Top things to do in Zürich: 15 beautiful sights to see [+ map]
Pulsating, multicultural, but also idyllic: that's Zurich. The Swiss metropolis is known as the secret capital and delights with very special sights. "Züri" not only has a beautiful old town but is also one of the most livable cities in the world.In this article, I will take you on a tour of Zurich and give you some more useful tips for visiting the largest city in Switzerland. You will be surprised by how much Zurich has to offer! If you're also interested in our trip to Lucerne, check that out too.
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Zurich’s top sights at a glance
You should plan at least a weekend for a visit to Zurich, although you can also explore a lot in just one day. Here are the 15 top attractions at a glance:
- St. Peter’s
- Lake Zurich
- Water church
- City Hall
- Lower Village
- Upper Letten
- Viaduct with the umbrellas
Map: All Sights in Zurich
In our interactive map you will find all important sights in Zurich. Have fun exploring all the sights and beautiful places in one of the beautiful towns in whole Switzerland.
1. St. Peter
In the heart of the old town is St. Peter, the oldest parish church in Zurich. The foundation walls from the 9th century are still visible under the choir, although the present nave was not consecrated until 1706. This makes St. Peter’s the first Protestant church building erected in Zurich after the Reformation. It is one of the city’s top things to do and see.
Let’s take a look at the church tower, which served as a fire watch until 1911 and reveals to you some of the peculiarities of St. Peter. There are five bells here dating back to 1880 – the largest weighs over 6,000 kilos without the clapper! Probably the most striking thing about the Baroque church, however, is its steeple clock. The clock face impresses with a diameter of 8.64 meters – making it the largest in Europe.
In the interior, the choir stalls from the 15th century with their rich carvings and armrests as well as the pulpit altar from 1706 are particularly worth seeing. Concerts are also held regularly in the church, you can find more information on the website.
Address: St. Peterhofstatt 2
Opening hours: Monday through Friday 8 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sunday after services approx. 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Let’s continue with a walk to another place of interest. We walk directly into the medieval Augustinergasse. The colorful houses and bay windows make you feel like you’re immersed in a picture book. Besides, there are Swiss flags everywhere – so apart from the great photo motif, you won’t forget which country you are in. It’s a cool place to visit and a fun thing to do in Zurich!
The bay windows, by the way, not only look beautiful but also had a practical use: In addition to better lighting of the rooms, they served mainly as door viewers. They were never built directly above the entrance door, but always slightly offset. In this way, uninvited guests could be spotted from a distance and, if necessary, elegantly avoided. Pretty ingenious, isn’t it?
Today, Augustinergasse is lined with cafés, restaurants, and other stores. You should not miss a stroll through one of the most colorful and beautiful alleys in Zurich.
From the cozy Augustinergasse, you will now enter the most famous street in Zurich: Bahnhofstrasse (Station Street). The approximately 1.4-kilometer-long street is considered one of the most expensive shopping miles in the world, next to New York’s world-famous 5th Avenue or Paris’ Champs Elysées. No wonder we have to take a closer look at this landmark with its luxury boutiques, department stores, and watch stores. It’s definitely a cool thing to do in Zurich!
The Bahnhofstrasse also leads directly past the Paradeplatz. Nowadays, there is nothing left of the fact that a cattle market used to be held here on a regular basis. Many major Swiss banks have settled here and so the Paradeplatz has become an important financial center.
If you prefer to spend your money on sweet treats instead of clothes or stocks, the Confiserie Sprüngli is the place to go. Where to visit it? Located directly on Paradeplatz or Bahnhofstrasse, it has been producing chocolate, pralines and other delicacies since 1836. It’s a really fun thing to do!
One specialty is the Luxemburgerli, a kind of mini-macarons. The light and airy cookies come in a wide variety of flavors and are sure to blow you away. It also makes a delicious souvenir.
Address: Bahnhofstrasse 21
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday 7 a.m.-6:30 p.m., Saturday 8:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m., Sunday 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.)
Travel guide for Zurich
With these travel guides, you are well equipped for your trip to Zurich. They tell you many insider tips and secret places beyond the usual touristic places. With the DK Eyewitness Switzerland Travel Guide (get it here*) you find a lot of tips about Switzerland and Zurich. What you should also have a look at is the The Monocle Travel Guide to Zürich Geneva + Basel (buy it here*).
