Most people know Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city, actually only as Switzerland’s financial centre, home to FIFA and the gateway for a winter sports holiday in the Alps. But Zurich is so much more than the stock exchange and the headquarters of many international organisations.
Zurich has always been known as a clean and efficient city. It is only in the last fifteen years, however, that the city has also become a fun and interesting travel destination for a city trip. Apart from the many places of interest, there are now more than 500 cafés and more than 1,500 restaurants. In the city centre alone there are over 50 museums.
Places to visit in Zurich
Most of the interesting sights are located in the old town around the Limmat River and Lake Zurich.
The Grossmünster is a Protestant Reformed church in the old town of Zurich. Until the Reformation, the Grossmünster was both a parish church and part of a monastery. The characteristic twin towers are the city’s eye-catchers. Climb the Karlstrum Tower for a great view of Zurich. The steps can be quite narrow and steep.
Other beautiful viewpoints in Zurich
In addition to the view from the Karlstrum Tower, there are other viewpoints in Zurich that you shouldn’t miss. One of them is the Zurichberg which you can reach by the Polybahn, a 19th century cable car, and another old cable car, the Rigiblick.
Another beautiful viewpoint can be found on the Üetliberg. You have a beautiful 360-degree view from a high watchtower! You can walk to here. If you are not a big walker, then take the train from Central Station. If you are a walker, go from the viewpoint immediately along the so-called Planetenweg, a walk of over 12 kilometres.
The largest Swiss museum, which actually consists of three museums, shows Swiss history from the beginning to the present. The National Museum Zurich is located in the heart of the city, just a minute’s walk from Central Station. The popular cultural history museum was built in 1898 and consists of an elegant old historic building and a sculptural new wing.
Schanzengraben is a moat that used to be part of the city fortifications between Limmat and Sihl. Together with the adjoining Katz bastion in the old botanical garden and the so-called Bauschänzli stronghold, it is one of the last remnants of the Baroque fortifications of Zurich. The public park is now also a recreational area.
The Bürkliplatz, built at the end of the 19th century, is not only a landing stage for boat trips across Lake Zurich. The square is also the location for art, the fruit, vegetable, flower and flea market, and (sports) events. It offers a beautiful view over Lake Zurich and the Alps.
A city trip to Zurich is not complete without having been at or on Lake Zurich. Take a tour on one of the two old steamships. There are several routes to choose from. One of them leads to the medieval town of Rapperswil.
Zurich Zoo is similar to Burgers Zoo near Arnhem. You will find many different ecosystems, including marshland and the marine world. With the arrival of the new Masoala rainforest, the zoo is really worth a visit!
Promenade along the lake
In summer especially, the lake is a beautiful and pleasant spot to spend an evening or weekend. From Bellevue the promenade runs for about three kilometres along the lake in the direction of Tiefenbrunnen. About halfway to Bellevue there is a large lawn where thousands of people can be found on a sunny day.
Niederdorf, also called “Dörfli” by the locals, is a car-free district within the old town of Zurich with a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere. During the day you can visit the many charming shops. In the evening, Niederdorf, with its many bars and restaurants, turns into a nice, cosy nightlife area.
Lindenhof, the hill in the heart of the old town, was the scene of numerous historical events. In the 4th century there was a Roman fortress, in the 9th a palace was built. Today, the hill is an oasis of peace and a meeting place for fervent chess players. You have a beautiful view over the city.
Frau Gerolds Garten
What started as a temporary beer and vegetable garden in the summer of 2012 has now become a permanent, super cosy meeting place for city dwellers. In the summer a nice terrace with a beautiful view beckons, where you can relax until the late hours. In winter you can visit the wooden chalet with a fireplace and delicious Swiss cheese fondue.
Bahnhofstrasse is one of the busiest and most famous shopping streets in the world. We don’t like shopping during our city trips, but you must see this street when you visit Zurich!
Beyer Watch Museum
The Beyer Watch Museum is located below the very beautiful (and expensive) Beyer Store, Switzerland’s oldest watch shop, on the Bahnhofstrasse. It is a small but interesting museum. They have many watches that are hundreds of years old. Some are really unique!
Accommodation in Zurich
If you come to Zurich by car, it’s a good idea to look for a hotel with a parking space. Driving through the city by car is possible but not very convenient. Find (other) accommodation in Zurich.
Getting around in Zurich
Zurich is known for its highly efficient, clean and safe public transport system. The network includes trams, buses, city trains (S-Bahn), regular trains (SBB), cable cars and boats. Tickets can be bought at a ticket machine or kiosk. Your ticket gives you access to all modes of transport. If you do not start using the public transport until after 9:00 am, take the day pass from that time on. In the weekend you can also travel with it before 9:00 am.
There are two types of public transport boats in Zurich: those for rivers and those for the lake. The river buses are only active during the summer months. They run between the Landesmuseum (near the Hauptbahnhof) along the Limmat river and over the lake from Zurich to Tiefenbrunnen. There are several stops along the Limmat river.
The steamships of the ZSG depart from Burkliplatz. The of ZSG website offers information about tours, destinations, departure times, etc. A popular cruise is the one to Rapperswil on the south side of the lake. This medieval town has a beautiful castle overlooking the lake.
The main train station, the old town and the promenade on the lake and all the nearby tourist attractions are also easy to reach on foot. If you want to do more than just explore the city centre, consider doing so by bike. From 7 in the morning until 9:20 at night, you can use the “Züri rollt” bike for free. Keep in mind that sometimes there won’t be any bikes left.
Best time to visit Zurich
Due to the city’s location in a valley, the weather in Zurich is less changeable than in the rest of the country. Although the summer months are the warmest, you also have a little more precipitation in that period than in other months. Our advice would be to take your city trip to Zurich somewhere between mid-April and mid-October. If you are there in the third week of April, you can celebrate the end of the winter together with the Swiss in a special way.