Last Updated: April 21, 2022

Tips & Highlights For Visiting Zurich

Switzerland is one of those places people know from photos or postcards, but have rarely had the chance to visit. With the allure of the Swiss Alps, towns like Lucerne and Zermatt, as well as the chocolate and the cheese, there is so much to visit in this country, it is often hard to choose!

No matter where you decide to spend your time in Switzerland, one place you will often end up is Zurich. And although most people are in a rush to leave this bustling financial metropolis, there is actually a lot to see and do. And often you can do it all in one day. The city is so compact and easy to navigate on foot.

So, if you decide to visit Zurich, here are some of the highlights you absolutely should not miss.

ETH & The Polybahn

polybahn to the eth zurich

Polybahn heading up to the ETH – Copyright ExpertWorldTravel

The ETH is not only one of the best universities in Switzerland but it is also an amazing place to get a great view over the city of Zurich. So, I recommend you come here straight away to get a fantastic overview of the city before you start exploring things further.

The ETH is reached either by foot about 10-15 minutes uphill from the Central tram station, or via the famous Polybahn cog railway from next door to Starbucks. That means you can also stop off for a coffee before you head up on the train.

The cog railway is part of the Zurich train network, so if you buy a day card for public transport, this will also be included.

Once you arrive at the top, it is just a short walk to the ETH Polyterrasse where you can see the whole of Zurich spread out before you. This means it is also a great spot for sunset, and the great news is you can grab a drink from the student bar just below the terrace to make that sunset all the better!



Niederdorfstrasse is the main street running through the old town of Zurich and as luck would have it, it starts right next to the Polybahn train station. As such, it is a great follow-on from your ride up to the ETH.

The street winds its way through the East side of the Zurich old town, connecting to another street further on after the Grossmunster church. This actually takes you all the way to Bellevue and the Lake of Zurich, so it might take you a few hours to explore. 

There are cozy side streets, small shops, cafes, and bars, as well as a huge range of restaurants here. One of which is popular with tourists as it allows you to have a Swiss cheese fondue while soaking up the atmosphere of the street. Great on a balmy summer’s night, or even on a cool winter evening when cheese fondue is really at its best!


grossmunster sunset mountains zurich

Grossmunster at sunset – Image Copyright ExpertWorldTravel

Grossmunster is an iconic church in the historic centre of Zurich. It’s situated close to Limmat River, and it’s impossible to miss it when you go on a stroll down Limmatquai.

No visit to the old town of Zurich is complete without popping into the Grossmunster. Not only is it the most iconic, and standout building along the river running through Zurich, but the stained glass windows inside are said to be some of the best in Switzerland, if not Europe.

There is also the opportunity to climb one of the towers and get yet another stunning view of Zurich, only this time from a different perspective. If you missed the ETH and Polyterrace, then this is an absolute must! And at only 5 Swiss francs, it is one of the cheapest attractions you will find in Switzerland!

Lake Zurich

zurich lake sunset

Once you reach the end of the Zurich old town, you arrive at the grandiose and scenic shores of Lake Zurich. Here you have a few options, depending on the weather and the amount of time you have available.

You can take a stroll along the shores in either direction. Zurich has kept quite a lot of the cityside lakeshore available to the public. This includes walkways, public parks, and benches where you can take 15 minutes to soak up the lake views, which stretch all the way to the Alps in the distance.

There is also the opportunity to go for a swim in the lake in summer. You can jump in from the park itself around Bade Enge, or you can pay to enter the swimming baths themselves. They also become a bar at night, and sometimes have entertainment. 

On both sides, there are also paddle boats available for rent, so if swimming is not your thing, or it’s not warm enough, you can still enjoy the water directly! And for the more adventurous, there are also stand-up paddleboard rentals at various points along the lake which is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Go On a Boat Ride

Zurich Riverbank

Boat rides and cruises are very popular in Zurich and they’re a great way to discover the town. You can go on cruises on Lake Zurich or one of the rivers, and get to experience the spectacular city landmarks from a different perspective. 

Also, it’s important to note that just like everything else in Zurich, even boat cruises can be fancy and luxurious. Choose one of the evening cruises which includes dinner and drinks for passengers, to enjoy a fondue of premium Swiss cheeses and some spectacular Swiss wine, while admiring the twinkly city lights and beautiful views.

Brunch cruises are also very popular, and it’s worth noting that there are often parties on the lake boats. They’re usually themed parties that take place on the weekend, so there should be at least one interesting event during your time in Zurich. 

