Zurich and the River Limmat
Things to Do Zurich

How to spend 48 hours in Zurich: Two day itinerary

October 23, 2023 Last Updated on October 23, 2023

Thanks to its seamless transport connections to other Swiss destinations, Zurich is often overlooked as a worthy destination in its own right.

However, with so many attractions in Zurich, we think it’s worth spending two days in Zurich at the beginning or end of your Swiss vacation.

In this Zurich travel guide, you’ll discover the top things to do in Zurich so you can see the best of Zurich in two days.

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48 Hours in Zurich: What to do on Day 1

There are so many things to do in Zurich, Switzerland but it’s still a small enough city that you can easily fit the highlights into 48 hours.

Wander through Zurich Old Town

Old Town Zurich
There are lots of attractive buildings and churches to see amongst the narrow, car-free streets of Zurich’s Old Town.

Start your first day by exploring the Zurich Old Town, the heart of the city. One of the best things to do in Zurich is to get lost and wander down some of the quaint side streets to find a hidden coffee shop or artisan boutique. 

The Old Town spans both sides of the Limmat river, and the best way to appreciate the water views is to wander along the pedestrian-only Limmatquai

When you start planning what to do in Zurich, tasting Swiss chocolate is probably high on your list of priorities and there are plenty of opportunities to do so.

Step back in time at Cafe Schober, a gorgeous eatery on Napfgasse where you’ll find some of the best chocolate in Zurich and pastry delights of all kinds in a true baroque-style building with a lovely terrace. 

You’ll feel important just walking into Cafe Felix on Bellevueplatz, with its ornate displays of chocolates and towering treats, and red-carpeted grand staircase.

Heart-shaped chocolates at Teuscher chocolate shop in Zurich Old Town
The Teuscher Chocolate store in Old Town Zurich is definitely worth a visit.

And Teuscher Chocolates at Storchengasse 9 is a must-visit for more divine chocolate goodness.

If you still have room for more sweet treats, be sure to try the famous Sprungli Luxemburgerli. These mini macaroons come in a number of flavours including a surprise ‘Creation of the Month’.

You’ll find the Sprungli store right on Bahnhofstrasse. 

Of course there’s another very famous chocolate maker in Zurich – Lindt – but we’ll visit there on day two!

Speaking of Bahnhofstrasse, it is one of the famous Zurich attractions and has a storefront for all the most famous high-end designers and brands such as Tiffany and Louis Vuitton. If you love luxury goods, bring your credit card! 

Bahnhofstrasse is a mostly-pedestrianized avenue that runs all the way from Zurich’s main train station to the lake. Even if shopping is not your thing, this attractive street is still worth a look.

There are a number of bridges crossing the Limmat River.  When it’s time for you to cross over from one side to the other, make sure you take the Muhlesteg Footbridge, which is highly decorated with love locks. Add yours or simply admire the existing ones. 

A stroll across the Muhlesteg bridge is one of the most romantic things to do in Zurich for couples.

 

Learn tips for visiting Zurich from a local in our podcast episode

Admire Zurich’s churches

There are three particularly noteworthy churches that are amongst the best places to visit in Zurich, perhaps the most famous being the Grossmunster (or Great Minster), whose salt-and-pepper shaker towers mark the Zurich skyline. 

As legend tells it, Charlemagne himself commissioned the church upon the graves of saints Felix and Regula. It would later become the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland. 

While it’s free to tour the church, a 187-stair ascent up one of the towers costs CHF 5 per adult, but is well worth it for the stunning views of the city. 

Zurich with Grossmunster church
The twin-towered Grossmunster is one of Zurich’s beautiful churches. For CHF5 you can climb the tower for great views over Zurich.

Another Old Town church, St. Peters, is the oldest parish church in Zurich and is a Zurich must-see. It’s best known for having the largest clock face in Europe – 8.7 metres in diameter – which you can easily admire from the street below.

When the minute hand cracks, it jumps an entire half-metre. It’s great for a photo-op, although you can always go inside for free as well. 

Boasting stained glass windows designed by Marc Chagall in its presbytery, the Fraumünster is a mix of Romanesque, Gothic and Neo-Gothic architecture.

