Want to explore Zurich in a day? Let’s go! Zurich may be the financial powerhouse of Switzerland, but this charming city is such a fascinating blend of cultures and traditions that there is something here for everyone, whether it is history, art, fine dining, or vibrant nightlife. In this one day in Zurich itinerary, you will get to discover the city’s primary attractions with ease!
Despite being the largest city in the country, Zurich is fairly compact and even if you have just one day in hand you can thoroughly explore its Roman and medieval roots, providing, of course, you have planned your Zurich itinerary beforehand.
One day in Zurich itinerary: Explore Zurich in a day
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Zurich is a great place to visit for a romantic getaway or a family vacation. Very quickly, this is what you can check off in Zurich in a day
Things to do in Zurich in one day: Itinerary snapshot
- Arrive in Zurich/ Start from the train station
- Visit the Swiss National Museum
- Walk across Muhlesteg Bridge
- Stroll on Bahnhofstrasse
- Hike up to Lindenhof
- Go on a river cruise
- Visit the FIFA World Football Museum
- Wander through Zurich Old Town
- Take a break in a lovely cafe
- Enjoy a romantic dinner in Old Town Altstadt
- Experience the nightlife
Planning your trip to Zurich Switzerland
Getting to Zurich Switzerland
There are a few different ways to get to Zurich. The most common way is by flying into Zurich Airport, also known as Kloten Airport. It is the main hub for SwissAir, and you will not have any issues finding flights to Zurich.
The airport is located about 10 kilometers (or 6 miles) from the city center. You can take the S-Bahn train to get to the main station or near downtown.
Private transfers are also available to take you there with comfort!
If you are coming from another European country, you can use roadways – car rental, train or bus into the city.
Once you are in Zurich, there are a variety of ways to get around. The city has an excellent public transportation system that includes buses, trams, and trains.
Since you will be in Zurich for a day you can opt to purchase the Zurich Card 24 hour pass for CHF 27/CHF19 (Adult/Child). By just visiting the Swiss National Museum, Kunsthaus, or FIFA World Football museum the Zürich Card pays for itself. Buy it here
Additionally, you get free transport by tram, bus, train, boat, and cable car in Zurich, discounts at selected outlets, 50% off on the Old Town walking tour, short boat trips, and Limmat River cruise.
City explorers can enjoy Zurich in all its diversity and get to save time and money too.
Alternately, you can also book a combo sightseeing tour that covers Old Town highlights with a cruise. Here is a 4 hour city tour, cruise, chocolate factory visit
Other Zurich city tours to consider,
Where to stay in Zurich Switzerland
If you are considering staying overnight after your hectic one day in Zurich before heading to your next destination, here are a few options with different price ranges, all perfect for a one-night stay.
Luxury: Baur au Lac
This high-end property is located in its own private park in the heart of the city in some of the quieter areas. The lakeside setting and the warm elegance speak volumes of the hotel’s 175 years of history.
Designed by Pierre-Yves Rochon, this is the grandest hotel in the whole of Switzerland. Click to view availability here
Mid-range: Hotel Montana Zurich
Another hotel with a great location, five minutes from the main railway station and the city center. This 3-star property offers stylish rooms, free WiFi with a delicious complimentary breakfast.
Additionally, all sights of Zurich can easily be accessed from here by foot or by public transport. Book your stay here
Budget: City Backpacker Hostel
Situated in the Old Town, right in the heart of Niederdorf, the location of this hostel is absolutely unbeatable. They don’t have an elevator and you have to walk up a spiral staircase to reach your room, but the six-bed dorm and the private rooms are clean and basic.
With a shared kitchen and rooftop terrace thrown in, it is a great place at an affordable price.
Another option is the Gasthaus zum Guten Glück – a simple hotel with minimalistic amenities – to stay on a budget.
Read: Where to stay in Switzerland
Now here is the one day Zurich itinerary,
Start at/from the Zurich train station or your hotel
The city center of Zurich is small and this is where we will spend one day of our time. The Limmat River flows through the city into Lake Zurich but is spanned by a series of bridges which makes it easy to crisscross back and forth on your Zurich day itinerary.
All destinations are easily accessible by foot, so there is no need to take public transport. However, if you need to travel between attractions quickly or have kids in tow, you can use public transport.
This Zurich itinerary is designed for all seasons, but keep in mind that some attractions like boat cruises, shut down during winter. Avoid the months of July and August as Zurich is very crowded and you risk losing valuable time standing in lines on such a short visit.