It’s also worth noting that it’s possible to travel by boat to other lakeside cities and towns. It might not be quicker than traveling by train, but it might just be more scenic. 


bahnhofstrasse shopping zurich

Zurich is famous for the boatloads of money that are stashed in the vaults of the many banks that call this city home. And Bahnhofstrasse is where all the bankers who work there come to shop and hang out.

So, if you want to get a feeling of how it is to be rich, and even a little famous, this is the street to stroll along. Starting at the lake end of the street, you will pass the likes of Bulgari, Dolce & Gabbana, Jimmy Choo, Cartier, Omega watches, and a whole lot more.

As you reach the midway point along the street the price of the goods in the shops starts to enter the “normal” realm. It is here that you may want to pop into some of the more run-of-the-mill stores like H&M, Zara, WE, and other brands you might already be familiar with.

Another great thing about Bahnhofstrasse is that one side of it is also the second half of Zurich old town. So, if you head off the main street a little you will also find even more alleyways and hidden treasures to explore.

Some of my favorite spots include:

Lindenplatz is a spot high above the Limmat River where you can come to relax or take one of the best photos in Zurich. It includes a view over the city and of the iconic Grossmunster you hopefully visited earlier!

St Peter’s Church is tucked away in this area, right along the river, and has the largest clock face in Europe. If you are lucky enough to hear the bells ring, you will see how impressive they are too.

Swiss National Museum & Platzspitz Park

Swiss National Museum

The Swiss National Museum is home to an amazing collection of cultural history and art of Switzerland. Its permanent collection includes more than 860,000 objects, and it is divided into 14 different exhibits. 

This museum is a great place for anyone who is interested in Swiss culture and history, but if you’re specifically looking for Swiss art, you should heat to Kunsthaus Zürich instead. The Swiss National Museum’s collection includes some sculptures and examples of Gothic art, but it’s nowhere near as comprehensive as the art collection of Kunsthaus Zürich. 

Platzspitz Park is also worth visiting when you’re already in the area. It’s a large stretch of land lined with trees and flanked by the Shil River and Limmat River on either side. The park also features a fountain, sculptures, and many benches where you can sit down to relax for a little while. 

It also offers spectacular views of the city and the rivers, and it’s a great place to visit if you want to get some cool photographs. It’s also worth noting that Platzspitz features a gazebo in art deco style, which looks beautiful in photos. The gazebo is often used for concerts, so there’s a chance you might be able to see someone performing while you’re there. 

Chinese Garden 

Chinese Garden Zurich

Zurich has a Chinese Garden and it’s a gorgeous place in the city that you shouldn’t skip. The tranquil garden is located on the bank of Lake Zurich, and it features ponds, bridges, and Chinese-style pavilions.

It’s a beautiful little garden, unlike any other attraction in the city. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for places that photograph well or just want to see something that’s unique in this spectacular city.  

There is a lot of landscaping throughout the garden, and there’s even a small Chinese takeout restaurant here. The restaurant isn’t exactly known for premium quality, but they have good food that’s pretty affordable for Zurich, so it’s a good place for a quick bite. 

Museum Rietberg 

Museum Rietberg

Museum Rietberg is a popular art museum in Zurich with a collection of non-European art. It’s the city’s only museum with a collection that is entirely dedicated to non-European art, so it’s a great place to visit if you want to see some spectacular artworks from Asia, Africa, America, and Oceania. 

This is the city’s third-largest museum, and one of the most popular art institutions in Zurich, among both locals and tourists. It’s situated in Rieterpark in the southwestern part of the city, which occupies an area of 17 acres. 

This popular art museum is easy to reach by public transport. It’s very close to the Zurich Enge railway station, and it’s also serviced by bus and tram lines. 

Zoological Museum

The Zoological Museum is a popular natural history museum in Zurich that boasts two floors of exhibits. This includes both models of various animals, as well as interactive displays. It’s one of the best places in the city to visit if you’re traveling with children. 

The museum is also interesting for adults who are interested in natural history, but it’s worth noting that you can only observe models of animals here. If you’re looking for live animals, you need to head to Zoo Zurich. 

The animal models in the museum are varied, and they include birds, fish, and numerous mammals. There’s even a model of a unicorn, which can be particularly exciting for the museum’s youngest visitors. 

