Food tours are becoming increasingly popular. Some are dedicated to a particular neighborhood, others focus on a specific national cuisine, and still others combine street food with street art. The main conceptual difference is the presence of a tour guide. The information content of a food tour with an expert guide is higher than a self-guided tour. The guide can answer questions, lead you purposefully to unknown places and many tips can be picked up. For foodies who want to replenish their culinary knowledge store in addition to eating well, a guided tour is the right choice. For all food tours, it is better to book at the beginning of your stay, so that there is still time to visit the many discoveries along the way on other days.
A food tour takes its participants through unfamiliar territory, sometimes even off the beaten path, through small alleyways and into stores that would otherwise have been regrettably left to the left. In Zurich, a tour with Yuan Yao of Indulge gave us several of these moments.
Swiss Classics through Zurich’s old town
The plump Nana, the “Blue Angel” by Niki de Saint Phalle in Zurich’s main train station is the meeting point of a food tour that is all about Zurich specialties. Participants get to sample more than 15 specialties on the tour, which lasts a good three hours. Many of them can be sampled on the spot, each garnished with exciting stories. These include facts about the daily production of Sprüngli’s feather-light Luxemburgerli or anecdotes such as that of the Spanish-Brötli train, with which wealthy Zurich residents had their employees bring them forbidden butter pastries on the first early morning train.
Yuan Yao, founder of Indulge and well-traveled Swiss, always conjures up little surprises from her large shoulder bag: The Swiss’ favorite chips, the local water with the house number 37, a blind tasting of Luxemburgerli in front of the Sprüngli kiosk in the station concourse. The tour’s density of information is enormous and not limited to culinary stories.
The flower miracle in the regional police station
Suddenly we are standing in the police station. Police officers walk at a brisk pace through the Blüemlihalle, affectionately called by the people of Zurich. In order to save space, the former cellar vault was converted into an entrance area in the 1920s. The gloomy room was to be made friendlier by painting it. The city of Zurich launched a competition. Augusto Giacometti, a member of the famous family of painters, was awarded the contract and created a sea of flowers in warm red and ocher tones. This vault is worth a detour and can be visited on weekdays at certain times upon presentation of an ID card.
Zurich’s fountains and the water from Rennweg 37
The food tour through Zurich is also a tour of fountains. Every few meters, you come across one of these water fountains that provide the best drinking water free of charge for everyone. Some of them have been gushing since the Middle Ages, all of them can tell stories and many of them are not only water dispensers but also works of art today. The city of Zurich also offers a fountain tour.
At Swiss Classics, we get to hear one of the more recent success stories about a very old Zurich water source. Local Water 37 is a natural spring water from the Uetliberg, Zurich’s local mountain. The right to draw water has been securitized for the owner of the house at Rennweg 37 since 1559. This high-quality drinking water is sold in Zurich, as well as within a radius of a good 10 kilometers. The consumption of local water is to be increased and the proceeds are also used to support international water projects.
Of course, a culinary tour in Switzerland always includes Swiss cheese. Chäs Chäller carries well-matured cheeses. For example, a two-year-old Gruyère that ripens exclusively for the urbanfoodstore in a rock cellar under a forest. Here you’ll find many Swiss products from small local producers. From handmade chocolate to Swiss spirits and sausages with cool names like Stadtjäger or Wilde13.
The hearty August at the Hotel Widder
The ram, you learn upon entering the chic Boucherie August in Renngasse, is the heraldic animal of the butchers’ guild. Ham, salamis, Bündler meat, and pork sausage of the finest variety are available here. Behind the old listed façade of eight medieval town houses, the five-star Hotel Widder is a highly modern and very luxurious hideaway in the middle of Zurich’s old town.
Curated food experiences with Indulge
Yuan Yao, a native of St. Gallen, lives in Zurich. For her, the biggest challenge in planning the Swiss Classics through Zurich was to combine the many traditional stores and businesses and the innovative start-ups around food in a tour of about three hours. The creative start-ups are especially close to her heart. She knows that many of them create excellent products and know their craft. But they are sometimes bad at talking about their products and making them known. This is where Yuan Yao sees her food tours as a platform.
Yuan Yao wants to give a voice to the many food talents with her company Indulge. The creative small businesses should be heard and ultimately their products should be bought. “This is the only way we can prevent cool start-ups from disappearing again and their creators from returning to a secure job with a wholesaler or in a hotel,” Yuan Yao is certain.
“I’m interested in the stories – I want to go into the kitchens with the people” Food journalist Angela Berg in conversation at Indulge’s Yuan Yao.
The research trip was supported locally by the Zurich Tourism Office.