HOW TO EXPLORE ZURICH IN 1 DAY
Are you planning a one-day in Zurich trip? If so, this post will help you plan your Zurich itinerary for 1 day. Find out, how to spend a day in this lively city.
Welcome to Zurich, Switzerland! This enchanting city is the perfect place for a holiday getaway. Whether you’re looking for a relaxing weekend break at the lake or an adventure filled with sightseeing and exploration, Zurich has something for everyone.
Zurich feels like home – after endless visits, I still do not get enough. Whether it is spring, summer, fall, or winter – I always love to come back “home”. So, these are my tips from one of my favorite cities for my readers! Yes, just for you :).
With a little planning ahead, you can easily make the most of your one day in Zurich and experience the best of what the city has to offer. So grab your camera and get ready for an unforgettable visit to Zurich!
TRAVEL TIPS FOR ONE DAY IN ZURICH
Before jumping to your actual Zurich itinerary, here are a few quick tips to make the most of your travel day.
HOW TO GET AROUND ZURICH
🚘 DO I NEED A CAR FOR ONE DAY IN ZURICH?
The answer is: No, you definitely do not need a car. Actually, it will cause more stress to navigate through the city center of Zurich – where you will spend most of your day – than being a helpful mode of transport.
🚶🏾♀️ IS ZURICH WALKABLE?
Yes, Zurich is a very walkable city. The city center is quite compact and most of the attractions are clustered together. For this itinerary, you can mostly walk – you will need a ticket for the Uetlimountain and a Lake Zurich boat cruise, but if you are semi-fit, your legs are your best bet for most of the day in Zurich.
Just make sure to wear very comfortable shoes…Cobbled-stoned streets is all I need to say for the old towns in Central Europe.
🚊 DOES ZURICH HAVE A GOOD PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM?
Yes, Zurich has amazing public transport.
The best way to explore Zurich is by taking the tram, bus, or ferry if you cannot walk to a certain sight or your legs are too tired. The city has an extensive network of public transportation that makes it easy and affordable to get around. Taxis are also available, but they tend to be more expensive than other modes of transport.
So I recommend getting around by tram/bus. With the Zurich Card, you can use public transport, which is great to explore much of the city.
Public Transport is pretty good, and you can rely on it. You also have free entry to several museums in Zurich. Click here to find out more and check out prices for the Zurich Card.
🎟️ If you have a Swiss Travel Pass, you will not need an extra Zurich Card. With the Swiss Travel Pass, you can use unlimited public transportation, even use the boat, and get access to many museums and some attractions without any extra fee. Click here to find out more about the Swiss Travel Pass.
🚴🏽♀️ IS ZURICH BIKE-FRIENDLY?
One of the fun things to do in Zurich is to rent a bike and explore this beautiful town on two wheels. The best thing about it is…it does not cost a dime. Nothing! Not one cent. This news is awesome! All you just need is a deposit of 20 CHF and a credit card and then you let your bike trip start.
WHERE TO STAY FOR ONE NIGHT IN ZURICH
Here are three places that are great choices for your overnight stay in Zurich.
I recommend staying in or at least close to the city center to make the most of your short trip to Zurich. However, since public transport is pretty good, you can also book a hotel a bit further away, and you will still be mobile. My full accommodation guide for Zurich is here.
BUDGET: Oldtown Hostel Otter – Warning, there are not many budget hotels in Zurich. This is a good-rated hostel in Zurich. I stayed here once and for a hostel, it actually was quite good for a hostel – especially because of its great location.
SOLO FEMALE TRAVEL IN ZURICH
I often visit a friend in Zurich but spend a lot of time on my own (and sometimes with my dog Puppygak). Zurich is one of the best places to travel solo as a female. Or to put it differently: Zurich is a safe place.
Though the Swiss people are not necessarily the most open-minded, it is still easy to make friends, and most important of all, I feel safe even at night.
I avoid side streets at night – as I do everywhere – but do not feel the need to take extra precautions. Just exercise common sense. Here is more about solo traveling in Switzerland
MORE TIPS FOR YOUR ONE DAY ZURICH TRIP
ℹ️ Bring a refillable water bottle. It helps the environment and your wallet because there are many water fountains throughout the city providing fresh drinking water.
ℹ️ Switzerland is expensive – and Zurich is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Check out my post on tips to save money in Switzerland.
