Oh Zurich. We met for only a day but I was instantly attracted to you. Like Oslo in Norway you’re expensive, but I loved your elegant watches, tailored clothes, private banks and beautiful men. I’d love to get to know you better, but alas I only had one day! I hope we meet again. ~ Pommie
After a 10-day rail trip exploring the Baden-Wurttenburg area of Germany, I decided to take a train across the border from Konstanz to Zurich and visit a whole new country- Switzerland.
I’m so glad I did because I found Zurich to be an incredibly scenic place with lots of fantastic places to eat for a foodie like myself.
With only one day in Zurich to explore, I arrived at 12pm and had just one afternoon to see as much of the city as possible. Thankfully it’s a very walkable city, which made it possible to cover a fair bit of ground.
If you only 24 hours, here’s how to spend one day in Zurich.
A quick intro to Zurich
- Currency – Swiss franc
- Language – Swiss German
- Airport – Zurich Airport ZRH
Zurich is Switzerland’s largest city and one of the world’s largest financial centers.
Zurich 1 Day Itinerary
Go Window Shopping on Bahnhoffstrasse
Money, money, money, it’s a rich man’s world. Zurich’s expensive shopping street is lined with designer shops and private banks. If you stroll along the sidewalk in the afternoon you’ll see lots of tall, good looking Swiss bankers grabbing a bite to eat in their lunch hour. Gaze into the shop windows of Chanel, Cartier, Louis Vuitton and dream of what watch you would buy if you came into a small fortune.
Buy Some Chocolate at Sprungli
Sprungli has been around for over 170 years and is well-known for its excellent Swiss chocolate and confectionery. You’ll see several branches throughout the city, but you must visit the big store at 21 Bahnhofftrasse. Grab a window seat in their first-floor café and enjoy a coffee along with something sweet. On your way out, pop in their ground-floor shop to buy some of their famous luxembergerli macaroons to take home as a present.
Visit the Beyer Watch Museum (Uhrenmuseum )
Switzerland is famed for its watches and timepieces, so make sure you pay a visit to the Watch Museum, which is located in the basement of the Beyer watch shop halfway along Bahnhofstrasse. Inside you’ll find a collection of instruments used for measuring time from the Egyptians to the present day. There are lots of beautiful clocks and watches to see and the staff are very helpful if there’s anything you would like to know. Admission costs 8 Swiss Francs.
Admire the view from Lindenhof
Next it’s time to walk up to Lindenhof, which is a pretty little square on a hill in the city centre. Sit on one of the benches and admire the gorgeous views over the Limmat and the Old Town. It’s definitely a romantic, peaceful spot and the best place for taking photos of the city.
Have lunch at Juice Market
The guidebooks will tell you about all sorts of tourist restaurants and fondue places, but my personal favourite for lunch is a cute café just off Bahnhofstrsasse called Juice Market. If you’re into healthy food this place serves fresh juices, salads, jacket potatoes and coffee. Pull up a seat outside and watch people walk by!
Visit the Grand Church (Grossmunster)
With its unmistakable two towers, Grossmunster church is a major landmark in Zurich. Pay the fee of 4 Swiss Francs and climb up the 187 steps to the tower for views over the city.
Sip on a cup of a coffee at Café Schober
Situated just off Niederdorfstrasse, Café Schober is one of Zurich’s oldest coffee houses. Order a coffee or a hot chocolate and choose one of the gorgeous sweet treats from the display cabinets!
Go To the Opera House
The Zurich Opera House is a grand building right next to Lake Zurich, which was built in 1891 by Austrian architects Ferdinand Fellner and Hermann Helmer. You can just take photos from the outside or you can purchase tickets to the opera online, over the phone or at the ticket booth.
Walk by the Lake
From the Opera House, take a stroll alongside picturesque Lake Zurich, where you’ll see swans floating gracefully on top of the water.
Enjoy a beer at Zeughauskeller
Zurich has several beer halls should you wish to try a Swiss pint. Zeughauskeller is a big beer hall in a medieval arsenal just off Bahnhofstrasse, serving hearty Swiss food and of course plenty of beer. You share the tables with other people, so it’s fairly easy to make some new friends!
Finish the day with cheese fondue
OK if this is your first time in Switzerland you can’t leave Zurich without trying the Swiss speciality- cheese fondue, which basically involves dipping cubes of bread into a big pot of bubbling cheese. I enjoyed an incredible fondue at Swiss Chuchi, which is in the heart of Niederdorf in the Old City. Order Adler’s special blend with a mix of four aged-cheeses and wash it down with a glass of their Pinot Noir. They also have meat fondue and an extensive dessert menu should you have room for more! It is extremely popular and there was a 20-minute wait when I got there at 7pm, but there is a little waiting room where you can enjoy a drink and some peanuts.
Where to stay in Zurich
I like to enjoy nice food and drink, but Zurich is an expensive city. So I saved on my accommodation by staying at City Backpacker Hostel (Hotel Biber) which is right in the heart of the Old Town. You can’t beat the location as it is in the heart of Niederdorf, although you do have to walk up several spiral staircases to get to it because there is no elevator! There are 6-person dorms, and some private rooms, along with a common area, communal showers, a shared kitchen and rooftop terrace.
If you’re looking for hotels, here are some suggestions…
Mid-range: Located in the upcoming area of Zurich West, the 25 Hours hotel is a trendy Design Hotel designed by award-winning interior designer Alfredo Häberli. Throughout the hotel you’ll find the designer’s favourite city hotspots scribbled down on various surfaces and objects.
Luxury: The Widder Hotel is a 5-star luxury hotel situated within 9 protected historic houses in the heart of the old town. Each of the rooms is unique and completely unique in atmosphere.
For more hotel ideas, see a full list of hotels on Booking.com.
Is one day in Zurich enough?
Zurich is small and walkable so you can easily explore most of Zurich in a day if you get up early. If you don’t want to rush around and you’d rather have a more leisurely experience, then 2 days would be a good amount of time in Zurich.
How to get around Zurich
Best way – by foot or bike
Zurich’s city center is best explored on foot, particularly the Old Town since it has narrow, cobblestone streets. You can also get around by bike since the City of Zurich offers free bike rentals. Bike rentals can be found outside the main train station, Hauptbahnhof and you’ll just need to show them your passport and provide a refundable deposit of 20 Swiss Francs.
If you’re venturing further, Zurich has an excellent public transportation system (VBZ) consisting of trams, trains, buses and boats to help people get around. Taxis and Uber are available but they’re expensive, so the tram is generally the best option. Before you board the tram you’ll need to purchase a single ticket or a day pass at one of the automated ticket machines or a ticket office. Fares operate on a zone system but generally you can expect a single ticket to cost around 2.70 Francs.
Should you get the Zurich card?
If you have more time…
Decided to stay another day or two? Here are some more things you can do…
Take the S10 train outside of the city to Uetliberg- a mountain that towers 869 metres above sea level. From the station it’s a 10-minute walk to the peak where you’ll also find a lookout tower and a restaurant. The mountain offers beautiful views over the city, the lake and the Alps.
Take a cruise on the Lake:
If it’s nice weather, take a boat trip on the lake with Lake Zurich Navigation Company. The shortest lake cruise lasts 90 minutes and the longest lasts 4 hours.