Must-knows about Zurich

  • Zurich in northern Switzerland is the country’s largest city.
  • Its German name is “Zürich”.
  • Many plane travelers arrive at, or depart from, Zurich Airport. If you do too, we highly recommend spending some time in the city.
  • One day is enough for a first impression, but there’s plenty to do for a longer stay.
  • Zurich has a lovely old town center, as well as modern architecture.
  • Zurich is not in or near the Alps.
  • The city is on Lake Zurich. You can make boat rides right from town.
Recommended season: all year
Altitude: 408 m (1339 ft)
Town size: Big
This town is on a lake
Local language: German
There is a train station
Augustinerstrasse with flags in Zurich
Colorful facades and flags in the Augustinerstrasse, a street in the old town of Zurich.
Fountain at Münzplatz-Augustinergasse in old town of Zurich
The Münzplatz and the Augustinergasse in the Altstadt ("old town") of Zurich.
City tram at the Bahnhofstrasse/Paradeplatz in Zurich
Urban tram near the Bahnhofstrasse, the famous shopping street of Zurich.

Things to see and do in Zurich Copy link to clipboard

Find activities in and near the city of Zurich

Passenger ferry at Bürkliplatz in Zurich
Boat Lake Zurich
Scenic boat tripMin. time required: 1:00
All you should know when preparing your Lake Zurich boat ride: about short river cruises, full-day lake cruises, schedules, prices, catering, and more.
Mühlesteg bridge over river Limmat in Zurich
Town walk Zurich
City trip, HikingMin. time required: 2:00
This free city walk offers a great introduction to the pretty old town of Zurich. You'll also scroll on the promenades along the river Reuss …
Rapperswil Scavenger Hunt and Sights Self-Guided Tour
GamingIndependent day tour
Discover Rapperswil from a different perspective on a self-guided walking tour and scavenger hunt of the city. Solve riddles and clues that lead to the next location, showing all the city highlights. Solve interesting puzzles, have fun and learn new things about the city. Explore the city and find hidden …

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St. Gallen Scavenger Hunt and Sights Self-Guided Tour
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Neuhausen Scavenger Hunt and Sights Self-Guided Tour
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Discover Neuhausen from a different perspective on a self-guided walking tour and scavenger hunt of the city. Solve riddles and clues that lead to the next location, showing all the city highlights. Solve interesting puzzles, have fun and learn new things about the city. Explore the city and find hidden …

Offered by Viator:

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The best activities in Zurich

If you have a limited amount of time in Zurich and have to choose, we recommend you focus on the old town.

One of the best ways to do so is on foot, for example with the Zurich town walk we created. It includes the pretty Augustinergasse, the Lindenhof with views of the river Limmat, churches, and all other highlights.

In addition, we think these excursions should be on your list: 

Rainy day activities in Zurich

Zurich has lots of museums, restaurants and shops to have a great day, even if it rains. Our personal favorites are:

  • The Swiss National Museum, which is very close to the railway station.
  • The famous vegetarian restaurant Hiltl, just south of the train station.
  • The many chocolate shops at the train station and along the famous Bahnhofstrasse.
  • The Lindt chocolate outlet and Home of Chocolate in Kilchberg, at a 10-minute train ride from the city.

Our insider tips: off the beaten track

These are less well-known activities in Zurich:

  • Dine in a tram while doing a tour across Zurich (
  • Eat Swiss fondue while on a Tuk Tuk tour across town (
  • Visit Zurich West. It's the former industrial district. Nowadays, it's a modern trendy district with shops, ateliers and restaurants (
  • Go to the MFO Park near the Zurich Oerlikon train station. This is a former factory hall converted into a green park (
  • Dine in the dark (

Places to visit near Zurich

Large Swiss cities close to Zurich

There are quick train connections to several major Swiss cities from Zurich. You can make day trips to Basel, Bern, Lucerne, St. Gallen, and Kreuzlingen/Konstanz on Lake Constance (the "Bodensee").

These cities can be reached in about an hour or less, and all by direct connections.

Smaller attractive towns to visit

Zurich is a perfect base to make day trips to the below authentic Swiss towns:

  • Schaffhausen, where the famous Rhine Falls are located. You can get there by train in about 40 minutes.
  • Stein am Rhein: a beautiful medieval village with a monastery and castle, at a 1h05 train ride.
  • Rapperswil on Lake Zurich: a charming town that's also called the "Town of Roses". It's to be reached in 40 minutes by train, or by boat.
  • Zug: this town has a nice old center and gives access to boat trips on Lake Zug (the "Zugersee" in German).
  • Aarau (25 minutes by train) and Olten (35 minutes by train), both on the deep blue Aare river.