Read: Things to do in Zurich in winter
Most probably you will be visiting Zurich from elsewhere, so you will need to be there early on your first morning. The normal point of entry is the Zurich Main Station, the busiest in Europe as well as the world.
Exit through the gate and walk along Bahnhofstrasse to begin your one day Zurich tour.
This world renowned shopping boulevard was created after the construction of the main train station and is today considered to be the most expensive shopping venue in the world.
Before you begin, stop at Confiserie Sprungli, near the train station, for some coffee and sample the best Swiss chocolate in town with their signature offering of macaroons called ‘Luxemburgerli’. The cafe is a bit pricey, but it’s worth the visit.
Swiss National Museum (from 10:00 to 11:00 am)
Built in 1898, the Swiss National Museum is barely a minute’s walk away from the train station, nestled between the Limmat and Sihl rivers.
The museum is known for its impressive architecture and the collection of medieval paintings, wooden carvings, and sculptures. You can also opt for a guided tour if you want to learn a bit more about the history and culture of the country.
- Address: Museumstrasse 2, 8001 Zürich, Switzerland
- Hours: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (Tuesday to Sunday) Mondays closed
- Tickets: Adults: CHF 10 | Concession: CHF. 8 | Child upto16: Free
Walk across Muhlesteg Bridge – Zurich Love Lock Bridge (from 11:15 to 11:30 am)
After you are through with the National Museum walk back towards the railway station but take the path along the banks of the Limmat River instead.
Soon you will come across a beautiful riverfront park and a pedestrian bridge spanning the river. This is the Muhlestein lock bridge, where traditionally days if you hang a lock on the bridge and throw the key into the river your love will be long-lasting.
Stroll on Bahnhofstrasse (from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm)
As stated earlier, Bahnhofstrasse is one of the most popular shopping boulevards in the whole of Europe. This 1.4 km (.86 miles) long street has everything from upscale departmental stores to a chain of fine bars and restaurants.
The area has a plethora of coffee shops but if you want to fuel up for the day ahead we recommend the chic eatery Rooftop inside the Modissa department store or at the Lion Pub to enjoy a traditional British meal with a bit of Swiss flair.
Hike up to Lindenhof (from 1:00 to 2:00 pm)
Lindenhof is located in the city center, just a few minutes north of Bahnhofstrasse, and is the best place to have some quiet time away from the hustle and bustle of Zurich.
There is a square on top from where you can get good views of the Old Town.
After taking the obligatory Instagram photos head down towards the lake.
Go on a river cruise (2:00 pm to 3:30 pm)
An excellent way to explore Zurich, provided the weather is good, is by opting for a boat tour on a portion of Lake Zurich or even as far as Rapperswil on the far opposite side.
On a good day you will find locals in their sailing boats, people swimming, and the odd surfer in the summer. Since you have limited time the short tour to Thalwil and Erlenbach and back is the best option.
Alternatively, you can opt for a scenic cruise on the River Limmat as a part of your trip to Zurich. A round trip from Zurich Landesmuseum takes around one hour.
FIFA World Football Museum (from 3:00 to 4:00 pm)
Zurich is the headquarters of FIFA or the Federation of Associated Football and has a museum dedicated to this popular sport. Even if you are not a soccer fan, the football gallery will fascinate you with audiovisual experiences and exhibitions.
You can check out the FIFA World Cup trophy and other interesting memorabilia from every World Cup during this hour-long show.
- Hours: 10:00 am to 7:00 pm (Mondays closed) | 9:00 am to 6:00 pm (Sundays)
- Admission: Adults: CHF 24 | 7-15 years: CHF 14 | Senior: CHF 19 | Family (2+2): CHF 64 | Group: CHF 22. Get tickets here
If you wish to skip the museum, you may take a wander in the old town of Zurich or Altstadt.
Wander Old Town of Zurich or Altstadt
The Old Town is located in District 1 and lies on both sides of the River Limmat and is a great place to spend a few hours wandering all around it.
The narrow cobbled streets lined with medieval houses from the Renaissance era give a fascinating insight into the history and culture of Zurich. This is the place to try the famous Zurich fondue at the Walliser Keller restaurant.
The four historic reformation churches Predigerkirche, Grossmünster, Fraumunster, and St Peter’s are located here. Fraumünster is not to be missed. You can enter the church complex to admire the colorful stained glass windows inside. They were created by Chagall and Giacometti.
Those who want to learn more about Zurich’s eventful past can participate in the popular guided Old Town walking tour.