ℹ️ Zurich is a great base for many fun day trips – check out my guide on the best things to do near Zurich. Here you will find many great day trip ideas from Zurich that you can easily access by train or car.
ℹ️ Looking for a perfect Switzerland itinerary? Here is the best 5-day itinerary for Switzerland.
WHERE TO EAT IN ZURICH – 1 DAY
While I did not add any restaurant to your itinerary, here are two places that are iconic and popular amongst locals and visitors alike.
David Sprüngli was a true pioneering sweet tooth! Back in 1836, he founded what would become one of the most iconic Swiss chocolate producers. His success proved so great that his grandchildren later had to divide it up into two separate companies: Lindt & Sprüngli and their confectionery business at Paradeplatz since 1859.
From delightful macarons to creamy truffles, you can find all kinds of yummy treats both on their upper floor café and down below in the shop! So grab your friends or family for a tasty snack rendezvous – there’s something delicious waiting just around the corner (or rather – right by Paradeplatz!).
Embark upon the world’s first-ever vegetarian culinary journey. Nestled in the heart of this beautiful Swiss city, near Bahnhofstrasse – get your taste buds ready!
Since 1898, Ambrosius Hiltl’s famed vegetarian eatery – the ‘Haus Hiltl‘– has been serving up delicious meat-free dishes from around the world. It was even acknowledged by Guinness World Records as being the very first restaurant of its kind!
So if you’re looking for an exceptionally unique and flavourful dining experience with a distinct veggie twist – don’t forget to check out this culinary gem before it disappears off your plate
IS IT WORTH GOING TO ZURICH IN ONE DAY?
Yes, Zurich is worth a visit for a day. It is a beautiful city that will make an excellent stop for a tour of the Swiss countryside. While I have spent weeks or months in Zurich, with so much to explore and see in Switzerland, a day in Zurich is a good amount of time to explore the historic old town and Lake Zurich + some museums/or outdoor time.
CREATE A ONE-DAY ZURICH ITINERARY
So, without further ado, here is how I would spend one day in Zurich as a first-time visitor.
If you arrive in the morning, you can choose between a trip to the mountains or some museums. Let´s start with a mountain excursion first.
UETLIBERG – ZURICH`S OWN MOUNTAIN FOR OUTDOOR LOVERS
Get ready to be wowed! Uetliberg is home to Zurich’s very own ‘mountain’ and the views of the city, Lake Zurich, and even distant Alps are truly spectacular. It’s sure to give you an unforgettable experience. I personally consider it a must-see when you are one day in Zurich.
I know, I know – in all honesty, there are even better mountain views in Switzerland (especially from the Alps), but it is still pretty nice here considering it is a city mountain.
In November, it gets extra special – witness nature’s masterpiece – an impressive view that will rise up through any foggy haze. And when the winter comes don’t forget your sleds; on this mountain, they’ll be put to good use with plenty of fun journeys down snow-covered trails!
Summer and fall is the perfect time to explore nature, and there’s no better way than a two-hour stroll from Uetliberg to Felsenegg. Embark on an intriguing journey of discovery with a well-marked outdoor trail!
Travel through space without ever leaving our planet – that’s right, you can take your own cosmic tour along the Planet Trail. See how small we are in comparison as you wander around this unique model of our magnificent solar system!
ℹ️ Altitude: 869 m
ℹ️ How to Get Uetliberg: From Zurich train station, take the Sihltal-Zürich-Uetliberg-Bahn SZU and get off Uetliberg station. To get to the summit, it takes a few minutes of hiking.
ℹ️ Price For Adults: The train ride up Uetliberg is free with a Zurich Card or a Swiss Travel Pass.
ALTERNATIVE: LINDT MUSEUM & NATIONAL MUSEUM
If you rather spend some time indoors, discover two of the best museums in the city.
Chocolate fanatics, start your engines! The luxurious new Lindt Home of Chocolate is calling all global gourmands to the picturesque Kilchberg by Lake Zurich.
Get up close and personal with cocoa cultivation; learn about the fascinating history of this heavenly treat, as well as sample Swiss chocolates.
Plus – gain exclusive insight into modern production tech at an awe-inspiring show factory. Chocolate fans won’t want to miss it!
At the Lindt Chocolateria, satisfy your sugar cravings while learning all there is to know about handling chocolate from friendly maître chocolatiers. Enjoy delish waffles and chocolate concoctions at the cafe while taking in a breathtaking view of an impressive 9-meter (30 feet) tall fountain overflowing with liquid, velvety smooth chocolate! Here is more about prices and tours of the Lindt Museum.
