Zurich is often at the top of any Switzerland itinerary. As the financial capital of the country, the largest city in Switzerland, and a picturesque setting on Lake Zurich and the Limmat River there are plenty of things to keep you busy. 3 days in Zurich is just enough time to experience it all. This itinerary will help you plan the perfect three days in Zurich from choosing the best things to do, places to see, and where to eat. So are you ready to plan the perfect Zurich itinerary?
How To Spend 3 Days in Zurich
Welcome to your first day in Zurich! Today we are going to get acquainted with the old city but we are then going to head to the hippest part of Zurich, Zurich West. This is where old meets new and you are going to see the best of both. We highly recommend booking a walking tour of the old town to see the top landmarks of Zurich. We love taking a tour when we first arrive at any city and Zurich is no exception. It helps us plan out the rest of our trip and lets us see the top attractions in a short time.
Zurich Itinerary Day 1
Day 1 of this Zurich Itinerary takes you through a walking tour of the Old City and West Zurich. If you are staying in the old city, you can walk to all of the attractions and then hop on public transit for a short and easy 10-minute ride to West Zurich.
Note: The best way to get around Zurich is to purchase a Zurich Card. It provides unlimited travel by bus, train, cableway, and tram plus you can take short boat trips and a Limmat River cruise. Zurich Cards start at 24 CHF for 24 hours. Get more details here. To explore the Old City, it is easily done by foot as there are many pedestrian-friendly streets and back alleys to explore.
Spend the Morning of Day 1 in Zurich Exploring the Old Town
After a delicious breakfast at Hotel Florhof in the Old City, our city guide Barbara met us at our accommodation. From here it was easy to make our way to see the best landmarks of the Old City.
1. Rechberg Gardens
Located directly beside Hotel Florhof, Rechberg Gardens are one of the most scenic spots in Zurich. They are directly behind Rechberg Mansion which is another popular landmark in Zurich. Dating back to 1759, the mansion was renovated in 2014 and is considered a cultural asset of national importance and is open to the public. The Baroque style Rechberg Gardens is a peaceful way to start the day.
2. University of Zurich View
As you continue your morning stroll, make your way to one of the best viewpoints in Zurich. The Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) at the University of Zurich offers panoramic views of the Old Town, Limmat River, and they city’s church steeples. We walked up to the panorama terrace, but you can also take the Polybahn to avoid walking up the hill. It wasn’t running at the time we were in Zurich but is scheduled to open in Sept 2021. (which means any day now). It is one of the most iconic modes of transportation in the city. This historic funicular started operating in 1889 so if you get the chance, hop on. Albeit, it is an easy walk to the top as well.
3. Get Lost in the Alleyways of Altstadt
Once you have overlooked Zurich from the University, it is a nice and easy stroll downhill through the old city of Zurich (Altstadt). Part of the charm of visiting Zurich is to shop in the boutiques in the old town, search for its many fountains, and find the perfect coffee shop to sit set up on a patio for prime people-watching. Other things to see in the Old Town: see the birthplace of Dadaism at Cafe Voltaire, go into the Belleview Apotheke dating back to 1887, or have a Spritz on an outdoor cafe on the pedestrian-only street of Niederdorfstrasse.
Before you leave the West Bank of the Limmat River, don’t miss visiting the most iconic building in Zurich. Grossmünster (Great Minster) Church. Legend has it that when Charlemagne discovered the graves of the city’s patrons, he built a church upon them. If you go into the crypt in the cellar and you’ll see a large sculpture of Charlemagne himself. Grossmünster also plays an important part in Swiss history as it was the birthplace of the Reformation of the church. You can also go up to the top of the tower for one of the best views in Zurich. It costs 5CHF to climb up the 187 steps for a birds-eye view of the city.
5. Cross the Münsterbrücke
Most of the Old City’s main attractions crisscross along the banks of the Limmat River, and no trip to Zurich would be complete without crossing the Münsterbrücke footbridge. This bridge takes you from Grossmunster across the Limmat River directly to Fraumunster. Make sure to stop and take in the views. It offers an unobstructed view of some of the most beautiful places on the water. Marvel at the Rathaus (Zurich’s Old town Hall) as you make your way from Grossmunster to Kirche Fraumunster.