Zurich Opera House

Zurich Opera House

Out of all the large opera houses in the world, the Zurich Opera House is the smallest. It only has around 1,100 seats and the small capacity just makes it better and more exclusive. It’s one of the best opera houses in the world, as well as the most significant cultural institution in Zurich, Switzerland. 

The opera house is home to the Zurich Opera, the Zurich Ballet, and the Bernhard-Theater Zurich. It was constructed in 1981 after a fire broke out in the Zurich Aktientheater and the entire building burned down. The opera house was built in its place, and it was the first opera house in the world that had electrical lighting. 

Apart from fascinating plays and performances, the opera house is also notable for its architecture. The building was reconstructed in the late 20th century, and it boasts a neo-classical facade. The Opera House is adorned with statues of some of the world’s most famous artists, including Wagner, Mozart, Weber, Shakespeare, Goethe, and others. 

Kunsthaus Zürich

Kunsthaus Zurich

Kunsthaus Zürich is one of the city’s largest art museums. It boasts a huge collection of European art that dates from the 15th century to modern-day, as well as temporary collections that are constantly changing. 

The museum’s permanent collection has an emphasis on Swiss art, but it does include quite a lot of pieces from other European countries. 

The art museum is served by the Kunsthaus tram stop, so it’s very easy to reach it by public transport. The Kunsthaus tram stop is situated on Pfauenplatz, between the building of this museum and the Zürich playhouse, which are prominent theaters of the German-speaking world. 

Botanical Gardens

Zurich Botanical Garden

Zurich has two botanical gardens and they’re both worth a visit if you’re staying in the city for a while. 

If your time in Zurich is limited, make the Old Botanical Garden your priority. It’s situated in the center of Zurich, and it is just minutes away from St. Peter’s Church, Bahnhofstrasse, and all the other tourist attractions in this part of the city. 

The Old Botanical Garden dates back to the 19th century, so it’s one of the older attractions in the city of Zurich. It’s best known for the octagonal palm house, as well as a huge collection of medicinal and other tropical plants. 

There’s also the Botanical Garden of the University of Zurich, which is situated in the Weinegg quarter of the city. It’s a few minutes away from the old town of Zurich, and you can visit it the same afternoon you visit the Chinese Garden. 

This botanical garden is run by the Zurich Univesity, and it is home to more than 9000 plant species. This includes three glass domes full of tropical plants, a small meadow, and a beautiful pond at the center of the garden. It’s bigger and boasts more plant varieties than the Old Botanical Garden of Zurich, so it’s the better option if you want to see some plants that don’t belong in this city. 

Haus Hiltl

Haus Hiltl is a famous restaurant in Zurich city center that’s definitely worth checking out while you’re touring the city. It’s the world’s oldest vegetarian restaurant with a history of more than 120 years. 

The restaurant is situated on Sihlstrasse, which is very close to Bahnhofstrasse and all its famous shops. When the endless shopping eventually tires you and makes you hungry, a quick stop at this awesome restaurant is exactly what you need to regain some energy. 

Even if you’re not following plant-based diets, it’s worth it to stop by this restaurant. Their food is absolutely delicious – how else would they have survived for more than a century? Plus it’s much healthier than anything meat-based, and it makes for great fuel for any exploration of the center of Zurich. 

FIFA World Football Museum

fifa museum zurich

Zurich is home to the FIFA Museum, which is an absolute must for all football lovers. The museum boasts a huge collection of objects relating to football, from balls used more than a century ago to jerseys of modern-day players. 

Visitors can also observe trophies, mascots, and many other memorabilia relating to the sport over three floors of the museum. There are more than 1,000 objects in the museum, including items from both the FIFA World Cup, as well as the FIFA Women’s World Cup. 

It’s also worth noting that the museum has a gift shop where you can buy all sorts of football-related souvenirs, and there’s also a bar/restaurant, where you can catch a game.

Uhrenmuseum Beyer Zürich

Uhrenmuseum Beyer Zürich is another interesting attraction that’s unique to Zurich. It’s a small museum situated on a lower level of a popular watch shop in Switzerland’s largest city, with a collection that displays the history of watches and clocks. 

The museum is inside a Chronometrie  Beyer shop on Zurich’s Bahnhofstrasse, just opposite the Louis Vuitton store. A quick stop at this museum is certainly a good way to kill an hour or two, especially if you’re already in this part of the city. 