After the hustle and bustle of Bahnhofstrasse, you deserve a little break. With its surrounding linden trees, the Lindenhof is just the place for you. Zurich’s oldest public park is one of the city’s top sights and things to do there.
It is located on a small hill in the middle of the old town and is a popular meeting place for locals, especially in summer. Here you can challenge passionate chess players or just rest your legs a bit.
The icing on the cake is, of course, the great view you have from the park of Zurich’s old town with Grossmünster and City Hall, as well as the Limmat River flowing by. By the way, the Lindenhof looks back on a long history: it was already used as a Roman fort, royal residence, and meeting place for the people of Zurich. Famous people such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Richard Wagner, and Johannes Brahms have also visited the Lindenhof.
Nowadays, every year on April 30 at midnight, the Zurich Singstudenten gather here to welcome the month of May. The Maisingen goes back to a custom dating back to 1879 and is still a highlight for the Zurich student choral society today.
Another amazing thing to do in Zurich is the Fraumünster. The Protestant Reformed church is also located in the heart of Zurich’s old town and was once the place of worship of a women’s convent. It was founded as early as 853 by King Louis the German.
The monastery enjoyed the favor of kings and had the minting rights of Zurich until the 13th century – a great position of power at that time. After the Reformation, the church and monastery became the property of the city.
Significant components are the Romanesque choir and the high-vaulted Gothic transept. The greatest feature of the Fraumünster, however, is the famous stained glass windows, the north windows in the transept being made by Augusto Giacometti. The five-part window cycle in the choir and the rose window in the southern transept are impressive masterpieces of Marc Chagall.
All organ fans are also in good hands here, as the Fraumünster offers a varied concert program – be it in the morning, at noon, or in the evening. Incidentally, with its 5793 pipes, the Fraumünster houses the largest organ in the canton of Zurich. Be sure to take a look inside the sight.
Address: Münsterhof 2
Opening hours: November to February 10 a.m.-5 p.m., March-October 10 a.m.-6 p.m., on Sunday after the 10 a.m. service.
At its southern end, Bahnhofstrasse flows into Bürkliplatz, which in turn lies on the northern shore of Zürichsee (lake of Zurich). This almost banana-shaped lake is a very popular destination and the top sight for all Zurich visitors. In summer, all water sports enthusiasts can also let off steam here. If you are more of the walking team, 87 kilometers – the entire length of the shore – gives you the opportunity to admire the picturesque beauty of the Zürichsee. It’s a beautiful thing to do in Zurich!
A boat trip is the best way to explore the lake. You will pass many luxury villas of the rich and famous on the shore. You might even be able to spot the homes of stars like Tina Turner. It’s also worth making a stop or two at a station to discover other magical places on the shores of the Zürichsee – for example, the rose city of Rapperswil or the Lindt chocolate factory in Kilchberg.
A trip on one of the two historic paddle steamers is particularly popular. The Zürichsee shipping company also offers a wide range of other activities, and you can research the various boat trips in more detail on the website. Ahoy and have a good trip!
Back in town, we head to Bellevue, one of Zurich’s main squares and transportation hubs. At first glance, it doesn’t seem to be very spectacular, however, there are three major sights in the immediate vicinity.
One of them is the Opera House, which was opened in 1891 and seats 1,100 spectators. It is considered one of the world’s leading opera houses. If you are in the mood for an unforgettable evening, you can take a look at the current program. In any case, it is worth admiring the magnificent building from the outside.
You should also pay a visit to Café Odeon at Bellevue. The coffeehouse is full of history: it has been a favorite meeting place of dazzling personalities and intellectuals like Albert Einstein and James Joyce since 1911.
Apart from this special ambiance, the food and drinks at the Odeon are also impressive. There is something here for every time of day and every taste.
Address: Limmatquai 2
Opening hours: Monday to Thursday 7 a.m.-2 p.m., Friday and Saturday 7 a.m.-2 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Last, but not least: from the nearby Utoquai – that’s the name of the street along the lake – you have a great panoramic view of the Zürichsee. There’s also a nice lakeside path here and even a lakeside spa. But beware of the numerous swans!
