While its international reputation as a commercial hub is richly deserved, Zurich is well-equipped to delight more than just bankers. A contemporary, culture-rich city that consistently ranks among the world’s most liveable, Zurich is an urban getaway with something for everyone.
Whether you’re looking for fine dining, nightlife or art and music, Zurich is sure to please. With snow-covered alpine slopes just a train ride away, Zurich is the ideal point of departure for your Swiss holiday. SWISS and our partner airlines operate numerous flights to and from the city, making us your ideal choice for a Zurich holiday.
Switzerland’s largest city is well worth a visit at any time of year. While exploring the old city, or Altstadt, your eyes will quickly be drawn to the Grossmünster and Fraumünster cathedrals, notable for their architectural beauty and role in the city’s Reformation history. For stunning views of the city, take a trip on one of the Lake Zurich ferries or a funicular railway to the summit of the city mountain, Üetliberg.
The old town is framed by the Fraumünster cathedral and the city’s main shopping street, the Bahnhofstrasse, as well as the Lindenhof, the site of the old Roman customs house. Just across the river, the Niederdorf has historical marvels of its own, while retaining a small-town charm that has endured even as the city grew around it. Its streets are lined with restaurants and beer halls, and lead to medieval squares with picturesque fountains.
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What language is spoken in Zurich?
That’s a great question! If you are familiar with Switzerland, you’ll know that the country has four (yes, four) official languages: French, German, Italian and Romansh. German is the main language in Zurich, as well as the north and east of the country. But never fear: English-speaking holidaymakers can generally get by in their mother tongue, as English is widely spoken throughout the country. But a well-placed grüezi (hello) or danke schön (thank you) is never out of place to help you stand out from your fellow tourists.
How do I get around the city?
Zurich is rightfully proud of its world-class public transportation system, which is both efficient and wide-ranging: it includes bus, train, tram and funicular service, as well as ferries on Lake Zurich. If you want to get the most out of a short visit, consider picking up a Zurich Card at the airport: this all-access-pass allows you to travel on all forms of public transport throughout the entire city for 24 or 72 hours. Meanwhile, for a more active experience, the Züri Rollt program offers free bike ‘hires’ throughout the city for a small deposit.
What is the best time of year to visit Zurich?
For city trips, there is really no wrong time to visit Zurich! Even visiting during the spring or autumn low seasons will likely make it easier to find accommodation – though some establishments do close for these periods. However, if your Swiss getaway is planned around hitting the slopes, plan on visiting between December and April – or between June and September, if you want to hike through the peaks of this mountain nation.
Zurich is home to a cultural scene that never fails to surprise: it is a city of commerce which nonetheless birthed the countercultural Dadaist movement a century ago. These threads can be seen in the contemporary art offerings of the Kunsthalle or over drinks at the Cabaret Voltaire. The Kunsthaus gallery offers a sweeping insight into two millennia of European art, including fine collections of French, Dutch and Swiss painters. The Swiss National Museum is another must-see, with over 100 rooms that span the city’s past, from Roman times to the Reformation and beyond.
A winter trip to this Swiss metropolis is well worth a thought. The city comes alive with a stunning array of Christmas markets: the central train station holds one of Europe’s largest indoor events, featuring a 50-foot tree bedecked in Swarovski crystals. A wealth of ski resorts can be reached within a couple of hours’ drive or train journey, including Hoch-Ybrig and Flumserberg. Come and fly with SWISS or one of our partner airlines for an unforgettable Zurich holiday!
Most popular attractions
Zurich is a city with a rich history, from the founding of its guild halls in the 14th century to the Reformation preaching of Huldrych Zwingli in the 16th. Along with its rich cultural offerings, there is plenty to see and do on a visit to the Swiss city.
- Grossmünster cathedral
- Schauspielhaus Zurich and Zurich Opera House
Grossmünster cathedral: Nearly nine centuries after construction was initiated, the cathedral still dominates the city’s skyline. Visit the crypts, admire the stained-glass windows and climb the 187 steps to enjoy a sweeping view of the city from the South Tower.
Hauptbahnhof: A train lover’s delight! The Central Station is Switzerland’s largest and one of the busiest in Europe, serving nearly 3,000 trains every day. Watch the trains or head down the Bahnhofstrasse for some shopping.
Kunsthaus: Switzerland’s largest art gallery has much to recommend it. It contains the largest collection of sculptures by Alberto Giacometti, along with paintings from Monet, Van Gogh and Munch, among a long list of storied European artists.
For opera and theatre lovers, the Schauspielhaus Zurich and Zurich Opera House have regular programming. The Schauspielhaus even presents some of its work in English for the international crowd.
See more what Zurich has to offer in our Zurich guide.
When in Zurich: eating and drinking
Zurich offers a wide range of culinary highlights for any visitor. From riverside bars to historic dinner locations, Zurich’s culinary variety fascinates with its high quality in unique surroundings.
Zurich also boasts some of the country's finest café culture, with the Limmatquai and Bahnhofstrasse offering countless spots to enjoy a coffee, beer or some nice home cooking.
With a rich culinary history, Zurich is famous for two dishes in particular: “Zürcher Geschnetzeltes” is a hearty veal dish with mushrooms and lots of cream. The “Zürcher Zouftschriibertopf” is a stew that combines vegetables with meat of all varieties, including beef, pork, veal, bacon, liver and kidney. These specialties are perfect to regain your strength after an exhausting all-day shopping spree.
Zurich also gave the world one of the most popular breakfast items that is now found all over the world: muesli. His peers initially mocked Dr. Max Bircher-Benner for his invention. But that soon faded when his Bircher Muesli gained popularity an eventually became world famous for being an incredibly healthy breakfast.
Shopping in Zurich
The Bahnhofstrasse should be the first stop on your retail therapy tour, featuring some truly world-class luxury locales. Traditional Swiss delicacies intermingle with cosmopolitan décor and a smorgasbord of the world’s most famous brands.
The Sihlcity mall is a “city within a city”, a leisure and shopping paradise constructed on the site of an old paper mill. Alongside its many stores, it has a multiplex cinema and play areas for children.
The Im Viadukt shopping centre is another reclaimed space, here underneath the arches of an old viaduct in the Zurich West neighbourhood. The outlet stores offer fashion and furniture along with a smattering of cafés and a food market with delights for every palate, from oysters to cheese and fine wine.