I know, this is a tough call – chocolate or mountain views… both are fantastic past times, so I would say it depends a bit on the weather conditions and what is more important to you at the end!
NATIONAL MUSEUM FOR MUSEUMS LOVERS
From antiquity to the present day – explore an enchanting collection showing Switzerland’s cultural heritage at Zurich’s National Museum.
Uncover hidden stories through various artworks like sculptures, paintings & handicrafts from days gone by.. plus browse thought-provoking special exhibitions tackling current social issues.
TIP: Unleash the power of your mobile device to explore a world of knowledge with audio guides from the National Museum! Discover amazing facts in multiple languages – rental devices are available or you can access it via an app.
MIDDAY – OLD TOWN OF ZURICH
The main part of the day is reserved for the city center – this includes mostly the old town and Lake Zurich.
Then it is time to head to the city center (if you have not been). From the train station walk along the Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich. This 1.4 km long shopping street connects the train station to Lake Zurich – but most of all, it is known for being one of the fanciest shopping streets...in the WORLD. Yes, you have read right.
This quite unspectacular-looking street is quite something. Dotted with luxury stores, it has some of the highest rents in the world. Here and there are some interesting sculptures or so, but most importantly, it is to get you to some of the other main Zurich attractions.
Whether it’s summer or winter, this shopping boulevard is filled with charming boutiques, department stores, and timepiece stores.
Don’t forget Paradeplatz too; it marks the Swiss banking center which makes for great people-watching in every season!
Step back in time as you wander through Zurich’s Old Town. From ancient church spires to guild houses, this riverside quarter of the city brims with stories from days past.
Here are some places you should add to your midday itinerary for the old town of Zurich. Also, the old town is a great place for your lunch – thanks to an abundance of places to eat (including more affordable places – by Swiss standards).
Lindenhof has seen it all! From the days of Charlemagne to now, this spot in Zurich is a place like no other. You can soak up epic views and marvel at iconic landmarks such as Grossmünster Church, City Hall, and more – but that’s not all!
If you’re interested in history, Lindenhof was also where the Helvetic Constitution oath was taken back in 1798.
And nowadays? It’s still one of those special places – perfect for taking some time out from your day whilst enjoying an ad-hoc game (or two) of chess with locals or new friends — blissful tranquility just minutes away from bustling city life!
In the 16th century, the Grossmünster church became a force for change when it was the place of origin for the Swiss-German Reformation.
It marked more than just an era in history as its theological college spawned what we now know as The University Of Zürich! Who knew one little church could have such far-reaching consequences?
Grossmünster church was the spiritual epicenter of 16th-century Switzerland, where Huldrych Zwingli and Heinrich Bullinger kicked off the Swiss-German Reformation.
That same monastery grew into today’s University of Zurich – educating generations along with propagating reformations!
Legend has it that this former monastery was founded by none other than Charlemagne himself and his statue proudly stands atop one of its two towers, known as the Karlsturm (Karl Tower).
You’ll be rewarded with stunning views over old town Zurich and the lake if you bravely climb up all 187 steps from within reach nave – so don’t forget your camera!
ℹ️ KARLSTURM ACCESS: 5 CHF
Way back in 853, King Louis the German bestowed a very special gift on Zurich – an aristocratic convent filled with women of high social standing! The abbess even had her own mint to produce coins and enjoyed royal patronage until 1230.
After the Reformation though, ownership was passed over to leave this historical gem forever part of Switzerland’s wonderful heritage for all eternity.
With its stunning Romanesque chancel and towering, vaulted transept, this church is truly a sight to behold. But don’t let the age fool you – it was recently renovated in 1911!
Experience the beauty of Fraumünster’s stunning stained glass windows! Designed by Augusto Giacometti in the north transept, Marc Chagall made waves with his five-part cycle and rosette design throughout its southern transect.
Don’t forget to visit Paul Bodmer’s fresco collection around its cloister while you’re there.
ℹ️ Entrance fee for the church: 5 CHF
ST. PETER CHURCH
Why not tell time with a view? The easiest way to do so is to look at St. Peter Church where you will find the biggest clock face in Europe.