6. Fraumunster Church
Fraumunster Church (Church of Our Lady) is a must-visit in Zurich dating back to 835. It attracts visitors to view its stained glass windows designed by Marc Chagall. It costs CHF 5 to enter Fraumunster.
Spend the Afternoon in Zurich West
Once you have seen some of the best sights in the old town it is time to see Zurich’s hippest neighborhood, West Zurich. This is a super place to spend the afternoon into the evening. Hop on the streetcar and get ready to spend the afternoon in West Zurich.
Frau Gerolds Garten (Mrs. Gerold’s Garden) for Lunch
Grab a late lunch at Frau Gerolds Garten (Mrs. Gerold’s Garden). This outdoor event space is a garden community with eateries, bars, and the perfect place to grab a beer. The funky atmosphere sets the tone for your afternoon in West Zurich. Visit the website for opening times, menu and reservations.
One of the most recognizable landmarks in West Zurich is the Freitag Tower. You may know the name, Freitag, the stylish bags are made from recycled truck tarps and freeway bags. Their flagship store is located in West Zurich and you can’t miss its 19 stacked shipping containers reaching 26 meters (85 feet) into the air.
Right next door is one of the most unique things to do in Zurich. Urban Surf is a fantastic spot to be transported to the Caribbean. Beach umbrellas line a deck surrounding a giant wave pool. You can hop in to catch a wave or simply relax in the sun as you enjoy a cocktail. Visit Urban Surf website for lessons, prices and opening hours.
Go Art Hunting
After you’ve enjoyed a little fun in the sun, it’s time to search for the unique art that is scattered throughout West Zurich. From Towers at Escher-Wyss-Platz, Anne Sophie in front of 25hours hotel Zurich-Wes, or you can go into Maag Hall to see the latest displays (currently Steve McCurry) or go to Puls 5 to check out the latest exhibits.
Shop along the Zurich Viadukt
It’s then time to make your way to the Zurich Viadukt. The 500-meter long street is truly a one-of-a-kind destination. This old railway viaduct contains boutique shops and restaurants located inside 36 arches under the viaduct. You can also walk along the top of the Viaduct for some fantastic views of the Josefpweis City park and West Zurich.
Dinner at Viadukt Restaurant
Once you have had your fill of shopping, make your way to the Viadukt Restaurant for dinner has some great views of Zurich. There is indoor and outdoor seating. Visit their website for reservations.
Cocktail at Clouds Prime Tower
If you still have energy, stay out after dark in West Zurich for a cocktail at Clouds in Prime Tower. Prime Tower is the highest tower in Zurich (second highest in Switzerland). Clouds are on the 35th floor and offers a great view of Zurich being the highest bar in Zurich. You can have dinner there if you want to splurge as well.
It’s been a full day, so get on the tram with your Zurich Card and make your way back to your hotel because your Zurich itinerary still has a lot more on the agenda.
Zurich Itinerary day 2
Spend the Morning of Day 2 on the Water and Lake Zurich
Today is all about taking in the views, experiencing the two different waterfronts of Zurich and indulging in some decadent Swiss Chocolate.
Sunrise at Lindenhof
Today is an early start as you make your way to Lindenhof for sunrise. This former Roman castle is now a lovely park sitting high on a hill on the remains of the old city walls. It is a beautiful place for sunrise with views of the sun rising over the Limmat River, the Old Town, and Grossmunster Church. Seeing it at sunrise is the perfect time of day to beat the crowds and enjoy the peaceful solitude of the view.
St. Peter’s Church
From Lindenhoff Hill, it is now time to stroll along the Limmat River towards St. Peter’s Church where largest clocktower in Europe resides. Dating back to the 9th century, it is the oldest church in Zurich. We didn’t go inside but you can go into see it and it is free to enter.
Breakfast at Cafe Milchbar am Paradplatz
Since you woke up at sunrise, it’s a lot to walk back to the hotel for breakfast, so instead, make your way to Cafe Milchbar at Paradplatz. This quiet courtyard is a lovely place for a cappuccino and pastry to start your day. You are now ready to have an amazing day exploring activities outside of the Old Town. It’s time to see Lake Zurich.
Bürkliplatz Pier is a square on Lake Zurich and the place to catch a boat for your trip around the lake. It has lovely scenic views of the mountain, the pier and the shores of Lake Zurich. By the way, there is a vegetable market here twice a week and a Sunday farmer’s market. So there is a lot going on at this gathering place. There’s also a fantastic walking path where you can make your way around to places like Arboretum Park and the swim platforms scattered along the lake. But today, instead of walking, you are going to use your Zurich Card to hop on the ferry to Wollishofen.
