Zurich was the first major Swiss city I visited on my three week trip to Switzerland. I had never been there before and was not sure quite what to expect. My only experiences of Switzerland so far had been Geneva and Lugano which I gathered were quite different to Zurich.
Because I was based in Saint Gallen, I was only in Zurich properly for one full day exploring (aside from coming in and out for smaller things) but you can definitely see a lot in this time. I found Zurich to be stunningly beautiful and full of places to explore. Although the city is the sixth most expensive in the world, there are ways to get around this. I made it my challenge to try and see as much of Zurich for as little as possible. And yes, that was hard.
Language: Swiss German
Currency: Swiss franc (CHF)
Main station: Zurich Hauptbahnhof
Airport: Zurich Flughafen
WANDER THE STREETS OF ZÜRICH
This could honestly take up all of your day – it is stunning! The little cobblestone alleyways are full of gorgeous buildings with shuttered windows. Lots of the buildings are ornately painted and really grab your attention. The streets wind up and down the gentle hills and each one holds some kind of surprise. I was amazed by how many of them revealed a hidden church or Christmas market.
Zurich in its entirety is lovely to wander around but the old town is definitely the winner. Here is where you really feel as though you are in a fairy tale. And the best bit about exploring the old area? It’s absolutely free!
COUNT THE FOUNTAINS
Apparently there are 1200 fountains in Zurich and I would definitely believe that! There are fountains everywhere and many of them are beautiful and ornate. When wandering through the city make sure you keep your eye out for them.
VISIT THE CHRISTMAS MARKETS (IN WINTER)
If you happen to be in Zurich for in the festive season then you must visit the Christmas markets in front of the Opera House. Set beside the lake, these markets are beautiful! The stalls are all painted in matching red and the items for sale are beautiful. To top it all off there is a carousel at the end of the market. Although not the largest Christmas market it really is lovely and compact. Impeccably designed and full of festive atmosphere it really does add some charm to your day. Once again, exploring these markets is totally free (unless you decide to indulge in some glühwein – which you probably will).
In 2016 the market ran from November 24 until December 23, so if you are around at this time you should check it out! For more details about what you can experience at the markets visit Zuerich.com.
SOAK UP THE VIEW FROM THE LIDENHOFF
I stumbled upon this by accident and it was a wonderful surprise. If you want a great view of Zurich for free then head to Lidenhoff, the walk up is through many beautiful cobbled streets and eventually opens up to this view. It is a small park which overlooks the city and gives unspoiled views over Zurich and Grossmünster. The park is also a lovely place for lunch with lots of benches and drinking fountains.
GRAB A SAUSAGE FROM STERNEN GRILL
Sternen Grill is a busy place to stop for lunch but it is fairly well priced for Zurich. It sells sausages and beer so if you want to sample the local wurst then this is the place for you! For around 10CHF you can get yourself a wurst and beer. It was the cheapest place I could find in the touristy area of the city and was good value. The line can get long though because it is a super popular eatery.
If 10CHF is still a little out of your budget then never fear because groceries aren’t actually too expensive in Switzerland (if you buy home brand). I found them to be comparable with Australia but the supermarket-branded foods are actually pretty good quality. For 7CHF from Co-Op I got a 200g packet of smoked salmon, rye bread, and crème fraiche with herbs. This made enough for four luxurious sandwiches which could be eaten by the lake – more than enough for two people! Ahh, only in Zurich is it cheaper to have smoked salmon lunches per person at 3.50CHF than get an espresso from McDonalds for 3.90CHF.
On that note, coffee is very expensive here and difficult to find! I did not find a cheap place in Zurich despite looking. I settled for one which was 3CHF for an espresso. It was good but pricey. Let me know if anybody finds one!
WALK BY LAKE ZURICH
Lake Zurich is huge and you could spend a very long time walk along it. Taking a stroll along the banks is a peaceful break from the often busy city. If you don’t wish to stray from the city too much, the lake turns into the Limmat which meanders through the city itself. This is a gentle walk as well and takes you through many beautiful parts of Zurich.