The fourth of Zurich’s significant churches is Wasserkirche which is built on the spot where Zurich’s patron saints Felix and Regula were said to be martyred in Roman times.

View from Lindenhof in Zurich
There are more great city views from Lindenhof, a tranquil park overlooking the Limmat River.

Enjoy the tranquility of Lindenhof

When you are ready for a rest, head up to Lindenhof. Once the site of a Roman fort, it’s now a tranquil greenspace overlooking the Old Town, where you can enjoy a picnic or just rest whilst admiring the view. 

In the summer months you might find people playing giant chess or enjoying a concert on the green. 

Stroll around Limmatquai

Next, wander over to the Lakeside Promenade to stroll along Lake Zurich. It’s a great place for kids (there are plenty of parks and room to ride bikes and scooters) or couples wanting a leisurely sunset stroll. 

While we recommend taking a Lake Zurich cruise as part of your Zurich sightseeing experience on your second day, this is a perfect introduction to the Lake (note: Lake Zurich is called Zurichsee in German). 

There are plenty of restaurants in the area where you can grab some lunch or a drink, too. For casual dining and afternoon drinks, we love Bau Schänzli (address: Stadthausquai 2), a beer garden right beside the river.

🇨🇭Prefer to see the city on a guided tour? We recommend this 2-hour city sightseeing tour.

To finish off your first 24 hours in Zurich Switzerland, why not treat yourself to a little rest and relaxation in an ancient thermal bath? The rooftop bath at the former Hürlimann brewery gives you gorgeous views of the city or you can bathe in former brewery casks underground.

They’re open until 10pm, so you’ll have plenty of time to unwind.  > Click here to buy your tickets.

48 Hours in Zurich: Places to visit on Day 2

Visit one of Zurich’s museums

When it comes to spending your second day in Zurich, things to do are endless. Why not start your day by visiting one of the city’s many museums?

There are a variety of museums to choose from including Kunsthaus, the most prestigious art museum in Zurich, the Swiss National Museum, FIFA World Football Museum and Lindt Home of Chocolate. Read on for more details about these four museums.

Lindt Home of Chocolate in Zurich
Lindt Home of Chocolate is one of Zurich’s most popular attractions.

Kunsthaus – Switzerland’s foremost art gallery boasts an impressive collection of art. Featuring both modern and historic art works, some of the gallery’s highlights include works by Swiss artists, as well as international artists such as Chagall, Giacometti and Munch.

Swiss National Museum – the Schweizerisches Landesmuseum, to give it it’s local name, is home to the largest collection of objects illustrating the cultural history of Switzerland.

As well as displays of costumes and handicrafts the varied collection also includes paintings, scientific instruments, artifacts from Switzerland’s archeological past.


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FIFA World Football Museum – fans of the world game should definitely not miss a visit to FIFA Museum which celebrates the rich heritage of football.  Various exhibitions are located throughout the museum including the FIFA World Cup Gallery which displays objects from each of the World Cup tournaments.

Other exhibitions detail the changes to the games rules over the years, and the ‘rainbow’ – a 35-metre showcase of team shirts from each of the 211 member associations.  There are also virtual games to enjoy and a cinema.

Get your FIFA Museum admission tickets here

Lindt Home of Chocolate – since its opening in 2020, this chocolate lover’s paradise has become the most popular attraction in Zurich. Featuring the world’s largest chocolate fountain, at 9.3 metres high, Lindt Home of Chocolate offers an interactive immersion in to the world of chocolate production.

If a self-guided tour of the exhibition – and lots of free chocolate tasting – isn’t enough, you can also book a chocolate making workshop.

Due to its popularity, admission to Lindt Home of Chocolate can only be guaranteed with an online ticket. Buy your ticket here to avoid disappointment.

The museum is located at Kilchberg, just 10 minutes by train from Zurich main station. You can also get there by boat, which we highly recommend. Why not continue by boat to Rapperswil after your visit to Lindt Home of Chocolate and then take a train back to Zurich? 

🇨🇭 Listen: Hear more about Lindt Home of Chocolate in our podcast episode.

