3 Perfect Days in Zurich
Europe,  Itinerary,  Switzerland,  Travel Planning,  Weekend Getaways,  Zurich

3 Perfect Days in Zurich 

Have you ever considered visiting Zurich Switzerland? Many people visit in the winter and spring because it is a relatively short train ride from Zurich to famous ski areas, such as Zermatt and St Moritz. However, Zurich is a fabulous city and a fantastic place to linger. I generally fly in to Zurich before skiing in Zermatt. In addition to touring, it is a relaxing place to sleep off your jet lag before going to altitude. It’s a very comfortable city and easy to travel around by foot, tram, train or bus. So, here’s how to spend 3 perfect days in Zurich.

Where to Stay in Zurich 

Before getting into the nitty gritty, let’s discuss where to stay. Zurich is a fairly large, expensive city, with a great deal of areas of interest. Many highlights are located along the banks of the river Limmat which flows from Lake Zurich. 

Limmat River Zurich Switzerland

Jenny’s Favorite Hotel Pick

There are many hotels, but I always stay at THIS ONE. I choose to stay here because it is very comfortable, clean, and convenient. It is a super easy place to relax and enjoy all that Zurich has to offer. Although it is a brand name hotel, this one in particular has friendly, excellent service, lots of cool spaces to hang out, a business club room, and 2 really good restaurants. 

I always book the Junior club suite as it has a small living room that allows for space to open all my luggage since it contains ski stuff and it usually needs to be sorted upon landing. It also has beautiful river views.

Marriott Hotel Zurich
@zurichmarriott

The “club” part is really nice because it allows access into a really comfortable, well designed lounge that is only accessible to people who book that level. There is a full breakfast there in the morning and snacks and drinks throughout the day, all included. It’s a great place to take a break, check your email, and relax.

Marriott Business Club Zurich Switzerland

This hotel attracts an upscale international crowd; a mixture of business and tourism. Although it is not right in the historical center, it’s a very short walk away. In both directions leaving the hotel, you walk along a beautiful river trail to many attractions. It makes for a nice reprieve and also offers easy walking (or tram) access to the less touristy, grittier artsy part of the city.

Other Hotel Choices

There are several other hotels in Zurich, like THIS ONE, considered very fancy, but located on a hill above the city. It takes about 10 minutes to arrive in the center by an aerial tram, car, or shuttle. While this hotel offers beautiful views, aerial tram can have a wait, and for me, this is a less convenient, but luxurious option. I guess it really depends on how much you just want to be at your hotel, versus out and about.

There is also THIS more economical option, which is in the historical area, but overall, I feel my “usual pick” offers a perfect combination of exceptional value, luxury, and convenience.

Transportation from the Airport 

From the Zurich airport (ZRH), you can take a train to the central station (Zurich HB) and walk to my preferred hotel, but it’s a good 10 minutes, so I usually take a taxi since I have all my luggage and the riverside trail is mostly gravel.  It costs around 50CHF (Swiss francs) for the ride, but with jet lag and my ski gear, it seems totally worth it. Trains run regularly from the airport or alternatively, there’s a taxi line right outside the airport door.

First class train Zurich Switzerland

Jenny’s Tip: This Pass for Switzerland offers the an absolutely awesome deal. I highly recommend purchasing it to save countless money on transport and attractions in Zurich and much of Switzerland. The Swiss Travel Pass provides unlimited access on public trains, buses, and boats in Zurich, and to over 90 cities. It also offers free entrance to over 500 museums, as well as discounted city tours. You also receive discounted rides on the private and scenic trains (with the purchase of a seat reservation). Many of the mountain rails are included or extremely discounted by showing your pass too. There are essentially 2 types of passes, Continuous and Flexi, offering various amounts of days to utilize them.

Day 1 of 3 Perfect Days in Zurich 

Depending on your travel itinerary, you could arrive in Zurich late at night, or early in the morning, (like most flights coming from the US) and have the entire day. Obviously you can edit our suggestions to suit your time frame. This loose itinerary will help you make your 3 days in Zurich as perfect as mine were.

Arriving Early

If you arrive before 11am and are staying at the hotel I suggested, drop your bags at the front desk and catch breakfast in the club room.  It is relaxing, complimentary, and gives you a chance to acclimate yourself.  This hotel tries to get your room ready as early as possible, which is very nice.

If you have chosen an alternate accommodation, locate a small cafe nearby wherever you are staying, and enjoy breakfast and a cup of coffee. Either way, I find it nice to sit for a moment and look at my Google map and review the list of things I’d like to see before setting out. 

Next, head out to the historic center (Old Town). It’s really nice to walk around, stretch your legs, and get the lay of the land. I recommend THIS guided walking tour that will provide some history and point out the highlights, or go it on your own. Tours are really nice, especially when you first arrive, as they provide insight into culture and history that you may not know, which enriches the overall travel experience. Tours also give you a broad overview of special sites and attractions that you may otherwise miss. Usually local guides will inform you of special events or local festivals too.

