It helps to have a list of the best things to do in Zurich if you’re visiting the largest city in Switzerland. The variety of Zurich attractions includes something for everyone, from visiting ancient churches to browsing boutique shops.
The financial capital of the country is a luxurious destination with picturesque surroundings and a historic old town area. It’s also an upscale city with high-end shopping and dining. You also have a chance to escape the crowds with trips to various parks and gardens.
The city has a rich, vibrant culture and is recognized as one of the world’s most livable cities year after year. It’s also one of Europe’s hippest destinations, touting a Bohemian post-industrial aesthetic.
While Zurich has embraced contemporary trends, there’s still an ancient centre to explore, drawing visitors in with old-world winding lanes that are dotted with church steeples.
Don’t know where to go in Zurich? Find ideas for your trip with this guide to the best places to visit in Zurich.
Table of Contents
- What to do in Zurich: Top attractions and best places to visit
- Where to stay in Zurich
- Beyond Zurich: Other places to go in Switzerland
What to do in Zurich: Top attractions and best places to visit
Walk the stone streets of Old Town (Altstadt)
A trip through Old Town (Altstadt) is one of the best things to do in Zurich. It’s also a good idea to start in Old Town if you only have one day in Zurich, as you can quickly reach most of the landmarks in the city.
Old town is a collection of historic houses and narrow lanes with stone paving. You never need to worry about what to do in Zurich as you explore the old town. Around every corner is another one of the top Zurich attractions, such as Grossmünster, Peter’s Church, and Fraumunster.
You’ll also pass dozens of small shops, restaurants, and bakeries. If you’re staying overnight, Old Town is the best spot in the city for nightlife. It has the highest concentration of clubs in the country, with dozens of popular late-night spots.
Enjoy the city skyline from one of the towers of Grossmünster
The Twin Towers of Grossmünster are the most recognizable addition to Zurich’s skyline. Built in the 12th-century, the Great Minster is a Protestant church with Romanesque architecture. You’ll notice Roman columns around the exterior with detailed carvings of grotesques.
Admiring the exterior is fun, but the real reason to visit is to climb one of the towers. For a small admission fee, you can travel to the top of the bell tower. Staring out over the city from the bell tower is one of the best things to do in Zurich. You can see the waterfront area and many of the city’s landmarks.
Explore an ancient crypt under Fraumunster Church
Along with Grossmünster, Fraumunster is one of the most visited Zurich points of interest. The tall green spire stands above the other architecture in the area.
The church itself isn’t very impressive, but it does have a few interesting features, including stained glass windows. The windows were added in 1970, over 1,000 years after the church was first built.
You can also visit the crypt below the abbey. It was opened to the public in 2016 and includes a variety of old relics. Unfortunately, you’ll need to book a tour to see the inside of the church. Touring the interior is by appointment only.
Shop and stroll along Bahnhofstrasse
Your Zurich sightseeing tour will likely take you through Bahnhofstrasse. It’s the main street in Zurich for shopping, located in the downtown area. It’s also one of the world’s most expensive places to shop.
The street is mostly pedestrianized, allowing you to leisurely browse the shops and admire the surrounding architecture. If you visit around the holidays, you’ll also find a massive Christmas market near the train station.
You’ll likely recognize many of the name brand shops in the area, with a variety of high-end clothing shops and electronics stores. Find the latest and most expensive shoes, accessories, jewellery, watches, and more.
Take a boat ride around Lake Zurich
There are plenty of things to see in Zurich and most of them are visible from Lake Zurich. The banana-shaped lake borders part of the city and includes a wide range of activities. You can rent a boat, take a boat tour, or simply walk around the waterfront promenades.
A long walking path borders most of the lake near Zurich. Locals often relax along the path to cool off on hot days, thanks to the lakefront breeze. Other fun things to do in the area include watching the boats, swans, and ducks.
If you’re planning on swimming in the lake, it’s best to visit during the summer. Temperatures reach 20-degrees Celsius. If it’s too cold for your tastes, there are also a few public baths in the area.
Hop a train to the Summit of Uetliberg
Uetliberg stands out as one of the top points of interest in Zurich, thanks to its view of the city. It’s one of the summits of the Albis chain of mountain ridges and provides a panoramic view of Zurich. You can see the entire Old Town area from the top of the mountain.
Luckily, you don’t need to climb a mountain to enjoy the view. Uetliberg railway station is a relatively short walk from the summit. The walking paths are also easy to traverse, but not handicap accessible.
While the view from the summit is immersive, the best view is from the observation tower. You need to pay an extra fee, but it’s worth the cost.
Browse boutique shops on Limmatquai
If you want to know where to go in Zurich to browse charming little boutique shops, visit Limmatquai. The riverside shopping street is lined with historic architecture housing a wide variety of shops and cafes. It’s a quaint area to explore and one of the best places to visit in Zurich for historic sightseeing.
Limmatquai is also recommended if you can’t afford the stores on Bahnhofstrasse. Shop for souvenirs or chocolate without blowing your budget. As with Bahnhofstrasse, it’s a pedestrianized shopping street, but with fewer shops. The river is on one side of the street and the shops are on the other.
As you travel the street, you’ll eventually reach the Rathaus. The Rathaus is Zurich’s town hall and one of the top spots for photo opportunities.
Where to stay in Zurich
Although it’s the biggest city in Switzerland, figuring out where to stay in Zurich isn’t so challenging. Central Zurich is fairly compact and many of the top tourist attractions in Zurich & best accommodations lie in and around Old Town (Altstadt). Here are a few of the best hotels in Zurich to start your search…
- Hotel Adler: Occupying a 16th-century building in Niederdorf, this charming hotel is one of the oldest in Zurich. It includes an on-site restaurant serving up classic Swiss cuisine.
- CitizenM Zurich: Located in the historic centre of Zurich, this lovely 4-star hotel offers hip & modern rooms that defy the usually tightly-packed Zurich room standard.
- Hotel Schweizerhof Zurich: An elegant hotel located just steps away from Zurich Hbf (main train station) and a short walk to the charms of Altstadt. The hotel is super quiet & comfortable, offering soundproof rooms and adjustable beds.