Take a break in a lovely cafe
After spending the whole day on your feet it is time to take a break at any of the lovely cafes in the city.
Cafe Felix is a quaint eatery located in Bellevue and is very popular among visitors and locals alike. There are a wide variety of delicacies catering to all types of tastes including homemade delights like pastries, freshly baked cakes, and chocolate. The cafe has a gorgeous interior so don’t forget to take photos for your Instagram collection.
Limmatquai (06:00 pm to 7:30 pm)
This charming street lies on the banks of the River Limmat and is worth taking a stroll along the paths to appreciate the splendid views across the water.
Do not forget to take the postcard-worthy photos as a memento for your one day trip to Zurich.
Enjoy a romantic dinner (07:30 pm to 09:00 pm ish)
There are tons of amazing places to eat in Zurich, especially in the old town, and you can choose from Asian/Chinese food to German cuisines and beyond. You can go casual or cozy romantic – your pick!
Now, one must try at least one upscale meal in any new place you visit, so head for some fancy stuff at the Hummer and Austernbar. This Michelin-recommended seafood restaurant is located inside Hotel St Gothard and almost every celebrity from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Placido Domingo has dined here at least once.
Their lobster salad is absolutely delicious, in spite of the fact that they are flown in daily from places which are near the sea.
A cheaper option is to have dinner at any of the restaurants at the Im Viadukt. We strongly recommend Restaurant Viadukt for their tasty local and international dishes made of fresh organic products.
Experience the nightlife (09:00 pm onwards)
The nightlife of the city is as diverse as the people themselves. From the trendy Zurich West to the lively Niederdorf, there are many cool laid-back bars in the area.
Our personal favorites are Frau Gerolds Garten and Les Halles.
Explore Zurich in a day: Alternate tour recommendations
Here are a few options to swap any of the activities listed above. We recommend booking tours and tickets ahead of time, as always.
Zurich chocolate tour:
Chocolate is one of the major products exported by Switzerland and an important part of the country’s tradition, which is why going on a chocolate tour is a must on your visit to Zurich.
From Lindt, Max, and Sprungli to Vanini there are dozens of famous names of different chocolate outlets in the city. You can even attend a chocolate-making class offered by the leading makers.
After the class, you can keep all you have made, which is not a bad idea considering how expensive they are.
Beyer Watch Museum:
Switzerland is known the world over for its excellent timepieces and watches, so if you are a fan of these fancy clocks make sure to visit the Watch Museum located in the basement of the Beyer watch outlet halfway along the Bahnhofstrasse.
Here you will come across time measuring instruments from the Egyptian age, including some stunning watches and clocks.
Admission: CHF 8
The Opera House:
From the east walkway of Lake Zurich, you can also visit the opulent Opera House.
There is free WiFi outside the building so you can upload all the pictures you have taken.
While seeing a performance there is preferable since you have little time even viewing it from outside is worth the visit. Snap a photo or two to show off your Zurich adventures.
Old Botanical Gardens:
Located adjacent to the Ethnographic Museum, the Old Botanical Gardens come as a breath of fresh air in the middle of the city center.
Dating back to the 19th century, the gardens boast of an octagonal palm house and many different types of flora like beautiful flowers and bamboo trees. Statues, fountains, and benches can be found all over the place where one can relax and enjoy the views.
Some fifteen minutes out of Zurich, the pretty mountain peak of Uetliberg is a perfect spot to escape from the hordes of the city.
A train or cable car whisks you away to the top in 20 minutes, from where you can enjoy stunning views of the city and especially the lake from the top of the observation tower or sit on the terrace of the Uto Kulm Hotel for a taste of local specialties.
This seemingly hidden gem is tucked away in the corner of a square in the Niederdorf part of the Old Town and is simply perfect for collecting the odd souvenir or trinket to take back home.
Shops sell intriguing items here like jewelry, incense, handicrafts, and bohemian clothing. Do not forget to taste a variety of international dishes available at the various food stalls in Rosenhof Market.
Zurich and beyond: Day trips from Zurich
Zurich is no doubt an interesting and entertaining city to visit, but if you have some more time to spare the city makes a great base to unlock some other treasures of the rest of the country.
With excellent train connections and a plethora of places to visit within a couple of hours of Zurich after spending one day, you must add one of the following places to your Switzerland itinerary.
These are some fantastic destinations that won’t leave you disappointed on any day trip from Zurich.
- 52 km or 32 miles away
- 40 minutes by train | 45 minutes by car
A visit to the lakeside town of Lucerne is one the best places to head from Zurich for a one day trip. With the most well-known sights of Lake Lucerne and the epic Alps in the background, there is no denying the charm of this pretty Swiss destination.
