Although it’s Switzerland’s largest city, Zürich is a perfect mix of pristine infrastructure and quaint, peaceful history. The stately presence of the city’s many clock towers and church steeples is almost overshadowed by its collection of red-shuttered homes and love lock-trimmed bridges. If you only have one day to spend here, you can still see most of what makes this city what it is.
Start Early at the Bahnhof
If you’re arriving by car, the weaving labyrinth of roads, tram tracks, and designated bicycle lanes can make Zürich feel much more chaotic than it is. This business-oriented city is filled with people who are eager to get to and from work, school, or their next activity. But, the main train station is the best place to begin regardless of how you arrive.
You can find (comparatively) affordable parking here, or at one of the City Parkhaus locations that you’ll find clearly marked throughout the center.
The train station is located directly adjacent to the river, and it’s a great starting point that will allow you to pass through the historic Old Town center before eventually reaching the lake. Simply exit through the east side of the station and cross one of the bridges, such as the Mühlsteg.
Weave Through the Cobblestones
Zürich’s historic town center is similar to many that you’ll find throughout Europe, but it has a unique charm. It’s positioned on the face of a hill that overlooks the city’s business districts and residential areas. Once you enter, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time while simultaneously being a part of the future. Aside from a few subdued business signs and the odd advertisement, this portion of the city has remained more or less the same for centuries. But Zürich also places a high value on punctuality, innovation, and organization. For this reason, you really get the best of the old and the new.
Heading south through the narrow stone-paved streets, you’ll eventually run into the double-topped Grossmünster. If you’re lucky, you’ll also find musicians taking advantage of the acoustics under the arched walkway. I once passed through while an alpenhorn player was performing. It doesn’t get more Swiss than that.
Get a Postcard View - and a History Lesson
If museums are your thing, there are plenty to take advantage of. Zürich is home to the Swiss National and FIFA World Football museums, as well as a variety art galleries. If you’re coming from the Old Town, you’ll pass by the Zürich Kunsthaus and the Museum Bibliothek. Entrance fees range from free to 20 CHF depending on the day you arrive, so try to purchase a ticket in advance to get the best deal.
Take a Dip or a Stroll Around the Lake
Zürich’s crescent-shaped namesake lake is not just a great place to swim, paddleboard, or sail in warmer months. It’s home to the city’s famous Goldcoast (as well as American icon, Tina Turner - fun fact). This neighborhood is made of some of the most expensive real estate in the world, and it certainly shows. In the winter, it’s much more sparsely populated so it’s a great place to go for a quiet walk and take in the surrounding landscape.
Positioned between the Pfannenstiel, Höhronen, and Etzel mountain peaks, it’s a beautiful spot that combines many of the natural and architectural wonders that Switzerland is famous for. Whether you’re a tourist or you want to move here for good, Zürich is more than just a collection of banks, watch shops, and quick-moving pedestrians. It’s a combination of modern ingenuity and pre-medieval history, and it has just about everything that’s quintessentially Swiss within a one-kilometer radius.
By: Nicole Frost
Interested in getting more information about Zürich? Check back soon for Nicole's itinerary travel guide.