Switzerland may be a landlocked country, but in one sense at least it is an island. When the European Union abolished duty free sales to intra-EU passengers in 1999, Switzerland • having never opted to join the Union • became one of the only short-haul destinations from which European passengers could bring home their duty free goodies. It is in effect a duty free island in the heart of Europe, and Zurich Kloten is by far its biggest airport.
Airport authority Unique quickly realised it was sitting on a goldmine, and when it opened a new central passenger terminal • the Airside Center • in 2003, shopping was high on the agenda. As anyone can buy duty free when departing, the traditional duty free products of liquor, tobacco and beauty have ample space in two well-presented stores operated by The Nuance Group.
The liquor and tobacco shop offers as broad a range as you would find in any airport of this size, and the adjoining Davidoff boutique, offering a great selection of the Swiss-owned fine Dominican Republic cigar brand’s products.
The dedicated beauty outlet also offers a great range in a spacious environment, this time with additional focus given to Swiss luxury beauty brand La Prairie, with a separate shop and even a small spa offering quick manicures and facials to customers.
Value is key at Zurich’s duty free shops, and Nuance offers a best price guarantee for its liquor, tobacco and beauty products • giving passengers double the difference if they find a product cheaper in Switzerland. Coupled with a frequent and varied promotional programme • check the dedicated Duty Free Paradise website before you fly • it makes a compelling case for spending some time in these shops. Or if you are short on time (and very organised), take a look at the Duty Free Paradise website and order your goods to pick up.
Pre-ordering is probably a good idea, as you’ll want to explore well beyond the duty free shops. Zurich has many other great outlets, many representing fine Swiss brands. As you would expect, then, these focus on two Swiss specialities; watches/jewellery - with great brands including Swatch, Montblanc pens, Swarovski crystal and Victorinox (Swiss army knifes) all having their own shops - and chocolate. Cuckoo clocks, sadly, remain unrepresented.
For chocoholics, Zurich hosts Boutique de Chocolat, one of the best airport chocolate shops you will find anywhere in the world. Making the most of the fame of Swiss chocolate, national brands of global renown abound here, although there is also a range of brands from further afield. The shop is well organised into sections for different types of chocolate • artisan, dark, white, and so on • while clear signage means that brands are easily identifiable. A full-time chocolatier from Lindt is on hand, and watching him at work can easily kill half an hour as you admire his beautiful creations. At one stage the shop was graced by a scale model of the airport in chocolate • never has a terminal looked more appealing.
While it is easy to get carried away spending at Zurich’s excellent shops, passengers should take care. Although gates are within easy walking distance as the crow flies, you will have to clear a security check to get to them. At peak times there can be big queues. The airport and retailer Nuance cooperate to offer an additional benefit to big spenders • anyone spending over SFr 250 on liquor, tobacco and beauty products can use a fast-track security lane. Not that it should necessarily encourage you to spend more, but if you are already taking advantage of the excellent shopping at the airport, it will make your journey less stressful.
Switzerland took further advantage of its rare status as a European duty free haven when it introduced duty free arrivals shopping in June 2011 at both Zurich and Geneva airports. Arriving passengers can now benefit from a range of perfumes, cosmetics, tobacco and alcohol that can now be purchased on arrival.
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