Visit Zürich, Switzerland
Switzerland’s largest city, Zürich offers exclusive shopping, a Roman-era old town and a gracious, sunny setting. Repeatedly named one of the world’s most liveable cities, it’s also become one of the more fashionable travel destinations in the 21st century.
The city’s old town is largely pedestrian-only, so you can stroll around its narrow cobbled streets, guild houses and medieval churches in community with both locals and fellow visitors without worrying about vehicle traffic. The barren white walls of Grossmünster tell the story of the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland, while in the 13th-century Fraumünster, you can see the stained-glass windows created by 20th-century artist Marc Chagall.
Walk the Bahnhofstrasse for a look at Europe’s most exclusive brands, or explore the city’s eponymous Lake Zürich on a classic paddle-steamer boat. On the north side of the lake is the renowned Golden Coast, known for its sunny climate during much of the year.
Things to see and do in Zürich
Traditional paddle steamer boat cruise
You can embark on a slow, relaxing ride on Lake Zürich for free with the Zürich city card, which you’ll receive when you check in to your hotel. The boats stop in different towns and villages along the lake shore, which you can explore at your leisure.
Feel free to tour a chocolate factory, take a swim in the lake or discover the beaches, shops, restaurants and streets of the villages nearby, then join another boat to continue the cruise. The boats run throughout the day on regular schedules, so it’s easy to craft your own day-trip and return to Zürich after dark if you wish.
This Romanesque church, with its unmistakeable double towers atop a pale sandstone construction, was first commissioned by Charlemagne in 1100, but was inaugurated around 1220. Its greatest renown, however, comes from its role in the Protestant Reformation that informs so much of Swiss history.
The towers, with their multi-arched windows, slightly bulbous tops and detailed grotesques are one of the most well-known sights in Zürich. But if you enter the now-Protestant church, you can see the aftermath of the 1524 stripping of the church’s Catholic symbology. The statues, the pipe organ and most other ornate details were all removed, leaving the interior pale and bare.
Another important church in Zürich’s old town, Fraumünster is Grossmünster’s little sister, founded by Charlemagne’s son, George in the 13th century. A more modest construction, Fraumünster’s elegant copper spire rises out of its simple, slender stone walls. Inside, this church retains its rather grandiose pipe organ, the largest in the canton of Zürich, with 6,959 pipes.
Fraumünster is also a repository of art, particularly from artists of the 20th century. Frescoes by Swiss painter Paul Bodmer decorate the church’s former cloister and in the choir of the abbey, you can see the five slender stained-glass windows created by painter Marc Chagall in 1970.
Unlike much of Switzerland, Zürich isn’t known for its mountains. But Uetliberg, known as the city’s own Little Mountain, is a great place to get a sweeping view of the city, the lake and the Alps in the distance. You can hike up to the peak in around two hours — a relatively easy ascent to 870 m (2851 ft). You can also access the peak by funicular.
Once at the top, take a walk along the trails to get panoramic views down over the lake and back towards the city.
Old town walking tour
In this two-hour walking tour, you’ll get oriented to Zürich and visit some of the key features of the area. Visit the renowned churches of Grossmünster and Fraumünster, and see Europe’s largest clock face at Saint Peter’s church. You’ll also explore the narrow cobblestone alleyways that wind through the old town, and see the fountains, restored medieval houses and elegant wrought-iron streetlamps that decorate the area.
Along the way, you might stop at a chocolate shop or get a coffee at the cafe where Lenin planned the Russian Revolution. The route is tailored to your interests, so you’ll get to see the aspects that matter most to you.
Best time to visit Zürich
Zürich is nice to visit all year round, but the best months are between May and October, when the weather is milder. In the colder months of December to March, the temperature does drop below freezing. The city rarely gets snow, but the occasional dusting adds flair to Zürich’s already atmospheric Christmas markets.
Festivals, events and seasonal reasons to visit Zürich
- Christmas markets run from early November through to end of December.
- In early August, Zürich hosts its outdoor Street Parade, where the streets fill with dancers and electronic music, which may be a highlight or a time to avoid, depending on your tastes.
Our itineraries will give you suggestions for what is possible when you travel in Zürich, and they showcase routes we know work particularly well. Treat them as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.
Switzerland, Italy and France
Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Luxembourg and France
Map of Zürich
Places & hotels on the map
Places near Zürich
- Lucerne 25 miles away
- The Swiss Alps 56 miles away
- Grindelwald 57 miles away
- Interlaken 57 miles away
- Bern 60 miles away
- Bernese Oberland 61 miles away
- Wengen 61 miles away
- St. Moritz 87 miles away
- Lugano 97 miles away
- Zermatt 101 miles away
- Montreux 101 miles away
- Lake Geneva 115 miles away
- Geneva 140 miles away
Photos of Zürich
Accommodation choices for Zürich
We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Zürich. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.
With its enviable riverside location and Michelin-star restaurant, the historic Storchen offers a convenient and luxe experience. Enjoy brunch outside overlooking the city, walk along the hotel’s private pier or take the two-minute stroll into the shopping district.
Set on a lively cobblestone street in the heart of old town Zürich, Marktgasse Hotel offers crisp and modern rooms in a history-filled, 600-year-old building. It’s located a short walk from the lake and in the midst of shops, restaurants and cafes.
Ideas for experiencing Zürich
Our specialists seek out authentic ways to get to know the places that could feature in your trip. These activities reflect some of the experiences they've most enjoyed while visiting Zürich, and which use the best local guides.
Stein am Rhein boasts an impressive collection of 16th-century frescoes — all on the outsides of the medieval half-timbered buildings lining the old town’s Rathausplatz. Visit for a day, walk the storybook streets and stroll along the riverbank in this historic paradise.
A tour encompassing three of the most well-known aspects of Swiss culture: chocolate, cheese, and mountains. You’ll board a bus and visit a chocolate outlet, a cheese factory, an Alpine summit and a storybook village on this drive through the northern Swiss countryside.