Plan the perfect 3-day itinerary in Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city, with our list of fun things to do for every type of traveller.
The financial powerhouse of Switzerland, Zurich tends to be brushed off for being less colourful than its counterparts. It’s also one of Europe’s most expensive cities, which doesn’t help its rep in the eyes of tourists. But look beyond the surface and you’ll discover vibrant culture, striking architecture and natural beauty. Three days in Zurich is just about right; make the most of your visit with our itinerary that takes you from museums and free tours to charming neighbourhoods and good food.
Hot tip: get the 24-hour or 72-hour Zurich Card for unlimited travel on trams, buses, trains, boats and more within the city and its surroundings. It also gives you complimentary or discounted entry to most museums. Perfect for squeezing in all your sightseeing spots over a few days!
Best things to do in Zurich, Switzerland
1. Join a free tour led by locals
A fresh transplant to the city? Free Walk Zurich hosts fantastic tours with friendly, knowledgeable guides. The New in Zurich Tour offers all the insider information you need to know about the culture, the lifestyle, and even the language (Swiss German).
If you’d like a beginner introduction to downtown Zurich, join the 1.5-hour tour to learn about its history, architecture and hidden gems. Since ‘free’ sparked our interest, we joined a massive group of tourists to wander around the city and even got to nibble on classic Swiss chocolates at the end. It’s a great way to mingle with other visitors and make a friend or two. Most of the public tours are free, but you can tip the guide if you’d like. Alternatively, pay a small fee to indulge in the chocolate tour and discover Switzerland’s fascination with its iconic treat.
2. Explore the city’s Old Town
Most cities in Switzerland feature a charming Old Town, and Zurich is no exception. Its historic city centre, otherwise known as Alstadt, features majestic architecture and cobbled streets, with the Limmat River running through it into Lake Zurich.
Make your way to Grossmünster to admire the double cathedral towers, Fraumünster to gaze at the stained glass windows, and St. Peter’s Church, which is known for housing the largest clock face in Europe. Night owls can stay on after sunset and saunter around the Niederdorf district, which comes to life with bars and pubs once evening approaches.
3. Admire nature’s beauty at Lake Zurich
Right in the city centre, the gleaming turquoise waters are perfect for swimming adventures in summer, picnic fun and boat trips. Stroll along the waterfront to get your step count in, do it on a two-wheeler, have a drink at one of the bars, or enjoy an alfresco dinner.
If you fancy a thrill, spike your heart rate with water sports like canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, wakeboarding and sailing. Or relax on a picturesque cruise – some of them offer themes like murder mystery, salsa, and sunset for a unique experience.
4. Discover the city’s best museums
Zurich is home to countless museums, from massive crowd favourites to unique niche ones. Start off at the Swiss National Museum, which is conveniently located behind the main train station, for a peek into the country’s history and culture. Kunsthaus Zurich is another bigwig – specialising in the realm of Swiss fine art, its collections include paintings, prints, sculptures and drawings from the 13th century to the present. Meanwhile, horology hobbyists can take a gander at the Beyer Clock and Watch Museum to view rare items and artefacts.
If you’re a soccer supporter, you’ll kick yourself in the foot for missing out on the official Fifa World Football Museum. Open since 2016, it’s a vibrant look into the history of the sport, with interactive areas for fans to show off their goal-scoring skills. But our choice pick is the Zoological Museum of the University of Zurich. Spend the afternoon marvelling at the permanent exhibition’s array of 1,500 animals and fossil specimens, or watch shows (in German) on zoo geography and the Ice Age.
5. Dive into all things chocolate at Lindt
The Lindt Home of Chocolate is admittedly a touristy spot – and it sits on the outskirts of the city centre. But it’s well worth the trek (or bus ride), especially if you’re a choco-holic. Step into the building and you’ll be greeted by a towering chocolate fountain next to the biggest Lindt chocolate shop stocked with all the treats your heart desires. Our favourite part? Exploring the museum on an interactive chocolate tour. Tip: book your tickets online in advance as they sell out fast!
