SHOPPING IN SWITZERLAND
Shopping in Switzerland is pure joy. Whether you wish to rummage through flea markets, look at colorful markets, or comb through luxury goods boutiques, you will not be disappointed. Of course, you will encounter all the world's well-known brands but above all, don't miss out on Swiss designers. Indeed, many of them have acted as ambassadors in far-flung places, making Switzerland synonymous with well-crafted, well-designed merchandise.
Switzerland's currency is the Swiss franc. However, in view of the many other Europeans that shop in Switzerland, prices are often also marked in euros. Many shops will accept euros (only bills) but will return change in Swiss francs. Most credit cards (Mastercard / Visa) are widely accepted. Traveler's checks are not usually accepted in stores and will have to be exchanged for francs in banks or change offices. Usually banks are open from 8:30 to12:00 in the morning and from 13:30 to 16:30 in the afternoon. You can also change money at train stations.
To give you an idea of what awaits you in Switzerland, below are Switzerland's best known shopping places.
Bern: Shopping Beneath the Eaves
For the ultimate romantic experience, shop in Bern's historical centre, in centuries-old buildings where luxury boutiques are cheek-to-jowl with more common-place bakeries and butcher shops. Because pedestrians walk under covered eaves, this is as enjoyable an experience in rain as in sunshine.
With a few exceptions, stores in the city center are open on Monday from 2 to 6:30pm; on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8:15am to 6:30pm; on Thursday from 8:15am to 9pm; and on Saturday from 8:15am to 4pm. They're closed on Sunday.
With 6km (4 miles) of arcades, stores of all types are sheltered in Bern. The main shopping streets are Spitalgasse, Kramgasse, Postgasse, Marktgasse, and Gerechtigkeitsgasse.
You can begin your shopping excursion at Globus, Spitalgasse 17 (tel. 031/313-40-40), a major department store comparable to Bloomingdale's, with departments for everything. Many people from the Bernese Oberland come into Bern just to shop at Globus. Also in the center of town, Loeb ag Bern, Spitalgasse 47 (tel. 031/320-71-11), has a little bit of everything but is known chiefly for its high-quality fashions.
The best handcrafts, souvenirs, and gifts are found at Oberlander Heimat, Kramgasse 61 (tel. 031/311-30-00), located on a historic street near the Clock Tower. This outlet sells handcrafts from all over Switzerland, including textiles, woodcarvings, music boxes, and jewelry.
A collection of Art Nouveau pewter pieces is found at Galerie Trag-art, Gerechtigkeitsgasse 9 (tel. 031/311-64-49). You'll find toys from all over the world at Kunsthandwerk Anderegg, Kramgasse 48 (tel. 031/311-02-01).
For antiques, dolls, and toys, the best outlet is Puppenklinik, Gerechtigkeitsgasse 36 (tel. 031/312-07-71).
The coin and stamp collector should head for Bern's most famous dealer, Zumstein, Zeughausgasse 24 (tel. 031/312-00-55).
A good outlet for leather footwear is Bally, Spitalgasse 9 (tel. 031/311-54-81), a branch of the famous Swiss shoe manufacturer that carries the complete line. Spitalgasse lies right off Bahnhofplatz. On the same street, Gygax Mode, Spitalgasse 4 (tel. 031/311-25-61), is a leading name in leather goods. It sells locally produced items as well as some of the best from neighbouring countries such as Italy.
For fashion, women gravitate to Ciolina Modehaus, Marktgasse 51 (tel. 031/328-64-64), where clothes have fine styles and high prices. A leading men's store is Zwald, Neuengasse 23 (tel. 031/311-71-29). Fashions here reflect a Continental flair.
Swiss chocolates (not always made in Switzerland these days) are sold at Beeler, Spitalgasse 29 (tel. 031/311-28-08), one of the city's leading chocolatiers, and Abegglen, Spitalgasse 36 (tel. 031/311-21-11).
Hats and handbags are the specialties at KB Accessories, MÃÂ¼nstergasse 12 (tel. 031/312-01-15), as designed by funky fashion iconoclasts Brigitte Keller and Stephan Billeter. Look for the kind of unusual and hip millinery that, if you're brave enough to wear proudly and with good posture, will evoke memories and comparisons to Marlene Dietrich.
