Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland. Known as the financial capital of the country, Zurich glows with a state of art infrastructure while being happily married to medieval old-world charm. In this 2 days in Zurich itinerary, we will discover some of the finest landmarks of the city, will indulge in some shopping, eating and lots of sightseeing.
How to spend 2 days in Zurich Itinerary – Visiting the largest city in Switzerland
Zurich is one of the largest cities in Switzerland, but it is not the capital. Bern is. Zurich is one of the finest cities in the world with a stronghold of banking and finance industries and a high standard of living.
As you will see in this 2 days in Zurich itinerary, this global city is very picturesque. The city is located in the canton of Zurich and is on the northern side of Switzerland.
The lanes of the central Altstadt (Old Town), waterfront promenades like the Limmatquai, and the medieval historical gems – make this European city a MUST visit once in your lifetime.
The city population of Zurich is 402,762 (not including the canton).
Switzerland is composed of cantons and there are 26 cantons in total. When we looked at various cities in Switzerland, we realized that most of the cities are not “city” as per definition, but are in fact large towns.
Swiss Federal Statistical Office states that there are 20 cities in Switzerland. Top 10 Swiss cities include – Zürich, Geneva, Basel, Lausanne, Bern, Winterthur, Lucerne, St. Gallen, Lugano, and Biel/Bienne.
Views of Swiss countryside
There are four national languages of Switzerland – German, French, Italian, and Romansh.
Are 2 days in Zurich enough
2 days in Zurich is a fair amount of time to explore the city. Zurich city highlights are located in and around the historic city center, making it super easy to walk and explore. It also has an excellent transportation system, using trams or trains you can commute from one Zurich district to another.
Day 1 in Zurich Itinerary – For your first day (full one day in Zurich), it is a good idea to explore Zurich district 1 and district 2 – where the city’s iconic landmarks are located.
Day 2 in Zurich Itinerary – For the next day, venture out for a day trip to explore Lake Zurich or nearby cities like Bern or Basel. If you are feeling adventurous (and curious) – head to the fourth smallest country in Europe – Liechtenstein in a day trip from Zurich.
Preparing for your trip – Zurich 2 day Itinerary
If you are reading this itinerary, it means that you will be landing in Zurich – well, it is a good choice, we say.
Travelers looking for an outdoor adventure into Zermatt city and Matterhorn, choose Zurich as a base and why not as flight connectivity to and from Zurich is amazing. (We flew out of Zurich into motherland Canada in the lap of Vancouver in a non-stop flight).
So here are some essential planning tips for your 2 day Zurich itinerary:
Zürich is located in the north-central part of Switzerland and to arrive in the country, you will require a valid passport. Passport holders from the US and Canada, do not require a visa for a stay of up to 90 days. From 2021 onwards, we/you are required to get an online authorization called ETIAS.
Travelers from non-visa exempt countries will have to apply for a Schengen visa ahead of time.
Zurich old town restaurant
No matter where you go, get travel insurance. We get travel insurance for all of our travels.
Currency and Credit Cards
Switzerland is not part of the European Union (EU), they use their own national currency which is Swiss Francs. Euros are accepted but change will be provided back to you in Francs.
Credit cards are widely accepted in Zurich. If you venture into the countryside in the Canton of Zurich, some stores may or may not use credit cards, so keeping cash will be handy (Euros or Swiss Francs).
Old town lanes Zurich
Budget for Zurich 2 day Itinerary
Yea that’s a billion-dollar question, but the answer is so obvious. Zurich is expensive. It doesn’t beat Iceland, but it is close.
You will find coffee, public transport tickets to be expensive than Paris or Barcelona. One cup of coffee from Starbucks will be 7 euros and at a hotel lobby (like the vending machine types) is 3 euros (and these machines only take Swiss francs, don’t force euros in, they won’t work).
Our tip on saving money in Zurich are –
Buy groceries for most of your meals. Maybe ditch coffee for a day.
Using public transportation is cheaper than other means of travel. But you will save a lot more money buying a Zurich pass.
Sightseeing – To explore Zurich’s prime attractions, use public transport and take combined cruise & walking tours.
Stay near the city center or airport for 2 days in Zurich itinerary so that you are located closer to sightseeing areas or the airport when you depart. Hotels near the airport will be a tad cheaper than the city center.
