48 Hours In Zurich

48 Hours In Zurich

There are many reasons why you would want to visit Zurich. To start with, the city is absolutely gorgeous and lives up to the Swiss stereotypes that we, North Americans, have.

Tidiness.
Efficiency.
Symmetry.
Cleanliness.
And just utterly beautiful scenery.

These clichés, for better or for worse, are all true. But more than just a pretty face, Zurich surprised me in many ways with its dynamism and effervescence, something I didn’t quite expect from this notoriously homogeneous German-speaking city. I had only planned for 48 hours in the city because I flew SWISS’s new direct route from Montreal before going on an epic pan-European adventure.

Truth be told, 48 hours was not enough. I guess it’s a good thing I’m going back in September, right? Let’s see what I did manage to see and do the first time around.

Note that the tourism board was kind enough to provide me with a ZurichCARD, which I think is very good value at just CHF 24 for 24 hours or CHF 48 for 72 hours. It includes Unlimited 2nd class travel on all forms of public transportation in the city of Zurich and surrounding region, free or reduced admission to the majority of Zurich’s museums as well as 50% discount on public city tours organised by Zurich Tourism. This is definitely something I will get for myself on my next visit.
 

48 Hours in Zurich – Day 1

Go on a Lake Zurich cruise

48 Hours In Zurich
48 Hours In Zurich
 

If there’s ONE thing you NEED to do in Zurich, it’s this cruise (which is included in the ZurichCARD). Switzerland is famous for its crystal-clear waters and Lake Zurich is no exception; it also beautifully showcases the Swiss Prealps as well as the city’s many manicured parks located along the water.

Wander the old streets of Zurich

48 Hours In Zurich
48 Hours In Zurich
 

One of the most fun (and cost-efficient) things to do in Zurich is just to wander around. The city is very picturesque, and its centre is filled with winding cobblestone streets, each more photogenic than the last. I especially loved my early morning and evening strolls when the streets are virtually deserted. I felt like I had Zurich all to myself.

Shop for Nordic home decor at Neumarkt 17

This is, hands down, one of the best shops in the city. Neumarkt 17 has an amazing selection of Nordic furniture and accessories, which could make for a particularly worthwhile souvenir from one of the world’s top design cities. Swiss style is also very linear and crisp, and isn’t all that far from the Nordic trends we’ve been seeing for the past couple of years.

Visit the Swiss National Museum

As one of the most important art museums of cultural history in Europe, the Swiss National Museum showcases the most significant events of the last 20 centuries, from prehistory to ancient times and the Middle Ages, with a particularly rich section focused on Gothic art and chivalry.

Bonus points – the museum itself is a magnificent work of art, with dozens of towers and courts. Make sure to take a photo or two from Platzspitz Park.

Enjoy a refined lunch at Restaurant-Boucherie August

48 Hours In Zurich
48 hours in Zurich
 

Halfway between a multi-centennial butcher shop and a refined contemporary eatery, August is a fascinating place to say the least. The hotel in which the restaurant is located, the luxurious Widder Hotel, is the 700-year old headquarters of the Widder Zunft (Zurich’s historic butchers’ guild) – which explains the subtle and clever touches of traditional butcher items inside the restaurant, from the decor itself to the waiter’s outfits.

Tip: if weather permits, have your meal al fresco. And whatever you do, don’t skip the beef tartare – one of the best I ever had. And I’ve had lots of beef tartare in my life.

Go up Lindenhof for the views

48 Hours In Zurich
48 hours in Zurich
 

As a place frequented by both tourists and locals looking to chill out in this acclaimed green oasis, Lindenhof is a place everyone will enjoy. Photographers will be pleased for obvious reasons, while Zurich connoisseurs will have a blast standing on the site of a bygone Roman castle and pointing out the different historical buildings on either side of the Limmat River.

Admire the Chagal stained glass windows inside Fraumünster

Although the so-called Women’s Minster, built on the remains of a former abbey for aristocratic ladies, has a long and fascinating history, most people will head there to admire the stunning Chagall stained glass windows in the choir of the abbey. Installed in 1970, each of the five strikingly modern windows features a dominant colour and depicts a Christian story in a very graphic and typical Chagall way.