Many of the art objects at Galerie Granero/Erg du TÃÂ©nÃÂ©rÃÂ©, Nydeggasse 15 (tel. 031/311-71-41), derive from Africa's dusty sub-Sahara region, especially the arid and folklore-rich countries of Chad and Mali. The Swiss-born owners scour that region for silver jewelry crafted by members of the Tuareg tribes, some of which come adorned with mystical symbols that are believed to ward off evil and empower the wearer.
Chalk Llhasa, MÃÂ¼nstergasse 51 (tel. 031/311-61-06), up to offbeat shopping. Switzerland's status as a neutral nation has encouraged the emigration to Bern of some of Tibet's spiritual leaders. This shop acts as a focal point for some of them. You'll find meditative aids, exotic jewelry, carpets and weavings, clothing, incense, and books describing various aspects of Tibet's unique points of view about politics, philosophy, and religion. A second branch is at Bubenbergplatz 5 (tel. 031/311-01-88).
Here's a random sampling of funky shops in funky Bern. Irmak und Wirz, GmbH, Kramgasse 10 (tel. 031/312-06-04), specializes in tribal rugs from Iran, many of them woven high in the Iranian mountains according to age-old geometric designs of the Quashquai tribes. Trouvaillen am MÃÂ¼nster, MÃÂ¼nstergasse 16 (tel. 031/312-79-82), is dusty and overcrowded, containing an intriguing, sometimes bizarre collection of African and Swiss hunting trophies, antique lighting fixtures, bric-a-brac, and oddities that include an elephant embryo from the 1950s and a barely used motorcycle from the 1930s. This is counterculture Bern at its most genuinely eccentric. Visit Marcopolo, MÃÂ¼nstergasse 47 (tel. 031/311-88-44), for artifacts from the developing world, all arranged in glittering arrays of jewelry and weavings from Africa, India, Uzbekistan, and Afghanistan. Everything here seems exotic and ironically positioned a bit like a cleaned-up version of a Middle Eastern bazaar.
For more information, click on www.berninfo.com
Zurich: Bahnhofstrasse, Rennweg
Dawdle in front of well-executed shop windows, enjoy a coffee there, watch the world go by, and of course, shop to your heart's content: Zurich's Bahnhofstrasse has long had the reputation for being one of the world's premiere shopping venues. Below this vast transportation hub is a complex of shops known as ShopVille.
ShopVille is opened from 8am to 8pm every day except Christmas. Most shops are open Monday to Friday from 8am to 6:30pm and on Saturday from 8am to 4pm. Some of the larger stores stay open until 9pm on Thursday, and other shops are closed on Monday morning.
Whether you are looking for watches, chocolate, accessories, fashion, or antiques, you will find it here or close by. And of course, one of the most prominent stores on Bahnhofstrasse is Bucherer, a Switzerland Tourism partner, a wonderful place to find top-notch watches and jewellery. For persons looking for the perfect bring-along, check out the Heimatwerk (Rudolf-Brun Bridge, www.heimatwerk.ch
or in the Main Train Station).
Shopping in Geneva is a joy: whether you stroll through the Rue Basses with its hip little boutiques or the chic Rue du Rhone, Rue de la ConfÃÂ©dÃÂ©ration, Rue du MarchÃÂ©, Rue de la Croix-d'Or and Rue du Mont-Blanc.
From boutiques to department stores, Geneva is a shopper's dream come true. The city, of course, is known for its watches and jewelry, but it's also a good place to buy embroidered blouses, music boxes from the Jura region, cuckoo clocks from German Switzerland, cigars from Havana (not allowed into the United States), chocolate, Swiss Army knives, and many other items.
Geneva practically invented the wristwatch. In fact, watchmaking in the city dates from the 16th century. Be sure to avoid purchasing a Swiss watch in one of the souvenir stores. If jewelers are legitimate, they'll display a symbol of the Geneva Association of Watchmakers and Jewelers. Here, more than in any other Swiss city perhaps, you should be able to find all the best brands, including Vacheron & Constantin, Longines, Omega, and Blancpain, to name just a few. Sometimes there are discounts on such items as cameras. Most salespeople you'll encounter speak English and are very helpful.
A shopping spree may begin at place du Molard, once the harbour of Geneva before the water receded. Merchants from all over Europe used to bring their wares to trade fairs here in the days before merchants immigrated to richer markets in Lyon.