Heidi Land in Zurich
Packing Tips for Zurich 2 day Itinerary
Depending on your month of travel and the activities your packing list will differ for Zurich. But here is what you MUST carry in all seasons.
Comfortable walking shoes –Zurich’s old town is best explored on foot and public transport. Wear comfortable walking shoes to explore at ease. Click to shop my favorite walking shoe.
Light jacket – A light, all-weather jacket is a MUST for all times of the year. You will find this super handy during the cross-over or shoulder seasons when temperatures suddenly drop in the evenings or early mornings. Buy my lightweight travel jacket here.
Universal adaptor – Our North or South American and Asian electronics won’t charge in Switzerland without a universal adaptor. Invest in one today. Buy this universal adaptor – convertor duo that works in over 150 countries.
A day pack – Carry a day pack with your travel essentials and camera as you embark on sightseeing. Click here to view my favorite travel bag.
Add a stylish scarf, blazer, or belt – Zurich is a city that oozes luxury, and people walking the streets look so put together and stylish. Carry a nice blazer, a scarf, or a belt to alleviate your outfit.
Hotels in Zurich 2 day Itinerary
Zurich has very distinct neighborhoods where you can stay in. For a short trip of 2 days to Zurich, we recommend staying in the city center or near the airport. Staying near the airport means a 50-minute train ride one way to the city center, but the hotels will be a little bit cheaper than downtown.
Here are some hotels we recommend in Zurich (from the 2 areas).
Zurich Views in 2 days on Zurich itinerary
Luxury hotels in Zurich ($265+ above)
Storchen Zurich – Lifestyle Boutique Hotel
Storchen Zurich is a lifestyle boutique hotel, located in the old town
The location is amazing to explore the prime attractions in the city and take day tours
For access to public transportation and restaurants – you can’t get a location better than this
It is a riverfront hotel offering free breakfast.
Zurich Marriott Hotel
Zurich Marriott Hotel is another 5-star hotel.
Nightly rates for this hotel are a little bit cheaper than the ones in the old town. Zurich Marriott Hotel is located in district 6
The hotel is within a 15-minute drive of Zurich Airport and is quite accessible to the Central area via tram
Budget to Mid-range hotels in Zurich ($155 – $265)
Ibis Budget Zurich Airport
Hotel iBis budget Zurich Airport is a standard hotel located very close to the airport.
The best part about iBis Zurich is access to trams right outside the hotel to the main station.
They have laundry, restaurants, and working spaces in the hotel as well.
easyHotel Zurich is located in the city center, offering quick and easy access to Zurich’s popular sightseeing and retail areas.
They have an on-site restaurant, but there are also tons of bars and cafés in the vicinity.
Zurich Airport is a 20-minute drive from the hotel and is within a 20-minute stroll of Zurich Hauptbahnhof and Sihlquai/HB Tram Station
Day 1 of 2 days in Zurich Itinerary – Explore the highlights of Zurich in one day
Arriving into Zurich
Zürich is served by Flaugen airport and it connects you to over 196 destinations across the globe. I have never seen an airport runway as pretty as this – the Swiss Air air crafts (with the bright red tail) against the backdrop of rolling hills and mountains — yay, so beautiful right?
Zurich airport or Flughafen Zürich has a cool observation deck which is worth checking out!
Zurich Tram in Altsdstat
Here are a few options for transportation from Zurich airport to the city center or your hotel.
Public Transportation: Trains and/or trams are a cheaper option to reach your hotel or the city center in Zurich. Depending on your location, you will have to pay for multiple zones within the city, from the airport area. The airport to the city center is 50 minutes by train and/or tram. You have to buy tickets at the station (credit cards accepted, cash accepted in some).
Private transport or taxi – If you wish to arrive in luxury, you can book chauffeur-driven transport to your hotel. This is a good option if you have tons of luggage.
On your first day of Zurich Itinerary explore the city highlights of Zurich. This list of activities is perfect if you are in town for a day before you make your way to other places in Switzerland.
For sightseeing and transportation in Zurich for 1-2 days, opt for a Zurich Card to save on train/tram tickets and other attractions, including a free boat trip on Lake Zurich.