Enjoy a lake cruise

You visited the promenade last evening, but now hop on a lake cruise to get a full appreciation for Lake Zurich, and the city views from the water. 

While there are a number of cruises you can take, from just 50 minutes to all-day, I recommend taking one to Rapperswil at the far end of the lake (about 2 hours) if you have the time.

You can take a peek at the castle and get something to eat and then take the train back to Zurich in about 40 minutes.

Boat at Rapperswil on Lake Zurich
A cruise on Lake Zurich is a relaxing way to spend a couple of hours.

Visit Uetliberg

Finally, one of the best things to see in Zurich is the view from the top of Uetliberg. Although it takes about a half hour to get there via train, it’s worth it for the awe-inspiring views from the look-out point (which is just a brief 10-minute walk from where the train drops you off). 

If you have the time and energy, there are hiking trails for you to enjoy, including the ‘Planet Trail’ which is a scaled-down version of the distance between the planets in our solar system. 

View of Swiss Alps from Uetliberg.
The views of Lake Zurich and the Alps from Uetliberg are breathtaking.

Try a local specialty for dinner

While there is a restaurant and snack bar at the mountain, head back to Zurich for dinner. Our recommendation is Zeughauskeller at Bahnhofstrasse 28 which has been serving hearty, Swiss cuisine since 1926. This is one of the best restaurants in Zurich to try schnitzel.

The local specialty, Kalbgeschnetzeltes nach Zurcher Art, pan fried veal schnitzel in a creamy mushroom and white wine sauce, is a must-try when in Zurich.

Like to try fondue?  If you are visiting the city from the beginning of November to the beginning of March, you can sample some of the best fondue in Zurich onboard the Fondue Tram. More info here >

Zuri geschnetzelles and rosti
Kalbgeschnetzeltes nach Zurcher Art is a Zurich specialty – and we think it’s delicious!

Getting around Zurich 

Zurich travel is relatively simple: 

  • By foot: Zurich is not a large city, so with a few exceptions you can get around the most popular attractions in Zurich on foot. All the pedestrian-only areas are generally flat streets which make Zurich a very walking-friendly city. 
  • Trams/trains: That said, there are trams and trains to take you nearly anywhere in the city you want to go, and they’re well marked. Save yourself a lot of headache and get a Zurich Card, which will get you free public transport and discounts to museums and other attractions including the Swiss National Museum Zurich, Lindt Home of Chocolate and FIFA Museum.  > Click here for details.

Holders of a Swiss Travel Pass can travel for free on Zurich’s public transport network, including airport to city trains. 

Zurich tram
Trams are a great way to get around Zurich.

Day trips from Zurich

If you have more than two days in Zurich, you could consider taking a day trip.  Popular excursions from Zurich include visits to Stein am Rhein, Rhine Falls and Schaffhausen; Jungfraujoch; Interlaken and Grindelwald; Lucerne and Mt. Titlis, and Mount Pilatus.

🇨🇭Read more: Top day tours from Zurich

Where is Zurich?

Zurich is in North-Central Switzerland and the official language spoken is German. It is 85 kilometres (52 miles) from Basel, 279 kilometres (173 miles) from Geneva and 317 kilometres (196 miles) from Munich.

Map of Switzerland

How to get to Zurich?

  • By air: Zurich is home to a large, international airport. Zurich airport is just about 12 kilometres (7 miles) from the city centre.  
  • By car: Zurich is easily accessible from any major Swiss city via highways, but make sure you have your vignette (road tax sticker) attached to the windscreen. That said, parking is more of a challenge since the rules are strict. If your accommodation doesn’t provide parking, the large parking garages are the best place to park your vehicle (there are 10 of them), but you can also park for a brief time in the white zones (marked for stays between 30 minutes and 4 hours). There is also blue zone parking, but it requires a special permit, usually only obtained by Zurich residents. 
  • By train:  Zurich station is one of the busiest in Europe and has excellent connections to cities all over Europe. Depending on the train, it’ll take about 4.5 hours to get to Zurich from Paris, around 4 hours from Milan, 8.5 hours from Amsterdam and around 5 hours from Munich.

