Our family’s 24 hours in Zurich

24 Hours in Zurich: Love from first sight

Sometimes you only have 24 hours in a place and that becomes enough to fall in love with it.

We had planned ahead and managed to do quite a lot in our 24-hour stay in Zurich, but even if you only have several hours to spare, I encourage you to grab the opportunity and just walk around the old town and along the Limmat river.  You will admire beautiful buildings, drink refreshing water from the many city fountains, feed the swans and just lighten up by watching elegantly dressed people eating lunch right on the steps by the river.  Zurich and I totally agreed on everything (well, maybe  not on the price – Zurich is expensive, but can we forget about it for now?)

(To book your own Zurich experiences, check out this list of activities on Get Your Guide site).

Our family’s 24 hours in Zurich

WHO went

Our family of 4 (kids ages are 6 and 16) went on a 24-hour quest to explore the city while choosing activities that would appeal to all family members.

HOW we arrived

We drove into Zurich from Ettal, Germany (as part of our European road trip last summer).  We arrived in the middle of the day and had 24 hours to spend before leaving for our next stop (Lucerne) the following day.

The center of Zurich is very easy to navigate by foot and tram. If you arrive from Zurich airport, a 10-minute train ride will bring you to main Train Station – which is a very convenient area to start your visit.  You can pick up free maps and sign up for walking tours at  Zurich Tourism office located inside the Train Station.

Our family’s 24 hours in Zurich
Zurich’s Train Statiom

Zurich’s beautiful train station is located at the beginning of Bahnhofstrasse – a 1.4 kilometers (0.87 miles) thoroughfare with the Train Station on one end and Lake Zurich (Burkinplatz) on the other.  Bahnhofstrasse houses world’s most fashionable stores and Paradeplatz  – the largest financial transaction site in Switzerland (many Swiss banks have their main offices on here).  From Paradeplatz  you can quickly reach Zurich’s old town.

Travel Tip: Airport transfers are covered by Zurich CARD  which provides free access to all public transport in the city (beware night service surcharge) and offers free or discounted access to museums, parks and other attractions.  Zurich Tourism kindly offered us Zurich Cards to facilitate our exploration of the city – see a cost rundown at the end of the post.


WHAT we did

Walking Tour of the Old Town

We joined “Stories of the Old Town” – one of the walking tours offered by Zurich Tourism Office.  (Tours are offered year-long, check website for schedule. Adult CHF 25, child CHF 12.50, 50% off with Zurich Card).

Our guide Christiana took us on a 2-hour journey through the old town’s many points of interest and shared some lesser known stories of Zurich’s past (like a “hidden” 14th century former synagogue, or a flat where Lenin used to live on Spiegelgasse, 17.)

The tour started from the Train Station. We walked along Bahnhofstrasse to our first stop, Lindenhof, a former Roman Fort, now a green oasis in the city with glorious views onto the old town and Limmat river.

Our family’s 24 hours in Zurich
View over Zurich and Limmat River from Lindenholf. You can see the two towers of the Grossmunster church in distance on the right.

Here is Grossmunster (one of Zurich’s main landmarks) up close. Legend has it, it was founded by the ancient King Charlemagne.


Our family’s 24 hours in Zurich
Grossmunster church

Another interesting stop: St. Peter – the Oldest Parish Church in Zurich with the largest clock face in Europe (8.7m in diameter).  Original 9th century foundation walls are still seen today beneath the chancel.

Our family’s 24 hours in Zurich
Clock of S. Peter’s Church, the oldest parish church in Zurich.


The many  water fountains provided refreshing drinking water on a hot summer day as we continued our exploration of the old town.


 (Tours offered year-long, check website for specific hours. Adult CHF 25, child CHF 12.50, 50% percent off with Zurich Card).
Fountain in Lindenholf Park

 Our family’s 24 hours in Zurich


Our family’s 24 hours in Zurich


Our family’s 24 hours in Zurich


Travel Tip: the group tour moved briskly and there was a considerable amount of stairs to navigate. If you have a limited mobility (or strollers) you may prefer to walk on your own or take a river cruise of the city (free with Zurich card).

Steps in the old town

After the tour we walked on our own to check out the painted windows created by Marc Chagall in 1970’s for the Fraumünster church (founded in 853).

Our family’s 24 hours in Zurich
Chagall windows on Fraumunster Church

Clock Museum 

There are over 50 museums in Zurich and we visited two during our short stay: Clock Museum and Zurich National Museum– both free with the Card and centrally located.

Remember the Bahnhofstrasse (“station street”)? After our old town walk we crossed one of the bridges back into the “new town” to Clock Museum on Bahnhofstrasse 31 where we had exactly one hour before close time (2-6pm daily, free with Zurich Card.)  Zurich is a clock capital of the world and we did not mind being on the clock. It is a tiny 2-room museum so 1 hour is quite enough to see the one of a kind collection of historical and modern day clocks.

