Aerial view of Zurich city center with famous Fraumunster Church and river Limmat, Swizerland

Things to do in  Zurich

A city you can bank on

On the tip of Lake Zurich in the foothills of the Bernese Oberland lies Zurich. With its historic churches and cobbled alleyways, Switzerland’s largest city is straight out of a fairy tale. But look closer and you’ll find a vibrant, modern city whose districts buzz with creativity. The best things to do in Zurich include visiting the Old Town, taking a Lake Zurich cruise, and strolling along the Limmat River.

If you have time to spare, don’t miss the Swiss city’s contemporary art museums, Bahnhofstrasse boutiques, and Dolderbahn mountain railway. And of course no trip to Zurich is complete without a visit to the Lindt & Sprüngli Chocolate Shop, located just outside of city limits. For the adventurous set, Alpine activities range from Mt. Titlis and Mt. Pilatus cable car rides to Jungfraujoch and Grindelwald day trips.

Top 15 attractions in Zurich

Lake Zurich (Zürichsee)

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Fed by clear glacial waters that flow down the Swiss Alps, the crescent-shaped Lake Zurich (Zurichsee) forms the scenic backdrop to Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city, which spreads along the western tip of the lake. Measuring 25 miles (40 kilometers) in length and 1.9 miles (3 kilometers) in width, this alpine lake offers an easily accessible escape to nature for those based in the city, with plenty of swimming spots, hiking routes, tranquil islands, and picturesque mountain scenery.More

Zurich Old Town (Altstadt)

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With its striking 19th-century buildings and winding cobblestone lanes stretching along both sides of River Limmat, Zurich’s Old Town (Altstadt) is the most atmospheric part of the city and home to many principal tourist attractions.More

Rhine Falls (Rheinfall)

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At Rhine Falls (Rheinfall), sheets of white water tumble from a height of 75 feet (23 meters) across a 492-foot-wide (150-meter-wide) rock ledge. Created by the movement of the Earth’s crust about 15,000 years ago, this natural wonder is among Europe’s biggest waterfalls. The riverbanks near it are laced with walking and biking trails.More

Bahnhofstrasse

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One of the most expensive strips of retail space in Europe, Zurich’s Bahnhofstrasse is known for its many luxury shops selling designer fashion, jewelry, perfume, chocolate, and, of course, watches. While many visitors only go to window shop, the street is one of the city’s main commercial areas, frequented by both locals and travelers.More

Lindt Home of Chocolate

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Switzerland is famous for many things, including mountains, clocks, and, of course, chocolate. Legendary Swiss chocolatier Lindt & Sprungli has been churning out smooth, delicious confections since 1845. Today, visiting the company's factory shop, just outside of Zurich, is a must for any chocolate lover.More

Grossmünster Church

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This Romanesque church remains one of Zurich Old Town’s most iconic landmarks, thanks to its blend of medieval architecture and modern features. The south tower’s observation deck offers sweeping city vistas, while an 11th-century crypt and small museum reveal more about the site’s rich history as the birthplace of the Swiss Reformation.More

Fraumünster Church

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One of Zurich’s most distinctive and popular sights, Fraumünster Church is the green copper-spired building that is easily visible in Zurich’s skyline. The church itself dates back to the 9th century, but the building’s famous stained-glass windows are 20th-century additions.More

Lindenhof

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This Old Town district is thought to be where Zurich began as a Roman fort in the second century. For years, its hilltop location played an important role in defending and governing the city. Today, its main square is a popular spot for visitors and locals alike, known for its open-air chess boards, leafy avenues, and panoramic city views.More

Mount Rigi

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Nicknamed the “Queen of the Mountains,” Mount Rigi has long captured the hearts of writers like Mark Twain and painters like JMW Turner. Encircled by a trio of lakes—Lake Lucerne, Lake Zug, and Lake Lauerz—and adjacent to the neighboring peaks of Mount Pilatus and Brunnistock, Mount Rigi is the enduring postcard star of Central Switzerland.More

Stein am Rhein

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The picturesque Swiss town marks the spot where the Rhine River meets Lake Constance. Overlooked by the towering Hohenklingen Castle, the town draws sightseers with its medieval abbey, traditional architecture, and convenient transport links, making it an ideal destination for a day trip from Winterthur, Zurich, and beyond.More

Paradeplatz (Parade Square)

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The home of Swiss banking at the heart of Zurich’s luxury shopping street, Paradeplatz is one of the most powerful financial centers in Europe. The former 17th-century pig market is now a major transit interchange and home to the headquarters of UBS and Credit Suisse, as well as the flagship Confiserie Sprüngli chocolate store.More

Felsenegg

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At an altitude of 2,600 feet (800 meters, this scenic lookout on the Albis chain is one of Zurich’s most popular recreational spots. Its many hiking routes attract active sightseers from across the region, while its restaurant and outdoor terraces provide a perfect spot to soak up views of Lake Zurich and the snow-capped mountains beyond.More

National Museum Zurich (Landesmuseum Zürich)

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A visit to the National Museum Zurich is included on many sightseeing tours along with other Zurich highlights including St. Peter’s Church, Lindenhof, and Lake Zurich. Purchase tickets to the museum online to save time, or pick up the Swiss Travel Pass, which includes unlimited use of public transportation and admission to over 500 museums. You can also combine admission to the National Museum with a Zurich trolley sightseeing tour.More