My tip: Directly at the Bellvue is the Sternen Grill. It is an institution at the Züri See. The snack bar has existed since 1963.
The next great thing to do is Wasserkirche (water church). The Wasserkirche was originally located on a small island in the middle of the Limmat. According to legend, the city saints Felix and Regula were executed on this spot in the Middle Ages. The late Gothic church was completed towards the end of the 15th century, being used as Zurich’s first municipal library for almost 300 years after the Reformation.
Since 1942, the church has once again served worship purposes. It remains one of the top sightseeing attractions.
The archaeological crypt and the legendary martyr’s stone give you an insight into the exciting history of the Wasserkirche. Also worth seeing are the three choir windows by Augusto Giacometti, which juxtapose the life of Jesus Christ with the life of a modern man.
Address: Limmatquai 31
Opening hours: Wednesday through Friday 12 p.m.-3 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 12 p.m.-5 p.m.
Close by is the Grossmünster. The sight with its two majestic towers is the Zurich landmark par excellence. Legend has it that Charlemagne discovered the graves of the city’s saints Felix and Regula on the present site of the Grossmünster and subsequently had a first church built as a canonical monastery.
Construction of the Romanesque church, which still exists today, began around 1100 and was completed in 1220. At the beginning of the 16th century, the Grossmünster became the starting point of the Swiss-German Reformation under Huldrych Zwingli and Heinrich Bullinger. In 1787 the church got its characteristic neo-Gothic towers.
Inside, you can admire, among other things, the 1933 choir window by Augusto Giacometti, who should be familiar to you by now, and the Romanesque crypt, the oldest part of the church.
Another highlight is the climb up the Charlemagne Tower, where a statue of Emperor Charlemagne recalls the church’s founding legend. The 187 steps are worth it: from the observation deck, you have a great view of the city and the Zürichsee with the nearby Glarus Alps.
Grossmünsterplatz (Google Maps)
March to October 10 a.m.-6 p.m., November to February 10 a.m.-5 p.m., on Sunday starting at noon
daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday 12:30 to 5 p.m.
5 CHF (reduced 2 CHF)
10. City Hall
Zurich’s city hall is also worth a visit. Already more than 700 years ago, a town hall stood on the same spot on the right bank of the Limmat River. The present building was erected in the 17th century and is largely preserved in its original state. The sight has baroque elements but its basic features correspond to the style of the Renaissance.
Unique about the building is the fact that it was built directly over the water. From the Cathedral Bridge, you have a beautiful view of the south side of the Town Hall and you can admire its peculiarity. Here you can also see the vault through which the Limmat flows.
The Cabaret Voltaire (website) is only a stone’s throw away from the city hall and a must-do, especially for art lovers. It is in fact the birthplace of Dadaism, an art movement and movement between art and madness. In 1916, the “artists’ pub” Voltaire was opened here, which served as a meeting place for artists who had fled to Switzerland during World War 1. These cultural events in turn gave rise to Dada, as Dadaism is also called.
Even today, the Cabaret Voltaire is full of life. Art exhibitions and other exciting events are held here regularly. There is also a café or bar where you can taste the in-house Dada absinthe – maybe it will inspire you. There’s definitely a special ambiance here. It’s a great thing to do!
Only a few steps further, the Niederdorfstrasse begins and with it the old town district Niederdorf. It is also called “Dörfli” by the locals and is one of Zurich’s strolling miles. What’s in Niederdorf to do? In its charming alleys, you will find small stores, bars, clubs, and restaurants everywhere, and can have a great time during the day as well as at night. It’s a cool thing to do in Zurich!
By the way, at the end of August (2020 from 28 to 30.08.) the popular Dörflifäscht takes place here, where the whole Niederdorf turns into a boisterous open-air party. DJs, live music, market stalls, shows, and culinary delights: The Dörflifäscht is pure joie de vivre! If you are curious, you can also have a look at the homepage.
If you have enough time, it is worthwhile to drive up to the Uetliberg. Zurich’s local mountain is 871 meters high and gives you the best view of the city, the lake, and the Alps. The mountain is not only the most popular excursion destination but also another important sight.
