The Swiss are a nation of hikers, it’s something we do from the early years until we get too fragile to walk. Whether it’s families, a bunch of friends or couples, hiking is hugely popular among all age groups. In this post I’m going to tell you about what the Swiss eat while spending a day hiking!
Swiss snacks for the trail
Hiking is hard work, which is why the Swiss are happy to eat some less healthy but calorie rich snacks on a day of hiking or wandere, as we call it in Swiss German. Some good options from the shops are Biberli, a soft gingerbread filled with sweet almond paste, Ovo Sport which are bars of pressed Ovomaltine powder or small Linzertörtchen, spiced almond cakes filled with redcurrant or raspberry jam.
From a bakery it would be a sweet pastry such as a Mandelgipfel or Nussgipfel (a croissant filled with nut paste) or a Hefeschnecke (a leavened sweet bread with hazelnut paste).
As for savoury snacks, there are many handy options where no knife or plates are needed. The Minipic, Switzerland’s most famous salami-like snack sausage, is high on the list. Landjäger, another smoked sausage is another good option. Or the small Babybel cheeses. All of the above are often eaten together with a freshly baked bread roll such as Bürli, Semmeli or Weggli.
You’ll also likely find an apple in any Swiss person’s backpack. I know of several Swiss who even bring their own apples on holidays abroad. For some reason, Swiss people are very particular about their apples!
Lunch on the campfire
We Swiss love simple outdoor lunches and it’s easy to see why. When hiking, the lunch spot scenery is usually beautiful if not breathtaking, and campfires are generally allowed anywhere. Of course, it is always advised to use existing campfire spots to minimize your impact on nature, and there are so many official and unofficial campfire spots that it’s difficult not to find one. But if there’s really no spot anywhere, simply create your own little firepit. It’s unlikely anyone would complain provided you treat the area with care, put out your fire again and leave no waste behind (this is my own Swiss viewpoint – don’t blame me if you do get told off!).
For me personally, a cold picnic lunch on a hiking trip is acceptable only under special circumstances. For a real hiking experience, a campfire lunch is mandatory for me. Finding the perfect lunch spot (it can take ages for my husband and me to agree! It must have the right amount of sun, shade, good burning wood, enough sitting space, a good view, the list goes on), followed by unpacking our backpacks, collecting firewood, starting and tending the fire, organizing the food, preparing the food that will go on the fire – it’s so much more exciting, satisfying and memorable than simply unwrapping a sandwich.
A typical hiking campfire lunch would look like this in our family: Cervelat (learn all about Cervelat on my blog) or Bratwurst sausages, carved the Swiss way and barbecued on a freshly cut stick from a tree (both the stick and sausages would be cut with a Swiss army knife), Zweifel paprika or provençale potato chips, some boiled potatoes wrapped in aluminium foil for barbecuing in the fire or boiled corn on a cob for barbecuing on the fire, fresh vegetables such as cucumber and cherry tomatoes and some freshly baked Bürli bread rolls.
Or, even better, prepare some dough at home and bring it in a container. Then, at lunch, bake your own delicious Schlangenbrote (snake breads), which are breads wrapped around a freshly cut stick. It’s so much fun and delicious – find our instructions here. If you’re in a hurry, you can also buy pre-made pizza dough in Migros or Coop.
And then there’s the mustard question. The Swiss love their Thomy mustard. However when it comes to mustard on barbecued sausages, opinions differ. Some love mustard on their sausages, while others think of it as a culinary crime. I love Thomy mustard on my sausages and will be irritated whenever I forget to bring a tube to the forest.
No fire, no problem
For a picnic without fire, sandwiches, bread rolls with cured sausages or cheese and some vegetables like cucumber or tomatoes are popular hiking foods as they don’t require much packaging space and they don’t leak in the backpack, unlike a salad or similar. The Swiss are very fond of their Zweifel potato chips, so a packet of those is a must for a Swiss hiking lunch. Favourite flavours are the paprika or the provençale ones.
Don’t forget dessert
As for the dessert, there’s really only one option when eating outside with a campfire, which is the Schoggibanane (chocolate banana). At home, slice your banana on one side, squeeze in as many chocolate pieces as you can and then wrap it in aluminum foil. At lunchtime, once your sausages are cooked and the fire is still hot enough, place the bananas in the fire, chocolate side up, and wait until the chocolate is melted and the banana is soft. Bring spoons to eat your delicious dessert!
What the Swiss drink on the trail
Lastly the drinks. A cooled Swiss beer is always a good option, or any Swiss soft drink. Check out my guide to the most iconic and delicious Swiss soft drinks. Whenever possible I go for the Passaia passion fruit drink from Migros as it reminds me of my childhood in the 1980s, visiting my grandparents in their small terraced house in Winterthur; my grandmother always had a bottle of Passaia ready for us kids. Ideally you find a lunch spot next to a stream where you can cool down your drinks while making the fire.
While my family indulges in a soft drink for lunch, we only drink water during the actual hike. It’s advisable to carry a refillable bottle with you because the Swiss drinking water is of great quality as there is no chlorine or any other additives, and there are drinking fountains everywhere, even in the forests and along mountain paths. The general rule in Switzerland is: unless tagged with a no drinking sign, the water is drinking water.
Text and photos by Little Zurich Kitchen.
This post was first published as a guest post on Moms Tots Zurich, my all-time favourite Swiss family hiking and activities blog. If you need any ideas for great family adventures in Switzerland, check out this great source of information!