Top 13: City Travel Guide to Zürich, Switzerland

When boyfriend and I settled on Italy and Switzerland as the countries we were headed to for our Eurotrip, I didn't know much about Switzerland. He had been before and had talked my ear off about how gorgeous the entire country is, how wonderful the people are, and the general lifestyle and culture. While I didn't doubt him, I certainly had no idea how hard I was going to fall in love with Switzerland-- particularly, with the city of Zürich. 

Consistently voted as one of the best cities in the world to live in, for quality of life, Zürich truly offers everything. Want to go hike up a Swiss mountain, dine at a great restaurant, explore some historical monuments, go shopping, and relax lakeside, all in one day? We did it. Speaking as a NYC girl, I can appreciate a nice balance of outdoorsy nature and metropolitan city, and Zürich is just that. 

With only 2.5 days in the city, we were on a mission to discover the best of Zürich. Our 72 hour ZürichCARDs got us unlimited travel on the amazingly efficient public transportation system, free/reduced admission to the majority of museums, and discounts on a ton of culture and leisure activities. For all tourists, I would say it's well worth the 48 CHF (Swiss Francs). We fit in so much into those 2.5 days, and I want to share all this information I wish I had known when we were planning our visit. Now, onto my guide of the top destinations in Zürich, Switzerland!

I'm splitting up this guide into 3 sections so you can navigate it better:
1. Areas to Explore  2.Views/Activities  3. Where to Stay/Eat/Drink

AREAS TO EXPLORE

1. Banhofstrasse

You can't come to Zürich and not walk down Banhofstrasse to see all the amazing shops. It's essentially the Zürich version of NYC's 5th Avenue, in that it is the main pricey shopping area, but Banhofstrasse is far more quaint. Make sure to also wander down the little side streets, like Augustinergasse, to get a true feel of what sets the city apart from others. If shopping is what you're into, this is the jackpot-- boyfriend was beside himself, staring at all of the beautiful watches in the watch hub of the world. You also must stop at Sprüngli for some chocolates to take home some of the best Swiss chocolate for your loved ones...and some more for yourself!

 Augustinergasse

Augustinergasse

2. West Zürich

West Zürich used to apparently be run-down, dodgy, and not really worth visiting. Well, this part of town is completely reinventing itself, and is now known as where the trendy, young crowd goes. Popular for its nightlife scene, but also for it's array of new shopping stores and restaurants. Im Viadukt (the former railway viaduct arches), in particular, is a popular shopping and dining area-- the heart of which is the highly-recommended Markthalle, a restaurant/market.

3. Frau Gerolds Garten

I had seen these darn umbrellas everywhere on my Instagram, and I was determined to find them before I left. I knew that they were in West Zürich, but had no idea about the full Frau Gerolds Garten that surrounded it. Luckily, my dear friends Heike (of @tastyasheck) and Nadja (of @mylifeisdelicious) took us over to Frau Gerolds Garten where we found the umbrellas, but also a big, eclectically funky garden/yard with a bar to boot. A mix of industrial and nature, this place is a great spot to hang out with friends, grab a beer, and if you have time, go climb the Freitag store tower-- warning, it's a bit shaky!

4. Oberdorfstrasse

On your way to see Grossmünster, make sure to walk through Oberdorfstrasse and its surrounding streets. A quintessentially Swiss pedestrian street full of charm, you will find a variety of shops. Ranging from bookstores, jewelry, stationary, toys, and specialty liquors, there is something for everyone. 

5. Schipfe

Schipfe is a smaller road that lines the Limmat river. Perfect for a nighttime stroll, with the twinkling lights of the city reflected off the rivers glistening surface. The surrounding area offers plenty bars for a nightcap, such as the Jules Verne Panorama bar and the popular Old Crow.

Guide to Zurich| Living Minnaly1.jpg

6. Lake Promenade- Burkliplatz

Burkliplatz is the main docking area for the Lake Zurich cruises, but that's not the only purpose of visiting the area. It's also a marketplace and event space with beautiful views of Lake Zürich. Taking a walk around this promenade, camping out on a bench to read a book, or to watch the plethora of swans and mallards swim by, Burkliplatz is made for a perfect lazy Sunday afternoon. 