Our family’s 24 hours in Zurich
Clock Museum Zurich

Zurich National Museum

Next morning we walked to the Train Station again, but this time our destination was Zurich National Museum right behind the station building (open 10-5 daily except Mondays, free with Card). The building itself looks like Fairytale Castle, but it was covered in construction during our visit so we could not fully appreciate its beauty from the outside. Inside, this Museum houses thousands of fascinating objects of Swiss history and is a great place for history buffs (kids will love it too!).   It is not easy to navigate in a hurry, but is still worth a visit.  I wish we had the guide with us! (they may actually provide one if you inquire ahead).

Our family’s 24 hours in Zurich
Zurich National Museum


Our family’s 24 hours in Zurich
A 2-story slide in the modern hall of the Zurich National Museum

Our family’s 24 hours in Zurich
Sport History Room in Zurich National Museum

Bürkliplatz and Cruise on Lake Zurich

After our walking exploration of the city on the first day, we took a tram from Paradeplatz to the Bürkliplatz.   Bürkliplatz is not only a boat dock, but also a marketplace (several times a week), performance area and a promenade with a view across Lake Zurich to the Alps. Short round trip cruise (1.5 hour) is free with the Card (here is a link to the boat Schedule).

Our 7 pm  cruise took us outside the city and allowed a glimpse into the life of Swiss after hours: we saw kids jumping off the decks, beaches, lots of birds and back yards (that’s a beauty of European river navigation – you get close!)

Our family’s 24 hours in Zurich
Cruising Lake Zurich at dusk


Coffee and Cake in the Old Town

On our departure morning, we wanted to just “purposefully” get lost for an hour or so walking the streets of the old town.  The plan was to then find our way to Café Schober at Napfgasse 4.  Zurich is one of Europe’s most expensive cities, but I can assure you that you can afford coffee and cake at this beautiful place.  No matter how pressed on time, I do not consider my exploration of a place complete until I have a chance to sit down in a nice coffee shop and try some of the local sweets – while quietly reflecting.  Café Schober is easily the best coffee and cake cafe I have been to.  The decor and the flavors are decadent.


Our family’s 24 hours in Zurich
Café Schober, Zurich

After our 24 hours in Zurich we  continued the roadtrip to our next stop, Lucerne.

Note on Zurich Card

Our exploration was made easy by Zurich CARD  kindly offered by Zurich Tourism Office. At CHF 24 for 24 hours (adult fare) are they worth the price? The short answer is Yes! Do the math: daily use of city transport is CHF 5.20 (airport transfer which is CHF12.50 round trip without the Card is also covered);  our visits to Clock Museum (CHF 8), and National Museum (CHF10) were also covered, as was short lake cruise (CHF 12.50).  With half price saving (CHF12.50 off) on a walking tour, our total saving per adult were over CHF 20.  Now, if you don’t visit any museums and just do an airport transfer and a walking tour, you will break even, but if you jump on a tram to a lovely Bürkliplatz to walk around or take a cruise – you will be in a surplus!


Travel tip: make sure to validate your Card at the automatic ticket machines or at the orange ticket validator on the platform before taking your first journey.


Where we stayed:

We stayed in the quirkily decorated Hotel Leoneck (see my review here) – about 10 minutes walk from Zurich’s Train Station which was very convenient for our itinerary.



Take a cable car to Uetliberg – Zurich’s Very Own Mountain with views of the city and the lake (cable car is included in the Card).

Unwind in one of Zurich’s Spas and swimming beaches (see the listing here)

Take the kids to  Zurich’s Zoo

Visit unique museum of industrial architecture Haus Konstruktiv or Zurich’s Museum of Fine Art (one of Europe’s finest).

Check out many other museums and attractions at Zurich’s Tourism Site.



Our family’s 24 hours in Zurich

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10 thoughts on “24 Hours in Zurich: Love from first sight”

  1. I am not surprised that you loved Zurich it’s a beautiful city. I spent 7 days and I felt like I hagandaz to explore the city. Glad you got to see it. Great pics though.

  2. Victoria@celebratetheweekend

    Thanks, Marc. I was surprised! I expected a business like city but saw an elegant European capital!

  3. Those Chagall stained-glass windows are stunning! They remind me of the ones in Nice. I think walking tours are a great way to discover a city particularly when you haven’t got much time. I agree that it’s just wonderful getting ‘lost’ in a city and wandering around – that’s when you discover the most. #TheWeeklyPostcard

  4. Zurich looks lovely, I wish we had more time to spend there the few times we arrived there but it was alwaysa pitstop to head to the alps. The church, the waterfront, the walking tour all looks great! Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard

    1. Victoria@celebratetheweekend

      Thanks Jim. I enjoy figuring out whether the Card makes sense:) Especially when i hand-tested all the attractions:)

  5. Victoria, I’m sorry to tell you, but when I see your little daughter in the pictures I can’t concentrate on reading your posts! She is so darn beautiful that I can’t help but looking at her pictures and wish I had a granddaughter like her. I always wanted a little girl, but I only had a boy. Now, back to your post that reminded me of our 24 hours in Zurich. Somehow, I never could stay longer than that in this place, although we stopped there several times. It seems you did way more than we did in this 24 hours. You are a very efficient traveler. We just enjoyed walking on the streets and admiring the sites. And the food. And the cleanness!

    1. Victoria@celebratetheweekend

      Anda, you are too kind to my daughter:) And yes- cleanness does not hurt Zurich a single bit!!!

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