The Beyer museum is considered one of the leading private horology museums in the world, largely thanks to its strong collection of early watches and clocks that date back to the Gothic and Renaissance eras. 

The museum’s collection truly tells the story of watchmaking and it’s often loaned to many of the biggest international museums. Highlights of the collection include Ferdinand Berthoud’s early marine chronometers, bespoke watches from the 20th century, and Breguet’s pendule sympathique, to name just a few.  

Fraumünster Church

Fraumünster Church is a famous attraction in Zurich for many reasons. It dates back to the 11th century, and the most famous thing about this church is the Chagal stained glass windows. 

There are five stained glass windows in the church that were designed by Marc Chagall, and they were all installed in 1970. Each of the five windows has one dominant color and depicts a certain image, so there’s something special about every one of them. 

There’s also a 9-meter tall stained glass window created in 1940 by Augusto Giacometti. It’s not quite as famous as the Chagall windows, but it’s certainly just as impressive. Another popular attraction in the church is the fresco by Paul Bodmer – it’s located in the cloister of the church and it depicts the city’s patron saints. 

This famous Zurich church is also home to the largest pipe organ in the entire canton of Zurich, which has no less than 6,959 pipes. It’s also important to note that there’s a museum in the church’s crypt, which boasts an exhibit on the Reformation in Zurich. 

Urania Sternwarte

Urania Sternwarte

Urania Sternwarte is a historic observatory in the old town of Zurich, and a popular place for scenic city views. It’s situated at Uraniastrasse in the Lindenhof quarter and it’s a building that you will definitely stumble upon while you’re walking around the center of Zurich. 

The public observatory dates back to the early 20th century and it is best known for the spectacular 51-meter tower that absolutely dominates the Altstadt neighborhood. It’s possible to go on guided tours of the observatory, but I don’t mind a tour of the facilities in the building. Instead, the tours make use of the impressive Zeiss telescope and allow visitors to observe star clusters, interstellar clouds, Solar System objects, and much more. 

The tours are available after 8 PM between Tuesday and Friday, but only on clear weather nights. Visit the observatory during the day to experience a magical view of Zurich’s many rooftops and the impressive lake. 

Chocolate Exploration

Lindt Chocolate Shop

Of course, you came to Switzerland to sample the chocolate, so let me give you a few tips and how to find the “good stuff” while exploring Zurich. 

My absolute favorite is Laderach, and they are very easy to find these days. They seem to have more and more shops around Zurich, especially in the Zurich West area, so you certainly can’t miss them. From their main shop on the Bahnhofstrasse to their smaller shop under the train station.

Sprungli is another absolute treasure and is also scattered in various corners of Zurich. One of the biggest shops is on Paradeplatz, halfway along Bahnhofstrasse, where they also have a cafe. They are well known for their chocolates and cakes, but their most renowned item is the Luxemburgerli, which is actually a macaroon. Grab a small box of mixed Luxemburgerli, you won’t regret it.

If you want to sample some more niche chocolatiers instead, then you also have a few options. There is the Max Chocolatier near the Frauenmuster church, the Confiserie Teuscher also near the St Peter’s church, and last but not least – Say Chocolate in the Europaallee, not far from the Sihlpost near the main train station.

Outdoor Activities

Uetliberg Zurich

It may seem like Zurich is all about shopping, eating, and relaxing, but there is actually a huge range of outdoor activities to do here. The forest is only a stone’s throw away from the city, on almost all sides, and there is a lake right in the middle of the city. And on top of that, Switzerland is definitely not flat!

The home mountain of Zurich is the Uetliberg, which is a 15-minute train ride from downtown. You can ride the train to the top and go for a walk along the ridge trail, as well as take in the stunning lake views while you are there. Or, you can hike all the way to the top from the Triemli tram stop, which is again around 15-20 minutes from downtown Zurich.

The same goes on the other side of the lake where you have both the Zuriberg and Pfannenstiel, great places to lose yourself in the forest for hours. Of course, you can never really get lost in Switzerland because the next town, road, train, or bus is usually just around the corner.

And for those wanting to get in a little skiing while in town, that is also very easy to do. The closest resorts are either Flumserberg or Hoch-Ybrig, both around 45 minutes train ride from downtown Zurich. So, if you are here in the winter months of January or February, there is sure to be some great skiing to be had, even if you only have a few days in Zurich!

Of course, there are far more outdoor activities to enjoy if you venture even further afield, but that is for another time.

About the Author Anna Timbrook

Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.

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