Day trips to the Alps from Zurich

The best mountains to visit near Zurich are those around Lake Lucerne. Excursions to Pilatus, Rigi and Stanserhorn are doable from Zurich. They can be reached in under 2 hours.

Further options are the rugged high hills around the Walensee and the village Walenstadt (1h00 by train), and the pretty valley around Glarus (1h00 by train).

Scenic train rides from Zurich

You can make the following train tours from Zurich in one day:

  • Travel to Lucerne and enjoy the northern leg of the GoldenPass route from Lucerne to Interlaken. Travel back via Thun and Bern to add variety.
  • Travel to Lucerne and head to Bern via Entlebuch and Trubschachen in the scenic Emmen Valley.
  • Go to Lucerne or St. Gallen. Board the Voralpen-Express and travel back to Zurich afterwards.
  • Travel to Chur and travel by Glacier Express as far as Brig. Then get back to Zurich via the Lötschberg Base Tunnel and the towns of Spiez, Thun and Bern.
  • Ride along the southern shore of Lake Constance (the "Bodensee" in German).

See some of Germany from Zurich

If you don't mind some traveling time, you can make a cross-border day trip to Germany. Our tips:

  • Go shopping in Constance (“Konstanz” in German). Constance borders the Swiss town of Kreuzlingen on Lake Constance (the “Bodensee” in German). It’s a 1h15 train ride between Zurich and Constance.
  • Visit the ruins of the Hohentwiel Fortress in Singen. This town can be reached by bus from Ramsen, just north of Stein am Rhein. The total ride from Zurich takes 50 to 70 minutes. Enter "Singen (Hohentwiel)" in the timetable.

Travel info and map of Zurich Copy link to clipboard

How to travel to and in Zurich: quick summary

Zurich can be reached by train, by car and by plane via the nearby international airport.

The old town center can be explored on foot, and there are plenty of urban trams and buses if you don't feel like walking.

Boat trips can be made across Lake Zurich.

How to reach Zurich by train

How to travel to and from the airport

There are frequent direct trains from Zürich HB (the main station in the city center) to the airport. The ride takes about 10 minutes.

How to reach Zurich from other Swiss cities

Zurich is easily reached by train from the Swiss airports and other Swiss cities. In many cases, you don't even have to change trains. Examples of traveling times:

How to get to Zurich from surrounding countries

There are excellent high-speed train connections to Zurich from Germany, Austria, France and Italy. Learn more in our travel guides:

How to reach Zurich by car

Can I drive to Zurich?

You can drive to Zurich, but this is not what we advise. Parking is expensive, and traffic in the city is busy with trams, buses, and other cars. We think a car is more of a burden than a benefit in Zurich.

If you do drive to Zurich, it's best to park your car, and then get around in the city on foot or by public transport.

Where to park in Zurich

There are about 10 park houses in the city. One of those is adjacent to the station Zürich HB.

Parking is mostly free between 21:00 and 8:00, but paid during the rest of the day. Costs in the parking garages are CHF 4 or CHF 5 per hour, with a flat rate of CHF 45 per day.

In addition, there are smaller outdoor parking places for short-term parking up to 4 hours. They're indicated by white meters.

How to plan trips to and in Zurich

The Swiss timetable includes all public transport to Zurich and within the city. You plan your trips from any town in Switzerland or neighboring countries to Zurich in the timetable. You'll also find the city trams, buses, and boats on Lake Zurich here.

Our timetable guide explains how to use the timetable.

The main rail station: "Zürich HB"

What is Zürich HB?

Zürich HB (which stands for the German "Hauptbahnhof") is the main train station of Zurich.

Where is Zürich HB located?

The main station is located in the heart of the city (see the map). It's just north of the old town, which can be reached on foot. A 20-minute walk, or a 15-minute train and tram ride, gets you from the rail station to the boat dock "Bürkliplatz" south of the old town.

Which trains and buses leave from Zürich HB?

Apart from the trams and buses into town, trains across the whole of Switzerland depart from here, as well as trains to the neighboring countries France, Germany, Italy, and Austria.

There is also a bus terminal, called 'Sihlquai', about 100 m north of the station. Buses into the various districts of Zurich leave here.

How to navigate at Zürich HB?