You may feel a bit jet lagged if you have traveled from afar. If you can stay awake and get onto the schedule of Zurich’s time zone, it is best. If not, take a brief snooze, but don’t miss the day!

Read more on beating jet lag: https://jennyinwanderland.world/travel-tips/how-best-to-handle-and-minimize-your-jet-lag/

River Walk

Wherever you stay, use the walking path that runs most of the length of the river. You will see the old locks that are no longer in use, beautiful old trees bending over the path towards the river, 

3 Perfect Days in Zurich

and perhaps you will even catch a local swimming. (Occasionally even in winter!)

Limmat River Zurich
Can you spot the winter swimmer?

Museum

Stroll your way South, past the beautiful LandesMuseum (Swiss National Museum) which is a great first stop. This museum offers a great introduction to Zurich, Switzerland, and Swiss life.

Landesmuseum the National Museum Zurich Switzerland
This fantastic walking tour will help you acclimate and find this museum, and other exciting sites

Shopping

Next you will pass the main train station (Zurich HB). If you’ve forgotten anything, there’s an entire mall here underground offering everything from lingerie, makeup, clothing, and shoes, to food and drinks.

Zurich HB Train Station

Continue onward, being careful to cross on the green walk symbol and look twice at the confusing tram/crosswalk/car junctions. You will see the 2 famous (and once rival) churches up ahead. Turn up and down streets on the East side of the river to find historic cobblestone streets packed with shops, art galleries, and restaurants. 

Historic Sites

Visit the site where Vladimir Lenin’s house once stood. Now there is a plaque and historical sign with information. 

Then, pop into the fascinating library to see the architecture and all of the sliding shelves of books, meticulously organized, and sometimes even an art exhibit. 

And be sure to grab a cup of coffee at Cabaret Voltaire, home to the famous Dada movement.

Cafe Voltaire Zurich Switzerland
@cabaretvoltaire.ch

Stop for lunch at THIS historic restaurant and take in the atmosphere while sampling some traditional food.

After lunch, wander the many shops in the historic center or on Bahnhofstrasse one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world. For a super cool experience, go on this shopping tour with some of Zurich’s most elite fashion designers.

Next, cross the river to the West side and head up the hill, passing over a transparent walkway with signs displaying remains of an ancient spa. Arrive at the pretty park that overlooks the historic area and river from above.

Lindenhof Park Zurich Switzerland

Art

On my first evening, I was passing by an art gallery opening and was spontaneously invited inside. The Body Magic Group, two fabulous art and performance artists were there.

@artelagunaworld

I enjoyed my first glass of Swiss white wine of the trip while watching some very interesting performance art.

Even if there is not an opening, popping in and out of the numerous galleries is a nice way to spend an evening. If you are exhausted, head back to the club room at the hotel for happy hour around 5pm. 

Restaurant

My first night, I usually book dinner at White Elephant, a really great Thai restaurant connected to the hotel. There is also an entrance street side, so this restaurant attracts tourists and locals alike. The food is really excellent and they offer a great selection of vegan dishes along with carnivore selections.

@whiteelephant.ch

Day 2 of 3 Perfect Days in Zurich 

On Day 2, head back toward the historic center.

Historic Sites

Make your way to the famous 2 churches across the river from each other. I’d start at Grossmünster and be sure to take an audio guide. The guide is very complete and walks you through the entire history of the church and area from a historical and art perspective. There’s a great deal of information so plan on spending an hour or two.

Afterwards, make your way to Fraumünster, the other well-known church. The highlight here is the breathtaking Chagall windows. Stop for lunch at any one of the numerous cafes along the river.

Fraumünster church Zurich Switzerland Chagall Stained glass windows

Then continue South to where the river meets Lake Zurich.

Boat Tours

Hop on a public boat to take a loop tour of the beautiful lake. There are basically 2 tours, one is about an hour, or you can choose the longer loop which is about 2 hours. If you skipped lunch, don’t worry. The boat offers a fairly extensive menu of options. Either way, Be sure to grab a glass of champagne while cruising around, just because you can!

Since the boat can fill up, consider booking this city tour that includes a boat ride and guarantees you a spot on the boat.

If a private boat tour is more your style, book this exclusive half day tour; skip the lines, choose where you want to tour, swim, and hop on and off at your leisure.

After arriving back at the dock, be sure to check out the statues and view of the lake from the nearby deck area.

Art Museum

If you still have energy, head to the Kunsthaus Museum. It is fairly large, with an extensive collection of Dada Movement art, as well as an impressive collection of the “who’s who in painting”, so be sure to leave yourself at least 2 hours before closing. 

Kunsthaus Museum Zurich
Remember to buy your Zurich Card, a great deal that gives entrance & discounts to many sites & transport.

Food and Drinks

Pop into Pelikan Bar next to Club Kaufleuten, a famous old bar for a drink and to take in your day.

Try dinner at one of the oldest Swiss restaurants in Zurich. The fondue is incredible. Be sure to order white wine and of course a glass of kirsch. 

Jenny’s tip: Make a reservation ahead as this place gets really crowded!

