Planning the perfect Zurich itinerary is a major component to most trips to Switzerland. Spending 2 or 3 days in Zurich – Switzerland’s largest city – is a great way to get to know an urban side of this gorgeous country away from the peaks of the Alps.
There are lots of things to do in Zurich that can definitely keep you occupied over the course of a few days. In this dynamic city, you’ll find a variety of exquisite art exhibits, delicious food, and fascinating history. This article will help you plan your ideal visit to Zurich and ensure that you don’t miss a thing.
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How Many Days in Zurich?
When determining how many days to spend in Zurich, consider how much you want to see. Compared to other European cities, Zurich isn’t huge. You can spend 2 days in Zurich to see most of the city’s highlights or spend three days and include a day trip out of the city.
However. if you have 3 days to spend in Zurich, you can use your final day to go on a day trip to a town like Lucerne or visit natural attractions like Rhine Falls.
While Zurich is one of the most expensive cities in Europe, it’s well worth visiting due to its colourful architecture, picturesque lake, and towering mountains on either side. You can spend an afternoon shopping or visiting museums then have a lovely dinner at one of the local restaurants serving regional cuisines.
For those travelling in Switzerland on a budget, there are several free activities to fill the time. Spend a day wandering the city and trying local foods purchased from the grocery store. There are transportation packages that make travelling locally more affordable as well.
Getting To & Around Zurich
Overall, Zurich is a walkable city. In fact, one of the best ways to explore the city might be on foot. This way you’ll be able to get lost in the alleys of Old Town or stumble upon unique parts of the city that you won’t find in guidebooks.
Should you need to use public transportation, the Zurich Card is worth looking into. This is a 24 or 72-hour card that grants unlimited travel using the tram, bus, train, boat, and cableway in and around Zurich. This is an especially good option for those travelling on a tighter budget, but still a good idea for any visitor due to the card’s convenience.
To reach Zurich, you might take a plane or train. Zurich is home to an international airport that you can easily fly to from cities across the world. From Zurich Airport, call a taxi or rideshare service to reach your accommodation. You can also book a private transfer here.
If you’re travelling from another city in Switzerland (such as Geneva or Interlaken), you’ll probably arrive by train. Since Zurich is a major city in the country, you’ll have no problem catching a train from wherever you’re coming from. Keep in mind that it’s best to plan ahead and book your train tickets in advance. You can view schedules here.
The Zurich main train station is centrally located, so you might be able to walk to your accommodation from there. You can also call a taxi or Uber.
2 to 3-Day Zurich Itinerary
For your 2 to 3 days in Zurich, don’t forget to explore the lake, neighbourhoods, and restaurants. You can have days full of history and culture or step out of the city to take in Switzerland’s stunning natural wonders. Nevertheless, here are some of the best activities to fill your time in Zurich.
Day 1 – Old Town & City Centre Highlights
Explore Old Town (Altstadt)
Zurich’s historical Old Town, also known as Altstadt, is the perfect way to kick off your three days in Zurich. You’ll find parts of Old Town on the banks of the Limmat River in the shadow of Uetliberg – a hill overlooking the city. Old town squares, churches, and houses boast historic architecture.
You can choose to set out on your own or sign up for an Old Town Walking Tour. During the tour, the guide will showcase the importance of Old Town in the history of Zurich and Switzerland. Old Town tends to be a popular area to explore for tourists, so consider visiting during the morning or evening to have fewer people to navigate.
As one of the best preserved and most impressive gardens in Zurich, it should come as no surprise that the Rechberg Gardens are one of the must-see places in the city. A visit here any time of day creates a blissful oasis away from the bustle of central Zurich.
It’s located between the University campus and Altstadt, making it a great stop before or after visiting the Old Town. Throughout the years, the garden has taken many forms. Today it resembles contemporary design with historic landscaping that creates a wonderful array of flowers and plant varieties.
Take some time to appreciate the Rechberg Mansion during your visit as well.
Here is one of the four major churches in Zurich and definitely one that should be added to your itinerary. Construction of the church began in 1100 and, according to legend, was founded by Charlemagne.
The architecture is a Romanesque style that is one of the most recognizable in Zurich.
Today, the church holds two modern stained-glass windows that are impressive sites to see. Visitors can climb to the top of the tower for a fee or explore the ground floor and take in the impressive architecture.
Fraumunster Church (Church of Our Lady)
The bright green spire that dominates the Zurich skyline belongs to Fraumunster Church or the Church of Our Lady. While the exterior isn’t the most eye-catching, as soon as visitors enter the church they’re struck by the vibrantly-colored stained-glass windows and impressive architecture.
The church was built on the remains of an abbey for aristocratic women in 858. When you enter the church, make sure to keep an eye out for the organ. It’s the largest in the canton of Zurich.
Day 2 – Lindenhof, St Peter’s Church, Lake Zurich, Chocolate & More!
For an excellent view of Old Town, Grossmunster Church, and the Limmat River, pay a visit to Lindenhof. This overlook has been the scene of many famous historical events–a Roman fort once stood here and served as a gathering palace for locals throughout the city’s history.
Today, this outlook is a small park covered by trees that invites visitors to look out over Zurich. If you’re a morning person, consider watching the sunrise from Lindenhof.
It’s a popular spot to watch the sun come up on a clear morning and well worth setting an early alarm clock.
St. Peter’s Church
Here is the oldest parish church in Zurich and another historic site to add to your Zurich itinerary. It also wears the largest church clock face in Europe that is easily recognizable when looking at the Zurich skyline.