Have coffee at Kafischnaps

One of the things I really wanted to do during my short trip in Zurich was to leave the very centre and get a feel of what it must be like to live in Zurich. Hopping on the tram, I headed to Kafischnaps, a hip coffee bar between the districts of Wipkingen and Unterstrass, where I was served not only excellent cake but a warm smile, a rarity in this somewhat reserved country.

Good to know: there is more than meets the eye in this cafe, seeing as it has five small rooms to rent on its upper floor.

Eat traditional Swiss fare at Zeughauskeller

48 Hours In Zurich
48 Hours In Zurich
 

When in Rome Zurich, right? This extremely touristy spot (I suspect there wasn’t a single local in there) is kind of a must-do; the building, built in 1487, was formerly used as ammunition storage seeing as the Middle Ages were a far cry from the peaceful Switzerland we know today. In fact, legend has it that the crossbow from local icon William Tell was issued here.

Make sure to order the Zürcher Geschnetzelte, a rather hearty and traditional Zurich pan-fried veal dish served with mushrooms, a cream sauce and rösti – to be washed down with a pint of beer, obviously.

48 Hours in Zurich – Day 2

Have breakfast at Cafe Lang

48 Hours In Zurich

48 Hours In Zurich
 

A great place to stop for coffee on your way to Zurich West! This cosy and imperial, Austrian-looking coffeehouse (with its dark wood walls, fresh flowers and mint-colored furniture) serves a mean soy latte and mouth-watering viennoiseries. Try to snag a table outdoors if you have the chance, as their patio is one of the best people-watching spots in the city.

Visit the Viadukt and West Zurich area

48 Hours In Zurich
48 Hours In Zurich
 

Talk about clever urbanism! More than just a trendy neighbourhood, Viadukt is an ode to creativity and architecture seeing as its shops and restaurants are housed inside the arches of the disused, 550-feet long railway viaduct. It still feels like a very effervescent, constantly evolving space that I bet will look different when I visit again this September.

Viadukt a pretty good introduction to Zurich-West, actually. Factories have been transformed into theatres, shipyards are now art galleries, mills currently house pop-up shops. Indeed, art, design, food, culture, shopping and architecture are now the center of attention in this former industrial zone – especially at the Freitag flagship store (iconic bags produced from recycled materials taken from the streets – you’ve surely seen them before, just about every bike messenger in the world owns one), which is housed inside a structure formed by 17 freight containers piled one on top of the other.

Have lunch at Hiltl, the oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world

A little bit of veggies never hurt anyone – especially not in Switzerland, where traditional fare tends to be more on the heavy side. Hiltl was founded in 1898 and has been serving the best vegetarian buffet in Zurich ever since, now under the watchful eye of the fourth generation of Hiltl. The restaurant is massive and can easily accommodate the crowds it keeps drawing, even after 100+ years in business.

Admire the view from atop Grossmünster

I blame it on jetlag, but for some reason, I got the time wrong and arrived at Grossmünster an hour late (hence the lack of photo evidence). But my local spies tell me that the view from its bell tower is simply outstanding.

In addition, the Romanesque church played a major role in Switzerland’s history, as this is where the Swiss-German reformation started in 1520, leading local authorities to sever ties with the papacy. There’s even a Reformation museum in the cloister.

Indulge with Swiss fondue

48 Hours In Zurich
48 hours in Zurich
 

I tried to come up something more original than fondue (such a cliché, amirite) but there simply is no such thing as going to Switzerland and not indulge in this iconic meal. Period. Although most Swiss you will meet will rebuff at the idea of eating fondue when there’s no snow on the ground, tourists are allowed to infringe this unspoken rule. Because cheese.

Day Trips from Zurich (If You Have Time)

20 Comments on 48 Hours In Zurich

  1. Rafal
    August 5, 2015 at 4:17 pm (2 years ago)

    Nice Post! I visited Zurich in June and it surprised me as well. Great city to just wander around. Loved the old town streets. And the view from Grossmunster is indeed spectacular.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      August 7, 2015 at 10:07 am (2 years ago)

      Can’t wait to find out when I go back in September! I will be at Grossmunster bright and early.

