Zurich is the most expensive city in Europe. But don’t let that deter you! This post is all about awesome things to do in Zurich. A few of which are free!
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If you’re planning a trip to Switzerland, you have to stop in Zurich. Summer or winter, Zurich is a must-see. We stayed in Zurich for a week, but 2-3 days is a perfect amount of time to experience the city. There’s a lot to do in Zurich, but some sights, activities, and restaurants are better than others. First, let’s start with the basics.
Where Is Zurich?
Zurich is a city in north-central Switzerland about 15 miles from the border of Germany. It is the country’s largest city, with a population close to 500,000 residents. It is Switzerland’s financial capital and the center of economic life. It’s home to many of the country’s leading banks. It’s also one of the richest (and most expensive) countries in Europe.
Where To Stay
I recommend staying outside the city center in one of Zurich’s other neighborhoods. Zurich has an easy public transportation system, so the center is very accessible from basically anywhere. Plus, staying outside of the center is a lot cheaper.
We stayed in the Aussersihl district, also known as District 4. This is the exact Airbnb, which is literally perfect! Our Airbnb host describes the area as “the most dynamic district of Zurich” and “ a vibrant neighborhood full of personality, boasting a mix of old and new, art, culture, and history.” We found this area of Zurich to be exactly as described!
If you would prefer to stay in a hotel, here are some good options in the Aussersihl district of Zurich.
If you are looking to stay more central, check out these places.
Things To Do in Zurich
Okay now that you know the basics, it’s time to jump into 7 bucket list things to do in Zurich! Out of everything I experienced, these were my favorites and things I don’t think you should miss when you visit Zurich. I know the memories (and photos) will last me a lifetime!
#1. Eat cheese fondue at Fribourger Fondue Stübli
Switzerland is known for its cheese and especially cheese fondue. Cheese fondue has been the national dish of the country since the 1930s! Today, cheese fondue is actually a symbol of Swiss unity. If you don’t know, cheese fondue is a dish most commonly made of melted cheese, wine, and seasoning. You dip bread, potatoes, gherkins, onions, and more into the warm mixture and enjoy!
I was so excited to try cheese fondue for the first time. We definitely wanted an authentic experience that wasn’t too touristy. We opted for dinner at Fribourger Fondue Stübli, which was the perfect choice! Upon our arrival we were absolutely overwhelmed with the smell of cheese, but got used to it very quickly. We had so much fun dipping our bites into the cheese and even managed to finish the entire pot!
#2. Visit the Lindt Home of Chocolate
In addition to cheese, the Swiss are also known for their chocolate! One of the things I was most excited to do in Zurich was visit the Lindt Home of Chocolate. It took about an hour going through the interactive exhibits on cultivation of the cocoa bean, history of chocolate consumption, process of chocolate production, and how Switzerland revolutionized the chocolate industry!
We also got to sample various types of melted and hard chocolate, and took a handful of Lindt Lindor chocolate truffles home with us! We had a bit of a stomach ache afterwards, but it was definitely worth it. If you plan to visit the Lindt Home of Chocolate on a weekend, you definitely need to book in advance. An adult ticket costs about $15. If you have more time, you can also take a chocolate making class!
#3. Take pictures in the Old Town
Zurich is an absolutely gorgeous city and the Old Town (“Die Altstadt” in German) is one of its highlights. The Old Town is very close to the main train station. It has a maze of cobblestone streets, historic sites (mostly churches), boutiques, restaurants, souvenir shops, and of course, spots for Instagram photos. This is my favorite picture we took in the Old Town, which is on the corner of Bahnhofstrasse and Augustinergasse.
Taylor Travelgram Tip (TTT): You are going to want to make sure you bring a portable charger with you because taking pictures is a mega battery drainer. Here is the one I use.
#4. Hike the Panorama Trail
We weren’t sure if we were going to do this at first because of the rainy/snowy weather, but I am so glad we did! It’s a two-hour long panoramic hike that takes you from Uetliberg to Felsenegg. It offers really nice views of the city and is a nice way to explore Swiss nature.
