If you’re traveling directly into Switzerland, you’ll likely fly into the Zurich airport. Though it’s easy to head straight to other destinations, we highly recommend sticking around and spending a day in this amazing city. There’s so much to see, even if you only have one day in Zurich!
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Zurich is the Switzerland’s largest city, and it’s a global banking hub. Even with its modern sensibilities, it’s steeped in history. Cobbled streets, riverside scenery, and pre-medieval architecture make this one of the best places to visit in Europe and a great starting point for a Switzerland family vacation.
Almost everything within the Zurich City Center is within walking distance of each other, though you can also take the tram, cable car, or bike between destinations. Consider getting a Zurich card if you plan on using public transportation and want to enter paid attractions.
How to Spend 24 Hours in Zurich
We know there’s a lot to see and do throughout Switzerland, and you want to make the most of your time in each town. We spent one day in Zurich before heading out on our AmaWaterways cruise. Here’s the easiest way to see the best of Zurich, all in one day!
1. Explore the Old Town
Old Town (Altstadt) is the heart of Zurich Switzerland. The cobbled pedestrian streets are lined with quaint shops, restaurants, hotels, and residences. It honestly feels like a storybook Swiss setting, thanks to its historic architecture, narrow streets, and many fountains.
Old Town is split into two districts on each side of the Limmat River, with several bridges allowing you to go back and forth to each side. It’s bordered to the North by the main train station, Zürich Hauptbahnhof, and then stretches down to Lake Zurich.
If you walked directly from one end to the other, you would cover about 1.5 km but definitely plan to enjoy this area at a leisurely pace (with lots of stops along the way!)
2. See The Views From Lindenhof Hill
Want a good view of the city? Head up to Lindenhof Hill. This park area features benches, chess tables, remnants of a medieval city wall, and a peaceful atmosphere that you’ll love.
Bring along a picnic or snack, sit back, and take in the views of Zurich’s beautiful architecture set against the River Limmat. This is a great place to visit in Zurich with kids.
Lindenhof Hill is about 500 meters from the main central station and about 25 meters above the city center, so it’s a short walk. You could spend 15 minutes to an hour here, depending on how long you like to sit back and relax.
3. Visit Grossmünster
The Protestant church Grossmünster is one of the most iconic buildings in the Zurich cityscape. We recommend getting up close to this architectural wonder, especially since it’s conveniently located within the Old Town of Zurich.
The church dates back to the twelfth century and played an important role in the city’s religious history during medieval times. Today, it’s a great place to learn about the city’s past and admire ornate detailing, like stained glass windows and intricate statues.
Grossmünster is toward the southern end of Zurich’s Old Town. You’ll likely spend 15 minutes admiring the windows and artwork here, and then another 30-60 minutes if you decide to climb the 187 steps to the top of the tower (not a must-do, but certainly a fun adventure!).
4. Tour the Swiss National Museum
The Swiss National Museum (Landesmuseum Zürich) is a great jumping-off point for your entire Swiss vacation. After all, it offers incredible insight into Switzerland’s past and present, allowing you to better understand and appreciate all you see throughout the country.
The museum spans from prehistoric times through modern day, and it has a mix of permanent and temporary exhibitions that visitors of all ages can enjoy.
The Swiss National Museum is directly north of the main railway station (Zurich Hauptbahnhof). You could breeze through the building in an hour, but spending 2 to 3 hours here will help you better immerse yourself in the exhibits.
5. Have a Treat at Confiserie Sprungli Cafe
If you prefer to snack your way through a city, Zurich is the place for you. One of the best spots to satisfy your sweet tooth (or morning hunger) is at Confiserie Sprungli. This decadent confectionary is well-known for its Swiss chocolate and macaroons, though they also offer coffee, sandwiches, and seemingly endless pastries.
They have multiple chocolate shops around the city center, including numerous storefronts at the main railway station. Still, we recommend visiting the flagship store at Bahnhofstrasse 21 in Old Town, as it has a full cafe bar where you can enjoy a fuller meal and its fantastic ambiance.
6. Visit Fraumünster
Fraumünster is the other church that dominates the Zurich skyline. This 13th-century cathedral features incredible detailing and stunning stained glass windows by the artist Marc Chagall.
You’ll pay to enter the church and can choose to add on the audio tour, which lasts about an hour and takes you through the main hall and the crypt.
If you’re short on time, you can skip the full tour, but it’s worth it to fully appreciate the building’s history and more modern window art.
The Fraumünster Church is toward the southern end of Old Town on the western banks of River Limmat.
7. Go Shopping on Bahnhofstrasse
While Zurich’s Old Town is distinctly quaint and historic, it’s not just little local shops and cafes. In fact, Zurich has one of the world’s best luxurious shopping avenues. Gucci, Giorgio Armani, Hermes, Louis Vuitton– pretty much every high-end brand has a storefront along Bahnhofstrasse.