Appenzell

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This picturesque village in the valley of Sitter is the capital of Switzerland’s smallest canton, Appenzell Innerrhoden. In addition to its heritage-listed landmarks, including its parish church, 16th-century town hall, and castle ruins, the settlement is known for its strong sense of tradition and observation of age-old ceremonial events.More

Mt. Titlis

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Reaching 10,626 feet (3,239 meters) above sea level, Mt. Titlis is Central Switzerland’s highest peak and probably its finest vantage point. The mountain has a cutting-edge transportation system—including, most famously a revolving cable car that turns 360 degrees during the ride to the top station at 9,908 feet (3,020 meters). Those lucky enough to be inside the car are graced with stunning panoramic views of Alpine peaks, sheer rock faces, and an icy crevasse-cracked glacier.More

Trip ideas

A Drag Queen’s Guide to Zurich

A Drag Queen’s Guide to Zurich

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Don’t-Miss Dishes in Zurich

Top activities in Zurich

Exclusive Zermatt and Matterhorn: Small Group Tour from Zürich
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Lucerne Day Tour from Zurich

Lucerne Day Tour from Zurich

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All about Zurich

When to visit

July, August, and the wintertime holidays are fun and busy times in Zurich, and prices shoot up accordingly. If you’re looking for a slightly cheaper vacation option, consider out-of-season months like November instead. The biggest date in the city calendar is the Zurich Street Parade in August. Partygoers descend to the lakeside for a huge techno party, complete with a “love mobile” procession of decorated trucks.

Getting around

Zurich is served by the Zurich Airport and the Zurich Hauptbahnhof train station. It may be Switzerland’s largest city, but Zurich is a walker’s joy, with a compact center and clean, well-signed streets. When your legs do tire, efficient Swiss public transit steps up to help. A Zone 110 ticket covers all public transportation in the city, and is sold via self-service machines. You can also visit a “Ticketeria” for English-speaking advice on the myriad ticket options available.

Traveler tips

Summer is pricey in Zurich, and there’s a reason the city is popular at this time. Spending a lazy day at a badi open-air public bath is a key part of Zurich’s summer culture. Zurich has a badi for everyone, from lake beaches and shady spots on the grass to resort-style facilities. Most are private with entry fees around CHF 8 for adults, but you can cool down for free in places like Arboretum Park.

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A local’s pocket guide to Zurich

Sílvia Ferreira Santos

Born and raised in Zurich, Sílvia has lived in Lisbon for over a decade now. The only way to get back in her good graces if you’re running late is by bringing along a piece of cheese.

The first thing you should do in Zurich is...

learn how to say grüezi (hi). Swiss people appreciate punctuality but also politeness.

A perfect Saturday in Zurich...

starts with a walk by Augustinergrasse and includes stops at Lindenhof Square and Fraumünster Church. Then, cross the river and head to the lake. From Bellevue to the Chinese Garden, you’ll feel like you’re in another world.

One touristy thing that lives up to the hype is...

Swiss chocolate, what else? Zurich is a paradise for chocoholics.

To discover the "real" Zurich...

get to grips with the two sides to the city. Discover traditional Zurich in Niederdorf—locals call it “Dörfli,” or “little village”—and modern, cosmopolitan Zurich on Viadukt shopping street.

For the best view of the city...

head to Üetliberg. Take the train or hike up to enjoy the view of the city and—of course—the lake. If the weather plays nice, you might even catch a glimpse of the Alps.

One thing people get wrong...

Zurich is not Switzerland’s capital. It is the country’s biggest city but the capital is actually Bern.

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People Also Ask

What is Zurich famous for?

The largest city in Switzerland, Zurich is often mistakenly called the Swiss capital. Nonetheless, Zurich is a world-famous financial center. It draws visitors with upscale shopping streets, Old Town charms, picturesque lake, and mountain surroundings.

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What is there to do in Zurich?

From fondue restaurants like Frau Gerolds Garten to laidback lake cruises, there are so many things to do in Zurich. The Old Town is worth a wander to discover traditional Swiss sights. And the Kunsthaus and Swiss National Museum are great options for a rainy day. Don’t miss Marc Chagall’s stained glass windows at the Fraumünster Church.

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Is 2 days enough for Zurich?

Yes. Two days is enough time to experience the best things to do in Zurich. Get your bearings on a city center tour, then visit cultural destinations like the Cabaret Voltaire. Afterwards, dance on Langstrasse or discover the alternative industrial areas. The next day, take a morning cruise, then ascend Uetliberg for a bird’s-eye view.

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Is Zurich the capital of Switzerland?

No. Because Switzerland is a confederation, it technically doesn't have a capital city. However, Bern is widely considered the capital because it’s where the Swiss Parliament meets. Banking center Zurich is often described as the financial capital of both Switzerland and the world.

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What is there to do in Zurich in the summer?

Swimming—in lakes, rivers, and outdoor pools known as badis—is one of the best things to do in Zurich during the summer. The season is also ideal for exploring Uetliberg, Zurich's home mountain for hiking, biking, and picnics. In the city, Old Town terraces and the Zurich West industrial zone are popular.

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Is Zurich really expensive?

Yes. Zurich is among the world's priciest cities, with expensive shops and eye-watering fine-dining restaurants. But there are ways to save. Locals often get their meals to go, eating by a picture-perfect lakeside or park spot. Deals like certain city passes include entry to attractions along with travel.

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Frequently Asked Questions