Not packed in a bus. Not herded with a group. Self guided walk is the SAFEST way to sightsee while observing SOCIAL DISTANCING!

Zurich Introduction Walk (Self Guided), Zurich

Switzerland’s largest city, Zürich, is rich in heritage and historic value, and is a popular travel destination. Its medieval architecture is well-preserved and worth seeing, as well as the city’s historic monuments and modern sculptures. Old Town, with its 13th century buildings, is an especially wonderful historic area to be seen. Be sure to visit some of Zürich's best landmarks in the following tour.
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Zurich Introduction Walk Map

Guide Name: Zurich Introduction Walk
Guide Location: Switzerland » Zurich (See other walking tours in Zurich)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 11
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles
Author: ellen
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Hauptbahnhof (Central Railway Station)
  • Bahnhofstrasse
  • Urania Observatory
  • Lindenhof
  • St. Peterskirche
  • Fraumünster (Church of Our Lady)
  • Grossmünster (Great Minster)
  • Kunsthaus Zürich
  • Kronenhalle Restaurant
  • Opernhaus
  • Lake Zurich Boat Rental
Hauptbahnhof (Central Railway Station)

1) Hauptbahnhof (Central Railway Station) (must see)

The Hauptbahnhof is the largest rail station in Switzerland. Zurich is a major rail hub, not only to other cities in Switzerland but also for service to Germany, Italy, Austria, and France. The station is located in the old town portion of central Zurich at the confluence of the Sihl and Limmat Rivers.

The first rail station in the city was constructed by Gustav Albert Wegmann. At the time of the construction, it was on the northwestern outskirts of town. In 1871, a newer building was constructed on the site. That building was designed by Jakob Wanner. It features a triumphal arch at the main entrance. A monument to Alfred Escher, a railway pioneer, stands in front of the arch. The building is constructed of sandstone in a neo-Renaissance style. The station features 200 underground shops that cater to travelers, including cafes and souvenir shops. The two underground shopping areas are connected via a hall that features marble and granite walls and floors. There are 20 terminal tracks on the ground floor with two additional tracks one level below. Commuter train service is also provided.

Why You Should Visit:
Lots of good food for sale, several grocery stores, chocolate shops, bookstores, stores for knick-knacks, restroom facilities, shower stalls, and trains to take you everywhere in Europe!

There are a lot of meeting points in the station so if you wish to meet up someone in Hauptbahnhof, make sure you make it very clear of where to meet.

2) Bahnhofstrasse (must see)

Bahnhofstrasse is Zurich's main downtown street and one of the world's most expensive and exclusive shopping avenues. In 2011, a study named the Bahnhofstrasse the most expensive street for retail property in Europe and the third most expensive worldwide. It came into existence when the city fortifications were demolished in 1864 and the ditch in front of the walls was filled in. Until that time, the name of the location had been Fröschengraben ("Ditch of the Frogs"), which then was changed to the current Bahnhofstrasse ("Station Street").

Bahnhofstrasse starts at Bahnhofplatz in front of the Zürich Hauptbahnhof, passing Rennweg, Augustinergasse and Paradeplatz before it ends after 1.4km at Bürkliplatz on Lake Zurich (National Bank), Hotel Baur au Lac. The street is largely pedestrianized but is also an important link in the Zürich tram network.

The shops are on average expensive but in late June the sales start and you may get good deals/bargains.
Don't miss the Jelmoli department store – it is "right in the mix", has something for everyone's budget, as well as a great buffet restaurant and bar.
A stop at Sprüngli, a sweet tooth's paradise, is always recommended to enjoy some of the best coffee and chocolates the world has to offer.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Urania Observatory

3) Urania Observatory

The Urania Observatory is visible on the city landscape, with its curved dome and impressive height. It was named after Urania, the muse of astronomy in Greek mythology. It began, first, as an observatory on the roof of the Zunfthaus zur Meisen. The Urania Observatory was initiated in 1899 and went into operational use in 1907. The refracting telescope is equipped with a two-lens system allowing for 600-fold magnification. The refractor is what sits in the large dome structure. The telescope stands on a pillar and is fitted with anti-vibration components. The optical telescope, designed by Carl Zeiss, weighs 12 tons and was considered a technical masterpiece at the time. The telescope underwent a restoration in 2006 and was placed back in the observatory in 2007. Tours are available at the observatory for viewing of the moon and Solar System objects, such as stars, star clusters, and galaxies. Because the observatory is in the middle of the city, it is subject to urban light pollution, so views from within are fairly limited. Paid public tours are given in the evenings, Tuesday through Friday when there is clear weather. A restaurant and bar are located in the building.