Boat to Wollishofen
Wolishofen is an artists community that was a former industrial area. It is filled with artists . One interesting fact that we learned about Wollishofen is that when large developers invest in property and development in Zurich, a percentage of their investment must go to the art community. Wollishofen has many festivals and artists events and there are plenty of places to eat as well.
As you continue your walk along Lake Zurich from Wolishofen his beautiful boardwalk on Lake Zurich is a wonderful place for a stroll. Another interesting fact we learned is that waterfront property is no longer being sold along Lake Zurich. The city now makes sure that everyone can experience the waterfront. For waterfront properties that were already owned before the law came into place, the city has developed a boardwalk out on the lake bypassing the private homes. This way, people can continue to walk around Lake Zurich unobstructed.
Lunch at Mönchhof on Lake Zurich
The morning of your second day is coming to an end it’s time for lunch. There are plenty of places for lunch along Lake Zurich and we enjoyed lunch at Mönchhof. It’s beer garden is located on the water and overlooks an old harbour. Grab a fresh salad with some truffel fries and enjoy the views of the Swiss Alps standing proud over Lake Zurich in the distance. Don’t eat too much, because you are now going to the most delicious stop on your Zurich itinerary.
Lindt Home of Chocolate
You can catch the bus or walk off your lunch as you continue on in the afternoon. Lindt Home of Chocolate is a must stop on any Zurich Itinerary. If you like chocolate, you are going to love this interactive multimedia experience. The state of the art building houses a testing plant where chocolatiers develop new recipes and techniques letting you peek into the art of chocolate making. There are several experiences to choose from but simply going on the chocolate tour is awesome as you learn of the history of chocolate before getting to taste liquid chocolate from an array of chocolate fountains to chunks of chocolate to test your taste buds and finally end in a room with vats of Lindor chocolates ready for you to eat!
When you are finished up at the chocolate museum, make your way back to downtown Zurich to explore the world’s most expensive shopping street. Bahnhofstrasse stretches from Lake Zurich to Hauptbahnhof station. You can take the tram back to downtown using your Zurich card and begin the window shopping as you walk along this pedestrian-friendly street. There are streetcars and traffic, but the sidewalks are wide as you check out the regular high-end shopping from Gucci to Rolex, and Chanel to Burberry. Once you’ve had your fill of gawking in the windows it’s time for dinner.
Make your way to Paradplatz a pedestrian-only walking street to search for a bite to eat. We chose an outdoor seat at Restaurant Zeughauskeller. This busy place was built in 1487 and is extremely popular. The service was excellent and it serves typical Swiss cuisine, making for the perfect place to grab a bite in Zurich.
Head to Quaibrücke for Sunset
Depending on the time of year, you will probably be eating before sunset. In the height of summer with sunset late in the evening, you’ll want to eat first as we discovered the hard way that restaurants kitchens close early. So after dinner, head to Quaibrücke, the last bridge between Zurich Old Town and Lake Zurich. This is the classic spot for photographs where you can see all of the Limmat River and Zurich’s four major churches. It is a lively spot at sunset, so make sure to go across the street to see how The Alps light up over Lake Zurich as well.
It is now time for rest as you’ve been up since sunrise, so make it an early night. The second day of your Zurich itinerary has come to an end. If you have your heart set on a nightcap some suggestions for bars are Jules Verne Panoramabar for the view, Old Crow for cocktails, or have a glass of champagne at Cafe Odeon the first place where champagne by the glass was ever served!
Zurich Day 3
It’s your final day on your Zurich itinerary and today is all about the outdoors. The people of Zurich love the lake so make your way to the waterfront. Walk along the waterfront towards the Arbetorium where people sunbathe on the water’s edge. It’s a pleasant stroll as you make your way to Badi Enge where it’s time for our favorite activity in Zurich.
SUP on Lake Zurich
Badi Enge is a public swimming area on Lake Zurich with sun decks, swimming lanes, a restaurant, and a sauna. It has beautiful views of the Alps, Lake Zurich, and the city. But the best way to experience it is to rent a paddleboard to do explore the waterfront. You can take the boards through the marina and then onto the Schanzenzengraben Canal. This picturesque canal is not to be missed!
