While visiting Switzerland, many jet setters’ will first arrive in Zürich. Jam-packed with mouth-watering restaurants, a historic old town, and the most expensive shopping street in the world, there is truly something for everyone. In this blog post, we are going to cover everything you need to know about visiting this vibrant Swiss city.
Zürich is located at the north end of Lake Zürich in northern Switzerland. It is the largest city in the country and is known globally for banking and finance. As far as travelling is concerned, Zürich also houses an incredible old town filled with endless things to do.
Before we dive into the best things to do in Zürich, let’s cover the basics of where to stay, how long to spend there, the best time to visit, and where to eat!
Where to Stay
During your time in Zürich, try to stay in District 1 or as close to it as possible. This will ensure walking distance to everything you want to see. A great budget option is to stay just outside of District 1, as we did. It was much cheaper and we could walk to the old town in about 10 minutes.
How Long to Spend in Zürich
The highlights of Zürich can be easily seen in 1-3 days, depending on if you would like to take tours, visit museums, or embark on a lake cruise. If you are not renting a vehicle and would prefer to settle in and do day trips from one place, Zürich is a great home base for northern Switzerland. From here you have access to many places via trains and public transportation.
The Best Time to Visit
Depending on the purpose of your trip and your crowd tolerance, there are several months that you can visit Zürich.
- Spring (March-May): Spring is not typically a busy time in Zürich so it can be a solid budget option. March and April are cool, with temperatures around 12-15°C. May can be a great time to visit. You will be able to take advantage of the lower prices and smaller crowds while the weather begins to warm up and the city comes alive for summer.
- Summer (June-August): In terms of weather, summer is the best time to visit Zürich. With average temperatures between 22-26°C, there is less rain and significantly more sunny days. The tradeoff for the nice weather is larger crowds and higher prices.
- Autumn (September-November): Autumn is one of our favourite times to travel to Zürich, especially in September. The summer crowds have gone home and the temperature is a balmy 18-20°C. October and November cool off significantly, but you can expect lower prices and fewer tourists.
- Winter (December-February): The winter months are the off-season in Zürich, but not in the rest of Switzerland. Winter sports are very popular in the alps and Zürich is a popular stop upon arrival to the country. If you don’t mind the cold (0-5°C), there are colourful markets and festivities throughout the Christmas season!
Interactive Map of Zürich
Where to Eat
The streets of Zürich are lined with restaurants, and each one we tried was fantastic! They have everything from budget-friendly burger joints to 5-star dining in this beautiful city. Here are a few budget to mid-range options to get you started, but don’t be afraid to branch out:
- Raclette Factory: Great place to try Raclette.
- Cafe Zähringer: The Rösti and coffee here were amazing!
- Franzos Coffee Shop: Excellent crépes and coffee.
- HILTL: The oldest vegetarian Buffet in the world. It fills up fast so you will want to make reservations a few days in advance if possible.
- Food Trucks: We visited in September during a festival and there were food trucks everywhere! Selling everything from crepes to gyoza to fancy alcoholic beverages, these vendors did not disappoint. If you see any during your visit, give them a try. It’s a fantastic budget option!
The Best Things to do in Zürich
The Altstadt AKA The Historic Old Town
This is where we spent most of our time visiting iconic landmarks and tasty restaurants. The Limmat River flows through the city and numerous picturesque bridges connect both sides of this pedestrian-friendly area.
As mentioned earlier, try to stay as close to The Altstadt (District 1) as possible when booking your hotel. It will be the most convenient while saving you time and money on transportation.
Lindenhof Hill was hands down our favourite place in Zürich. It boasts wonderful views of the old town over the river and has a long ledge where you can spread out to enjoy the landscape. We spend quite a while admiring the architecture of the surrounding buildings while watching the waves of people walking below.
The Church of St. Peter
From Lindenhof Hill, you will be able to spot the largest church clock face in all of Europe. As you walk towards it on the charming cobblestone streets, you are guaranteed to feel like you are walking into a fairytale. Unlike most things in Switzerland, entrance to this baroque-style church is completely free.
Augustinergasse & Rennweg
This pedestrian-only area is full of culture and charming, flag-lined streets. Rennweg and Augustinergasse were a few of our favourites. Augustinergasse is one of the most beautiful and historic streets in Switzerland.
It is famous for large Swiss flags draping from each colourful building. Here, you can find numerous shops and restaurants to explore.
Grossmünster is an iconic 800-year-old church sitting along the Limmat River. The medieval architecture and towering columns are a must-see during your time in Zürich.
If you have the energy, you can actually climb to the top of one of the towers known as Karlsturm. The panoramic view of the Altstadt and the lake are worth the 187-step workout.
Also known as the Zürich Love Lock Bridge, this river crossing is anything but ordinary. People from all over the world inscribe their names on colourful locks and attach them to the bridge. They then throw away the key. Apparently, the ritual is suppose to symbolizes love locked forever. Why not join the tradition and leave a little piece of yourself in Switzerland?
Lake Zürich Promenade
This waterfront walk is a beautiful place to visit during the summer. If you choose, you can take a lake cruise from the shore. If not, wander around and find a quiet place to have a picnic while you take in the stunning scenery.