Why You Should Visit:
To experience an great view of downtown Zurich, all while learning new things about telescopes and the outer space.

Opening Hours:
Thu-Sat: 9pm-10pm

4) Lindenhof (must see)

he Lindenhof in the old town of Zürich is the historical site of the Roman castle, and the later Carolingian Kaiserpfalz. It is situated on the Lindenhof hill, on the left side of the Limmat at the Schipfe.

In 1747, a 2nd-century Roman tombstone was discovered at the site, bearing the oldest attestation of Turīcum, the Roman era name of Zürich, as STA[tio] TURIC[ensis], at the time a tax collecting point. The castle remained intact during the early phase of Alemannic immigration in the 5th to 6th century, but was derelict by the 9th century, when it was rebuilt as a residence for Louis the German, which in turn became dilapidated and used as a source of building stone by the 13th century.

The Lindenhof remained a place of civil assembly into modern times. In 1798, the citizens of Zürich swore the oath to the constitution of the Helvetic Republic on the Lindenhof.

In 1851 the Masonic Lodge 'Modestia cum Libertate' (1771) bought the residence 'Zum Paradies" and built a masonic building on the southern end of the square.

In the early 21st century, it serves as a recreational space, a green oasis, and automobile free space in the old historic city center. Its elevated position makes it a favorite point for tourists to get an overview of the geography of old Zürich. During the local holiday of Sechseläuten in April, the Lindenhof serves as the base of operations for whichever canton is the 'guest-Canton' for that year.
Sight description based on wikipedia
St. Peterskirche

5) St. Peterskirche (must see)

St. Peterskirche was built in the 9th century, which makes it the oldest parish church in Zurich. It also boasts the fame of having the largest clock face in all of Europe, measuring 9 meters (28.5 feet) in diameter. This translates to a minute hand that is 4 meters long (12 feet)!

The church was significantly altered in the 13th century and again in the early 1700s. Up until 1911, a firewatcher manned the steeple. It was his job to look out the windows four times an hour to look for fires. If he spotted a fire, he was to sound an alarm and point to the direction of the fire with a flag. Apparently, this ended up being an effective strategy because unlike many other European cities, Zurich never suffered any devastating fires.

The interior of the church features a Baroque nave, Romanesque choir, and an elaborately carved pulpit. Interior frescoes depict the story of martyrs and the Virgin Mary. Medieval murals can be observed in the choir. Today, the church actually has split ownership. The City of Zurich owns the church steeple, while St. Peter’s parish of the Swiss Reformed Church owns the nave. In addition to the stunning Chagall windows are frescoes by Bodmer. In the north transept is another stained-glass window completed by Giacometti in the 1940s.

It is very interesting up close, but it is more beautiful from across the river.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 8am-6pm, Sat: 10am-4pm, Sun: 11:00am-5pm
Fraumünster (Church of Our Lady)

6) Fraumünster (Church of Our Lady) (must see)

As you may have noticed, Zurich’s skyline is dotted with church spires; however, none are as remarkable as the slender blue spire of the Fraumünster. In 853 Emperor Ludwig founded a Benedictine convent on this site and his daughter became the first abbess of the convent. In 874 a basilica with a crypt was added. The crypt holds the relics of the martyred two Patron Saints of Zurich, Felix and Regula.

The present church on the site dates from the mid 13th century, but the crypt still remains beneath the church. Reformation closed the convent and in 1524, the last abbess donated the church and abbey to Zurich. All icons and religious imagery were destroyed.

The church underwent a remodel in the 20th century, which the installation of beautiful Marc Chagall stained glass windows in 1970. The five windows are 10 meters high and each has its own color theme. On the northern side is the red-orange “Prophet” window. On the eastern side, the windows are named “Jacob”, “Christ”, and “Zion”, from left to right. The south wall piece is called “Law”.

Why You Should Visit:
Reasonable entry fee and definitely worth stepping in to admire the lovely Chagall stained glass windows.
Included in the ticket is a very good audio guide that really brings the building and the 5 windows to life.