 

VIEWS/ACTIVITIES

7. Lake Zurich Cruise

Think about it: what would be one of the best ways to see all angles of a city that surrounds a lake? Bingo. Zürich lake cruise.
There are a variety of cruises to take, ranging from short cruises that take 1.5 hours, to long cruises that take upwards of 3-4 hours. We took the short lake cruise for 1.5 hours, departing at the main dock, Burkliplatz. Don't expect this to be a regular boat- this is a legitimate cruise boat that has indoor and outdoor seating, food & beverages, and waitstaff on board. The rain had just stopped a few minutes after we got on the cruise, so it was still a bit misty; however, this took nothing away from the beauty of this experience. We also got a preview of the gorgeously rich hues of fall with a bit of foliage lining the lake. That ZürichCARD for the win, once again! Tip: if you don't have 1.5 hours to spare, take the shorter Limmat river cruise instead- the website lists it as 1 hour, but you can get off at earlier stops.

8. Grossmünster Cathedral

If breathtaking, sweeping views of the city are what you want, you must head to the top of tower at the Grossmünster Cathedral. The stairs on the way up are small and steep, but you're rewarded with a panoramic view with access to four different doors for differing vantage points of the city. The cathedral itself is also quite pretty, built in a Romanesque style, but for me, the view was everything. It costs 2-4CHF for access to climb the tower, but you will forget all about that later when you have poster-worthy pictures to bring home with you as memories.

Guide to Zurich| Living Minnaly059.jpg

9. Adliswil-Felsenegg Cable Car

There is no cable car quite like this one. Use your ZürichCARD to hop a quick subway train ride from Zürich HB (the main train station) to Adliswil. Another 10 minute (uphill!) walk from the station leads you to the Adliswil cable car station where you take an adorable little red cable car up to Felsenegg. Looking over Zürich as you ascend this mountain, particularly on an early, quiet morning, is gloriously tranquil. At the top of the ride at Felsenegg, you will find the most adorable little mountainside restaurant to grab a mug of melange before you embark on your hike to Uetliberg, which brings me to my next point of interest!

10. Uetliberg-Felsenegg Planetenweg (Path of the Planets) Hike

Here is where Zürich also has it's nature complement to the city. By far one of my favorite experiences of my entire trip was this scenic hike from Felsenegg to Uetliberg, Zürich's main mountain. This hike takes about 90 minutes (or two hours if you stop every 5 minutes for photos like we did), and it is quite easy in terms of hiking difficulty-- that is, until you get to the top of Uetliberg and have lots of fun, steep stairs you gotta climb to earn that worldly view! But truly, this hike represented all of what is enchanting about Switzerland. Views of the Swiss alps, gentle clinking of cow's bells, lots of cows/goats, forest-like paths, and sweeping green pastures.
For more about Uetliberg and the easiest way to get there, check out my post about our hike here.

 

WHERE TO STAY/EAT/DRINK

11. Hotel Ambassador l'Opera

The Swiss are known for their hospitality, and it is remarkably well represented at the Hotel Ambassador l'Opera with their warm and welcoming staff. This charming small luxury 4-star hotel hosts 45 rooms, and is conveniently located right by the Opera house, a short walk from Banhofstrasse, and is right by Lake Zürich.
Some guests are lucky enough to score a room with prime views of the lake and the rest of the city, but for others, there is a perfect rooftop terrace that gives you panoramic views of the city, the lake, and the Alps. Even if you are not a guest, their restaurant is highly recommended for a meal. Enjoy some award-winning seafood dishes while sitting in their striking surrealist-baroque hand-painted dining room depicting the hotel's resonating opera theme. I thought the detail was quite amazing and created the perfect atmosphere. I also loved learning the fact that all of the restaurant's dairy is sourced from their cow, Blüemli, who lives on a neighboring mountain! 

12. Bebek

A Turkish restaurant currently popular amongst the trendier crowd, Bebek was introduced to me by my Zürich-based friends Heike and Nadja (both of whom I knew through Instagram and finally got to meet in person!). Scrumptiously healthy food, the best iced teas (I had the hibiscus), and cool interior design, it's a great place to grab lunch with friends. There is also outdoor seating when the weather is accommodating. 

13. Brasserie Federal

Located right in the hub of the Zürich HB main train station, Brasserie Federal is an informal beer hall that offers over 100 Swiss beers and classic German dishes of schnitzel and other assorted meats and cheeses. They are quite budget friendly, and have a great deal- a flight of 7 generously large beers for a mere 10CHF. We were expecting a normal sized beer flight, so boyfriend accidentally ordered two flights... resulting in this face of mine when they arrived at our table. 

Special thanks to the Zürich Tourism office for welcoming Living Minnaly to the city and assisting with accommodations. As always, all opinions and reviews are my own. 


More dream destinations to bookmark?

LifeMinna LeeTravel, City Guides