Don’t Miss The Top Places to Visit in Zürich, Easily Seeable in 24 Hours!
I visited Switzerland on a trip sponsored by various local travel organizations, hotels and restaurants and am so grateful for these gifted experiences. Rest assured that, as always, all opinions are my own.
A few weeks ago, I had the amazing opportunity to go on a train trip sponsored by Swiss Travel System. Equipped with a Swiss Travel Pass, I had unlimited access to Switzerland’s public transport network. I journeyed from Zürich to Lugano and back to Basel on panoramic trains – adding another top travel experience to my memories!
My Swiss adventure began with 24 hours in Zürich. As this was my third trip to this international banking hub, I roughly knew what I wanted to see, but since I didn’t yet have a guide to Zürich on the blog, I thought it was about time to write one! So this post will cover the top places to visit in Zürich in 24 hours.
Read on to discover beautiful photo spots, unmissable sights and food tips!
Where to Stay in Zürich
Since I only had 24 hours in the city, I wanted to be near the top places to visit in Zürich. Therefore, I reached out to hotel marta, a lovely, architect-designed property in the Old Town which kindly sponsored my one-night stay.
hotel marta is not only strategically located – just a short walk from Lake Zürich, for example – but also home to fantastic views over many of the city’s iconic sights, including most of the Old Town. The header image for this post was shot from my suite’s window, actually!
I was fortunate enough to stay in the Panorama Room on the 7th floor, with bay windows providing sweeping vistas all the way to the nearby mountain range.
You might imagine hotel marta to be quite pricey, but the venue actually remains very affordable, especially compared to other lodging options that are so centrally located. And as a bonus – breakfast is included in the nightly rate!
What made my stay truly special, however, is hotel marta’s commitment to sustainability and women’s welfare, with programs that help economically endangered women re-enter society through employment.
hotel marta’s parent company offers protected workplaces for mentally or cognitively impaired women. In addition, a fixed number of guest rooms are reserved for women in need.
So if you’d like to stay at a hotel with great views that also does great things, make sure to check out hotel marta when you visit Zürich.
Top 3 Places to Visit in Zürich
If you’re only in town for 24 hours, you might be wondering which places to visit in Zürich are the most interesting. Below are my top 3 choices, especially if you’re short on time.
Zürich’s Old Town
I loved getting lost in Zürich’s Old Town, which spans both sides of the Limmat River as you approach Lake Zürich. Visitors can easily get from one side to the other by crossing the historic bridges.
The best way to explore this part of the city is just to walk around and soak up the atmosphere.
The Old Town is a labyrinth of narrow, cobblestone lanes, usually abutting at beautiful squares watched over by elegant fountains. (The water that flows from these fountains is perfectly drinkable, by the way!)
You’ll discover charming, colourful buildings as you amble about, taking you back centuries in time. Once family homes, these properties now house antique shops, bookstores, cafes, bars and clubs and even small startups or agencies.
Zürich’s Old Town is very much part of the fabric of the city – it isn’t just a spot for tourists but rather a neighbourhood where locals also work and play.
If you, like me, are a fan of panoramic views, Lindenhof’s lookout should definitely be on your list of places to visit in Zürich in 24 hours.
On top of getting some of the best shots of the Old Town from up above, you’ll find yourself on the site of a 5th-century castle that was completely dismantled some 700 years later to build more modern residences.
Even before the castle saw the light of day, the Romans had been onsite – excavation led to the discovery of the 2nd century AD tombstone here.
All you have to do is climb up a very manageable hill to reach one of the most historically significant – and scenic – spots in Zürich.
Ride the Polybahn
A very unique Zürich experience is to ride the Polybahn – as the ETH students do daily! This inner-city funicular whisks you from the centre of town to the main building of this prestigious Swiss university.
You don’t need to be a student to ride in the cute red cable car – anyone can buy a ticket. As you ascend (or descend), keep your phone at the ready. You’ll get plenty of photo ops.
The Polybahn first became operational in the 1870s. It is only one of two funiculars in Zürich. Conveniently, the Polybahn station is a 2-minute walk from hotel marta.
Nature Spots in Zürich
This Swiss city seamlessly weaves natural and urban elements together, creating a harmonious blend. Even if you only have 24 hours in Zürich, you might want to check out some of these nature spots, which locals know to appreciate on a daily basis!
