Business hours in Switzerland
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Switzerland’s reputation for calmness and domesticity is borne out by its down-to-earth attitude to the consumer revolution: in contrast to most of the rest of the Western world, Swiss laws on strictly limited opening times reflect universal public concern to uphold the rights of serving staff at the expense of consumers. The classic example of this, which will raise the eyebrows of hard-nosed Londoners, New Yorkers and Sydneysiders alike, is that banks, post offices, shops, supermarkets – just about everything – in even quite large Swiss towns shut between noon and 2pm, to allow staff to go home for lunch.

Shop opening hours are customarily Mon–Fri 9am–noon & 2–6.30pm, Sat 8.30am–noon, although it’s becoming more common in the bigger cities to ignore the lunch break and also stay open on Saturdays until 4pm; the flipside is that many places then take Monday morning off. Quiet Sundays are sacrosanct. Most towns operate universal late opening until 9pm for one day a week, generally Thursday (Friday in Graubünden). Shops and cafés in the subterranean malls at train stations stay open daily, and also close later.

Cafés fall into two broad categories. Those that open in the morning for coffee and breakfasts might then close when the shops shut, at about 6 or 6.30pm. Some, though, open for lunch or in mid-afternoon, and then metamorphose into bars until midnight or so. Those that serve full meals (which is most of them) will only do so at the customary mealtimes: roughly noon to 2pm and 6 to 10pm. Outside those hours, you’ll generally be able to find only snacks. Formal restaurants keep to the same mealtimes, closing altogether in-between times. Closing times of all establishments are regulated by each individual municipality: Lausanne, for instance, carouses until 1am, Lugano insists on midnight, while Bern plumps for 12.30am. All places can stay open an hour later than normal on Friday and Saturday nights.

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