This large station may be overwhelming if you're not used to traveling by train. There is no need to worry though, as everything is well-signposted.

Most platforms (track 3 to 18) are on the ground level. Additionally, there are lots of stores, restaurants, and several underground platforms:

  • 'Bahnhof SZU': track 21 and 22 for trains to the Uetliberg;
  • 'Bahnhof Löwenstrasse': track 31 to 34;
  • 'Bahnhof Museumstrasse': track 41 to 44.

Public transport in Zurich

Trams, buses and local trains

There is a dense network of trams, buses and local trains (S-Bahn) all around Zurich. Together, they form a smooth public transport system. All transport lines are operated with high frequency, so you rarely have to wait long to catch your train, tram or bus.

The ZVV fare network

Zurich's urban transport falls under "ZVV", which stands for "Zürcher Verkehrsverbund". ZVV determines prices and issues tickets for the trams, buses, and boats.

Free public transport in Zurich

All public transport in Zurich is free with a Swiss Travel Pass, Saver Day Pass , and several other rail passes.

Another option is to buy a Zurich Card that allows free public transport throughout the city for one or more days.

Hotels in Zurich don't offer a guest card for free local traveling, as in some other Swiss towns.

ZVV tickets and passes

If you don't have a rail pass that covers public transport in Zurich, you need additional tickets for the ZVV network. The network is divided into city zones. The number of zones you travel in, and the duration of your trip, determine the price.

This may seem complicated, but the Swiss timetable makes it easy for you to choose the right option. Enter your journey, click the price button, and see the ZVV tickets that match your requirements. Learn how to use the Swiss timetable here.

The main ZVV ticket options for tourists are:

  • single tickets with short validity, for quick and occasional trips.
  • 24-hour tickets, allowing you to travel as much as you want in the chosen number of zones during 24 hours.
  • the 9 O'Clock day pass, valid for the entire ZVV network from 09:00 to 05:00 on the next day during weekdays, or for the entire day in weekends.

If you plan intensive use of public transport in and around Zurich, you can look into:

  • ZVV Network Passes. These passes allow unlimited traveling in a chosen number of zones during a month or a year. This is a subscription model, for which you should arrange at a ZVV sales outlet.
  • Z-Passes: single tickets, day tickets or travelcards for travel in the ZVV network and adjacent tariff networks.

Where to buy public transport tickets

If you need ZVV tickets, you can get them:

  • at the main station Zürich HB
  • at other train stations within the network area
  • from self-service ticketing machines at stations and bus stops
  • in the Swiss timetable
  • in the ZVV Ticketshop
Zurich HB train station seen from Bahnhofplatz
The SBB railway station "Zürich HB" seen from the Bahnhofplatz in Zurich.
Tram stop Central in Zurich
Tram stop "Central" in the busy traffic of Zurich.
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Travel guides for Zurich Copy link to clipboard

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The best time to visit Zurich Copy link to clipboard

In our opinion, a visit to Zurich is worth it all year. This is why:

  • It offers plenty of indoor options for bad-weather days in any season.
  • Zurich is appealing when it's low season in the mountains and transport options are limited there. This is especially in March and November.
  • Zurich is vibrant and colorful in spring, summer and early autumn: April to October.
  • The holiday atmosphere in late November and December is fantastic.
  • A visit to Zurich adds cultural variety to snow holidays in January and February.

Christmas in Zurich

Zurich is a great destination in late November and December. You can visit Christmas markets, shop in the illuminated old town or make a ride in the fairytale tram.

Day trips to other towns with Christmas markets can be made too. Examples are Lucerne, Bern and Basel.

Zurich as a snow destination

Zurich is not the best resort for a snow holiday. It’s at low altitude and snowfall isn’t likely.

You’ll have to travel at least 1 hour by train to reach ski areas. The ones closest to Zurich are Flumserberg (along Lake Walen) and Sattel-Hochstückli (between Arth-Goldau and Einsiedeln).

If you want to visit snow regions from Zurich, you can best do so in January and February: that's when you'll have the best shot at sufficient snow.

Weather and climate of Zurich Copy link to clipboard

What's the climate of Zurich like?

Zurich is in a mild and moist climate, as in most of northern Switzerland. Temperatures are pretty high, even in winter.

Rainfall can occur year-long. The driest months are January and February. The wettest months in Zurich are May, June, July and August. You can experience showers or continuous rain. But long, sunny periods are common just as well.

Which temperatures to expect in Zurich?