The Old Botanic Gardens
Zürich’s Old Botanic Gardens were established in 1837. Today, the expansive, inner-city green space is home to all sorts of local plant species, as well as many exotic and tropical varieties.
In a country that can seem expensive to many foreigners, it’s refreshing to note that visiting the Old Botanic Gardens does not cost a thing! Feel free to wander the shady paths for hours, enter the greenhouses at will, or simply relax in a sunny spot like the Zürcher on their lunch break.
From the Old Botanic Gardens, you’ll be able to see a section of the Schanzengraben, a little canal that meanders through this part of the city before merging with the Limmat.
I followed the canal out of the gardens and back towards Zürich’s Main Station, making for a short and pleasant walk. I was immediately taken aback by just how crystal clear the water was – hard to believe I was still in the city and not walking alongside a mountain stream! Keep your eyes peeled for gigantic catfish, too!
In sharing my favourite places to visit in Zürich, perhaps I left the best for last! I’m of course referring to Lake Zürich. This was the first Swiss Lake that I set eyes on, but every time I wander along the shore, I’m still just as swept away by the ocean-blue water, glistening in the sunlight.
Lake Zürich begins roughly where the Old Town ends. Locals often come to this part of the lakeside to drink coffee, catch up with friends or read on the benches – and people of all ages enjoy feeding the swans.
I usually enjoy walking on the left shore for a kilometre or two until the crowds have all but disappeared. This waterfront stroll will take you through lovely parklands to the Riesbach lookout platform and Zürichhorn’s gardens.
Here, you’ll find a swimming area built into the lake, playground equipment, statues and other art installations, and various cafes and restaurants. In the springtime, magnolia trees in bloom liven up the atmosphere even more!
A Couple Zürich Foodie Recommendations
While checking out the top places to visit in Zürich, you’re bound to get hungry. Well, you’re in luck: in this cosmopolitan city, dining is an integral part of the travel experience.
Where to Have a Memorable Dinner in Zürich: The Wine Library
I’m so excited to share my favourite spot for dinner in Zürich: the Wine Library. There was something so special about having a 3-course meal amidst 33,000 books! The Wine Library is located within the B2 Boutique Hotel, itself a refurbished brewery.
The atmosphere was unparalleled! All the books once belonged to an antique bookstore in the old town. When the shop owner passed away without a successor, the owner of the B2 Hotel gave these books a second life by building a fabulous wooden library to house them inside his brand new restaurant.
The Wine Library has all the elements of a memorable restaurant: a touching back story, delicious regional dishes and, of course, a wine list to match! It has therefore become one of my top places to visit in Zürich.
Where to Enjoy Brunch in Zürich: Cafe Elena
What first attracted me to Cafe Elena was the coral and pink decor. And when I realized that I could order a pink latte (beetroot, decaf), I knew I had to add this spot to my Zürich itinerary.
On top of many inventive – and (dare I say) Instagrammable – drinks, Cafe Elena serves a fabulous brunch. From homemade pancakes and bagels to tacos and burritos, you’ll be sure to find something suitable.
This spot is unbelievably girly, and sometimes, that’s exactly what you need!
Get Caffeinated: Babu’s
Babu’s was a delightful discovery on my most recent 24 hours in Zürich.
This coffee shop serves both breakfast and lunch. As I was there for an early morning meeting with my Swiss Travel System contacts, I indulged in a pain au chocolat and latte, enjoyed on the sidewalk terrace. This was one of the best lattes and pastry I’d had in a while.
I would gladly go back to Babu’s and sample their lunch menu – or their other coffee options any time I’m in town!
Which Places to Visit in Zürich Inspire You the Most?
As the city is very compact, you can usually walk from one of the top places to visit in Zürich to the others in a matter of minutes. This means it is quite easy to tick off all of the spots in this article without stressing about time. If you only have 24 hours in Zürich, you might not need to use public transportation or cabs, either. So go ahead and strap on comfortable shoes and get ready to discover this vibrant and stylish Swiss city!
P.S. If you enjoyed this post on the top places to visit in Zürich, you might like these articles:
- 10 Ultimate Reasons to Visit Switzerland
- Guide to Hiking in Saxon Switzerland
- 48 Hours in Germany’s Italian-Inspired City: Bamberg