Be sure to bring Swiss francs as only cash is accepted.
NO PHOTOS of the Chagall windows allowed inside.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am-6pm
Grossmünster (Great Minster)

7) Grossmünster (Great Minster) (must see)

The Grossmünster is one of four major churches in Zurich, with the others being St. Peterskirche, the Fraumünster, and the Predigerkirche. Construction of the church began in 1100 and it was inaugurated in 1220. The church’s twin towers, which were erected toward the end of the 1400s, are one of the classic landmarks of the city. The original towers had high wooden steeples but were destroyed by fire in the 1780s. Following the fire, the neo-Gothic tops were added to the towers, which are what you see today.

The church is Romanesque in architectural style with carved portals, columns, and grotesque figures on the top of the columns. Beautiful stained-glass windows were added to the church in 1932. They are the work of Swiss artist Augusto Giacometti, who also created stained-glass windows for the Fraumünster church. The north and south portals feature ornate bronze doors, the work of Otto Münch. They were added in 1935 and 1950.

Originally, the Grossmünster was a monastery church. The Reformation movement in the 1500s was actually launched from the Grossmünster. Huldrych Zwingli, the father of Swiss-German reformation, had his pastoral office here. Zwingli’s presence in the church is directly related to the lack of ornamentation inside. He even had the organ and religious statuary removed.

The statue of the emperor Carolus Magnus (Charlemagne) is located in the southern tower of Grossmünster Church. He is holding his sword and it looks as though his crown is falling off his head.

Why You Should Visit:
Fairly plain inside, but the sliced agate windows are some of the more interesting and colorful anywhere.
The old statue of Charlemagne is also worth seeing, and you can't miss the beautiful door as you go in.

A trip to the top of the tower is worth it if you can do 180+ steps straight up. The views are wonderful and you can stay as long as you wish.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 10am-6pm (Mar-Oct); 10am-5pm (Nov-Feb)
Open on Sundays after the service
Kunsthaus Zürich

8) Kunsthaus Zürich (must see)

The Kunsthaus is one of the most important museums in Europe. The building was designed by architect Karl Moser and completed in 1910. The facades contain bas-reliefs designed by Oskar Keifer, a long time collaborator with Moser. The collection is impressive and diverse, from pieces dating to the Middle Ages to contemporary ones. Overall, the collection emphasizes Swiss art through various periods. Some of the Swiss artists represented include Fussli, Hodler, Rist and Fischli. Works by Munch, Lipchitz, Van Gough, Picasso, and Giacometti are a draw as well. The museum has a group of works by Monet and another by Chagall.

Specific collections include Swiss Paintings, Swiss Realism, Zurich Concrete Art, and collections featuring paintings and sculptures by Bocklin, Segantini, Hodler, and Vallotton. The museum also has a good collection of video art that started in 1979, with the thought that video art is an independent and creative medium. Video artists represented include Acconci, Baldessari, Calle, Graham, Hill, Marclay, Paik and others. In addition to the permanent collection, the museum features temporary exhibits and a library with books focusing on modern art. An audio guide which highlights over 200 of the pieces in the collection, is available.

Why You Should Visit:
Super modern with lots of unique perspectives! If you're a fan of modern art and appreciate surrealism and impressionism, this museum is a must.

Free entry to the main collection on Wednesdays, and you can also get an audio guide for no cost. Their library is open-access anytime.
The building might not look massive on the outside, but the collection is extensive, so make sure you leave at least 2-3 hours to visit.

Opening Hours:
Tue, Fri-Sun: 10am-6pm; Wed-Thu: 10am-8pm
Kronenhalle Restaurant

9) Kronenhalle Restaurant

This is the most prominent restaurant in Zürich. It was a favorite meeting place of famous Swiss and international writers, musicians and artists, among them Thomas Mann, Pablo Picasso, James Joyce, Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, Igor Stravinsky, Yves Saint-Laurent, and many others. It not only serves superb cuisine, but also contains a great collection of original paintings by famous painters.

10) Opernhaus

The Zurich Opera House is the primary venue for the opera and performing arts in the city. The site, as a performance space, has its origins as a theater. It started in 1834 with a production of Mozart’s Zauberflote. The theater burned down in 1890 and replaced by the current building you see today. The building was designed by Fellner and Helmer and was established as the Zurich Opera house. It is rather dramatic, with pillars, columns, and arched windows. It features a neo-classical façade of white and grey stone. The busts of Weber, Wagner, Mozart, Shiller, Shakespeare, and Goethe adorn the building. The auditorium space seats over 1,200 people and features a Rococo style.