VISIT THE GROSSMÜNSTER
Grössmunster is a truly spectacular church from the outside and inside. This church is iconically Zurich so it is 100% worth a visit. It is free to look around the church and if you wish to climb up for the viewpoint you can do it for 4CHF. This viewpoint offers fantastic vistas over the whole city. The viewpoint is only open at certain times during the day so be sure to check those out.
GO WINDOW SHOPPING ON BAHNHOFSTRASSE
Banhofstrasse is a very long street which begins at Zurich HB. It is lined with shops both affordable and high end – perfect for window shopping and people watching. Strolling up and down here is something that is definitely worthwhile.
SEE A CONCERT AT TONHALLE
The Zurich Tonhalle is a beautiful old building and it plays host to many spectacular concerts. I saw Pollini play at the Tonhalle and it was a marvellous experience. The seats for this concert were 25CHF so it does not have to be an overly expensive thing to do. Even being in the building is stunning let alone the musical delights.
17 thoughts on “24 Hours In Zurich, Switzerland”
Wow 1200 fountains, that’s crazy!
The Lidenhoff viewpoint sounds really good. I haven’t been to Zurich yet, but hoping to visit Switzerland next year. It looks incredible although how expensive it is puts me off a bit. What kind of budget would you suggest for food and sightseeing (ie no hotels etc)?
Hi Mike! It sure is an amazing place to visit but the prices are unfortunately freakily expensive. I actually just wrote an article on my budget recommendations for Switzerland: http://thetraveltextbook.com/travelling-switzerland-budget/ if you want to check it out.
Let me know if you have any questions!
Appreciate this post. Will try it out.
Limmat looks like it could be one of those cities by the lake painting. It also felt like a place where the town in “beauty and the beast” could have been shot. So pretty. The Christmas market looks enticing, and seems family-friendly and romantic, what with the carousel. We live by the lake too, and we love it. It would be sweet to visit Limmat someday ?
I never thought about visiting Zurich. Would love to go now! I like that they have so many places to sight see for free. It seems like Winter is a good time to go may have to add to my bucket list.
looking forward to visiting Zurich. sounds interesting. appreciate this post
Love the photos, what camera do you use? Blog posts like these always make me want to visit these places although I can’t currently afford it.
Zurich is definitely on my bucket list. I am saving this article on SU to use it once I am there. Thanks for sharing thorough information about this beautiful city.
Love Zurich, even if I am from Geneva… Lovely city and lovely guide. Hope you enjoyed our beautiful country!
Love the tips and tricks! My friend lives in Zurich and I have to visit her soon! 🙂
The Christmas markets really look like the ones I saw in Russia. Quaint and pretty. It has a community vibe to it. I loved them a lot. Browsing through for tidbits was my favorite pastime.
A great guide – love that you have included a map too. That smoked salmon looked delish 😉
My partner and I visited Zurich December 2015. It was every bit as gorgeous as you describe. The Christmas market at the opera house was beautiful and we found that the food stalls were a more inexpensive way of eating in this expensive city. I would definitely recommend trying traditional fondue and raclette whilst there. Also, if you have time, take the tram out the the industrial quarter of the city for a more modern and urban experience of Zurich. Visiting the Uetliberg viewing tower (a short tram ride away) is a must, with spectacular views of lake Zurich and the alps. I definitely plan on going back here in the near future!
I did lots of window shopping in Zurich! Great guide it is as you say an expensive city but looking her beauty whilst eating smoked salmon seems the perfect way to go.
I totally need to go here! The markets look lovely too.
Such a сool info! Rｅally a must-read and a discovery!
It ѕeriously worked for me thanks.
I lived in Zurich for a year back in the early 1970s (I was in my 20s), living in the Niederdorf (part of Zurich’s old town). It was a fun, crazy and creative time in the Swiss city — lots of music, art and bohemian lifestyles going on. One correction: The park you referred to is Lindenhof — not Lidenhoff. And speaking of churches, artist Marc Chagall created a five-part stained glass window series (plus a rosette) for the Fraumunster church — built on the grounds of a former abbey for aristocratic women. Beautiful!