It’s no secret why Zürich is regarded as one of the most liveable cities in the world. It’s incredibly clean, safe, culturally rich, and its bustling urban activity is balanced perfectly by the azure calm of the crystalline Zürich Lake. Everything moves like clockwork in Switzerland’s largest city.
But it’s not just where the world’s richest park their money. The city has long shed its stuffy reputation to reveal a contemporary arts scene, a whole host of nightlife and chic bars, while embracing the quaint cultural beauty in its old town. But frankly, you don’t need more than a day or two to explore the city. In fact, much of it can be traversed on foot. Come on, let me show you what you can see here in just a day!
I’d arrived in Zürich one chilly morning by train from Freiburg in Germany. It’s incredibly convenient to cross countries by rail. All it took was roughly €50 and less than two hours! My first stop was to take a 15-minute stroll from the main train station to the city’s main cathedral, the Grossmünster.
Inside, it was sleek, clean and minimal by gothic standards. And to get to the top, you’d have to pay an small entry fee of a few Euros.
The church building itself is relatively unremarkable from the outside, but definitely don’t miss climbing the 180-odd steps to the top of the tower for an incredible panorama. It’s said to boast one of the most spectacular views of the city. Don’t believe me? See for yourself.
With the morning mist just barely dissolving in the light of the rising sun, the whole city seemed to slowly awake from its drowsy slumber. Simply breathtaking.
Trust me, it’s definitely worth the extra leg work.
Another vantage point for a gorgeous view of the city and the water would be from..
It’s an elevated space just a 10-minute walk from the Grossmunster. And along the way, you’ll pass the Zürich Town Hall which serves as the city’s seat of government and administration.
It was so peaceful out on the water. Don’t forget to take the time to admire the scenic lake while crossing the bridge and enjoy the wonderfully invigorating sea breeze.
The Lindenhof in the old town of Zürich is the historical site of the Roman castle, and is a great place to get a fantastic view of the old city.
If you like, you can always grab a sandwich, some fruit, coffee and enjoy a picnic with a stellar view.
Hiltl Haus (Oldest Vegetarian Restaurant in the World)
But if, like me, you’re famished by then and all ready to do some serious feasting, this is one place worth checking out. The oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world started in 1898.
And there’s a reason why. The sheer variety in the vegetarian buffet is staggering and quality top-notch. I know what you’re thinking. Usually, the word vegetarian calls to mind wispy, bland salads and meagre portions. But this will change your mind. There were more than a hundred dishes on display including a variety of curries, noodles, salads, stews, pies, pasta, deep fried finger food, soups, dressings and even dessert. It completely surpassed my expectations!
Just look at that spread. You’ll definitely be spoiled for choice. Even if you’re a carnivore, I guarantee you’d be stuffed by the end of it. Eat all you like for a CHF/€75, or pay by weight if you’re a small eater. The place is packed at mealtimes, but it’s quality food in an establishment that’s been around for more than a hundred years. Of course I couldn’t resist some a steaming glass of hot Swiss chocolate while watching the city go by. Give it a shot if you’re in the area.
Beyer Watch Museum
Well-fed and fuelled, I was excited to check out the Uhrenmuseum Beyer or Watch Museum. What better place to learn about the history of timekeeping and clocks than in the mecca of watchmaking?
At first glance, you might walk right past it because the museum is actually situated inside the Beyer watch store. As you can see, it’s quite camouflaged by a whole row of luxury watch retailers. So one tip would be to look for the Beyer clock pictured here, and you’re in the right spot.
It’s about CHF/€8 for entry, and quite a small space in the basement of the store. But it houses a surprising number of captivating treasures. Check out these primitive tools like a 19th Century candle clock and a rotating star map.
And even this sundial with a noon canon that strikes the burning lens exactly at midday, igniting the gunpowder in the bronze cannon.
And then there’s this intricate table clock with a planetarium in a glass celestial sphere, cut with stars and constellations. The sheer brilliance and mathematical effort needed to make these calculations and then actually engineer a device like this in the 1700s makes me marvel at how amazing the human mind can be.
There were a great many other fascinating pieces, including these intricate, ornate pocket watches.
The museum also featured giant marine chronometers and gorgeous pieces like this iron clock with four dials displaying a dazzling array of detail like the days of the week using their ruling planets, and a cut out window showcasing moon phases and the moon age.
I was completely enthralled. All the descriptions are in German or French, but you’re given iPads with English descriptions so you can dig into a treasure trove of knowledge and information at your own pace. It was a wonderful couple hours well-spent.
For those of you who love your luxury brands, you can’t miss Switzerland’s most famous high-end shopping street. The Beyer Museum is situated right in the heart of the Bahnhoffstrasse so you won’t miss it. Just take a slow stroll down the street in the evening and maybe take a short break for a sugar fix.
Which brings me to…
Confiserie Sprüngli Chocolates
Swiss chocolates have garnered an international reputation for its exquisite quality and well-established brands.
One of the most popular chocolate and confectionery stores in Zürich has got to be Sprüngli’s.
Just look at that array of chocolate coated biscuits, nuts, glistening luxurious truffles and melt-in-your-mouth pralines.
Sprüngli’s is also well-known for their macarons which come bite-sized and in a whole variety of flavours including pistachio, chocolate and caramel.
I couldn’t resist getting some velvety milk and dark chocolate, as well as a box of decadent, dark Grand Cru liqueur chocolates for loved ones. They make wonderful gifts!
And the really sweet lady at the cashier even gave me a little sampler for the road. It really put a smile on my face. It’s truly the little things that make a day truly amazing.
If you’re not much of a shopper, you might not need to spend more than a day or two in Zurich itself. But it’s a great base to explore the neighbouring cultural city of Lucerne, and of course, the gorgeous alpine grandeur of the Swiss Alps. But that’s another story for another day.
Have you been to Zurich? What are your favourite places to visit in Switzerland? Share your best memories in the comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts.