Looking for a way to get the most out of one day in Zurich? This 24 hours-in-Zurich itinerary is the perfect way to dip your toes into one of Switzerland’s most charming cities!
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Good to Know: This guide to spending one day in Zurich comes to us from Nina Out and About, a passionate solo female travel expert who fell in love with Switzerland during her adventures in Europe.
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An Introduction to Zurich
Zurich is one of the most popular cities to visit in Switzerland, and with good reason.
This booming city still maintains its small-town charm, with medieval architecture and small stone bridges.
Visitors flock to Geneva for its connections to the United Nations and plan to enjoy a summer alongside Lake Lucerne, but don’t anticipate the beauty of Zurich.
They are routinely shocked by the history and splendor of this ancient city.
Because of its location in northern Switzerland, Zurich is very easily accessible for a European trip.
Many gap year adventures include a stopover in this town thanks to the efficient train service from Zurich Hauptbahnhof.
Switzerland is a great solo travel destination. Its friendly locals and well-policed downtown make it one of the best destinations for solo female travel.
Since Zurich is so compact, it’s easy to explore the city in one or two days.
How to Spend One Day in Zurich
Here we go!
Start your day the Swiss way with local Swiss cheese and a croissant.
Unlike many cities where the best food can be found in cafes, grocery stores actually offer equally delightful breakfast offerings.
Check out the deliciously flaky croissants that are far superior to France and cost far less. Pair it with a fresh coffee, some local Edam or Swiss cheese, and some local ham for a yummy breakfast.
If you can’t eat at your accommodation, wander to the Limmat River and sit alongside the shore while you wake up slowly.
Wander Old Town
Wander Old Town Zurich to begin your day before the streets get more crowded.
Old Town Zurich is defined by the Limmat River, which separates this portion of the city from the rest. You’ll notice that you’ve left it if you hit a bridge or somehow fall into the river.
Wandering Old Town is a perfect morning activity with a warm coffee or tea in hand. You’ll enjoy cobblestone pedestrian-only streets, views of medieval architecture, and get to window shop before there are people rushing around you.
Be sure to explore the winding streets, even if you think they don’t lead anywhere. You’d be surprised by how often a stunning church or building façade will appear down an alley in Zurich!
The best views of the city are from Lindenhof Hill. The small hill is a bit of a climb, but the cool water fountain and amazing view make it well worth the effort.
If you’re not sure what to see in Zurich on your own, or want to have a more structured exploration, take a guided walking tour of Old Town. They tend to start later in the morning, which gives you more time for breakfast.
Explore the Churches
On your walk, you’ll reach the two most famous churches in Zurich: Grossmünster and Fraumünster.
Grossmünster is the Protestant Church that many use to orient themselves in the city. Its two domed towers make it easily recognizable. You can stop in to explore the church from 10 am to 6 pm.
If you have a couple of CHF to spare, head up the tower to get a bird’s eye view of the city.
Fraumünster is the most stunning church in Zurich.
Famous for its stained-glass window, this church is lovely to visit on a rainy day. You can turn it into a spookier tour by taking a guided tour of the church and its crypt.
Lunch in Zurich is a challenge – not because there’s nowhere to eat, but because there are too many delicious options!
With cafes around every corner, you’ll become quickly confused by all of the choices.
To help you figure out where to eat for your midday meal, check out the Where to Eat in Zurich section.
These great restaurants are conveniently located throughout Old Town so you’ll be able to find something delicious to eat that works with your one-day Zurich itinerary.
Climb Uetliberg for Views of the Alps
Switzerland is the home of the Swiss Alps. For good reason, the Swiss are very proud of their mountain ranges. The citizens of Zurich are no exception.
Located just 15 minutes from the city by subway, you’ll find Uetliberg. This mountain maintains the natural splendor of Swizterland just outside of one of its main cities.
Uetliberg has been declared a preservation site for local flora. You’ll find it covered in towering trees that offer brief glimpses of Lake Zurich and the surrounding countryside as you hike.
Zurich has thought of everything: if you don’t enjoy walking, you can take a tram close to the top of the mountain so you can still see the sights without the hour-long walk.
This way it will only take you about 10 minutes.
Take your time to enjoy this walk, especially on a sunny afternoon. You can see a better view of the Swiss alps over the trees by climbing the viewing tower.
It costs a couple CHF, but it’s worth it. You’ll be able to see clearly to Mont Blanc!
If you’re hungry, you can even stop it at the restaurant on top of the mountain to get a delicious pot of fondue to fuel you for the walk back down.
See Zurich by Water
Do you still have some energy left before dinner? If you don’t fancy a nap after your hike, check out the Limmat River Cruises.
These hop-on-hop-off water taxi experiences will let you explore the city from a different point of view.
The tours take you through the Limmat River and Lake Zurich, circling the island of Old Town, and offering stops at points of interest along the way.
For the purchase of one ticket, you can stop at each destination to visit the attractions.
If you stay in Zurich for a second day, save the river tour so you can spend the day exploring all of the stops along the route.
Board the Limmat River Cruises at the stop by the Swiss National Museum – which is right beside the stop where you’ll return from your hike up Uetliberg.
Head back into Old Town to dine on a classic Swiss dish: fondue. Swiss Chuchi is a famed restaurant for its fondue. It literally has pages and pages of cheese for you to explore!
Dining at this adorable establishment feels authentic. It’s like you’re in a warm, log Swiss chalet being surrounded by the aroma of hot cheese and fresh bread.
For more suggestions of where to eat, check out the Where to Eat in Zurich section.