Explore Old town – Altstadt
Old Town Zurich Itinerary
Bright and early morning, head to the old town of Zurich or the Altstadt. Altstadt is home to charming lanes, cafes, and museums. The Limmat River flows through the city of Zurich, making the old town very picturesque and beautiful.
All the sightseeing attractions mentioned here can be explored on foot, once you get off the Central train station.
Visit the Grossmünster church and the Münsterbrücke
The Grossmünster church is an iconic symbol of Zurich. It is a Protestant church and was built in the 13th century in Romanesque-style. It is believed that the church was built on the graves of the city’s patron saints, Felix and Regula, and this church was built by Charlemagne as a monastery landmark.
The bridge located near the Grossmünster church is called the Münsterbrücke, and from here you can soak in the city views on both sides of the river bank. Münsterbrücke is a pedestrian and road bridge over the Limmat river in old town Zürich.
Fraumünster church is another church located in the old town of Zurich. The Fraumunster church was built on the remains of a former abbey for aristocratic women, in the 12th century.
There are 2 other churches in Zurich – Predigerkirche and St. Peterskirche. Predigerkirche is a Romanesque church with the highest edifice in Zurich and the St. Peterskirche is an Evangelical Reformed Church, located next to the Lindenhof hill. This church was built on the site of the former Roman castle.
Walk the river Limmat banks
Zurich and Limmat River
Limmat river flows through the old town of Zurich, making the city very picturesque. This river commences at the outfall of Lake Zurich, in the southern part of the city.
The best way to enjoy the views of the Limmat River is to walk along the river banks, cross the bridges, and admire the historical buildings on the riversides.
Climb the Lindenhof Hill for amazing city views
The Lindenhof is a beautiful park and hill near the historic center of Zürich. The Lindenhof was the site of the Roman Castle, and the city grew around this area.
Zurich and Lindenhof Hill
The castle remained intact during the early phase of the 5th to 6th century but later was rebuilt into a residence for Louis the German. This site was soon abandoned as a residence, became dilapidated and later used as a source of building stone in the 13th century.
Today the Lindenhof is a popular public square lined and covered by linden trees, overlooking the old town of Zurich with Limmar river views. You can relax here in the afternoon or early evening and watch people playing chess on a giant chessboard.
Walk the Bahnhofstrasse –World’s most expensive street
Bahnhofstrasse is Zürich’s main downtown street and it is one of the world’s most expensive streets lined with exclusive and high-end shopping avenues.
Bahnhofstrasse in 2 days in Zurich Itinerary
The shopping street itself is not new but dates back to medieval times. The Bahnhofstrasse ends on the Bürkliplatz, at the lake promenade. Wander around the Bahnhofstrasse street, shop, or window shop stores.
Stroll Lake Promenade – Bürkliplatz
At the end of the Bahnhofstrasse is the lake promenade area – Burklisplaz. It is a nice lakeside area for a light stroll, whilst enjoying the beautiful buildings and the amazing city views.
Visit the lake promenade in the evening to watch the golden sunset hues.
The promenade is also a cruise terminal and this is where cruises on Lake Zurich depart from.
In the evening, head back to the beautiful old town lanes for dinner.
Day 2 of 2 days in Zurich Itinerary – Exploring Rhine Falls, Rapperswil, and Lake Zurich
On day 2 of your 2 days in Zurich itinerary, venture outside the city into the canton outskirts. We have two options for you – you can explore the Rhine Falls or Rapperswil using public transport or day tours.
If you are feeling adventurous, you can do both in a day but will require a vehicle.
Option 1 – Rhine Falls and Uetliberg
The Rhine Falls are the most powerful waterfall in Europe. They are about 150 meters (490 ft) wide and 23 meters (75 ft) high. These falls are located on the High Rhine on the border between the cantons of Schaffhausen (SH) and Zürich (ZH).
Reaching Rhine Falls from Zurich:
By car – It will take you 40- 55 minutes to reach Rhine Falls from Zurich one way.
By train – It takes 50 minutes to 1.25 hours to reach Rhine Falls from Zurich train station, one way. Take a train to either ‘Neuhausen Rheinfall’ or ‘Schloss Laufen am Rheinfall’ station, located on the other side of the river.
Half-day tour – This tour starts in the afternoon to Rhine Falls and also explores the town of Stein am Rhein.