The Zurich Opera House has been the setting for many world premier events, including works by Berg, Hindemith, Schonberg, Klebe, and Kelterborn. Event tickets to this venue sell out quickly, so if you want to see a performance, some pre-planning is required. There are open guided tours of the opera house, including the backstage area (call the museum directly or visit their webpage to find out the dates).

Why You Should Visit:
The building itself is beautiful and part of Zurich's landscape, while the setting by the lake is just delightful.
As the theatre is rather small-sized (1100 seats), you are much closer to the stage, comparing to other opera houses.
Most days have no dress code, and no one really cares about the attire – another huge plus compared to other opera houses.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 11am-6pm
Lake Zurich Boat Rental

11) Lake Zurich Boat Rental (must see)

Lake Zürich is a popular excursion destination. Whether water sports, relaxing on the lake shore, local cuisine, family activities or thrilling festivals complete with a lake view – the region around the lake enchants visitors of all ages.

Lake Zürich's water is very clean and reaches, during summer, temperatures well beyond 20 °C (68 °F). Swimming in the public baths and beaches is very popular. Historically, the best weather for swimming has been late August, with August 28 typically having the nicest weather at around 5:30pm. The lake's water is purified and fed into Zürich's water system; it is potable.

The Lago Boat Rental Center is located at Utoquai, not far from Zurich Opera House. On sunny days, you can rent a pedalboat or motorboat and leave the bustling lakeside promenade far behind you. On some of the smaller motorboats, you can skipper your own vessel without requiring a boat license. Alternatively, you can hire a yacht complete with skipper – with options ranging from the classic sport yacht to a Dutch wooden boat made from teak and mahogany. After your boat trip, you can relax in the lakeside lounge under a huge shade sail and enjoy a refreshing drink.

The Lago is also a training center for people wanting to gain a motorboat or sailing license for inland lakes or the high seas.

Taking a 1.5hr cruise on Lake Zurich is a fantastic experience! Try to look at the timetable for cruises to plan out when you want to take it.
Boat tours run from May to October, but there are some in the winter, too. Alternately, you could rent a little boat and paddle around.

Walking Tours in Zurich, Switzerland

Create Your Own Walk in Zurich

Create Your Own Walk in Zurich

Creating your own self-guided walk in Zurich is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Zurich Souvenir Shopping

Zurich Souvenir Shopping

It would be a pity to leave Zurich without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to Zurich, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.8 Km or 1.1 Miles
Zurich's Historical Churches Tour

Zurich's Historical Churches Tour

Zürich has many splendid churches and monasteries, which provide an immense spiritual and cultural contribution to the entire country. Many of them played a significant role in the Protestant Reformation. Each church is inimitable in its architecture. Follow this walking tour to become familiar with Zürich's most beautiful religious edifices.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.2 Km or 0.7 Miles
Old Town Walk

Old Town Walk

The historic heart of the city beats on both sides of the Limmat river, where guild houses, churches and historic places line the romantic little streets and adorn the hidden corners. This self guided tour takes you to explore some of the most important sights in the old town Zurich.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.4 Km or 0.9 Miles
Museums Walking Tour

Museums Walking Tour

Zürich has a great number of museums, many of them historical museums displaying the history of Zürich and its citizens and the history of world civilizations. Many exhibit unique objects, documents and artifacts witnessing the past. One of the most interesting is the museum of timepieces from ancient times till the present. Take a look at Zürich's most popular historical museums in this...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.9 Km or 1.8 Miles
Zurich Gourmet Tour

Zurich Gourmet Tour

Gourmets from all over the world come to Switzerland to enjoy its splendid tastes. It is famous not only for its high-quality watches, but also for its numerous specialty and confectionery shops offering many delicacies with inimitable flavors. The secrets of making these unique delicacies have been preserved for centuries, passed from father to son. Most of the products are still made by hand....  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles

Useful Travel Guides for Planning Your Trip

16 Distinctively Swiss Things to Buy in Zurich

16 Distinctively Swiss Things to Buy in Zurich

Zurich is Switzerland’s largest city, and although it may feel like a bustling metropolis, the tranquil essence of the Alps flows fervently through the lively cobblestone streets, the buzzing train station, and the frenzied designer boutiques. Most shops in downtown Zurich open at 9 am and close...