3-Day Itinerary: Zürich, Switzerland
In the almost 6 years we’ve been living in Switzerland, we have probably received more visitors than we ever did in the five years we lived in Seattle and the two we lived in California, combined. We love the fact that despite the distance we didn’t have the chance to feel homesick because we are constantly receiving friends and family, and when we are not, then we are having a great time with our friends in Zürich.
But each time someone tells us they are coming, I spend a lot of time preparing and personalizing an itinerary for them. Each person that comes is different. Some like to walk others not so much. Some like going shopping others prefer history. With that in mind, I made a 3 day itinerary with things to do in and around Zürich. Zürich is small and you can easily see the city in 2 days. The important thing to keep in mind is that visiting Zürich on a Sunday is a waste of time as most things are closed. Leave any hiking or outdoor activity for Sunday and visit some museums, such as the Swiss National Museum that opens until 5pm on Sundays. The rest, do it during weekdays or Saturdays.
11am, meet at Paradeplatz and do a “Free Walking Tour” of Zürich. This tour will walk you from Paradeplatz, through Bahnhofstrasse, seeing Lindenhof and then will take you to the old town (Niederdorf). When I can’t take my visitors personally, I recommend this tour because it is a good way to get familiar with the city and see many of the major landmarks such as Fraumünster, Grossmünster, the biggest clock in Europe (which is not Big Bend, but the clock from St. Peter’s church here in Zürich).
After the tour, I would take my visitors for lunch at either Zeughauskeller or Rheinfelderhalle for traditional Swiss food. During winter or fall, or when the weather is crisp, I like Swiss Chuchi for fondue or raclette. For vegetarians Hiltl, which holds the Guinness record for being the oldest continuously open vegetarian restaurant in the world.
Then take one of the low-cut ZVV boats from the train station or Mythenquai to Chinawiese. They are included in the normal ZVV Zones and it is fun because you are sitting so low, almost in the water.
To end the day, have a drink with a view from the Clouds (on top of Prime Tower) or in a more hipster atmosphere at Frau Gerolds Garten (outdoor in summer and in winter they set up a fondue yurt). Another options are El Lokal (for the atmosphere), Raygrodski or Old Crow (for the cocktails).
For those guests who enjoy museums, I highly recommend a visit to the Kunsthaus (museum of art of Zurich). It is free on Wednesdays (do not include special exhibitions). Also the Swiss National Museum is a great museum with a lot of history about the country.
I recommend a day trip to another city, like Lucerne or Bern. In Lucerne you should not miss the Picasso Museum. Bern is the capital, rich with history and where Einstein lived for 7 years. In fact, he wrote his Theory of Relativity during the years he lived in Bern and you can visit the house where he lived.
If there is anyone interested in Switzerland’s secret military defense, then I recommend a visit to Fortress Fürigen (only open on Sundays). This is a “hidden” fortress inside a mountain just next to the lake. It was built to look as part of the mountain to hide from the enemy.
For those interested in a closer encounter with the Alps, a day trip to Mt. Pilatus where the world's steepest cogwheel railway will take you to the top of the mountain. There you can have lunch at a restaurant surrounded by the Emmental Alps. Another option is Mt. Titlis, here you can spend a day walking on the Titlis Cliff Walk, the highest suspension bridge in Europe and visiting an ice cave.
Fondue inside a restaurant built with ice
I recommend my visitors to spend their last day in Zürich, so they don’t rush to come back to pack etc. This day, if they have time and weather is nice I recommend to go for a morning hike at Uetliberg (not hikers can take the train and the gondola). If is a Tuesday or a Friday, then spending the morning browsing at the farmers market in Bürkliplatz may be fun for some (it closes at 11am). Coffee at Sprüngli or Cafe Henrici could be done. Or even climb one of the Grossmünster towers for a last view of the city.
Relax in one of the many wellness hotels around Switzerland. We visited the spa at Hotel Villa Honegg, near Lucerne for a romantic day getaway from Zürich. The views of the alps from the infinity pool are unbelievable.
Hiking and lunch with a view
Take an early train from Zürich to Appenzell. You can hike in Ebenalp and visit a pretty cool restaurant on a cliff.
Get a tageskarte from the SBB when traveling outside Zürich and save money. In fact, for Zürich you can also get a 24 or 48 hours pass that includes all transportation within Zürich limits (including the small boats), free entrance to some museums and discounts in other attractions. Always, always, stop by the SBB travel assistance counter, either at the airport or at the main train station in Zürich. I find them helpful. If you share with them your travel plans, they can offer the best options so you can save time and money.
Always carry a water bottle. Water in restaurants is not free, not even tap water. But Zürich has over 1,000 fountains that offer fresh drinking water at no cost. You can refill your water bottle from any of them.
Here are our favorite restaurants in Zürich. Many of these places are not in the city center. These are spots we’ve discovered talking with locals and just exploring around, and now we are so happy to share it with y’all!
Rosso in West Zürich for Pizza and Pasta is very good
Viadukt, also in West Zürich has a small menu but very delicious
Nikkos offers great Greek food
Hiltl is the first vegetarian restaurant in the world. Serving vegetarian dishes since 1898
Chez Nhan has good Vietnamese food, including delicious Pho
Swiss Chuchi for Swiss food and fondue
Da Pippo for Italian (good seafood risotto) Address: Herdernstrasse 56, 8004 Zürich
Kennedy’s is an Irish pub, but they have good nachos, ribs and chicken curry
Cedre (in Badenestrasse, not Bellevue) has good Lebanese food
La Taquería to satisfy your craving for Mexican
Rico's, with two Michelin stars, is a great culinary experience. Worth the splurge.
Schwartzenbach: coffee roaster in the Neiderdorf. Great place for a coffee and pastry.
Erzbierschof fantastic selection. Very popular spot to grab a beer and mingle with locals.The International Beer Bar has good selection of international and local beers. Small place and it can get crowded. But very good service. Staff speaks perfect English