How to Spend a Day in Zurich, Switzerland

Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city, is commonly known as their cosmopolitan metropolis and is frequently visited by both tourists and local Swiss residents.  Zurich is filled with endless activities both day and night.  The city is filled with booming nightlife, beautiful history, well-known museums, and gorgeous nature.

Not only do Kevin and I recommend visiting Zurich, but below is our one-day guide to Zurich, Switzerland.  This post contains our favorite places to eat, drink, and visit in Zurich!  Also, check out the 10 things you need to know before visiting Switzerland!

How to Spend a Day in Zurich, Switzerland

Go Back in Time at the Swiss National Museum

The Swiss National Museum, also known as National Museum Zurich, is located in the northwest part of Zurich just one minute north of Zurich’s main train station.  The Swiss National Museum is made up of three museums in total.  The National Museum Zurich located in Zurich, the Château de Prangins located in Prangins, and the Forum of Swiss History Schwyz located in Schwyz.  Of the three, the National Museum Zurich is Switzerland’s most frequently visited.  The National Museum Zurich highlights Switzerland’s history from the beginning of time to the present day and offers a range of exhibitions for tourists and locals.

Not to mention the National Museum Zurich is gorgeous both the inside and the outside!  You’ll definitely want to check it out!

Breakfast at Hiltl Dachterrasse

Hiltl Latte. How to Spend a Day in Zurich, Switzerland. Where to eat in Zurich, Switzerland.
Enjoying a vanilla latte at Hiltl Dachterrasse, the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world!

Hiltl Dachterrasse is located about three blocks from Zurich’s main train station.  Hiltl is infamous for being the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world after being founded in 1898.  This restaurant offers a buffet style breakfast where guests can get eggs, freshly baked croissants, salads, or lunch options such as vegetarian chicken nuggets and jalapeno poppers.  However, though a buffet style, Hiltl Dachterrasse is slightly different from American style buffets.  At Hiltl Dachterrasse, customers can fill their plate with whatever they choose to eat, then weight the plate at the register.  The price of the meal is based on the weight of the plate rather than a set fee.  That being said, if guests decide to get a second plate they must repeat the process and pay the additional amount for the additional food/plate.

Hiltl Breakfast. How to Spend a Day in Zurich, Switzerland. Where to eat in Zurich, Switzerland.
Breakfast at Hilt Dachterrasse.

Hilt Dachterrasse also offers both indoor and outdoor seating.  When entering the restaurant there are a number of tables to choose from inside.  However, if you choose to eat outside consider whether you want to eat in the heated outdoor space or the open outdoor patio.  The porch to the left of the register is the open, non-heated, outdoor space with views of the main street and shopping area.  The space to the right of the counter is enclosed by glass windows and is considerably warmer than the other space.

Hiltl Indoor Seating Area. How to Spend a Day in Zurich, Switzerland. Where to eat in Zurich, Switzerland.
Indoor seating at Hiltl Dachterrasse, so cute and cozy inside!

Hiltl Outdoor Sitting Space. How to Spend a Day in Zurich, Switzerland. Where to eat in Zurich, Switzerland.
Outdoor seating at Hiltl Dachterrasse.  They also offer blankets in case you get cold while eating outside!

View Zurich from the Top of Lindenhof

Lindenhof, the historical site of the Roman castle and the old historic city center, is located on the west side of Zurich, Switzerland.  The same side of the city as the main train station and Hiltl Dachterrasse.  That being said Kevin and I suggest checking this place out before exploring the east side of the city. 

Lindenhof is an elevated park located along the Limmat River that offers beautiful, free views of Zurich.  From Lindenhof, you can view Grossmünster Church, Old Town Zurich, City Hall, the Limmat River, and so much more.  If you haven’t eaten or visit Lindenhof around lunchtime, Kevin and I recommend bringing wine and cheese, grapes, or whatever you prefer for a small picnic while taking in the breathtaking views.

View from Lindenhof. How to Spend a Day in Zurich, Switzerland. Best Zurich viewpoints of the city.
The view of Zurich from Lindenhof. In the distance, you can see Grossmünster Church!

Walk Around Old Town Zurich

Although all of Zurich is gorgeous, Old Town Zurich is something special.  Spend a few hours getting lost along the cobblestone streets and historic shops in Old Town.  Here you will find authentic Swiss goods and local family owned restaurants that offer the true Swiss experience. 

Old Town Zurich. How to Spend a Day in Zurich, Switzerland. Old City Zurich.
Enjoy wandering around the picturesque streets of Old Town Zurich.

Protip:  If you are exploring Swiss cities on a Sunday most of the shops may be closed and restaurants are known to open later and be open for fewer hours if they open at all.  If you are looking to shop on a Sunday, we recommend shopping in railway stations because they are allowed to open. 

Enjoy a Shopping Spree on Augustinergasse

Love to shop?  Check out Augustinergasse, one of Zurich’s most beautiful historic shopping streets.  Augustinergasse is known for its beautifully painted buildings, narrow streets, and the many bay windows housing more history than the stores themselves!

Here you will find shops such as Cashmere House AG, Boutique Tops, Meister Silber AG, Vero Moda, and much more.

Visit Grossmünster Church

Grossmünster Church. How to Spend a Day in Zurich, Switzerland. View of Grossmünster Church from the bridge.
The view of Grossmünster Church from Münsterbrücke Bridge.

Grossmünster Church is a famous landmark of Zurich, Switzerland.  It is said that the church itself was built on the burial site of the cities patron saints, Regula and Felix. 

