Zurich is one of Switzerland’s best known cities and is a major centre for business. It boasts a medieval Old Town that spans both sides of the river Limmat as well as the hip Zurich West district. Whilst you could easily spend a whole week here exploring the centre and the surrounding area, we’re sharing tips for what to see when you only have one day in Zurich.
One Day in Zurich – Altstadt
Zurich Altstadt, as the old town is known, should be your first port of call. Start in the Lindenhof quarter in District 1, where you’ll find Münsterhof. It’s the largest square in the old town and has a contemporary fountain as well as some very attractive medieval buildings housing boutiques and restaurants. When I visited, there was a spectacular temporary artwork suspended over the square,
“Black and White Circles in the Sky”, by Swiss artist Claudia Comte.
On the side of the square you’ll find Fraumünster Church, famous for its stained glass windows created by Chagall and Giacometti. The entrance to the church is round the corner on Stadthausquai. You can’t take photos of the interior, but it’s definitely worth a look at these colourful masterpieces. Construction of Münsterbrücke, the bridge that connects Münsterhof to Limmatquai, began in 1835. This cobbled bridge is still in constant use today and there are great views over the river from here.
A couple of streets away on Paradeplatz, there’s the 15th century Zeugskeller, built as an arsenal and now a vibrant and casual restaurant. It’s one of our favourite places to eat in Zurich. Also on Paradeplatz, there’s Confiserie Sprüngli, which dates from 1836 and is renowned for its Luxemburgerli macarons. A few minutes walk from here on Schlüsselgasse, you’ll discover Max Chocolatier, one of the best chocolate shops in Zurich. Their hand-made chocolates use natural ingredients and the flavours vary depending on the seasons. The cobbled street on which its located reminds me of Montparnasse in Paris. Head up past St Peter church and you’ll come to Lindenhof, one of the most famous Zurich attractions. This historical hilltop square was a Celtic and Gallo-Roman settlement and is listed as a Swiss heritage site of national significance. The Hedwig fountain dates from 1688 and commemorates the actions of the women of Zurich who defended their town in 1292. From Lindenhof there’s a panoramic view over Zurich.
A few minutes from Lindenhof, there’s a great place to eat on Rennweg, Boucherie AuGust. They specialize in meat dishes but have a good selection for non-meat eaters too. Head back down via Schlüsselgasse and you’ll come to a narrow stairway, Thermengasse. It takes its name from the Roman baths discovered in 1983, the remains of which can be seen through a metal grating under your feet. You’ll arrive on Storchengasse, an attractive pedestrianized street with cobbled stones and colourful flags decorating the luxurious shop facades. There’s a branch of another well-known Swiss chocolate shop here, Teuscher.
The five star Hotel Storchen is at the end of the street. It’s a lovely place to stay, with great views over the river and 66 stylish rooms and suites as well as a newly redecorated bar where you can get a coffee with a photo of your face on it!
Cross over the river at Weinplatz via Gmüesbrugg bridge to explore the rest of Zurich old town. Most of it is pedestrianized and it’s a pleasure to wander around. You’ll spot decorative enclosed balconies, wall frescoes and buildings adorned with flowers.
Cabaret Voltaire, on Spiegelgasse was the birthplace of the Dadaism anarchic art movement in 1916. It’s still open to the public, as an exhibition space and bar.
Nearby on Napfgasse, Cafe Schober is a historic coffee shop which has some delicious cakes and sweet treats. Also on Napfgasse, the My Muesli store is actually part of a Swedish chain but they have muesli boxes decorated with a Zurich photo that would make a great souvenir or gift. If you’re looking for somewhere stylish to eat on this side of the river, Kronenhalle on Rämistrasse is an excellent choice. It’s famous for its art collection, with paintings by Picasso, Chagall, Matisse as well as its delicious Swiss cuisine.
After lunch, get a taste of the city’s contemporary side, with a visit to Zurich-West. It’s a trendy area with lots of cool bars and shops. Frau Gerolds Garten is an oasis of greenery on Geroldstrasse. This casual eatery also holds events and is open until midnight in Summer.
Don’t miss the colourful umbrellas next to Gerold Cuchi restaurant, in the alleyway just off Geroldstrasse. It’s a very popular Zurich Instagram spot!
One of the most fun things to do in Zurich is Citywave® , an urban surf experience tucked away on Geroldstrasse and open in Summertime. Whether you’re a surfer or not, it’s a fun place to grab a drink and watch the action. At the end of Geroldstrasse you’ll come to Im Viadukt on Viaduktstrasse. These former railway arches were built in 1894 and have been given a new lease of life with fashionable boutiques, delicatessens and a Market Hall gathering 20 local food vendors.
10 minutes walk from here, you’ll come to Schiffbau on Schiffbaustrasse. This former ship-building factory has been converted into a cultural centre where the Zurich Schauspielhaus theatre company holds performances on three stages. There’s also an upmarket restaurant, LaSalle, Moods Jazz Club, and NietturmBar.
How to Get to Zurich
There are regular flights from most international airports to Zurich airport. I travelled with Swiss from London City airport and the journey took only 1 hour and 45 minutes. From the airport it’s only 10 minutes by train or 15 minutes by taxi.
As you can see, there’s a lot to fit in with just one day in Zurich, so why not spend longer there? Another great place to visit is Thermalbad, a luxurious spa in a former brewery with a rooftop pool and fantastic views over the city. And if you happen to visit the city in September, then the Zurich Street Food Festival is a must. During this week-long celebration of all things foodie, there are events throughout the city and a huge selection of different cuisines of the world. We hope that we’ve inspired you to visit Zurich and to explore the different facets of this fascinating city. Check out Visit Zurich for more suggestions, as well as our guide to 24 hours in Zurich. Have you ever been to Zurich and if so what were your highlights?
In association with Visit Zurich