Virtually every list puts Zurich as one of the cities with the highest standards of living. While the lists can be subjective, the facts are that Zurich is a clean, safe, and efficient city that blends the small-town lifestyle with the opportunities of a big city. It rests on Lake Zurich, cozying up in between the stunning hills while reaching both sides of the Limmat river. Over the centuries the region has developed from a small customs station under the name Turicum to a modern metropolis. Today, Zurich is a vibrant hub of business and culture hosting over 25 million visitors annually. Known for its nature, chocolate, and fondue, Zurich is a great stop for any traveler looking to treat all their senses. The city has one of the highest walking scores, so spending one day in Zurich is easy for any traveler looking to explore as much as possible in a short time!
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Best Time to Visit Zurich
Zurich can be a pleasant destination all year long, but try to adjust the time of your visit according to your interests. Travelers who enjoy spending their time outdoors and don’t mind the higher prices will have the best time from June to August, especially if you have 24 hours in Zurich, as the chances of bad weather are minimal.
If you happen to be in Zurich in August you can be a part of their annual electronic music street parade! Those looking for a local vibe and great deals find autumn or spring the best time to visit Zurich. If you’re a ski-lover, Christmas market enthusiast, and want to experience a post-card picturesque Swiss winter, visit Zurich from December to February.
A Few Facts About Zurich
– St. Peter’s church, located in the Zurich old town, has the largest clock in Europe.
– Zurich airport is so efficient, travelers find layovers of just 40 minutes are enough to make the next flight. Many experienced travelers find Zurich airport the best in the world.
– The city has over 1000 fountains with drinkable tap water. You can fill up your bottle, save your money and the environment.
– While Zurich is an expensive destination, the prices of electronics are the lowest in Europe. If you’re looking to buy a new phone on your trip, it’s best to do it here!
– There are six different ways to spell Zurich – Zurich, Zurigo, Turitg, Zürich, Zuerich and Züri.
– Women held the most political power in Medieval times. The king of Bavaria founded the Fraumünster convent as a gift to his daughter. By the 11th century, the head nuns held almost all political power.
One Day in Zurich Itinerary
The city’s central location and proximity to the airport make Zurich one of the favorite layover spots in Europe. If you’re just stopping by and want to make the best out of your 24 hours in Zurich, here are a few ideas.
Start Your Day With a Rosti
Before your exciting day in Zurich begins, you need to fill up on the calories so you can enjoy the sites uninterrupted by a burst of starvation. Whether you’re arriving from the airport or on a train, you will start your day at the Zurich Main station. If you’re looking for a convenient location to stay with a great value (especially for Zurich!) and a possibility of early check-in, try Hotel Josef. Drop off your stuff and walk down Löwenstrasse to Babu bakery. There are a number of things to try from croissants to focaccias, but if you want to keep it Swiss, try a rosti. The potato-based dish will be a delicious start to your one day in Zurich.
Visit The Swiss National Museum
Right next to the Main Station you will see the Swiss National Museum. Since you’re already there, might as well check out one of the top things to do in Zurich. The exhibition takes you on a historical journey and it’s one of the most important art history museums in the world! You will learn about all the aspects of Swiss history from religion to industry. Even those that easily lose focus can enjoy interactive displays. The entry costs around 10Sfr, but children and the holders of the Zurich Card can enter for free.
A short walk from the National Museum takes you to Jugendkulturhaus Dynamo center where you can stroll alongside Limmat river. The walk is absolutely stunning! There are a few cafes along the way so you can sit down and enjoy the scenery before you make your way to the Old Town.
Try the Zurich Fondue in The Old Town Altstadt Area
20 minutes south from Jugendkulturhaus Dynamo gets you to the historic old town, Altstadt. Narrow cobblestone streets aligned with the medieval houses and town halls from the Renaissance period are a fascinating reflection of Zurich’s history and culture. Start at the popular Niederdorf promenade (or as the locals call it “Dörfli”). You can try the famous Zurich fondue at the Walliser Keller restaurant, and if you’re lucky there will be a spot in the red gondolas in front. Another popular and local favorite is Raclette, try it if you’re in this area.
