I lived in Zurich for a few years during my time at university and I absolutely adore this city! I still travel there about once a month, to visit friends but also to soak in the big city atmosphere that I don’t get here in Ticino. In Zurich you can do pretty much every city-thing, it’s full of culture, good food spots and amazing shops.
Today I’m presenting you the Zurich walk for first time visitors: if you only have a few hours in town and want to get a feel of the city this walk is what you should do. I included a few museums, so if you want to see them too the walk could easily take up the whole day. If you skip them you should manage in half a day. Enjoy!
The tour starts at the railway station, a good spot to do some souvenir shopping. As the tour will also finish here, I suggest you do that at the end of the walk so that you don’t have to carry the bags all day long. While there are some shops in the big hall on the ground floor (1), most of the shops are underground. If you’re taking this tour on a Wednesday, you will see a lovely market in the big hall. If you’re in Zurich during the Christmas time, even better! The Christmas market at the station is great and the Swarovski Christmas tree simply breathtaking! Still, if there’s no market at least you can have a look at the big angel statue by Niki de Saint Phalle that is hovering over your head and looks after all the travelers.
Then it’s time to head to the Swiss National Museum (2) for an introduction to the history of our country. The museum is a mix of different things, you can see religious paintings, archaeological findings, furniture and whole reconstructed rooms from old houses. And the most amazing tile ovens! The building itself is very beautiful too, it looks like a castle.
Then it’s time to cross the Limmat, the main river in Zurich, and head towards Niederdorf. But first take the Polybahn (4) funicular railway and head to the ETH, to enjoy the view from the terrace in front of the school (5). If you want, go inside the main school building too and see one of the world’s best universities from the inside. Further down the street is another big university building where I spent a few years, aww, good memories :) Then take the stairs and go down into Niederdorf, past the Predigerkirche and towards Hirschenplatz (6). In this area you will find a lot of cute cafés, restaurants and quirky shops. It’s a lovely area and if the weather is nice everybody will be sitting outside. It’s a good place to spend the night too.
Continue on Niederdorfstrasse, you may want to enter into a shop or two. In any case don’t miss Schwarzenbach (7) and Schober (8), stop for a coffee or just browse the shops. When you reach Zwingliplatz don’t miss a visit to Grossmünster (9). In 2009 some stained glass windows by Sigmar Polke were added to the church, some of them are very pretty. If you want you can climb one of the two towers of the church for another great view of the city.
After the visit to the church, descend the stairs towards the river and Münster bridge (10). Then enter the old town again and walk towards Bellevue square. You have now reached the lake. Cross the Limmat river one more time and head to the Bürkliplatz terrace (11) to enjoy the view of the lake and the swans. If you want to take a trip on the lake, this is where the boats leave.
Then follow the Limmat back towards the station until you reach the Fraumünster (12). Visit the church to see the five amazing stained glass windows by Marc Chagall.
Time for one more church, one dedicated to St. Peter’s (13). This church is in the middle of the old town on the left side of the river Limmat and is famous for having the largest tower clock face in Europe. All around the church there are winding streets with chic shops, so it’s an excellent spot for shopping too.
After this last church you want to take a small detour to the Rathaus bridge (14), maybe have a coffee somewhere in the area before walking up to Lindenhof hill (15), the site of the former roman castle. Now it’s just a pretty square with a fountain, some trees and children playing. Oh, and of course dozens of tourists who are taking pictures of the city from the terrace looking down on the Limmat river.
Stroll along part of Rennweg and Augustinergasse (16) before you reach the famous Bahnhofstrasse (17), the main shopping area in Zurich. Turn left if you’re up for some expensive shopping in exclusive boutiques, designers like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Hermés and Tommy Hilfiger all have shops here. If you turn right back towards the station you will find Zara, Mango, H&M and other less expensive shops. The tour ends back at the railway station, but before you travel further don’t forget to visit Confiserie Sprüngli (18) for some of their sweet Luxemburgerli, their own version of macarons.
As always, here‘s the map to download and print and the online version. Have fun discovering Zurich!