      Reply
  2. Alison (Fueling for Fitness)
    August 5, 2015 at 6:01 pm (2 years ago)

    I absolutely adore Switzerland. Earlier this year, my husband and I spent about 2 months (non consecutive weeks) in Granichen, which is about 2-3 trains / 1 hour train ride away from the Zurich airport. Believe it of not, we never got our chance to have fondue. :( But we did have two traditional meals which were amazing – a raclette meal, and rosti. Both were enjoyed at our host’s home and both were incredibly delicious. I wish I could be going back in September, too!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      August 7, 2015 at 10:07 am (2 years ago)

      Mmmm raclette! So delicious. Switzerland definitely knows how to do cheese :-)

      Reply
  3. Marc
    January 22, 2016 at 10:36 am (1 year ago)

    Nice post and after looking at those pictures I really need to visit Zurich. It looks beautiful and I see that you had so much fun there. Thank you

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      January 22, 2016 at 12:59 pm (1 year ago)

      Thank you Marc! You would love Zurich. It’s a beautiful and lively city.

      Reply
  4. Surender - Swtizerland
    March 30, 2016 at 6:03 am (1 year ago)

    Zurich is Switzerland’s largest city has so much to offer any independent traveler. Zurich is certainly one destination to keep in mind when planning a European holiday. Lovely photos & thanks for sharing a wonderful experience with us.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      April 10, 2016 at 5:21 pm (1 year ago)

      Glad you like Zurich too!

      Reply
  5. Ryan Flaherty
    May 4, 2016 at 1:57 pm (1 year ago)

    Any tips for getting a hold of a ZurichCARD on the cheap? Sounds like yours was provided.

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      May 4, 2016 at 3:47 pm (1 year ago)

      Yes it was. But I’m afraid that there is no such thing as a ZurichCARD on the cheap, you really have to pay full price for it.

      Reply
    • Desiree
      August 14, 2016 at 4:22 am (10 months ago)

      If you just want to use public transportation you can buy a normal daypass on site for 24h for CHF 8.40, locals do it to.

      Greetings from zurich :)

      Reply
      • Marie-Eve
        August 17, 2016 at 1:53 pm (9 months ago)

        Thanks Desiree!

  6. Jamila
    July 2, 2016 at 5:55 am (11 months ago)

    What restaurant did you get the fondue at? I’m heading to Zurich next month :-)

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      July 3, 2016 at 7:13 pm (11 months ago)

      I believe it was Swiss Chuchi on Rosengasse. The fondue was average, not the best I’ve ever had, but still gets the job done :-)

      Reply
  7. verena
    July 24, 2016 at 11:09 am (10 months ago)

    The place to have a cheese fondue in Zuerich is the Restaurant Dezaley, Roemergasse, next to Grossmuenster in the old part of the city !!

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      July 25, 2016 at 11:30 am (10 months ago)

      Good to know, thanks!

      Reply
  8. Charley
    December 29, 2016 at 1:24 am (5 months ago)

    I really want to go there in Zurich to see these beautiful places and try their different culinary excellence. I am a food lover and I am sure I will enjoy the food in Zurich. Thanks for sharing

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      December 30, 2016 at 9:15 pm (5 months ago)

      Yes, Zurich is an excellent foodie destination!

      Reply
  9. Alessandra
    March 3, 2017 at 9:02 am (3 months ago)

    I grew up and still live in Zurich and love my hometown!! I stumbled across your blog while looking for great things to do/where to eat etc in Montreal, and I like the way you blog a lot! I work as a flight attendant and will be in Montreal next week for the very first time and since we usually do not have much time during our layovers all your tips and recommendations are so valuable ;-)

    Reply
    • Marie-Eve
      March 14, 2017 at 1:36 pm (2 months ago)

      I hope you had a nice time in Montreal, Alessandra!

      Reply

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