Average summer temperatures during daytime are 20°C to 25°C. Heatwaves with temperatures well above 30°C occur too in Zurich.

Winter temperatures during daytime range from 3°C to 10°C. It may freeze during the nights, but severe frosts aren't common.

Does it snow in Zurich?

Snow in Zurich isn't likely: the average temperatures are too high and Zurich is at a relatively low elevation. If snow falls, this is mostly in the coldest months: January or February.

If you'd like to experience genuine Swiss snow winters, we advise picking another base town near or in the mountains.

5-day weather forecast for Zurich

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Hotels in Zurich Copy link to clipboard

There are countless hotels in Zurich. What's the best hotel for you depends on your plans, your budget, whether you prefer views of the river Limmat or Lake Zurich, and more.

A hotel near Zurich Airport is ideal for a late arrival or early departure by plane.

Our extensive Zurich hotel guides help you choose.

Old town of Zurich seen from the Bahnhofbrücke

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Radisson Blu hotel at Zurich Airport

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What is Zurich like?

Location and scenery

Zurich and Lake Zurich are situated Northern Switzerland, not in the Alps. Apart from sightseeing in town, it’s a good base for day trips to Basel, Lucerne, the Rhine Falls near Schaffhausen and many other destinations in the north of Switzerland.

The surroundings of Zurich, and the lake area south-east of it, consist of smaller villages, rolling green hills, meadows and forests. It’s a gentle landscape with farms, but also some industrial sites.

The town center of Zurich

If you like city trips, Zurich offers enough to keep you busy for many days. The historic old town center is well worth a visit and can easily be explored on foot from the main rail station.

Exclusive shopping can be done in the Bahnhofstrasse. There are a lot of art galleries and museums, several theaters and the Opera House.

Fine dining is easy to find: there are hundreds of restaurants. They include the world’s first vegetarian restaurant: Haus Hiltl, which opened in 1898.

Reasons to stay in Zurich

If you are planning a long vacation in Switzerland (for example two weeks or more), and if you’re interested in culture, museums and city visits, it’s a perfect idea to start with some days in Zurich. Then proceed to the Alps to see the mountains.

If you have booked a late flight to Zurich or an early flight from Zurich, it makes sense to stay the night and explore the city for a couple of hours. You can find airport hotels here.

Reasons to skip Zurich

Zurich is not in or near the Alps. It takes traveling time to reach the mountains. For example: a visit to Pilatus takes 2h00, a visit to Schilthorn takes 3h30.

If the Swiss Alps are your main focus, a resort closer to the Alps is a better choice. Examples are Lucerne and towns in the Bernese Oberland, Graubünden or the Valais.

Zurich can be busy. You may prefer peace and quiet during your holidays. Look for a smaller destination in that case.

FAQ about Zurich

  1. Where and in which canton is Zurich located?

    Zurich (“Zürich” in German) is located in north-eastern Switzerland, directly on Lake Zurich and about 30 km from the Swiss-German border. It’s in the Swiss canton that’s also called “Zürich”.

  2. What lake is Zurich on?

    Zurich is located on the large Lake Zurich. It’s called the “Zürichsee” in German. The lake stretches out from Zurich in the north-west to Schmerikon in the south-east.

  3. Is Zurich close to the Alps?

    Zurich is not in or near the Alps. The closest nearby region with high mountains is the Lake Lucerne area. Lucerne is at a 40-minute train ride.

  4. Can you see the Swiss Alps from Zurich?

    On very clear days, you can see the snowy Swiss Alps in the distance from higher locations in Zurich. For better views from larger towns, cities further south are recommended: Lucerne or Bern for example.

  5. How to get from Zurich Airport to the city of Zurich?

    Board the train at the airport railway station, at the lowest level of the airport. Ride to the main city station “Zurich HB” in just 10 minutes.

    Find details here.

  6. How to reach Interlaken from Zurich?

    Interlaken is at a 1h55 train journey from the main station “Zürich HB”. You’ll travel via Bern and Thun.

    Another option is to travel via Lucerne, Meiringen and Brienz. Lucerne-Interlaken is the northern leg of the GoldenPass train route. This route from Zurich to Interlaken takes 2h45.

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Page author: AnnikaSince early childhood I've been visiting Switzerland during my holidays and I just fell in love with the country. I spent many summers in the Bernese Oberland, which still feels like my second home, and then started to explore other areas. Traveling, hiking and photographing in the Swiss Alps are my absolute favorite activities.