From the iconic wooden Chapel Bridge to the cobbled streets of the Old Town, there is plenty in Lucerne for that ideal getaway. Lucerne is also a convenient base to explore the Alps with Mt Pilatus close by.
Also check out the Kongress Zentrum and the Lion Memorial, the main centers of performing arts in Lucerne.
- 121.6 km or 75.55 miles
- 1 hour by train | 1.5 hours by car
Located south of Zurich, this Capital city has a charm of its own so it makes perfect sense to visit Bern for a captivating one day excursion from Zurich.
The picture postcard city of quaint houses and cobbled streets on the banks of the Aare river dates back to the 17th century when the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Old Town is the main attraction.
Visit the 15th-century Zytglogge Clock Tower and the impressive building of the Swiss Parliament. Cross the Aare to visit the Bern Historical Museum and the Einstein Museum, located in the house where Einstein was born.
Read: Most beautiful cities in Switzerland | Most beautiful towns in Switzerland
The small resort town of Engleberg is about an hour and a half drive from Zurich via Lucerne and the ideal point to access Mt Titlis standing at 3238m above sea level.
A series of rides by three cable cars and a funicular takes visitors right to the top to be rewarded with unparalleled views of the Alps. Other features at the peak are a glacier cave, restaurant, shops, and an ice-grotto bar.
For thrills hike across Titlis Cliff Walk or hop onto the IceFlyer chairlift for mesmerizing views of the crevasses and glaciers far below.
The best way to get to Appenzell is by train which takes about two hours via Godsau. The town may not be on the top of the tourist radar, but if you want to experience rural Alpine life, Appenzell is the place to spend a day.
The Museum of Appenzell is an excellent place to sample cheese and other local goods among a background of rolling hills and the mighty Alps.
Zurich Switzerland travel tips
We have written a detailed guide on planning a trip to Switzerland, we will cover a few quick tips below,
Zurich is a very expensive city, but if you want to keep your expenses under control be prepared to shell out at least CHF 200-250 per person per day for mid-range travelers.
For those backpacking through Zurich, staying in a hostel, and cooking your own meals expect to pay CHF 100 per day. On a luxury budget of CHF 400, you can stay in a nice hotel, have all meals out, drink more and ride the occasional taxi.
A great option to cut down on travel costs is by using ride-share apps like Bla Bla Car, which can take you from city to city for as less as $20 between Zurich to Geneva, which otherwise costs $80.
Then there are the historic city centres where you can spend hours without stepping into a museum, which will only add up to your Zurich one day cost.
As far as safety is concerned, it should bother travelers in the least as Zurich is said to be one of the tenth safest cities in Europe with regards to health, digital, infrastructure, and personal security.
The law is respected and the police do their job meticulously. That said, it is better to be vigilant and not let your guard down.
An issue that crops up is that Swiss establishments take a copy of the entire credit card on the receipt, leading to chances of identity theft when using a credit card. It is therefore advisable to carefully review the information on all the receipts before discarding them.
Was one day in Zurich enough?
Seeing everything in one day can be challenging, which is why this site has focused only on the unmissable attractions during your one day in Zurich, taking the tram as much as possible and planning well.
Zurich changes during the seasons and the itinerary will have to be adjusted accordingly. You can skip some stops and places to eat if you are inclined to spend more time on certain landmarks.
Finally, if you are there during Christmas time, the various Christmas markets around Zurich are a stellar attraction. This is the time you can enjoy apple pie and mulled wine to your heart’s content.
We will leave you with some interesting facts about Zurich as well as some of our other Switzerland travel guides below.
Some fun facts about Zurich Switzerland
Here are some fun facts about Zurich,
- St Peter’s Church in the Old Town of Zurich has the largest clock face in Europe.
- Zurich has over 1000 fountains with drinkable water. You can easily refill your water bottles here and save money.
- The city is considered an expensive destination but the price of electronic goods is the lowest in Europe. If you are looking to buy a new mobile phone, this is the best place to do it.
- Public drinking is legal in Zurich so you can buy a drink and enjoy it anywhere as you admire the beauty of the city.
- Zurich is an expensive city, so to save money eat where the locals do. The COOP Supermarkt stores retailing groceries can be found all over the city. They also sell salads, bread, and sandwiches at affordable prices. Another really good place for gourmet takeaway in Zurich is the food hall inside Globus Dept Store.
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