If you have the budget to shop ‘til you drop, you’ll spend hours immersed in the luxe atmosphere of these stores. But this is a popular destination for window shoppers and sight-seers too, as the 1.4-km walk is in the heart of Old Town.
Bahnhofstrasse is on the western side of Old Town and stretches from the main rail station to Lake Zurich.
8. Have Fondue at Adler’s Swiss Chuchi
You must have Fondue during your Swiss vacation, and one of the best spots is at Swiss Chuchi. This cozy restaurant in Hotel Adler has been serving up classic Swiss cuisine for over 50 years, and it remains the best option for cheese fondue and fresh meats in Zurich.
They have outdoor tables on the pedestrian street and an indoor setting with a strong sense of place.
Swiss Chuchi – Hotel Adler is on the eastern side of Old Town, a few blocks north of Grossmünster.
9. Take a Boat Ride on Lake Zurich in the Summer
Ready for a break from walking through Zurich’s sometimes crowded streets? See more of the city from the water. Boat cruises can take you along River Limmat and through Lake Zurich.
Lake Zurich Navigation Company offers cruises that last anywhere from one to four hours. If you have time for the four-hour cruise to and from Rapperswil (City of Roses), we highly recommend it.
If you’re short on time, their mini and short cruises will carry you to unique destinations while getting spectacular views of Zurich’s architecture and landscapes.
Departure points are located on the southern end of Old Town, where River Limmat meets Lake Zurich.
10. Visit the Christmas Markets in the Winter
If you’re lucky enough to visit Zurich at Christmas time, you’ve got a lot of great Christmas markets to see. Ahead, we’re highlighting some of our top favorites, all easy to include in your Zurich one-day itinerary.
Wienachtsdorf at Sechseläutenplatz
Located along the lakefront, next to the Opera House is this Christmas village. There’s a festive market with unique offerings, a fondue chalet, and an ice rink. This is the largest Christmas market in Zurich.
Dörfli in the Niederdorf – Old Town Christmas Market
The Old Town Christmas market is the oldest in Zurich and has such an immersive atmosphere. Located in the Niederdorf district of Old Town, you can sip mulled wine as you lose track of time amid the craft stalls and festive decor.
Christkindlimarkt at Zurich Main Station
Looking for a great Christmas market that’s out of the cold? Zurich’s Main Station (on the northern end of Old Town) has one of Europe’s largest indoor Christmas markets.
Since you’ll likely be traveling through the station, this is an easy market to pop into for a few minutes. Or, stick around and spend a while here. You’ll love the energy here as the station comes to life with twinkling lights and a 10-meter Christmas tree.
Christmas Market at Werdmühleplatz
Though it’s not one of Zurich’s largest Christmas markets, the one at Werdmühleplatz is one of the most charming. Located on Bahnhofstrasse, this market features a singing Christmas tree. It’s a unique stage that allows choirs to present festive performances throughout the season. Spend a short time here as you shop through Old Town.
11. Kunsthaus Art Museum
Zurich’s Kunsthaus Art Museum houses one of Switzerland’s largest art collections, and it’s a great place to visit during your day trip in the city. The exhibits here span from the 13th century through the modern day, and they include paintings, sculptures, and eclectic pieces.
Many big names are here: Warhol, Monet, and Picasso. Even if you’re not an art enthusiast, you’ll enjoy seeing famous pieces on display and discovering new favorites.
Kunsthaus is just outside Old Town toward the east – it’ll take about ten minutes to walk there from Grossmünster church.
12. Take a City Tour with a Guide
If you want to see all of Zurich’s best sights, consider booking a guided tour. Walking tours through historic Old Town ensure you don’t miss a piece of history or culture.
Buses and ferries allow you to venture beyond Old Town and see even more of the city with expert guidance from a local who knows.
A private walking tour through Old Town Zurich allows for a customized itinerary with a great guide, and it’s perfect if you’re traveling as a group.
13. See the FIFA World Football Museum
Soccer fans must visit the FIFA World Football Museum in Zurich. This modern exhibition will take you through the sport’s history, and you’ll be able to see the World Cup trophy on display.
Zurich’s FIFA museum is west of Old Town – it’ll be a 5-minute tram ride or 20-minute walk to get to it from the southern point of Bahnhofstrasse. Plan to spend 1 to 3 hours here, depending on the crowds and how much your family can get into football.
14. Grab a Drink at Jules Verne Panoramabar for Epic City Views
When it’s time to wind down with a cocktail and relaxing vibes, Jules Verne Panorama Bar will be the perfect place. This sleek cocktail lounge has the best views of the city, along with hand-crafted libations and an impressive wine list.
Use the elevator at Brasserie Lipp to access Jules Verne Panoramabar. They serve lunch on weekdays and late-night snacks to the evening crowd. The best time to visit is sunset to get daylight and nighttime views of this beautiful city.