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Discover Zurich on a layover | © Kamil Porembiński/ Flickr
Discover Zurich on a layover | © Kamil Porembiński/ Flickr

What to Do on a Layover in Zurich

Picture of Sean Mowbray
Updated: 12 January 2018

So, you’ve got a few hours to spare in Zurich and can’t stand the thought of people-watching in the airport lounge? The city’s airport is only a 10-minute train ride from the city centre, giving you ample time to explore Switzerland’s largest city.

If you have three hours…

Many of Zurich’s main attractions are within walking distance of one another, so three hours is plenty of time. Start off your whistle-stop tour with a stroll along the Bahnhofstrasse, Zurich’s and Switzerland’s premier shopping street that’s packed with designer brands. After your window-shopping urges are sated, and if you have time to spare, continue to the historic old town and explore the Grossmünster and Fraumünster, the city’s twin churches that are separated by the historic Münsterbrüke bridge.

If you have five hours…

You’ll find yourself with plenty of time to tick off a fair few of Zurich’s top attractions, including the Bahnhofstrasse and the historic old town. The remainder of your time would be well spent exploring the Swiss National Museum. There is no better place to get the complete low-down on Swiss cultural history from its very beginnings up until now. Alternatively, if your visit lands on a market day, you can pop by one or two to pick up a bargain, an unusual souvenir or try a local delicacy.

Swiss National Museum, Museumstrasse 2, Zurich, Switzerland, +41 44 218 65 11

If you have seven hours…

With seven hours to spare, you can get out of the city centre, after visiting its highlights, and take a stroll through one of Zurich’s parks, wander along the lakeside or take a boat tour of the city (weather permitting). You’ll also have time to visit some of the districts outside of the city centre, such as Zurich West, home to the Im Viadukt, an alternative to the Bahnhofstrasse, and Frau Gerold’s Garten, a hip place to enjoy lunch or a drink.

Markthalle Im Viadukt, Limmatstrasse, Zurich, Switzerland

Frau Gerolds Garten, Geroldstrasse 23/23a, Zurich, Switzerland

If you have 12 hours…

You’ll be able to explore most of Zurich’s main sites in the city centre and beyond. If you’re the nature-loving type, why not use the time to take a trip up the Uetliberg, Zurich’s local mountain. In spring, the mountain is particularly beautiful when the wildflowers are in bloom. At the top, you’ll have a wonderful panoramic of the city, Lake Zurich and stretching to the Alps beyond. Back in Zurich, you can also indulge your taste buds with a trip to one of the city’s best Swiss restaurants to try some traditional dishes such as fondue or Zurcher Geschnetzeltes, a local speciality.