Now it’s time to see the four historic, reformation churches of Zurich. Start with Predigerkirche and check out the pipe organ. Head south to the Grossmünsterl, a massive romanesque protestant church, if you see just one, see this one!
Local legend states that the cathedral was built on the graves of saints Felix and Regula. Across the river sits Fraumünster, you can download the audio guide and learn all about its history. Finally, head to St. Peter’s, the one with the largest church clock in Europe. If you’re in Zurich during a hot day, all this church-hopping might tire you out. Try Frauenbad Stadthausquai public bath to freshen up!
Treat Yourself at Bahnhofstrasse
From St Peter’s make your way to true luxury on the popular shopping street Bahnhofstrasse. You can shop (or window shop) your heart away. Even if you’re just spending one day in Zurich this street is among the top Zurich things to see.
You can buy a Swiss watch or a Swiss knife, or any other stereotypical thing you can think of! While it’s deemed one of the most expensive streets in the world, even if you’re on a budget you can splurge on Sprungli chocolate.
If you’re a chocolate lover, you’ll find that all the chocolate you had up to this point in your life was tasteless compared to this one. If you’re not a chocolate lover, this will convert you into one. Make someone’s life sweeter, buy them a souvenir here and definitely try luxemburgerli, the Swiss version of a macaron.
Enjoy the View At Lindenhof Hill
Just a few minutes north of Bahnhofstrasse lies the Lindenhof Hill. The idyllic oasis in the center of the city is a good stop to take the perfect photos with the views of the old town as your backdrop. You will find a public square on top of the hill with locals enjoying their days on the thousand-year-old walls. Public drinking is legal in Zurich, so buy yourself a drink and join them as you take in the beauty of Zurich. The hill is good for a short stop. Soak in the view, take your obligatory Instagram photos and head down to the lake.
Stroll Along Lake Zurich to The Opera House
Take the east Lake Zurich walkaway. You can go for a swim, people watch, soak up the sun or sit down and admire the crystal clear water. There are cafes, drinking fountains and cheerful locals all along your way. Spend some time here and then visit the nearby opera house. You can find free wi-fi in front of the Opera House, in case you want to upload all the photos you took so far. The German composer Richard Wagner spent some time here while it was still a theatre in 1834.
If you’re at the opera house at the right time, see a performance. However, even if you’re not, it’s worth seeing! During Christmas, you can find a Christmas market in Zurich right here. Try the Tibits veggie buffet with an excellent choice of vegetarian and vegan options combined with affordable prices.
Visit The Fifa World Football Museum
Zurich is the hometown of the Federation of Association Football or FIFA. Football (or for Americans – soccer) fans finally have a museum! The World Cup gallery is great even if you’re just a seasonal fan. The museum shows the impact of football on the world, you can check out the FIFA World Cup trophy, and enjoy the audiovisual experience combined with the thought-provoking exhibitions. The exhibition takes about an hour so to save time it’s best to buy tickets online. They will cost you about 24 Sfr, but on Tuesdays, you can enjoy a 50% discount!
Watch The Sunset From Zurich RooftopThermal Baths
Once you’re all caught up in the history and impact of football, finish your day in style at the Zurich Thermal Baths located just a few minutes from the museum. You can watch the sunset from a thermal pool on the roof while you sip on a glass of your favorite wine or champagne above the golden lights of Zurich. The spa looks like it would cost you an arm and a leg, but the thermal bath price is around 35 Sfr, which is quite good value for the experience you receive in return. If budget and time are not an issue for you, do the “Irish-Roman” ritual, trust us.
