as well as near Rue du Mont Blanc.
Cottage Café – Geneva
This is a truly unique place that could easily be tucked inside of a fairytale. It’s near the Brunswick monument on Lake Geneva and is a cabin that looks like someone’s cozy home. Once you step inside, the distinctiveness only continues with wooden dressers that hold magazines, mismatched trinkets and lamps, and a selection of painting across the walls. The terrace outside is a nice place to enjoy lunch or breakfast with the salads being a popular option. If you come in later in the day you can enjoy coffee as well as a menu of tapas and local wines.
La Théière Qui Rit – Geneva
This tea room and coffeehouse is located on a cobbled street in Old Town and it gives off the air of an English type of high tea. Just as you might imagine, there are many different loose-leaf teas to choose from, along with coffee for those who prefer it. There are also sweets like scones and cakes which comes with cream and jam to spread atop. The décor is comfortable, and you can pick up a magazine or newspaper to read. It’s a relaxing place to spend a lazy afternoon.
La Clémence – Geneva
This beautiful café and coffeehouse is characterized by an enormous outdoor terrace, which offers the perfect location to people watch. Both locals and tourists are on the streets and make for some entertaining watching. You can drop in for a morning coffee or a snack with things like sandwiches, soup, and quiches on the menu. If you decide to stop in a bit later, you can also grab an evening beer before heading off for dinner at one of the many restaurants located right there on the square.
Kaffeehaus – St. Gallen
This coffee shop and roastery was opened in 2010 by a man who previously wrote about coffee and took a handful of barista courses. However, this is far from the typical specialty coffeehouse that you can find in any corner of the earth. Instead, walking into Kaffeehaus feels a bit like walking into a coffeehouse of old. Despite the unique interior that brings a traditional feel, you will still find some modern coffee options like cold brew and Chemex, even if there isn’t a lot of call for serving them.
Barista – St. Gallen
St. Gallen’s first third-wave coffee shop is none other than Barista, which is owned by Emil Underberg. While the people living in the area weren’t sure about the place at first, it has gone on to become quite popular for locals and tourists alike. However, it isn’t all about coffee here, the shop also offers a selection of homemade cakes. Filter coffee isn’t a staple that is offered often but the shop does have Aeropress, V60, and Chemex available.
Zermatt Rösterei – Zermatt
This specialty roastery is located in Zermatt and owned by a native of the Czech Republic. The space is fairly small, and it seems that every inch has a serious purpose. The green beans used for roasting are sourced from Zug and all sorts of specialty lines and blends are made to fit the needs of various customers. While this place is up and coming, it’s certain to grow as time passes. Going there before it has a big name behind it could be an excellent option if you’ll be spending time in Zermatt. It may not be a very long time with some cafes already serving coffees roasted by the company.
Switzerland is a great place to visit and you don’t have to cut back on your coffee habit to have a great time while spending time there. The major cities often have a plethora of cafes that serve all the modern coffees you enjoy back home. In addition to that, tons of restaurants and coffeehouses have a wide selection of espresso drinks available. You aren’t going to have any problem making sure you’re caffeinated and ready to take on the day when spending time with the Swiss.
The country of Switzerland is quite small, but there are several large cities worth spending time in. Geneva and Zurich are a given, but places like Bern, Zermatt, and St. Gallen also make nice destinations to hang out with locals and enjoy the scenery that you can only see in Switzerland. If you’re planning your trip, remember to take note of the coffee houses in each of these cities to get the most bang for your buck when visiting.
While Switzerland is one of the most expensive travel destinations in Europe, there are ways to cut costs and make the trip a bit more budget friendly. Cutting out a few extras and spending longer amounts of time in each city will easily chop into the amount you are required to spend while visiting. There are all sorts of reasons to consider visiting Switzerland, including the cheese, coffee, and chocolate. We hope that if you decide to go, you have an excellent time.
1. What is famous in Switzerland?
Some of the things that Switzerland is most famous for include Rolex watches, the Swiss army knife, Lindt chocolate, Swiss trains, and the Matterhorn. This destination is also known for chocolate, cheese, and the beautiful mountains that cover the land.
2. Can I speak English in Switzerland?
Sure, many people in Switzerland do speak English. However, if you know German, Italian, or French, being able to speak it will likely come in handy. It also shows that you’re making an effort to communicate and take part in the place you are visiting.
3. Which city is most beautiful in Switzerland?
Switzerland is filled with beautiful cities, towns, and villages, but some are more breathtaking than others. Some of the most pleasing places to visit include Bern, Soglio, Interlaken, Montreux, Guarda, Lucerne, and Stein am Rhein.
4. Do they accept US dollars in Switzerland?
Some areas may accept US dollars, but many will not. The franc is the only currency that you will find is accepted everywhere. The euro is foreign in Switzerland and has extra costs for retailers so not all shops accept it as payment.
5. Is Switzerland safe to visit?
Yes, Switzerland is considered one of the safest and least dangerous countries around the globe. Violent crime is incredibly rare but some petty crimes, such as stealing wallets or phones, are on the rise in larger cities.
6. What is the main food in Switzerland?
The Swiss eat all sorts of different dishes, but some are more common than others. Cheese fondue is popular, as are raclette, rösti, birchermüesli, Swiss chocolate, and Swiss cheese.
7. What is the main religion in Switzerland?
Nearly two-thirds of the population in Switzerland are Roman Catholic or Protestant. However, freedom of religion is a constitutional right in Switzerland.
8. What is the oldest city in Switzerland?
The oldest city in the country of Switzerland is Chur, which has been settled for more than 5,000 years. It is a car free zone and there are tons of things to do there.
9. Which countries does the Alpine mountain system run through?
The Alps are one of the highest and largest mountain range in the entire world, covering nearly 192,000 kilometers. The Alps are located in eight countries including Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Slovenia, and Switzerland.
10. How cold does it get in Switzerland?
The climate in the area is moderate without extreme heat or cold. You can expect the temperature to range from 28 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on season. The warmest months are from July to August, while the coldest are during January and February.
Coffee Making Methods for the Modern Age
Everything You Need to Know to Brew a Great Espresso Shot
Cold Brew vs. Iced Coffee: Which is the Right Beverage For You?
Get Up Close and Personal With Your Coffee: Where Coffee is Produced