We were barely able to contain our excitement at the start of the tour, which began with the cocoa bean-to-bar process. From the history of chocolate to the Swiss pioneers who made the country synonymous with it, the exhibitions are fascinating. Best of all, you get to stuff your face. Try white, milk and dark chocolate from the free-flowing fountains, sample flavoured chocolate bars, and grab unlimited handfuls of Lindt truffles before you head out.
6. Stroll down Bahnhofstrasse
Zurich is known for its hefty price tags, but Bahnhofstrasse takes it to the next level. The famous shopping street is, of course, one of the most extravagant ones in the world. Department stores and the usual international luxury and high-street brands dot the stretch, which connects the bustling Zurich main station with Lake Zurich.
When you’re done (window) shopping, take a seat at the popular Sprüngli Cafe to people-watch while enjoying hot chocolate and a pastry. We particularly loved John Baker’s aromatic baked goods and Confiseur Bachmann’s rich, creamy scoops of ice cream.
7. Go up Uetliberg, the “mountain” of Zurich
Sitting pretty at 2,850 feet above sea level, Uetliberg is popular for its panoramic views of the city, the lake, and even the Swiss Alps. For summer visitors, hike up the walking trail (it takes anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours) or cycle to the top on the mountain bike route. When winter rolls around, the hiking paths become toboggan and sledding runs for frosty fun. If you’d rather do it the easy way, take a 20-minute train from the main Zurich station.
Once you’ve reached the peak, climb the observation tower for gorgeous sights. You can pop into one of the restaurants afterwards for fondue and rosti, or pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the breeze. Tip: head over early to avoid the crowds, especially during the summer season.
8. Scout out Zurich West
This one’s for the cool kids. Call it funky, quirky or trendy – this former industrial area is now a vibrant neighbourhood home to street art, unique boutiques, artsy galleries and more. You’ll find indoor food markets, designer shops, farmers’ markets and crowd favourite restaurants sprinkled around the Viadukt, which stretches between the Limmat River and Hardbrucke station.
9. Eat and drink traditional Swiss offerings
Fondue, raclette, rosti – classic Swiss dishes abound in Zurich catering to all kinds of budgets. Head to the casual Swiss Chuchi Restaurant for cheesy fondue or Raclette Factory for more cheese classics. Zeughauskeller is another popular spot for Swiss food and draft beers, while Hiltl, with its extensive menu, is known for being the world’s oldest vegetarian restaurant. For magnificent 360-degree views of the city, head up high to the Jules Verne Panorama Bar for scenic sights and cool cocktails.
10. Pamper yourself at a spa
For a lazy weekend, unwind at a lush spa. Hürlimannbad & Spa Zurich sits in a quiet quarter where an old brewery used to be. It’s widely revered for the infinity pool that offers a dazzling view of the city, but don’t miss out on the Roman-Irish spa ritual and the newly refurbished thermal bath area. For a centrally-located spot, Labo Spa invites you in for a slice of paradise near Paradeplatz. Meanwhile, Stadtbad’s Hammam & Sauna takes inspiration from the Turkish hammam for a deeply relaxing experience.
11. Stay at a boutique hotel
On our trip to Zurich, we stayed at Hotel Seidenhof and we’ll rave about it any day. The rooms? Spotless and comfy. The service? First rate. This recently revamped boutique accommodation beckons you to its beautiful space that’s classy and contemporary. We can’t get enough of its amazing location either. You’re situated right by Bahnhofstrasse, with countless shops, restaurants and supermarkets just steps away. Old Town, Lake Zurich and the main train station are within easy walking distance, too. Our only gripe is the limited breakfast buffet, which doesn’t offer much variety. So if you’re in town for a longer stretch of time, you might get bored of its offerings.
The four-star hotel’s rates are relatively affordable in comparison to others in the city, but if you’ve already blown your budget, consider cheap and cheery hotels, Airbnb rentals or hostels instead.
Bookmark our guide to help you make the most of your next trip to Zurich, Switzerland!