Have Dinner On Bertastrasse
Now you’re relaxed and probably quite hungry. Take the four stops on the 72 tram (or Uber) north to Bertastrasse, a hip and trendy restaurant street. If you’ve tried the best fondue in Zurich and now want something different, you can pick and choose from cuisines all over the world here. You can find Lebanese, Thai and Indian restaurants. For Swiss cuisine try Ms. Harolds Garden. Fit in with the Swiss with your efficiency and reserve your table online.
Head Out On The Town
Zurich’s reputation doesn’t mention nightlife too often, but for those willing to party, there are options. Head back to Niederdorf district in the Old Town. If you want a hotel near the Old Town, the best value for your money is at the artsy CitizenM Zürich, and you can easily find your way from all sides of the city. During the warmer months, the best places to go in Zurich are Rimini and Barfuss Bar – the outdoor clubs with pools and cocktails. If you’re looking for Zurich things to do in the winter try El Lokal, a 2 level bar and eatery or Plaza Klub where you can dance until 4 am!
Where to Stay in Zurich, Switzerland
There are a few options for accommodation near Zurich Airport, but it is so close to the city center it makes sense to pick a hotel in the center. These are the best places to stay in Zurich:
13 Josefstrasse, Escher Wyss, 8005 Zurich
Fantastic value for Zurich and a convenient location for those in rush, Hotel Josef offers express check-in, an on-site bar, and free breakfast. This is the best choice for travelers looking for fast and convenient accommodation. If you are spending one day in Zurich and want to get to exploring right away, you will appreciate the stay in this hotel.
Talacker 42, 1. Zurich Old Town – City Center, 8001 Zurich
In the midst of all the action, CtizenM is great for those wishing to stay out later and have accommodation close to all the bars and restaurants. The artistic interior and lively atmosphere with fantastic modern touches make this hotel one of the best places to stay in Zurich.
The Dolder Grand
Kurhausstrasse 65, Zürichberg, 8032 Zurich
The luxury Dolder Grand has it all, location, comfort, style, and views. Panoramic views, pools, spa’s and plenty of restaurants are the top choices for travelers looking to pamper themselves on their Zurich itinerary. They even offer a limousine service so you can make your 24 hours in Zurich unforgettable!
Best Day Trips From Zurich
Lucerne is a small town just one-hour drive west from Zurich that sits on Lake Lucerne and displays a combination of beautiful scenery with enchanting history. Spend the day shopping, sightseeing and trying out Swiss chocolate. If you happen to find yourself there during February, you can experience the traditional Lucerne Carnival. Art lovers can find works of Picasso and Klee in Lucerne’s Art Museum!
You’ll find the majestic Mount Titlis just an hour and a half south of Zurich. Don’t miss this extraordinary experience! At 3000m above sea level, once you exit the cable car you will be stunned by nature and views. Enjoy the restaurants as you overlook the Swiss alps soaking the sun or if you’re up for some interesting activities, try snow tubing, even during the summer!
Head to the eastern part of the country for some cultural experience in St. Gallen. Book lovers will find themselves lost in the medieval monastic Abbey library of Saint Gall with over 160,000 books available for public use! Fashion lovers can visit the textile museum. Chanel and Dior both use the St. Gallen lace in their clothes and you can find out all about the textile history of this gorgeous town.
Extra Tips For Visiting Zurich
Rent a bicycle – Zurich has a free bike rental program, you just need to give a piece of ID, a deposit of 20 Sfr and you can drive the bike all over the city. Return the bicycle at any of the stands and receive your deposit back.
Visit Urania Sternwarte – Urania Sternwarte is an observatory that’s only open from Thursday to Sunday from 9 pm to 10.15 pm. If you happen to be in Zurich during that time do not miss the chance to go!
Buy the Zurich Card – Save money and purchase the 24 hour Zurich card. You get unlimited travel on public transport as well as discounts and free entrances. Don’t forget to validate!
Watch the Sunrise from Uetliberg – If you are spending one night in Zurich and happen to be awake, make your way to Uetliberg for the best sunrise of your life!
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