After dinner, you may be in too much of a cheese coma to consider doing much.
Most people tend to grab some chocolate truffles and head to bed.
If you’re up for a more exciting night, head to Niederdorf.
This area of Old Town located along the Limmat River is known for its bars and nightlife. You’ll be sure to find a bar or club that suits you as you explore the options.
Although the Swiss aren’t known for their partying, they have a lot of variety.
You’ll find local bars, mixologist bars, and high-end clubs. Remember: the fancier you go, the most expensive the cocktails. In a nation famed for their expenses, this is saying something!
Staying Another Day? Here’s What to Do with 2 Days in Zurich
If one day in Zurich wasn’t enough for you, here are some ideas for things to do on your second day in Zurich.
Visit the Swiss National Museum
The Swiss National Museum is full of interesting information about the country’s heritage. You’ll learn about their involvement in the World Wars, their national animals, and about historical dress in Switzerland.
Visit Kunsthaus for Artwork
Kunsthaus is the art gallery in Zurich where you can enjoy the works of Van Gogh, Picasso and more!
Lindt Home of Chocolate
Looking for Wily Wonka’s Chocolate Factory in the real world? You’ll find it at Lindt Home of Chocolate! It’s one of the largest chocolate shops in the world. You can even make your own chocolate treat there!
Where to Eat in Zurich
Switzerland is best known for fondue and chocolate. So, of course, your day in Zurich should feature as much cheese and chocolate as possible!
Head to Swiss Chuchi for the best fondue in Zurich.
This restaurant literally serves nothing but fondue and raclette (essentially you put the melted cheese on the items rather than dipping them in).
Somehow their menu still manages to span over 8 pages of fondue options for you to try.
The classic is a safe bet. Order a side of apples, ham, or vegetables to dip in alongside the complimentary bread.
Although you can get chocolate fondue at Swiss Chuchi, it’s better to get some chocolate truffles. There are dozens of chocolate shops, but the best one is Sprungli.
You’ll find it located in the basement of the Zurich train station. Here you can get an assortment of truffles for a reasonable price without sacrificing on the quality!
However, there are places to eat for those who are lactose intolerant or not fans of fondue.
If you’re looking for something else to eat, check out these options:
· Haus Hiltl for vegetarian dishes
· Restaurant les Halles for classic French fare in an indie atmosphere
· Volkshaus for more traditional Swiss food
· Fischer’s Fritz for local seafood
· Kronenhalle for a welcoming atmosphere
Tips for Saving Money in Zurich
Visiting Switzerland can quickly throw off your travel budget. With everything being much more expensive than in its neighboring France or Germany, many visitors find themselves overspending.
While it’s fine to splurge for a day, if your day trip to Zurich is part of a larger European holiday, you’ll want to find ways to avoid overspending.
· Museums in Switzerland are largely free. Google some local free museums to find places you can spend a rainy day without paying a costly fee.
· Public transportation is much easier than taxis. In fact, Zurich is a very walkable city.
· Don’t stay in the city center. Get a cheaper accommodation option on the outskirts of the city.
· Eat breakfast at your accommodation or by getting croissants from the grocery store (they’re genuinely better than in France).
· Skip costly tower entrance fees for “stunning views”. You’ll get better views by exploring the sloping mountains nearby for free!
· There is free water at every fountain. Switzerland has incredibly clean water. Just bring a reusable bottle!
· Although all Swiss people speak English, it’s a good idea to learn how to say hello when you’re abroad. In Zurich, people commonly say the French “bonjour” or “salut”. However, German is also very popular and the Swiss-German greeting is “Grüezi”.
· Visit Zurich for the Christmas markets or the spring festival where you can watch them shoot flaming arrows at snowmen (it’s an annual tradition!).
5 Things to Pack for Your Trip to Switzerland
It can be hard to find big, international guidebooks once you land (or they’ll be way overpriced). Get yours ahead of time, either a hard copy or on a Kindle.
An Unlocked Cell Phone so that you can use a Swiss sim card while here to help navigate public transportation and when you’re on the road.
Backup Charging Bank for your cell phone since you’ll be using it as a camera, GPS system, and general travel genie.
A Waterproof Passport Holder so that if something happens when you are near the water, your passport and important IDs don’t get wet.
I’ve seen people denied boarding on flights due to wet passports, and you can technically not be allowed to go over the border.
A Great Day Bag so you can carry what you need with you (like your camera, snacks, water, sunscreen, cash, etc).
My current favorite is the Pacsafe Citysafe, which is especially great for Nashville because it has many anti-theft features designed to deter pickpockets.
It also transitions to a night bag more easily and won’t embarrass you if you go to dinner directly after sightseeing all day.
More Switzerland Travel Resources
Here are more Switzerland travel guides to help you plan your complete Switzerland trip!
Switzerland Country Guides
Love chocolate? Check out the best Switzerland Chocolate Factory Tours.
Swiss City Itineraries
Use these itineraries to plan your time in Switzerland:
Included in These Round-Ups
Don’t Forget about Travel Insurance Before Visiting Switzerland!
Whenever I go on a trip, I always make sure to get travel insurance!
The company World Nomads is the travel insurance company I always look to first, and I happily recommend them!
I always make sure to get travel insurance whenever I’m going to be in a foreign country.
While I feel safe traveling through Europe, I know that being in foreign cities can make you an easy target of pickpockets, and outdoor activities can end in injury.
I don’t want either of these scenarios to ruin my trip or come for my wallet!
It makes my life easier knowing if something should happen, I’ll be able to take care of it!