Grossmünster Church. How to Spend a Day in Zurich, Switzerland. Highest view in Zurich, Switzerland.
Grossmünster Church from below.

Over the years Grossmünster Church has become a popular destination for tourists from all over the world.  Located on the southeast side of the city, Grossmünster Church offers beautiful panoramic views of Zurich.  Here you may choose to view the inside of the church for free or spend 5 CHF (Swiss Franc) per person to climb to the top and take in the views.  This is definitely a cool experience though it does get very crowded due to the number of tourists, make sure you go early.

View from Grossmünster Church north. How to Spend a Day in Zurich, Switzerland
The view from Grossmünster Church to the north, truly a spectacular view!

View from Grossmünster Church west. How to Spend a Day in Zurich, Switzerland.
The west side of Zurich seen from Grossmünster Church!

View from Grossmünster Church South. How to Spend a Day in Zurich, Switzerland.
The view from Grossmünster Church to the south overlooking Lake Zurich.

Outside of Grossmünster Church is a beautiful square where you may also sit and enjoy a picnic while overlooking the west side of Zurich. 

Square outside Grossmünster Church. How to spend the day in Zurich, Switzerland. What to do in Zurich, Switzerland.
Enjoying the views outside of Grossmünster Church.

Grossmünster Church Hours of Operation

March to October:
Monday to Saturday 10.00 am – 6.00 pm
Open on Sundays after the service.

November to February:
Monday to Saturday 10.00 am – 5.00 pm
Open on Sundays after the service.

Enjoy a Picnic Overlooking Lake Zurich

Lake Zurich is a beautiful lake located just south of the city.  Lake Zurich has become a popular excursion location for both tourists and locals alike while property along the lake has become extremely sought after.  Here on Lake Zurich, you may choose to take a cruise or relax on a bench while admiring the views.  If you choose to relax along the lake and admire the views, Kevin and I recommend bringing some snacks and enjoying a picnic you could literally spend hours there!  

Along the lake, many tourists and locals gather to enjoy the beautiful weather and great views.  You will even see people walking and biking around on a perfect spring day!

Take a Cruise on Lake Zurich

As for cruises, Lake Zurich offers a number of unique cruises, some close to three hours long.  Each cruise offers leisure activities while also providing guests with a wonderful tour of the surrounding area that cannot be seen from the city center.

If you have time, we definitely recommend taking a cruise on Lake Zurich.  Cruise season typically starts in early April in Zurich, Switzerland.  Unfortunately, Kevin and I visited the city at the end of March and were unable to partake in this activity!

Check Out Zurich’s Old Botanical Garden

Located in the heart of downtown Zurich is The Old Botanical Garden.  Established in 1837, the Old Botanical Garden is home to a number of old local trees where one can come and relax after or during a day of exploring.  Also located at the Old Botanical Garden is the Palm House.  The Palm House is a protected monument and used today for exhibitions, concerts, and theatrical works of art.

If you are lucky the Old Botanical Garden will be hosting an event while you visit!

Old Botanical Garden Hours of Operation

April to September 7.00 am – 7.00 pm

October to March 8.00 am – 6.00 pm

Enjoy a Drink and the View at Jules Verne Panorama Bar

View from Jules Verne Panorama Bar east. How to Spend a Day in Zurich, Switzerland. Where it eat in Zurich.
Enjoy a drink and the view at Jules Verne Panorama Bar.

Jules Verne Panorama Bar is located in the heart of Zurich above Brasserie Lipp, a classic French-style bistro.  This bar, though expensive, is a great place to enjoy a drink and views of the city; especially on a rainy day when you do not want to sit outside at a rooftop bar. 

Drinks at Jules Verne Panorama Bar. How to Spend a Day in Zurich, Switzerland. Where it eat in Zurich.
Enjoying an Ittinger beer at Jules Verne Panorama Bar overlooking the city.

Jules Verne Panorama Bar is a small circular bar that holds roughly 20 guests.  The drink menu consists of signature cocktails, a wonderful wine list, and a number of local beers.  Kevin ordered the Ittinger, a local amber ale, while I enjoyed an Erdinger Weisbier, a local golden ale.  Both were delicious and just what we needed after a long day of exploring the city of Zurich.

View from Jules Verne Panorama Bar east. How to Spend a Day in Zurich, Switzerland. Where it eat in Zurich.
The circular bar in Jules Verne Panorama Bar in Zurich.

Summary

Heading to Switzerland but not sure where to go?  Check out Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city and cosmopolitan metropolis.  Get lost wandering the streets of Old Town Zurich, climbing the steps of Grossmünster Church, or just take in the breathtaking views at Lake Zurich.  Whatever you choose we are sure you will have a blast!

Below are Kevin and my favorite things to do in Zurich, Switzerland.

  1. Go Back in Time at the Swiss National Museum
  2. Breakfast at Hiltl Dachterrasse
  3. View Zurich from the Top of Lindenhof
  4. Walk Around Old Town Zurich
  5. Enjoy a Shopping Spree on Augustinergasse
  6. Visit Grossmünster Church
  7. Enjoy a Picnic Overlooking Lake Zurich
  8. Take a Cruise on Lake Zurich
  9. Check Out Zurich’s Old Botanical Garden
  10. Enjoy a Drink and the View at Jules Verne Panorama Bar

If you have any recommendations on what to do in Zurich, Switzerland or any questions drop a comment below.

How to Spend a Day in Zurich, Switzerland. What to do in Zurich, Switzerland.
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Taylor Mathers

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