The hike is relatively easy and flat, and there are a few restaurants along the way to stop for a bite to eat or a drink! Along the way there are also planet figurines that are at distances proportional to their actual distances in space. We saw most of them, but must have missed a few.
To get there, you will take a 30 minute train ride from the main Zurich station to Uetliberg. To get back, you will take a cable car down from Felsenegg to Adliswil, then take a train the rest of the way to Zurich. I don’t remember the exact price of the transportation, but all together it was less than $20 per person.
#5. Go (window) shopping on the Bahnhofstrasse
The Bahnhofstrasse is Zurich’s main shopping street. It is one of the most expensive streets for retail property in the entire world! The street is mostly pedestrian, but does allow trams. Most of the stores are luxury stores such as Prada, Gucci, and Dior. But there are a few stores with prices that don’t make your eyes water like Zara and H&M.
Walking down the Bahnhofstrasse really gives you a taste of Swiss luxury. As I mentioned earlier, Zurich is the most expensive city in Europe and also one of the richest! This street is definitely a testament to the city’s wealth. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, window shopping is just as fun. You definitely can’t miss this street when you’re planning things to do in Zurich.
#6. Relax at Hürlimannbad & Spa
Even if you’re only spending a few days in Zurich, you need to squeeze in a few hours at the Hürlimannbad & Spa. This can best be described as a luxury thermal bath house. I was a bit skeptical at first because I’ve had some bad experiences at thermal baths (cough cough Budapest), but Hürlimannbad & Spa really exceeded my expectations!
You’re going to want to book the ‘Roman-Irish Spa Ritual’ because it gives you access to exclusive steam rooms and pools that are much less crowded than the general baths. Basically, it’s an experience that takes you through 10 different stations including steam rooms, hot pools, cold pools, and more. It was really relaxing and also super clean (which is important to me because I’m easily squeamish).
#7. Check out the FIFA Museum
I’ll admit, I’m not a big sports fan. But when I learned the FIFA headquarters is located in Zurich, I felt I had to check out the museum. It was cool looking at all the exhibits, especially about the history of soccer (football) and the World Cup. They had one exhibit which showed the jerseys of every national team, which I liked because the different outfits are the most interesting part of the sport in my opinion! They also had an area to play interactive soccer-type games… which I personally sat out on.
If you are a soccer-lover, you will definitely want to stop by the FIFA Museum, Even if not, it’s still one for the bucket list! I also want to acknowledge that FIFA has some shady practices, so that’s something to consider or least educate yourself on before your visit. Again, I’d recommend booking tickets in advance!
Some Pieces of Advice
Now that you know what to do in Zurich, I want to tell you a few things you should be aware of before you go!
- In Zurich they speak German, but most people also speak English. While Zurich is in the German-speaking area of Switzerland, most people I met spoke English. This is not the same in other parts of Switzerland. In Geneva barely anyone speaks English!
- Buy tickets for public transportation right at the stop. It was super easy to buy tickets and navigate the ticket machine. All the machines have English language options! Just make sure you know your destination so you buy the right (and cheapest) ticket option.
Enjoy your time in Zurich! I hope you get a chance to check these things to do in Zurich off of your bucket list. If you’re visiting in the summer, you should also consider going for a swim or doing some water activities on Lake Zurich. We visited in the winter, but definitely plan to go back in the summer one day!
If you don’t already have your trip booked, I’m sure I’m convincing you to visit. Check out these resources and tools to help book and plan your trip!
- Booking.com – offers accommodation and unique places
- Vrbo – world’s leading marketplace for vacation rentals
- Hostelworld – global hostel-focused online booking platform
- Wayaway – flight aggregator to find the best rates on airline tickets
- Rentalcars.com – the world’s largest car rental service
- Trainline – Europe’s leading train and bus app
- GetYourGuide – find top-rated tours and activities in your destination
If you are looking for other places to explore in Switzerland, check out my blog post: A PERFECT WEEKEND FOR NON-SKIERS IN GRINDELWALD, SWITZERLAND (2023).