For the majority of Indians, the first fascination when it comes to travelling Europe remains the country of Switzerland. And in Switzerland, the capital city of Zurich.
To make the trip interesting they keep a day or two for the Alps. And that’s what we are going to discuss in this 4-day itinerary for Zurich: a couple of days in the capital city, coupled with a day trip to the Alps and a day trip to the neighbouring city of Basel.
Why Basel? Because it offers a unique experience of stepping into the French and German territory and adding two more countries to your list of Countries Travelled. So let’s begin!
4 Day Zurich Itinerary
Day 1 In Zurich
If you’re visiting a place you’re not familiar with, it’s always a good idea to start by knowing about its past and present. And the best way to do it is by visiting a local museum. In Zurich, it’s the Landesmuseum (also known as the Swiss National Museum).
A tour of Landesmuseum won’t only help you learn about the culture and history of Zurich but the entire of Switzerland. And because you’re are not only spending your 4 days visiting Zurich but other nearby tourist highlights too, it makes sense to know about more than just Zurich.
Also, because the central train station is always the easiest to locate, make Landesmuseum (or Swiss National Museum) your first stop. The Landesmuseum is located only a few steps away from the central train.
A tour of the museum will help you gain some insights into the country’s history and set you ready for your 4-day tour in Zurich.
With over 820,000 exhibits presented in an interesting way, the Landesmuseum gives you a fresh perspective and a clear idea of Zurich’s origin and achievements as we know them today.
It houses amazing assortments of artefacts that take visitors through the late Middle Ages — the era when Switzerland established itself as a federal state — to the present.
Inside the museum, you get more than 840,000 paintings, photographs, and texts, combined. So, whether you are eager to learn about the local culture, the wars and battles fought in the region land or the origin of Swiss watches, chocolates, etc., this museum is the place to be
A complete tour of the Landesmuseum can take about 3 or 4 hours. So we keep the first half of the day for the museum before heading over to Kronenhalle for lunch.
One of the must-haves, when you are in Zurich, is the popular Zürcher Geschnetzeltes. It is a local favourite prepared by thinly slicing the meat and then slowly stewing it in a white gravy. Compliment Geschnetzeltes with a glass of beer.
It is possible to find beer and Geschnetzeltes combination pretty much everywhere in Zurich (even outside of the city) but head over to the Kronenhalle for a one-of-a-kind experience.
Why Kronenhalle? Because this restaurant used to be a meeting place for world-renowned artists, some of whom paid their bills with pieces they created. At Kronenhalle Diners you can find works of Chagall, Picasso, and Miró hanging on the restaurant’s walls.
To get to Kronenhalle, from the Swiss Museum, walk to Zurich HB (5 min from the museum) and take the S3 to Stadelhofen. From Stadelhofen, it’s a 300-meter walk to Kronenhalle.
Once done with the lunch, start with exploring the colourful old town of Altstadt.
Old Town Of Altstadt
Just like those romantic European towns, I have grown up watching Indian Bollywood movies, Zurich, with its dreary skies, and well-driven roads surprised me with all its colours. I just had to look. Beautiful buildings of all shapes and colours erecting straight out of the ground, everywhere.
And the best place to spot those colourful buildings, surrounded by cobblestone streets was the old town of Altstadt. In Altstadt, I particularly recommend you visit Augustinergasse Street.
Walking through this historic part of the town and exploring the narrow cobbled streets is definitely a highlight of any Zurich trip.
Walk uphill to Lindenhof park, the most ancient part of the city, where Zurich’s first few buildings (as we know them today) were constructed back in the 19th century.
Just stroll through its streets on your own, and in a romantically beguiling fashion, or take the Zurich City Walk Tour (for CHF 30), for an in-depth experience.
Please note that the prices mentioned in this blog might have changed. I suggest you check the tourism website for the recent price/time of all tours/experiences mentioned in this 24 hours in Zurich blog.
Fraumnster Church in Old Town Zurich is home to five world-famous Chagall windows.
Created by a Russian-French artist, these magnificent stained glass windows bath the chapel in a rainbow of light, grabbing you in a moment of interrupted awe, with each window located in the choir depicting a different story.
Any guided tour (free or paid) take you to this architectural marvel. It is, therefore, I recommend you visit the Fraumnster Church during your self-planned Zurich itinerary too.
Day 2 In Zurich
Since we have covered most of the popular places in Zurich on Day 1, day 2 is left for doing the offbeat and exploring the city in an untraditional manner.
Tour De Tram
One of the best and easiest ways to explore a city (any city, in any continent) when you have little time and no agenda, is by making yourself comfortable in its public transport and go to the end of the line. And when it comes to the limited time of only a few days in Zurich, trams are the best way to do that.
As people hop in and hop off, you slowly explore the town and its surrounding suburbs — getting a closer look at the city’s everyday life.
Start your journey in any direction from the main station, and get to the other side of the town. Take the same tram to get back and end the show. I recommend you plan your trip in a way that you end it somewhere close to District 1, because that’s where we are going to…
Drink from a Water Fountain
One of the most culturally unique things about Zurich is its unique drinking water fountains that are spread all over the city of Zurich.