@LeDezaley

Another great option is the oldest vegetarian restaurant in Europe. It has an interesting history and equally eclectic menu. If you prefer, you can also do the buffet rather than ordering at your table. It comes as all you can eat, or buy by weight. This may conclude day 2 of 3 perfect days in Zurich, but if you are still ready to hit the town, seek out one of Zurich’s cozy bars for a nightcap.

@hitl Restaurant – The oldest vegetarian restaurant in Zurich with a fascinating history dating to 1898

Day 3 of 3 Perfect Days in Zurich 

Head to the train station and go to the Home of Lindt, the famous Swiss Chocolate Factory about 20 minutes away. When you exit the train, there are clearly marked signs that direct you on an easy, 15 minute walk, to Lindt. 

Chocolate and More Chocolate

Jenny’s Tip: Book your ticket in advance as slots fill up fast. This is a popular attraction!

Do the self guided audio tour that is part museum, part factory, and inevitably culminates in a bunch of complimentary chocolate.

Can’t Visit Yet, Buy Lindt Swiss Chocolate Now!

This is definitely a highlight and not to be missed.  Afterwards, visit the store for souvenirs and yes… you guessed it! More chocolate to take home. For a really special treat, which for me was a real showstopper, take a chocolate making class. You MUST have a valid ticket to partake in a class!

And for a more in depth look at Lindt, take THIS personal guided tour that includes additional areas of the facility. When you have filled your chocolate quota, return to the train to go back to Zurich. 

@lindthomeofchocolate

Take a Refresher

Drop into the club room at the hotel as you pass by, for a coffee or snack and a quick refresher. Then, exit the hotel and head away from the historic area and continue North along the river. If you are staying elsewhere, or simply do not feel like returning to the hotel, there are plenty of places to drop into along the river.

River Stroll with Public Art and Architecture

Enjoy the walk, passing riverside graffiti art, sand volleyball, people swimming and sunbathing, some colorful characters, old locks, and even a popular skateboard park. 

Cross the bridge and walk along the ancient viaduct. There’s a park below and a few restaurants tucked into the bottom of the viaduct, along the park.

You will reach the gritty, fun, and recycled art area around the Freitag building. Stop into the Markthalle IM Viadukt, a large hall under the viaduct that contains a sort of food court, to have a drink, sushi, or local delicacy.

Continue to the Freitag building, taking in the local flavor, wandering into the lots of unusual art that, at night, become a vibrant nightclub scene.

Climb the Tower and Shop Unique Recycled Products

Climb the Freitag tower to the top, learning about the story of Freitag products along the way. Take in the views, noticing that you are standing on a pile of stacked shipping containers! Shop for a Freitag bag or wallet, made 100% of recycled canvas truck covers, each unique.

@freitaglab

Beer Garden and More

Below the tower, on the north side, is a beer garden filled with eclectic art and shops, photo opportunities, and snacks. This area, when I was there in Winter, was more lively on weekends.

@fraugeroldsgarten

Drinks and Dinner

Hit THIS cool bar, especially in the winter, for a cozy outdoor bar experience. There are fuzzy seats, heat lamps, blankets, mixology drinks, and excellent snacks and food. It feels a bit like après ski, but right in the heart of the city. 

@aya.bar.zurich

The vegan jambalaya was excellent, although they have plenty of selection for meat eaters as well. And if it is chilly, definitely try the their signature hot boozy drinks.

Entertainment

If you are still going strong, head to one of the area’s funky dance clubs, or consider a ticketed concert at nearby Moods jazz club.  @barcelonagipsyklezmerorche8743   @jazzclubmoods2879 We were so lucky to experience the Barcelona Gypsy Klezmer Orchestra and the local party vibe. Definitely buy tickets ahead for popular shows.

And after spending 3 perfect days in Zurich, you can always head off to my favorite hotel in Zermatt (Book WAY ahead) for some hiking or skiing, which is a relatively easy train ride away.

Stay and Play Longer in Zurich

However, if you decide to stay in Zurich longer, there are plenty of restaurants and activities to keep you busy!

And More

And if you want an elegant evening on the town in a fantastic building, buy tickets for the Zurich Opera House, but good seats go fast to season ticket holders and be careful to understand that some seats have obstructed views.

Opera House in 3 Perfect days in Zurich

Jenny’s Tip: Check the weather. If it is going to be rainy, or extremely hot, swap around the days so that you spend the day that involves more indoor activities on a day that may not be as pleasant to be outdoors. I always carry this mini umbrella just in case!

I absolutely love THESE boots and really ended up wearing them all over Switzerland. They are waterproof and comfortable yet stylish, well made and affordable. I’ve worn this brand before and my boots lasted literally 15 years!

These boots were really perfect for spending 3 days in Zurich. I could wear them day and dress them down and night with pants or a long skirt. They are stylish, easy to walk in, comfortable, have great traction, and waterproof!

Leave a comment and let me know what you love in Zurich, and how you would spend 3 perfect days, or ASK JENNY for a personal response to a travel related question 🙋‍♀️ 

See also Jenny in Wanderland, 3 Popular Winter to Spring Travel Fashion Trends


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