If you walk along rue du RhÃÂ´ne and are put off by the prices, go 1 block south to rue du MarchÃÂ©, which in various sections becomes rue de la Croix-d'Or and rue de Rive, and is sometimes referred to by locals as "la rue du Tram" because of the many trolleys that run along its length. Don't be afraid to comparison-shop in Geneva -- many stores jack up prices for visitors.
Store hours vary in Geneva. Most stores are open Monday to Friday 8am to 6:30pm and Saturday from 8am to 5pm.
--The city has some of the world's most famous auction houses, with sales taking place mostly in May and November. During these periods, myriad social events accompany the auctions. Moreover, the city is an important centre for the world art market and hosts prominent art and antiques dealers. Details and venues of sales appear in the tourist office's monthly "List of Events.
Lugano: Piazza Riforma / Via Nassa
Shopping with an Italian flavour: stroll through Italienate piazzas and the Via Nassa, where all the world's major brands meet. Even stylish people from Milan come and shop here!
Its role as capital of Italian-speaking Switzerland almost guarantees that Lugano's selection of merchandise will include a cosmopolitan blend of Teutonic and Mediterranean merchandise. Most of it can be viewed along either side of the resort's main shopping street, via Nassa. The richest trove of handicrafts is available at Bottega dell'Artigiano, Quartiere Maghetti, Piazza Indipendenza 1 (tel. 091/922-81-40). Managed and maintained by the Cooperativa per l'Artigianato Ticinese, a quasi-governmental organization for the promotion of old-fashioned handicrafts, it offers textiles, woodcarvings, pottery, and metalware, most of them made in the Ticino.
You'll find five floors of department-store shopping at everybody's favourite large store, Manor, piazza Dante (tel. 091/912-76-99). A roughly equivalent department store, with some gift items and more of an emphasis on foodstuffs, groceries, hardware, and housewares, is Migros, via Pretorio 15 (tel. 091/913-72-13). If you're looking for chocolates and pastries, head for a bakery that many locals remember from their childhood, MÃÂ¼nger, via Luvini 4 (tel. 091/985-69-43).
Tradition and modernity goes hand in hand in this lovely town on Lake Luzern. And be sure to pop in at Bucherer's (www.bucherer.com
). The well-known watch and jewellery store has its headquarters here. And what splendour will await you there: more than 4000 watch models and pieces of jewellery, ranging from the functional to the extravagant.
Few other cities in Switzerland rely as heavily on the tourist trade as Lucerne, so consequently, you'll be faced with a barrage of mercantilism at virtually every street corner. Most obvious of the "heavy artillery" involves sales of wristwatches and folk handicrafts. The biggest jeweler in town is Bucherer, Schwanenplatz 5 (tel. 041/369-77-00), whose sprawling displays of luxury goods are rivaled only by the showrooms of GÃÂ¼belin, Schweizenhofquai (tel. 041/429-15-15). Less consciously upscale, and more folkloric in their orientation, are the town's main outlets for handicrafts. These include Casa Grande, Kapellgasse 24 (tel. 041/418-60-60); Schmid-Linder, Denkmalstrasse 9 (tel. 041/410-43-46); and Leinen, Weinmarkt 19 (tel. 041/410-44-33), which inventories clothing for men and women that will evoke Heidi, her grandfather, and her goatherd, Peter. Embroideries and linens for dining rooms and bedrooms are the offerings at Sturzenneger, Schwanenplatz 7 (tel. 041/410-19-58). Some of the pieces come from Switzerland's embroidery centre of St. Gallen, others from less evocative factories in the Far East, but many are of heirloom quality.
Souvenirs of your trip to Lucerne are a lot less expensive, and a lot more workaday, at either of the town's two mass-market department stores. They are Manor, Nordmann & Co., Weggisgasse 5 (tel. 041/419-76-99); and EPA, RÃÂ¶ssligasse 20 (tel. 041/410-19-77). Both sell housewares, clothing, school supplies, and anything you'd need to run a home. They also have a limited collection of Swiss souvenirs. More upscale, and more specifically geared to clothing for men, women, and children, is Globus, Pilatusstrasse 4 (tel. 041/227-07-07).
Hofstetter & Berney, Schweizerhofquai 6 (tel. 041/410-31-06), features a well-rounded collection of music boxes. The staff will tell you about the differences in tones and the complexities of sounds produced by the various instruments, all of which are made in Switzerland and which contain varying numbers of musical notes. Some of them might reproduce strains from Pachelbel's Canon, others a replica of the "Austrian National Anthem."