The Uetliberg is a top activity at any time of the year: in spring and summer, you can go mountain biking and hiking here wonderfully – for a “relaxing” walk, for example, the two-hour Planet Trail is a good choice. In autumn, the view from the Uetliberg is said to be particularly magical, as the peak then often emerges from the blanket of high fog. In winter, the hiking trails are often converted into sledding trails.
Whether amateur photographer, sportsman, or simply bon vivant: the Uetliberg will captivate every Zurich visitor. Those who can’t get enough of the view are at the right address at Hotel Uto Kulm*. This stylish hotel is located directly on the Uetliberg and not only has its own restaurant but also a sauna with panoramic views – the perfect base for leaving everyday life behind and relaxing in nature!
Tip: From the main train station, the trip with the S 10 takes about half an hour (last stop: Uetliberg). For the return trip, it’s best to take the Albis 24h ticket, which covers six zones – including zone 110 for Zurich city center – and costs 17.60 Swiss francs (8.80 reduced).
Opposite the Uetliberg is the Käferberg. From it, you also have a great view of Zurich. It’s the second most popular sunset spot in Zurich after the Uetliberg. Later you can have a bite to eat at the restaurant Die Waid.
Opposite the Uetliberg, on the other side of the Limmat, rises the Dolder area with the Adlisberg. One of the highlights there is a ride on the Dolder funicular. It connects the district of Hottlingen with stops up to the Adlisberg.
The funicular has been in operation since 1895. At the top is also The Dolder Grand Hotel (check prices here*). It looks like a castle. Here you can not only dine well but have a great view of the city. Be sure to check out the sight.
14. Oberer Letten
At Oberer Letten you will find a panoramic river bath directly at the Limmat. The Letten power plant dams the river here, so you can go swimming here. There is also a skate park there and in summer the riverbank is crowded.
Beach bars invite you to chill and lie in the sun. And in general, the atmosphere here is totally relaxed.
By the way: When the people of Zurich are not lolling around at the Flussbad or at Lake Zurich, they go floating. Hundreds of people get on a rubber boat and float down the river. You should experience that once. It’s an incredible amount of fun.
15. Viaduct with the umbrellas
The market hall in the Viadukt is also an unusual thing to do in Zurich. As the name suggests, there are a lot of small stores in an old viaduct. Especially in summer, cafes open their doors. It is worthwhile to stroll here. One of the highlights are colorful umbrellas stretched over the roofs.
Cheese fans and hipsters will love Frau Gerold’s garden (website). It’s located right next to the Viadukt. This is where Zurich’s alternative scene feels at home. Between containers and old train cars, there is also a nice rooftop bar. In the cozy wooden pavilion, you can fill your belly with different kinds of cheese fondue in winter. In summer, there are plenty of grilled dishes and salads with ingredients from their own “Urban Garden”.
Address: Geroldstrasse 23/23a
Opening hours: October to March Monday to Saturday 6 p.m.-2 a.m., closed Sunday; April to September Monday to Saturday 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Sunday 12 a.m.-2 p.m.
Zurich’s most exciting museums
Zurich not only offers many impressive sights but also has no less than 55 museums. It’s worth visiting one or the other, not only when it’s raining – here’s a small overview of my favorites:
- The Kunsthaus Zurich is the largest art museum in Switzerland and houses, among other things, the largest Munch collection outside of Norway. (Address: Heimplatz 1, opening hours: Tuesday, Friday to Sunday 10 am-6 pm, Wednesday and Thursday 10 am-8 pm, closed Monday, tip: Wednesday admission is free!)
- The Landesmuseum Zurich was already opened in 1898 and is already worth seeing from the outside. Inside you can learn everything about the cultural history of Switzerland in many exciting exhibitions. (Address: Museumstrasse 2, opening hours: Tuesday and Wednesday 10-17 h, Thursday 10-19 h, Friday 10-17 h, Monday closed).
- In the watch museum Beyer you can dive into the history of time measurement and marvel at 300 very rare and precious specimens. (Address: Bahnhofstrasse 31, opening hours: Monday to Friday 2-6 p.m.)
