Afternoon at Les Halles and Hiltl

My  friend Nelli, Zurich resident and fellow blogger,  (find her here) was kind enough to make me a list of things to do/see/eat while in Zurich.  On her recommendation we decided to venture into Zurich West.  We stopped to ask directions at the liquor store in the train station.  I was amazed by the variety of alcohol offered – especially the candy colored-and flavored options. How about some Mississippi Mud or the interestingly titled beer next to it?!  Sorry Mom.

liquor store


Once we (read: Joe) figured out which tram we needed, we were off.  The public transportation system is clean, modern and efficient, no surprises there.

Zurich West has a grey industrial feel, not helped by the fact that most things are closed in Zurich on Sundays.  Luckily my handsome navigator quickly found our destination, Les Halles and we got out of the cold for a warm lunch.

To say Les Halles has personality would be an understatement.  Part bike shop, part sports bar and game room combined with a largely organic, vegetarian (save the mussels) restaurant that is rustic, perhaps  ironic, and certainly kitschy.  Once you find the hidden door it is a little bit like stepping into another world where motorcycle Jesus hangs next to bikes and vintage Dior ads. IMG_4877


Joe quickly learned that I am a pinball fanatic, having grown up with 2 machines in my basement thanks to my pinball-machine-collecting grandfather. I whipped him soundly until he insisted we not spend our entire afternoon in Zurich playing pinball. The man hates to lose…


The house speciality is mussels and fries (moules and frites if you’re fancy) but we stuck with a lentil soup and pumpkin spinach pasta that was delicious.  We  brought in some beer we felt obliged to purchase after the guys at the liquor store helped us with directions and no one batted an eye.  This is a very relaxed place where I think almost anything goes.

Zurich beer, natch


After we had our fill of Les Halles we headed back to the city center where we stumbled upon another little gem, Hiltl.  We were intrigued by the animal ads on the outside of the building.

Tiger for Joe, cat for Cat and Abigail and fox for Cameron (love you, mean it.)  A little google translation and we learned that these read: at Hiltl, everyone is happy to be vegetarian.

Joe hearts Tigers
for Cam


Outdoor seating is very popular in Zurich and almost every bar and restaurant, including Hiltl has chairs with blankets and pillows so you can get cozy. It is too cold for me though! IMG_4910

A little more google research and we discovered that Hiltl is recognized as the first vegetarian restaurant in Europe.  Like Les Halles, it also has a multiple personalities, part disco, part juice bar and part enormous vegetarian buffet.  Everyone was friendly and happy to be there – next time we will hit the buffet which gets rave reviews from vegetarians and meat eaters alike.

disco ball spinning at 4pm, nbd


I got way too excited by their live twitter feed on a TV in the middle of the dining/disco area.  Sadly, they retweeted only me and not Joe…..IMG_4904IMG_4905

Joe also hearts tall blondes 😉

All in all, we had a lovely afternoon seeing the sights and taking in two very different establishments with the locals.  It is fun to be anonymous and to be taken outside of your comfort zone for a little while.  Thanks Nelli for the insider scoop!


  1. The food there is amazing, been there quite often 🙂 The “Tibits” I mentioned in my recos belongs to them as well, just a little smaller. Happy you liked it!

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