Full-day tour – This is a full-day tour and is perfect if you wish to explore more of Zurich’s attractions and the Rhine Falls. Tour cost also includes entrance fees to Laufen Castle and Rhine Falls with panoramic glass lift, Historama castle museum, and Känzeli viewing platform.
The Rhine river flows through four countries and is magnificent in Switzerland. One of the great things about Falls is its accessibility. Public transportation is efficient and there are lifts for wheelchair users. Parking spaces are generously available as well.
The Rhine Falls makes for an easy day trip with a fantastic combination of nature, history, and charming small-town vibes in Schaffhausen. The falls have been an important trade center since the Roman Empire times and were also a cradle of European industrialization.
The Rhine falls exploration will take you half a day, but you stay there as long as you want.
Uetliberg is a great attraction to explore in the second half of the day.
Uetliberg is a mountain in the Swiss plateau offering panoramic views of the entire city of Zürich and the Lake of Zurich. It is Zurich’s very own “mountain”. To access Uetliberg, you have to either take the train or hike. The train takes 30 minutes to reach Uetliberg, one way.
Option 2: Spend a day at Rapperswil-Jona and upper Lake Zurich
If you love small-town charm with wonderful views of the Swiss Alps, and a Mediterranean twist head to Rapperswil instead for your second day of Zurich 2 day itinerary.
Lovingly called the “town of roses”, Rapperswil is a beautiful town sprinkled with roses everywhere. The main town is very small and can be explored on foot. The old town of Rapperswil or the Altstadt is a MUST visit to see the Rapperswil Castle, bridge chapel, Kapuzinerkloster (Capuchin’s monastery), and of course rose gardens.
The Rapperswil Castle was built in the early 13th century AD by the House of Rapperswil, and it stunningly overlooks the city. Spend some time at the castle and learn about its history. This castle is also home to the Polish National Museum.
As you depart from the castle, you will be welcomed by the chapel bridge and amazing Lake Zurich views. After soaking in those views, head down to the rose gardens.
Views of Zurich lake in Rapperswil
There is a small Capuchin’s monastery in Rapperswil, which was established in the 17th century at the lakeside. The monastery buildings belong to the citizens of Rapperswil rather than to the monks who inhabit them.
There are two main Catholic churches in town – St. John’s Church which was built in the early 13th century, the cemetery chapel (Liebfrauenkapelle), and a small Protestant church.
The main town of Rapperswil organizes fairs and local markets on the weekends. So definitely check them out. We heard that they are especially delightful in the winter.
The romantic Christmas market in the Old Town features over 200 market stalls, in a picturesque medieval setting.
Rapperswil views Zurich Itinerary 2 days
The Rapperswil harbor – Seedamm and wooden bridge look amazing in the evening.
To make the most of your 2 days in Zurich, you can explore Rapperswil in a day tour which includes a visit to the Lindt Chocolate workshop and also checks out how Appensel cheese is made.
Day trips from Zurich Switzerland to explore more
Zurich serves as a good base to explore more of the country. You will appreciate how accessible other cities and towns in Switzerland are, from Zurich. Here are some of our day trip recommendations –
Bern – Visit the capital city of Switzerland on a day trip from Zurich and explore the main sights of Old Town – a UNESCO world heritage site and important monuments like the Parliament building and the Berne Münster. Zurich to Bern is 1 hour (train) and 1.75 hours drive away- one way.
Grindelwald & Interlaken – Head to the Alpine landscapes and explore the Bernese Oberland on a day trip. To explore Grindelwald and Interlaken you will be taking a scenic train ride between the two and visit the resort towns.
Lugano – You guys can visit Lugano from Zurich. The quickest train takes 2.50 hours or you can take this full-day tour. Explore the city of Lugano and its lovely old streets and take a cable car to the top of Mount San Salvatore for some amazing views.
Lucerne – Lucerne is a charming city located only 50 minutes from Zurich. Wander through the old town and the medieval lanes of Lucerne. Thereafter travel up Mt. Pilatus by cable car, and descend back down to Alpnachstad via a funicular. You can also take a cruise back over the Lake of the Four Cantons by boat. You can explore all of this, on a day tour.
We hope you enjoyed our 2 days in the Zurich itinerary as much as we did. Zurich reminded us so much of Canada. But still, it is so different from the mountains in North America.
You got to see it for yourself – happy travels!