- Soccer fans will love the FIFA World Football Museum. Here you can admire over 1000 important exhibits from the world of soccer – including balls, signed jerseys, and even the original men’s and women’s World Cup trophy. (Address: Seestrasse 27, opening hours: Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., closed Monday).
Eating & Drinking in Zurich
After the long city tour to all the sights, you will definitely feel hungry in your stomach. What else to do in Switzerland and Zurich? Eat a cheese fondue! The best cheese fondue is served in winter at Chalet Züriberg on Orellistraße. Very special cheese fondue is served there in a rustic hut by the fireplace.
Besides the Luxemburgerli, which you already know, the Zurich cuisine has a lot to offer. The most famous dish is probably the Zürcher Geschnetzelte: it is a veal ragout in a cream sauce, traditionally served with Rösti.
“Züri Gschnätzlets” is said to taste particularly good at the Kronenhalle (Website) on Bellevue. The fact that it was once a popular artists’ meeting place is still noticeable today: real paintings by Chagall, Picasso or Miró hang on the walls! The gourmet restaurant is also said to have one of the best bars in the world. The prices are steep, however. (Address: Rämistrasse 4, opening hours: daily 12-24 h).
Somewhat cheaper, but at least as tasty is the food in the traditional Zunfthaus zur Zimmerleuten. Here you will find Swiss cuisine at its best and, in addition to a large selection of wines, Steinfeils Züri West beer. (Address: Limmatquai 40, opening hours: daily 11.30-23.30).
All vegetarians and vegans are in good hands at Haus Hiltl. The oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world opened back in 1898 and offers a wide range of delicious dishes – and at any time of day: Zmorge, Zmittag or Znacht! (Address: Sihlstrasse 28, opening hours: Monday to Saturday 6 am-2 pm, Sunday 8 am-2 pm) By the way, the restaurant has a great roof terrace.
For a special kind of experience, you can also take the Fondue Tram (Website) in winter. You read that right: You enjoy your cheese fondue while gondolaing through downtown Zurich on a streetcar – why not?
Another Zurich specialty is the famous Birchermüesli, invented in 1900 by Zurich physician and nutritionist Max Bircher-Benner and originally called “apple diet food.” You can actually get the healthy food in any café here. Particularly popular, for example, are the above-mentioned Confiserie Sprüngli or Confiserie Honold (website) (address: Rennweg 53, opening hours: Monday to Friday 8 am – 5 pm, Saturday and Sunday closed).
Tibits Seefeld offers the finest vegetarian and vegan buffet. There you fill your plates to the brim with goodies. At the latest at the cash register, you will be shocked because you have to pay by weight. Still, it’s worth a visit.
Where to stay in Zurich – our hotel tipps
Let’s face it: you can quickly become poor in Zurich – after all, it is one of the cities with the highest cost of living in the world. One of the cheaper accommodations with good reviews is the Zurich Youth Hostel (check prices here*). The price also includes breakfast. The simple but cozy Gasthaus zum Guten Glück (check prices here*) is another recommended low-budget option, as long as using a shared bathroom isn’t a problem for you.
The 3-star Hotel Swiss Night by Fassbind (check rates here*) scores with its Swiss charm and central location. Don’t worry: despite its proximity to the Old Town, it’s quiet here in the evenings, so you’ll have no problem getting your well-deserved beauty sleep.Hotel Scheuble (check prices here*) and the 4-star citizenM Zurich (check prices here*) also impress with their stylish interiors and an unbeatable location in the middle of Zurich’s city center.
Absolutely modern and super stylish is the 25 Hours Hotel (check prices here*). In summer, you can sit outside on the terrace. The interior is just awesome.
Facts about Zurich
- Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland with a population of 400,000.
- The city originated from the Roman base Turicum
- Famous personalities such as Lenin, Albert Einstein, and Thomas Mann have already lived here
- According to the Mercer study, Zurich is the city with the second highest quality of life in the world, beaten only by Vienna.
- There are more than 1200 drinking fountains in Zurich.
- Every year in August, the Street Parade, the largest techno parade in the world, takes place here.
Well, did you now get the desire to convince yourself of the charm of Zurich on your own? I’ll certainly pay the city another visit – maybe it will soon be time for you to say: Grüezi Zurich!