Eating out in Switzerland can punch a hole in your wallet. Burgers, pizza slices, kebabs and falafel are universal snack standbys, as are pork Bratwürst sausages. Dairy products find their way into most dishes: cheese fondue – a pot of wine-laced molten cheese into which you dip cubes of bread or potato – is the national dish. Another speciality is raclette – piquant molten cheese scraped over potatoes and pickles. A Swiss-German staple is rösti, grated potatoes topped with cheese, chopped ham or a fried egg. Almost everywhere offers vegetarian alternatives.

Cafés and restaurants usually serve meals at set times (noon–2pm & 6–10pm), with only snacks available in between. To get the best value, make lunch your main meal, and opt for the dish of the day (Tagesmenu, Tagesteller, Tageshit; plat/assiette du jour; piatto del giorno) – substantial nosh for around Fr.18 or less. The same meal in the evening, or choosing à la carte anytime, can cost double.

Manor department stores, and some Coop or Migros supermarkets have excellent-value self-service restaurants: a small/large plate costs about Fr.9/15, with as much fresh salad or hot food as you can pile onto it. There are supermarkets in most large stations, which open late seven days a week.

Cafés are open from breakfast till midnight or 1am and often sell alcohol; bars and pubs tend to open for late-afternoon and evening business only. Beers are invariably excellent, at Fr.5–8 for a glass (e’Schtange, une pression, una birra). Even the simplest places have wine, most affordably as Offene Wein, vin ouvert, vino aperto – a handful of house reds and whites chalked up on a board (small glass Fr.4–5).

Essentials

Everything you need to know before you set off.

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