September 19, 2023

Cooperative Swiss: Shopping and saving in the Alps

There’s a Coop not far from the statue of the late, great Freddie Mercury at Montreux
… an extra bonus is the free loo near the entrance!

In Switzerland, the Coop is your friend. Jim Mathers loves the way Swiss shop.

While Switzerland is amongst the most scenically beautiful destinations in the world, it is also amongst the most expensive to visit. Coop is a chain of generally very well-stocked supermarkets (Migros is another, but we found Coop to be a bit better). You’ll find these outlets everywhere and you’ll almost always find one near a train station. One of the great things about Coops is their range of pre-prepared foods. You can pick up a ham and cheese sandwich, salad roll, a vege wrap, dozens of types of cheese, a sausage roll, a full salad plate, some fresh pastries and all manner of drinks, including beer and wine. This is handy if you’re jumping on a long-distance train and don’t want to spend big bucks on an onboard meal. 

With water, I’d recommend bringing your own water bottle and filling it up with crystal clear Swiss water whenever it needs a top up. It’s better for the environment and will save you having to buy that 6 Swiss Franc (A$10.40) bottle of water on a long-distance train trip (beer is cheaper). 

This one is in Zurich ‘old town’ along the Limmat River.

Eating out in restaurants in Switzerland will usually cost you a pretty penny. While it’s a nice thing to do, it will burn a hole in your pocket if you’re doing it twice a day, every day. A Coop is a good alternative if you’re staying at a destination and want to have a picnic rather than always eating at a cafe or restaurant. You can grab supplies (supporting beverages included) for a picnic lunch or early dinner somewhere beside a lake, rather than eating in. There are mountain views around every second corner here, and in Summer and the shoulder seasons it is light until late, so toss out a towel and soak up the views while you consume your more modestly priced ‘supermarket’ feast. It’s a good option. You’ll save a lot of money if you can do this once a day. 

Coops also sell chemist items, so you can ibuprofen-up before enduring the headache of your next arduous journey towing the 20kg of luggage you swore you’d never bring. Make sure you bring your sunscreen from home though. Even in a Coop it’s about 23-26 francs (A$39-$45) a bottle. Both your skin and wallet will thank you.

TIP: The SBB transport portal is a brilliant tool for anyone travelling in Switzerland. It has comprehensive trip info and you can buy tickets, store them and track your trips. The SBB app in particular is the best I’ve ever used.

Now freelancing, Jim Mathers was managing editor of RACQ's The Road Ahead for nearly 25 years. He's also pretty handy on the guitar.

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