Visiting Zurich for the First Time? Here’s What to See and Do
There’s a lot to discover in Zurich, as well as in the mountains and villages just outside of town, so it’s easy for first-timers to feel overwhelmed with options. These nine picks range from nightlife to day trips to 9th-century landmarks, ensuring you’ll have a rich experience in Switzerland’s biggest city.
Take a cruise on Lake Zurich
Soak up Zurich’s top sights from the water.
A must-do for many, this is a great way to introduce yourself to Zurich or wind down after an action-packed vacation. Cruises typically depart from Bürkliplatz, with some tours or services stopping at other ports around the lakeshore. Take in Alpine air, admire Zurich’s unique cityscape, and look out for packages that combine a lake cruise with other city highlights.
Stroll through Zurich’s Old Town streets
Get an intimate glimpse of the city’s historic landmarks.
Zurich’s Old Town (Aldstadt) is among the prettiest parts of the city. Walking tours typically offer an intimate glimpse of the area’s top landmarks, including Lindenhof, St. Peter’s Church (originally built before 900 AD), and the Fraumünster Church, while immersing first timers in the unique history and culture of Switzerland’s biggest city.
Savor a Swiss fondue
A pan of melted cheese, if you please.
When in Switzerland, do as the Swiss do and dive into a bowl of melted cheese. There are many fondue options in and around Zurich, from tuk-tuk tours serving onboard fondue to full-day tours that combine sightseeing with a fondue dinner. If you’re after the full dining experience, head to Chalet Züriberg in District 7, where you can tuck into local fondue fare in a traditional wooden chalet setting.
Ascend the Uetliberg mountain
Enjoy panoramic views just outside the city.
Right on the border of Zurich, the Uetliberg mountain is paradise for outdoor adventurers. Its summit offers panoramic views of Zurich, Lake Zurich, and the Alpine landscape beyond, while the Planetenweg Trail connects the Uetliberg to the Falsenegg summit through a family-friendly, 2-hour hike. Look out for city sightseeing packages that include an Uetliberg stop or take the S10 train directly from Zurich HB.
Take a day trip to Appenzelland
Discover traditional towns, show dairies, and true Alpine peaks.
If you have time for a day trip, make Appenzelland your destination. This rural region provides a fascinating glimpse of Switzerland’s unique heritage, with lovely towns, working dairies, rolling pasturelands, and Alpine mountains offering plenty to explore. Take advantage of full-day tours that include round-trip transportation for a hassle-free break from busy Zurich.
Indulge in Swiss chocolate
Taste your way around Zurich’s master chocolatiers.
No visit to Switzerland would be complete without a taste of the country’s famous chocolate. The Lindt Home of Chocolate, right on the outskirts of Zurich, is the premier destination for sweet-toothed visitors, while more central schoggi attractions include Confiserie Sprüngli and Max Chocolatier. Choose from a range of chocolate-based itineraries to suit your time frame, so you can combine a lake cruise with entry to the Lindt Home of Chocolate or tick off chocolate stops along with Old Town landmarks.
Get a glimpse of alternative Zurich
Learn about the city’s social history and modern neighborhoods.
Zurich’s Industriequartier, also known as District 5, is a thoroughly modern neighborhood with a bohemian vibe. A variety of tour packages provide different ways to experience the trendy locale, so you can sample some of the area’s up-and-coming gastronomic trends, learn about its unique social history, or discover the neighborhood from an LGBTQ perspective.
Go shopping on Bahnhofstrasse
Visit flagship stores and find high-end mementos.
The city’s top destination for retail therapy, Bahnhofstrasse is considered one of the most exclusive shopping streets in the world. Luxury malls and designer stores line the pretty promenade, with several global banks headquartered on the street’s central Paradeplatz. For the story behind the wealth, look for tours that go behind-the-scenes of this powerful financial center.
Party like a real Zürcher
Experience the city’s famous bars and clubs like a local.
Cap off a busy day with dancing, drinks, or a little of both. The city is renowned for its nightlife, with Langstrasse’s lively bars particularly popular among the city’s international community and finance workers. Niederdorf is the place to go for queer-friendly clubs and bistros, while Zurich West boasts alternative spaces and laid-back bars.