Cultural Experience | Switzerland

7 Hours in Zurich, Switzerland

Take advantage of the opportunities that long layovers have to offer.

Would you rather spend 7 hours sitting in an airport or exploring Zurich, Switzerland? My sister and I were faced with this choice on our return home from Zambia. It was obvious for us. We needed to explore. Many people dread long layovers, but I am a strong believer in taking advantage of the opportunities that they offer.

Upon descending into Zurich, my excitement began to rise as I anticipated the day I had ahead of me in this new city. We pulled into the terminal just after 6 am. I couldn’t wait to get off the airplane, get through the airport, and be immersed in the Swiss landscape of Zurich.

To my disappointment, I stepped out of the airport to a pitch-dark city that had not yet awoken. The shops were closed and the streetlights were on, but luckily there was one place to go. Starbucks, of course! I enjoyed a muffin and the free Wi-Fi, while waiting for Zurich to wake up. At about 8 am the sky started to lighten up and people scattered the streets. My sister and I walked down Niederdorfstrasse to window shop all of the stores that were just beginning to open. We continued down the cobblestone road and reached a bridge where we basked in the beauty of the view before us. Little did we know, the best was still yet to come.

We kept walking to see what else Zurich had in store for us. There were colorful buildings, swans gracefully floating through the water, and storeowners preparing to open shop. My favorite was the blankets they had on the chairs so people could eat outside, even though it was the middle of winter.

Outdoor seating in Zurich

Finally we spotted the tip of the sun peeking over the roofs of a cluster of houses. We headed towards the light to get a better view. We ended up looking out over Lake Zurich as the sun rose with the houses stacked up on the mountains in the distance. The water was calm as it sparkled in the sunlight. We basked in the beauty of the moment as we watched the sun slowly climb up over the horizon.

Sunrise in Zurich, Switzerland

To close off the last leg of our journey through Zurich we figured we had to have some Swiss chocolate! We stopped in Confiserie Sprüngli and bought an assortment of chocolates and some macaroons, which they call Luxemburgerli. We indulged in the delicious Swiss chocolate and (too soon) it was already time to head back to the airport.

Swiss Chocolates

I could not have imagined a better way to spend a layover. Although it was not what I expected, I felt like I was able to experience a different side of Zurich by breathing in the quiet, cool morning air while watching the city come alive.

Do your best to spot these fantastic opportunities and take advantage of them when they are presented to you. It is not every day you get the chance to adventure around a new city simply because of a nice, long layover!

Marissa Sutera

Eastern Illinois University | 1 story

Marissa Sutera is currently a student in the MBA program at Eastern Illinois University where she also works in the Office of Study Abroad as the Marketing Graduate Assistant. She has traveled to various locations around Europe, Africa, and North America. When she is not traveling, she is probably outside running, biking, or reading. You can find out more about her experiences or ask her any questions by visiting her blog ( or by following her on Twitter (@marissa_sutera).

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