How to get from Zurich airport to city centre

You can travel from the airport to Zurich by train, streetcar/tram (line 10), shuttle bus, or taxi. The train is the quickest way, taking about 15 minutes. This article has details on all the options.

Alternatively, you can pre-book a private transfer from Zurich airport to the city. > Click here to check prices.

Boats on Limmat River in Zurich
The Old Town is separated by the Limmat River.

Best time to visit Zurich

It’ll be most comfortable weather-wise to visit Zurich in the summer months, from June to August, where you’ll enjoy (average) temperatures in the low 20s (Celcius). That said, most tourists will flock to Zurich in the summer, meaning everything costs more and is more crowded. 

Switzerland is beautiful in the winter months with truly brisk temperatures around 2 degrees Celcius, but while Zurich will be less busy, you’ll still pay a premium since it’s close to ski destinations. There are plenty of things to do in Zurich in winter, especially at Christmastime. 

🇨🇭 If you are visiting Zurich in late November or December, a visit to a Christmas market should is a must! > Click here for Zurich Christmas market dates.

The true ‘off-season’ in Zurich is the fall (autumn) and spring, when the snow is melting on the Alps but it’s still cool. May and September are your best bets in terms of better prices, reasonable temperatures, and overall lack of other tourists.

Zurich Old Town with view to St Peters church and clock
St. Peters church boasts the largest clock face in Europe. It has a diameter of 8.7 metres (28 feet).

Where to stay in Zurich

As you’d expect in a large city, there is a great variety of accommodations in Zurich to choose from.  Whether you are looking for budget hotels in Zurich right up to 5* hotels, or prefer to stay in an apartment, there is something to suit everyone.

Below you will find a brief overview of some of the most popular Zurich hotels.

Airport hotels in Zurich

If you are arriving late at night (or leaving early in the morning), you might decide to stay at an airport hotel in Zurich.  There are numerous Zurich Airport hotels to choose from.

> Click here to browse and check prices

🇨🇭 Read more: Best Zurich Airport Hotels.

5 star hotels in Zurich

When it comes to 5 star hotels, Zurich has them in abundance.  Top picks include:

Baur au Lac in the heart of Zurich Old Town – > Click here to check current prices.

Storchen Zurich, a boutique hotel in Zurich Old Town – > Click here to check current prices.

The Dolder Grand at Zurichberg – > Click here to check current prices.

Atlantis by Giardino at the foot of Uetilberg – > Click here to check current prices.

🇨🇭 Read more: Best Hotels in Zurich.

4 star hotels in Zurich

Popular choices for 4-star hotels in Zurich include:

Ambassador Hotel in Zurich, next to Lake Zurich – > Click here to check current prices.

25Hours Hotel Zurich (Langstrasse) – > Click here to check current prices.

Hotel Schweizerhof Zurich in the Old Town – > Click here to check current prices.

Sorell Hotel Zurichberg – > Click here to check current prices. You can read our full review of the Sorell Hotel Zurichberg here.

3 star hotels in Zurich

If your budget doesn’t stretch to 4- or 5-star hotels, there are plenty of 3-star hotels and apartments in Zurich to choose from.  Amongst the most highly-regarded are:

Hotel Adler in the Old Town – > Click here to check current prices.

Boutique Hotel Ni-Mo, close to the lake promenade – > Click here to check current prices.

Hotel Florhof in the Old Town – > Click here to check current prices.

iQ130 Apartment Hotel Zurich, a 10-minute walk from the main station – > Click here to check current prices.

Street in Zurich Old Town
There are plenty of quiet alleys to explore in Zurich Old Town.

Before reading this article you may have been wondering is Zurich worth visiting? We think you’ll agree there is plenty to see and do when you spend two days in Zurich.

We’ve covered our favourite things to do in this guide but there are many more fun activities in Zurich that you can enjoy.

With this 48-hour Zurich itinerary you no longer need to wonder what to do in Zurich for two days. In fact with so many things to include in your Zurich itinerary, two days probably won’t be enough!

🇨🇭To read our full guide to Zurich, > click here.

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