The church clock is a behemoth, standing 8.7 meters tall and wide! But its biggest feature might just lie with the five bells dating from 1880 housed in the tower – one of them so massive it weighs over six tons without even having its clapper to join in on the fun. Now that’s impressive…and loud!
Welcome to Zurich’s cozy corner of old-town charm – the delightful ‘Dörfli’! For generations, locals have been exploring Niederdorf and Oberdorf all the way up to Bellevue.
Watch street performers, explore the many hidden shops tucked away down alleyways, or party into the night with great bars and DJs.
Don’t forget about Dörflifäscht at the end of August – it’s an unforgettable event full of delicious food, amazing shows & attractions that you won’t want to miss.
Augustinergasse is a beautiful glimpse into the intriguing history of Zurich. Its signature bay windows, with their vibrant colors and cheery exteriors, provide plenty of sunshine – but also something else: they give residents an advanced notice on who might be visiting!
This grand design made it easy to avoid unsavory guests while still keeping up appearances.
Need a break from the hustle and bustle? Take Augustinergasse for an urban escape! This street will lead you through history, taking you past the 13th-century Gothic-style Augustiner Church to ‘oasis’ St. Peterhofstatt; it’s like stepping back in time with its picturesque old quarter charm. And don’t worry – your journey is easy on foot or by tram!
If you ever find yourself walking around the city of Zurich near Lindenhof, be sure to check out Schipfe – one of its oldest and most iconic quarters! Its name comes from an age-old nautical term used by fishermen in these parts centuries ago: ‘schupfen’.
During the Middle Ages, it served as the hub of essential merchandise, but by the 16th century, it was booming with silk and luxury.
Even better — you could get your boatbuilding done while taking in some relaxation at one of many nearby bathhouses – all in the same spot! Talk about multitasking.
Looking for unique, quality gifts or souvenirs? Take a stroll down the picturesque Schipfe next to the Limmat River and explore its charming artisan workshops.
From expert advice to custom-made products – this is your one-stop shop (or street) full of treasures! Oh, don’t forget that you can enjoy some delicious food while you’re there too!
TIP: You can join a Zurich walking tour with a local to get some more information on the old town of Zurich.
Take your seat at the Bürkliterrasse, where you can relax and catch a glimpse of divine beauty! Opened in 1887 as an impressive capstone to Zürich’s Bahnhofstrasse, it offers plenty of shade under its trees.
Plus, if Mother Nature cooperates – behold breathtaking views across Lake Zurich to majestic Alpine peaks beyond!
Look closely enough and you’ll see Zeus soaring into heaven with his young lover Ganymede held tight – immortalized since 1952 atop this picturesque terrace.
Ready to explore Lake Zurich? Set sail from the boat harbor in front of Bürkliterrasse for a cruise adventure you won’t soon forget!
AFTERNOON/EVENING: LAKE ZURICH
Whether you are in Zurich in the winter or on a hot summer day- coming here and spending some time at one of the biggest Swiss lakes is a must.
This idyllic spot has been delighting visitors with its picturesque shoreline and waterside activities like swimming and boating for centuries. Make sure it’s part of your outdoor adventures today!
Lake Zurich has something for everyone!
For more laid-back sightseeing try one of ZGS’ many steamboats an unbeatable way to find out what Lake Zurich has on offer.
Or if you’re feeling active there is always canoeing and SUP adventure awaiting those who are willing! Whatever your fancy; relax by boat, paddle around yourself – possibilities abound along lovely Lake Zurich’s shoreline!!
Lake Zurich is also so clean that its shore with its crystal-clear waters is perfect for taking an invigorating dip.
If you visit during the warm months, I suggest getting some snacks from a nearby supermarket and having your dinner here at the lake – in the warm months, you often have musicians entertaining the people. This is where locals and visitors flock to, and I recommend doing so, too.
If you’re searching for a place to beat the summer heat, then Lake Zurich is your paradise!
FINAL THOUGHTS ON A 1-DAY ITINERARY FOR ZURICH
Spending one day in Zurich is truly an unforgettable experience! From the splendid views of the Polyterrasse to the picturesque Bürkliterrasse and Lake Zurich’s tranquil shores, you can easily spend an entire day exploring this mesmerizing city.
Not only is there plenty to see and do, but you can also find unique souvenirs, enjoy delicious Swiss chocolate, and take in the fresh mountain air.
So whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or an exciting adventure, be sure to add Zurich to your list of must-visit destinations in Switzerland!