Confiserie H & M Kurmann, Bahnhofstrasse 7 (tel. 041/210-19-187), is the most distinguished pastry-and-chocolate shop in Lucerne. Many of the residents of Lucerne remember this shop from their childhoods, when its pastries and chocolates might have been served as part of their birthday parties. Today it's one of the few deeply entrenched big-name pastry makers in Switzerland that hasn't set up additional branches in other parts of the country. Everything is, as you'd expect, highly caloric and highly tempting.
The richly nuanced architecture of the city itself is the backdrop for the outdoor fruit and vegetable market, conducted during spring, summer, and autumn from both banks of the river every Tuesday and Saturday from 8am to around 1pm. Between May and October, Lucerne hosts a rowdy, somewhat disorganized flea market where the contents of estate sales and whatever anyone discovered in their grandmother's attic is displayed along either side of Untere Burgerstrasse. And the first Saturday of every month throughout the year, during daylight hours, artisans and craftspeople from throughout the region congregate at the Weinmarkt to display and sell their wares.
Cosmopolitan, sophisticated, and prosperous, Basel shelters a medley of shops whose merchandise rivals that found in much larger cities. The finest antiques shop in the region is AntiquitÃÂ©s M. & G. SÃÂ©gal, Aeschengraben 14 (tel. 061/272-39-08). Founded in 1862, it's run by the articulate and knowledgeable fourth-generation owner, Georges SÃÂ©gal, and his North Carolina-born wife, Margaret. Their specialties include 18th-century Continental paintings, silver, furniture, ceramics (including antique Meissen porcelain), and art objects, all of which are displayed over four floors of a building bulging with treasures. You'll also find two impressive art galleries in town. The immensely prestigious Ernest Beyeler Gallery, Baunleingasse 9 (tel. 061/206-97-00), is a cultural focal point that's famous throughout Europe for its roster of Impressionist, modern, and contemporary paintings. Also, a more avant-garde gallery with more emphasis on minimalist, hypercontemporary art, is the well-respected Galerie Gisele Linder, Elisabethenstrasse 54 (tel. 061/272-83-77).
Upscale housewares, with an emphasis on grandeur and social correctness, are displayed at a store beloved by brides-to-be, FÃÂ¼glistaller, Freie Strasse 23 (tel. 061/261-78-78). Here, in a setting that includes a monumental staircase worthy of Scarlett O'Hara, look for quality porcelain, crystal, silverware, and gift items.
Seeking a suitcase to pack the loot you've already acquired in Basel? Head for Droeser, Eisengasse 11 (tel. 061/261-42-53), where wallets, valises, purses, handbags, shaving kits, even gym bags, offer leather making at its best. Shoes and clothing for both men and women can be found at Bally Schuhfabriken, Freie Strasse 38 (tel. 061/261-18-97), a three-level emporium that works hard at supplying what upscale consumers really want. Men's goods are showcased one floor above street level; women's shoes and clothing lie on street level and in the cellar. And if you have a yen for fine tobaccos, check out Davidoff, Aeschenvorstadt 4 (tel. 061/272-47-70), where brierwood and meerschaum pipes, along with cigarettes and cigars from around the world (including Cuba), are sold along with their appropriate accessories. And finally, dozens of emporiums in Basel are ready, willing, and able to sell you a wristwatch. One of the city's most upscale shops is GÃÂ¼belin, Freie Strasse 27 (tel. 061/261-40-33). More closely geared to the mass market and less expensive is Juwelier Kurz, Freie Strasse 39 (tel. 061/261-26-20).
The premier chocolatier in town is Confiserie Schiesser, 19 Marktplatz (tel. 061/261-60-77), which sells expensive but delectable confections in its downstairs shop. Upstairs is a Viennese tearoom founded in 1870, where you can order delicate pastries and tasty little sandwiches while enjoying views of the bustling market square and the Gothic City Hall.
The best place to shop for handicrafts and gifts is Heimatwerk, Schneidergasse 2 (tel. 061/261-91-78), which carries an array of tasteful merchandise from all parts of the country. You'll find everything here from ceramics to wooden toys.
If you're just seeking general merchandise, head for the leading department store in Basel, Globus, Marktplatz 2 (tel. 061/268-45-45).