An estimated figure says that over 1200 such fountains can be found across the city, most of which spill drinkable water 24 hours a day.
So when in Zurich, complete that culturally unique experience, spot one such fountain and drink from it. The one shown below in the photo for example is a popular dragon fountain you will find near District 1.
Between the Bahnhofstrasse and the left bank of the Limmat, lies the tree-shaded Lindenhof — perhaps the greenest and one of Zurich’s most historically significant areas. This is where the Romans built their fortified settlement in the fourth century to defend against migrations from the North.
Note: District 1 to Lilndenhof is less than a 5 min walk.
From Lindenhof, you can see Zurich’s old town rising steeply, and this makes it a perfect spot for some landscape photography.
At Lindenhof, you will find a decent size park with benches, chess players, and tourists enjoying the sweeping views across the river and the Old Town.
Drink At Rooftop Bar
Again, if you think Zurich has enough to offer from down its street, brace yourself. Because it gets better as you climb high and probe the bird’s view.
High above the rooftops, where the noise of the city is far away and sometimes a slight breeze blows, you get to marvel at Zurich’s beautiful architecture.
Though there are dozens of rooftop cafes to explore Zurich with a birds-eye view, I can recommend Jules Verne Panorama Bar. It cost us 9 CHF to get a pint of beer, and 18 CHF for two, with great views of the city.
A drink, complemented with food, is a perfect way to conclude your 2 day Zurich tour.
Day 3: To Mount Titlis, The Alps
There are many ways to do a day trip from Zurich to Mount Titlis. One can self plan the trip or book a day tour with one of the local tour operators.
For those who don’t know, Mount Titlis is located at 10,000 feet above sea level, in the Uri Alps of Switzerland. It is easily accessible from Zurich, via train and buses, and as I said one can plan a trip on their own.
On the way, you can also explore the beautiful town of Luzern.
Zurich to Luzern is a mere 50km distance and can be travelled by train. It takes about 1 hour to travel from Zurich to Luzern. In Luzern, you will find cobblestone streets, historic architecture, and a lot of souvenir shops. Making the town more beautiful is River Reuss that divides the town into two equal halves.
Other than the market, there are a number of notable medieval landmarks including the Chapel Bridge, one of Europe’s oldest covered bridges, to see in Luzern. It will take about 2 hours to quickly scan the town on foot.
Once done, take a train to Engelberg — the starting point from where the chair car rider to Mount Titlis begins.
There are two different cable cars — a standard cable car, and a revolving one, called the Rotair — towards the peak.
The revolving Rotair winds its way up towards the snow-covered summit of Mount Titlis a — whopping 10,000 feet above sea level. There are a few activities besides feeling awed sitting inside the cable car. This included the cliff walk, Europe’s highest suspension bridge, a glacier cave, and an ice flyer.
It takes about half an hour to travel all the way from Engelberg to the top of Mount Titlis. Spend 2 to 3 hours at Mount Titlis before heading back to Engelberg and further to Zurich.
Day 4: Zurich to Basel
Zurich to Basel is a 1-hour drive via the A3 or just a much the time in a train.
Being Switzerland’s third-largest town, Basel offers something for everyone. It has over 40 museums, about a dozen art galleries, world-class architecture, quirky bars, polished restaurants, its own trademarked beer, a lively riverside, and a lot more.
But honestly, you will love Basel, not for the attractions it offers, but its old town European charm. Its many medieval winding streets that ooze both history and culture, offer a treat for the eyes. There couldn’t be a better place to conclude your Zurich trip.
One of the best things to do in Basel is exploring the old town. In the old town, you will find buildings dating back their foundation to the 15th or 16th century, with a mix of modern buildings designed by world-renowned architects. The old town of Basel is an atmospheric web of cobbled streets and old buildings with red sandstone architecture and coloured roof tiles.
Once you are done exploring the old town, take tram no 6 towards the direction of Riehen Grenze until the stop «Fondation Beyeler» and explore a 6-km long trail called Rohbergerweg. On the trail you will exit Switzerland and enter Germany, ticking another country off your bucket list.
Now if you’re wondering WHAT ABOUT FRANCE let me tell you that you might have already done exploring France when you reached Based Train Station — a part of which is situated in Switzerland, and apart, in France.
Also, when in Basel, don’t forget to take a sip of the popular Ueli beer the home produce of the city of Basel.
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A Useful Tip: Buy Zurich City Card
Before I start with my 4 days in Zurich itinerary, here’s a useful tip: Buy A Zurich Card.
Public transport in Zurich is a lot cheaper (than hiring taxis) and convenient too. Invest in a 24 or 72-hour city card (the basis of how long you’re staying in the city) that offers you free travel in all public transport, and free or a discounted access to most of the tourist attractions, including museums.
Read this blog on Europe budget travel tips to know more about how to buy a city card across Europe and how they help in saving a lot of money.
Another great way to save money on transportation, in Zurich, is by taking the free public bikes (available at all major train/tram stations). But it is just too much of a hassle to locate, and moreover, drop the bike at their destined station. So invest in a Zurich card, skip the lines and all confusion, and get going!
That’s all in this 4 day Zurich Itinerary. If you have anything to add to the list, please leave a comment below!