It served as a fire lookout until 1911 and has since become a favourite site for visitors to explore. Try to visit St. Peter’s Church in the morning before crowds arrive, especially if you’re travelling during the high season.
Due to its close proximity to Lindenhof, visiting the church before or after admiring Zurich from Lindenhof is a good option. While exploring the area, make sure to keep an eye out for unique chocolate shops. Switzerland is known for producing mouth-watering chocolate.
Walk to Lake Zurich, Burkliplatz Pier
Contrary to what you may think, the Burkliplatz Pier is not a boat dock. It’s a lovely promenade located right next to Lake Zurich. Depending on the season, you’ll find vendors here selling a variety of fruits, vegetables, and other goods.
The square is home to Zurich’s second-biggest flea market. There is food nearby making this a great place to have a picnic with a view. You can also use it as a jumping-off point to explore the lakeshore by starting a leisurely walk down the trail that wraps around the lake.
Lindt Home of Chocolate
The chances are good that you’ve tried Lindt chocolate at home. Did you know that Zurich is where that delicious chocolate originated? Whether you’re a chocolate lover or not, you’ll most likely appreciate this unique experience of touring where the chocolate is made.
There is an interactive chocolate tour that details the Swiss cultural history and where chocolate fits in. You’ll learn how the chocolate is made, the history behind it, and get to walk through the largest Lindt Chocolate Shop.
Make sure to keep an eye out for the famous chocolate fountain. This is definitely one of the best places to visit in Zurich. You can pre-purchase tickets here.
Quailbrucke for the sunset
Close out your second day in Zurich by watching the sunset from Quailbrucke. This is a bridge spanning the river Limmat near the outflow of the river. From the centre of the bridge, visitors can look back toward the river and city to take in a lovely view while the sun goes down.
Consider bringing a cup of tea or a sweet treat to snack on as you enjoy the view. The perk is you don’t have to travel out of the city or fight crowds to get a spectacular sunset.
Day 3 – Schaffhausen, Lucerne or Stein am Rhine
Rhine Falls and Schaffhausen
Located between Zurich and the Swiss town of Schaffhausen is home to the most powerful waterfall in Europe. It’s 150 metres wider and 23 metres wide. If you happen to have a third day to spend in Zurich, consider taking a day trip to see these falls.
Viewing platforms are built on both sides, but proceed with caution as the stairs to reach the platforms are steep and narrow. You can easily reach the falls by train from Zurich. It is also possible to arrange a guided tour such as this half-day tour.
Should time be on your side, add a stop to Schaffhausen to your day. This picturesque city is home to the Munet Castle–a towering fortress built between 1564 and 1589. The city lies on the Rhine River, which makes it a great place to stop for lunch or dinner during your day trip.
If you’re still itching to take a day trip to explore more of Switzerland, but waterfalls aren’t the most exciting site, pay a visit to Lucerne. This charming city is a hub in central Switzerland. It’s known for its impressive mediaeval architecture, stunning Lake Lucerne, and mountains standing on either side.
Lucerne is a great day trip from Zurich because it offers plenty of activities to do during the day, but doesn’t have the same level of nightlife as Zurich. Many consider Lucerne to be one of the most scenic cities in Europe, maybe even the world. Keep an eye out for the Chapel Bridge.
When looking at photos of Lucerne, you’ve most likely seen some of this bridge. It’s a footbridge that crosses the river and holds many unique paintings dating back to the 17th century. It’s a pleasant way to spend an afternoon in the city. You can book a full-day guided tour here.
Stein am Rhein
A day in Stein am Rhein is a day well spent. It’s one of the most charming and historic towns in Switzerland. Stein am Rhein is located directly at the German border at the lower end of Lake Constance where it becomes the Rhine River.
The town is about one hour from Zurich, but keep in mind that the town often becomes a tourist hotspot during the summer. During your visit, you can explore the town’s oldest buildings which are over 500 years old, walk through the charming town square, or walk to the Werd islands over a 125-metre-long wood bridge.
You can take a boat ride on the lake or simply spend the day wandering the town on foot to see all it has to offer. This half-day tour combines both Stein am Rhein & Rhine Falls.
Where to Stay in Zurich
Motel One Zürich – This centrally-located 3-star hotel is a great option for mid-range visitors to Zurich. Is has a number of lovely rooms available, a hip on-site lounge bar and they even allow pets for those travelling with a furry friend.
Sorell Hotel St. Peter – Those after a bit of luxury during their trip to Zurich are sure to love this plush hotel. Boasting a number of luxe rooms and plenty of other amenities, it is also very centrally located close to everything this Swiss city has to offer.
HITrental Stauffacher Apartments – If you’re looking for your own space in Zurich, then these apartments are a great option. Centrally located, they have a range of various-sized flats on offer, some with balconies, that are all fully furnished with everything you may need.
Zurich Youth Hostel – This hostel is a great option for those travelling solo or on a budget. Centrally located, they have a range of both dorm beds and private rooms available and great common areas and self-catering facilities for guests to use.
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Two days in Zurich gives you ample time to see the city itself. If you’re lucky enough to get another day in the area, consider taking a day trip out to see more of the area surrounding Zurich.
Zurich is a city rich with Swiss history, culture, and cuisine. You’ll have no shortage of activities to fill your time and have a wonderful trip.
Are you planning on visiting Zurich? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!