Relax at Seebad Enge
Once you are done paddleboarding, you are free to go for a swim, relax on the swimming platforms or grab some lunch. You can also fill up your water bottle here before moving on. Check for prices or make a reservation for SUP at the Seebad Enge website.
Lunch at Swiss Cuchi
I know that we said you can eat lunch at Seebad Enge but we recommend making your way back to the old town for lunch to have a Swiss Fondue at Swiss Cuchi. No trip to Switzerland is complete without a fondue, so this is your chance. Swiss Cuchi is located in the heart of the old town. You are now just a short walk to your next stop.
Go up to Uetliberg
After lunch, it is time to hop on the tram to catch the Uetliberg. It takes about an hour to get to by public transit from the Old Town, so this will be your entire afternoon. But it is worth it. Uetliberg is a mountain standing 869 meters (2850 feet) above Zurich. Public transport takes you to the train that goes nearly to the top. Once you arrive by train, it is about a 10 to 15-minute walk to an incredible lookout. There is a tower that you can climb for 2CHF and it is definitely worth it. We almost didn’t put this on our Zurich itinerary and I am so glad we made time for it. There are gorgeous views of the city, the mountains, and the lake plus the rolling hills of the Limmat Valley. If you have time, you can go for a two-hour hike to take the cable car down from Felsenegg.
Sunset Over Lake Zurich
For your last night in Zurich, grab a beer and make your way down to the Lake to watch the sunset in front of Sechseläutenplatz. Located on the east side of Lake Zurich is a public park on the lakeshore where locals hang out in the evening. This is a lively spot and offers beautiful views. It is located just in front of Sechseläutenplatz which houses the beautiful Zurich Opera House. At 16000 square meters, Sechseläutenplatz is one of the largest squares in Switzerland.
Dinner BierGarten Bauschaunzli
Once the sun goes down, make your way across the bridge to the West Bank of the Limmat River for a proper Beergarden experience at Bauschaunzli. Located under the shade of large chestnut trees, this is also a good place for a beer in the afternoon sun. But for your final night in Zurich, it’s a good traditional spot to have a beer and enjoy a pint of local brew.
How to Get Around Zurich
The best way to get around Zurich is to purchase a Zurich card. The Zurich Card gives access to trains, trams, cable cars and boats around Zurich. It also offers free or discounted admissions to museums. Make sure to validate your ticket before you take your first trip on transit. Once it is validated, you don’t need to show it unless asked for the duration of your ticket. Zurich Cards range from 24 to 72 hours. Zurich Cards start at 24 CHF for 24 hours. Get more details here.
Select stores also offer discounts to Zurich Card holders to make sure to ask.
- Some of the best museums to see in Zurich with the Zurich Card are are:
- Kunsthaus Zürich
- Museum Rietberg
- Museum Haus Konstruktiv
- FIFA World Football Museum
How to Get to Zurich
International flights arrive daily to Zurich Airport, (ZRH) the largest airport in Switzerland. Trains run regularly from Zurich Airport to the main Zurich Main Train Station, Hauptbahnhof. You can use your Swiss Travel Pass to take the train. Did you know that Hauptbahnhof is the busiest train station in Europe? You can then use your Zurich Pass to hop on a tram to your hotel which is very easy when traveling Zurich.
When you purchase a Swiss Travel Pass it includes:
Unlimited travel by train, bus, and boat
Public transportation in more than 90 cities and towns
Free admission to more than 500 museums throughout Switzerland
Two free informative apps to help plan your Switzerland journey are: Grand Train Tour of Switzerland app and Swiss Travel Guide app
Where to Stay in Zurich
When looking for accommodation in Zurich, a stay in the Old City is a good idea as it is easy to get around. We stayed at Hotel Florhof and it was within walking distance to everywhere. It also has parking if you have a car rental, a fantastic restaurant, superb breakfasts included and there are plenty of historic regalia including an old ceramic wood stove and an old radio in the sitting room.
Zurich will steal your heart. We had always dreamed to visiting Zurich and after three visits to Switzerland, we finally managed to explore this exciting cosmopolitan. If you are planning a trip to Switzerland, makes sure to spend three days in Zurich to truly experience all of the amazing things to do in the city.