On our way to skiing in Zermatt this February (travel guides to come) we spent a day in Zurich and decided to explore the city. Both my boyfriend and I had only flown in and out of Zurich in the past, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to get to know this historic city. While we envisioned this as a quick stopover on our way to a ski getaway, we were both blown away by how much we loved Zurich.
Below, find our guide to all the highlights you must tackle while there. Editor’s note: We really packed our day in so that we could do all of the “must-see” attractions. If you are spending more than one day in the city, feel free to break this itinerary up into two days.
ZSG Boat: Some of the best shots we got of Zurich were from a 90-minute boat ride we did with ZSG. This ferry operator runs daily tours around Zurich on Lake Zurich. We did the shortest one, but there are also three-hour tours and some other longer ones. During it, we saw lovely villages along the shore and braved it out onto the bow of the boat in the cold to get some amazing photos. The tickets were inexpensive at around $15 for each of us. Would absolutely recommend it as a good primer to the layout of Zurich.
Walk Around Old Zurich: One of our favorite things to do in Zurich was to walk around the cobblestoned streets of the old part of town, exploring the buildings and churches dating back to the 1600s. This part of town was everything I wanted it to be: pastel homes with pretty shutters, historic churches ringing their bells each hour, winding cobbled stones hilly streets and more. Make sure to walk across the footbridges to see the city at different vantage points. We got some truly amazing photographs in this part of town. It’s just a few minutes from where the boat leaves you off, so you can walk to it after your tour.
Grossmunster Church: In Old Zurich, walk to Grossmunster Church, which is possibly one of the most iconic landmarks on Zurich’s skyline. You’ll be able to notice it because it has two identical domes. Walk inside the 12th-century church, and buy a ticket for 5 Swiss francs to climb to the top of the tower. Here, you’ll get what it the most unbelievable 360-degree view of all of Zurich. This is something not to be missed. Make sure to go earlier on as the tower closes at 4:30pm. A photo of the view is at the top of the post.
Kunsthaus Museum: A ten-minute walk from Grossmunster brings you to Kunsthaus Museum, which was such a treat to visit. Even before you get entry to the museum there is an amazing work of art outside of it that you can peruse: Rodin’s “Gates of Hell.” The museum does an excellent job seamlessly weaving together old masters with more contemporary pieces. I loved the layout and the blonde, wood floors throughout the museum. We saw some truly fantastic works and artists at Kunsthaus, such as Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Giacometti (it has the largest collection of his works anywhere in the world) Munch, Warhol, Lichtenstein and others. Both the breadth of the collection and the beautiful ways the museum chose to display it blew us away.
Bahnhofstrasse Street: This road in Zurich is paved with high-end shops such as Chanel and Dior, as well as cozy coffee shops and boutiques. It’s on this street that you’ll find Zurich’s most famous Café Spruengli. Be sure to pop in for coffee and some of their macarons.
Cabaret Voltaire: For pre-dinner drinks, we set out to Cabaret Voltaire, the birthplace of Dada and Dadaism. This bar has multiple floors and has a grungy-but-cool feel to it. They are known for their selection of absinthe, but we sipped on cocktails and took in the scene. The patrons seemed like locals, which was nice to observe. It’s worth going for a quick drink before dinner to get the experience.
Dinner at Blindekuh: One of the most memorable experiences of the trip (and probably the most memorable meal I’ve ever had) was dinner at Blinde Kuh (Blind Cow). This restaurant is operated in the pitch dark and is run by blind people. As a result, you experience dinner as if you are blind yourself. After waiting in a hallway looking at a menu, a blind waiter will come and get you and lead you to the restaurant. You hold onto the shoulders of the waiter as it is complete darkness inside and you are seated. The experience was a bit jarring for me at first. It is SO dark inside and you can’t even see your hands or anything in the restaurant. There are no cellphones or light from them and I was pretty much guided by sound the meal. After the first ten minutes, you begin to acclimate and luckily my boyfriend and I are never at a loss for words or conversation, so we spoke the entire dinner like we would anywhere else. Eating the food was challenging, as you can’t see what you are cutting or where your wine glass is, but after enough fumbling around in the dark you get the hang of it. Just two hours away from a cellphone or any light was interesting. We focused much more on sound and taste and other senses. A reservation is required.
Nightcap at Kronnenhalle: This hidden bar is a beautiful spot for a nightcap. The bar’s art collection is really impressive, consisting of Picasso, Chagall and Miro. The drinks are strong and the vibe is really elegant. Editor’s note: our dirty martinis were $25 each, so best to limit it to one drink after dinner.