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What to Do in Zurich, Switzerland on a Layover

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Wondering what to do in Zurich, Switzerland on a layover? This Swiss city is a super popular stop over destination, and a big hub in Europe for connecting flights.

We had the pleasure of stopping over in this pretty city for 18 hours, on a transit from the Canary Islands to Abu Dhabi. While we definitely could have spent more time here, Zurich was the perfect place for a short trip to be able to soak up the highlights, and experience a bit of Switzerland.

In this guide we're going to cover what to do in Zurich, Switzerland on a layover, and the logistics of getting around without spending a fortune.

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Where is Zurich in Switzerland?

First things first- it's important to note that despite its size, Switzerland is very different from one end to the other.

Zurich is located on the north east side of Switzerland, very close to Germany. This affects everything from the weather, to what language the locals speak. (Don't worry- we'll get into that a bit further into the article). 

Zurich is the business capital of the country, and is a huge hub for European flights, making it a very big hotspot for day trips and layovers.

where is Zurich Switzerland

Zurich is located in the north east, close to Germany.

Entry Requirements for Switzerland

Switzerland is not part of the European Union, but it is inside the Schengen Zone. This means that if you are coming from another country in the Schengen Zone, that you won't go through customs.

Switzerland and Covid-19

We have great news! As of February 2022, Switzerland has dropped requirements for testing, and has gone maskless. This even includes inside the airport, so you can travel comfortably and happily. Yay!

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Local Adjustments

Even if you are only traveling to Zurich for a layover, there are still things you'll want to keep in mind while visiting. Here are some of them.


Although Switzerland is smack in the middle of Europe, they do use a different currency, The currency used in Switzerland is the Swiss Franc, and is written as CHF. The current conversion is almost a 1:1 ratio to the USD (as of May 2022).

Credit card is widely used throughout Switzerland, so chances of you needing to pull out cash for your layover in Zurich are very small. Even trains and small kiosks take card, and if there is a small market you may even be able to pay with euros. So save your money and hold off on taking any out of the ATM.


Did you know that they speak several languages in Switzerland? It may be a tiny country, but they are bordered by quite a few, and share the languages of French, German, and Italian. In Zurich the most commonly used language is Swiss German, which is basically just a different dialect of the German Language.

Zurich is a big business city, so it really is common to find most people also do speak English, especially in hotels, restaurants, and shops.


The outlets used in Switzerland are the same as most European countries. They use plug types C and J. C has two round pins, and J has 3 round pins (which also fit type C). The standard voltage in Switzerland is 230V with a frequency of 50Hz.

Water Potability

The water in Switzerland is as fresh as it gets, and some of the best in the world! So skip getting bottles of water and bring a reusable water bottle. You can even refill your bottle in the public fountains around Zurich.


Wondering what to do in Zurich, Switzerland when it comes to tipping? Well, tips are actually built into the price, so you never need to worry about leaving anything extra. If you want to appreciate great service you can simply round up to the nearest franc and that is more than enough.

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Getting from Zurich Airport to the City

The city of Zurich is surprisingly close to its airport, and is just a short train ride away. It is also shockingly expensive for the price- distance ratio. 

Zurich city is just a few kilometers away from the airport- 9 1/2 to be exact. Driving is 10-20 minutes depending on traffic, and the train ride is just 10 minutes. Now while you may just jump for the Uber being that it's so close, the price is truly ridiculous. Taxis are between 50-70 CHF (about equal to the USD), and Ubers aren't much better.

The fastest and cheapest way to get to Zurich city from the airport is definitely by train, which costs 7 CHF.

what to do in Zurich, Switzerland

The center of Zurich is just minutes away from the airport!

Getting from an Airport Hotel to Zurich City

When we had our layover in Zurich, we had out hotel booked through a company we were working for in Abu Dhabi. Normally we don't stay in hotels near the airport, but many companies for business will put people up in these hotels, so it's helpful to know how to travel from them.

When we first checked in we had an airport shuttle to our hotel, the Radisson. However, our shuttle back to the airport was not included. Ubers were about 30 CHF, even though it was a 2 minute drive! 

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The hotel offered a shuttle for 6 CHF each, which is still expensive all things considered, and only went once an hour. We ended up missing our shuttle, but then luckily found out that we could catch the bus to the airport across the street, which was definitely a better option! 

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Getting Around For Your Layover in Zurich

Luckily the city center of Zurich is not big at all! The beauty of this place is that you can see most of the highlights solely on foot. We would say to avoid taking any kind of transportation while in the city, and just enjoying your layover in Zurich by strolling around the center.

Getting around Zurich on a layover

You can get around by tram in the city center, although we prefer to walk.

What to Do in Zurich, Switzerland on a Layover

Now that you've made it to the center, you are ready to enjoy your layover in Zurich! Here is the ultimate list of what to do in Zurich, Switzerland on a layover.

What to Do in Zurich, Switzerland #1: Roam Around Altstatd

The first thing we suggest you to do in the center is to simply walk around and soak up the vibes of this clean and quaint city. Altstatd is the name of the neighborhood, and we encourage you to roam the colorful streets and take out your camera.

architecture in Zurich
center of Zurich
City center. what to visit in Zurich, Switzerland

The center of Zurich is super small and walkable, but very picturesque.

What to Do in Zurich, Switzerland #2: Climb the Grossmunster

See that beautiful church with the two towers stealing the spotlight? Well, not only is it beautiful from the outside, but you can climb to the top for some stunning views of the center of Zurich. It is open daily from 10 am to 6 pm and tickets cost 5 CHF to go to the top.

Grossmunster, what to do in Zurich, Switzerland

The Grossmunster is the most iconic spot in the city of Zurich.

What to Do in Zurich, Switzerland #3: Photograph Gerolstrasse

Want another of our favorite Instagrammable spots in Zurich? Head to Geraldstrasse to see the umbrella installation. While many other umbrella streets throughout the world simply have brightly colored umbrellas, this one has different patterns for each one as well!

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What to Do in Zurich, Switzerland #4: Admire the Area Around Zunfthaus Zur Meisen

Just right across the bridge from Grossmunster is a beautiful street with great views of the river, and the church on the other side. Enjoy the stunning architecture here, and grab a drink in one of the restaurants.

City Center Zurich

Just walk across the bridge to admire the beautiful architecture here.

What to Do in Zurich, Switzerland #5: Stroll Around Limmatquai

Located right along the river, this is one of the most beautiful areas to visit on a layover in Zurich. Just steps away from the stunning Grossmunster, you can really appreciate the views in this area. There is also a small market set up there at times that you can stop by for fresh fruit and veggies.

colorful houses in Zurich, Switzerland
Limmat Quai, what to do in Zurich, Switzerland
market in Zurich

Limmat Quai is one of the best areas to see in Zurich.

What to Do in Zurich, Switzerland #6: Take in the Views From Lindenhof

Walk just a few steps up from the area of Augustinergasse, and you'll be rewarded with some of the best views of Zurich. Perched right above the river and center of the city, this was one of our favorite things to do on our layover in Zurich.

Lindenhof, what to do in Zurich, Switzerland

Lindenhof offers one of the best views of Zurich.

What to Do in Zurich, Switzerland #7: Get Spectacular Views on the Cable Car

Can't get enough of the beautiful views of Zurich? Well, we have another one for you. 

Felsenegg lookout is a great spot to add to your list on your layover in Zurich, and the best way to get there is with the cable car. If it's a nice day you can walk for 1 hour and 45 minutes one way, and take the cable car for 4.40 the other way.

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What to Do in Zurich, Switzerland #8: Walk Across the Muhlesteg Bridge

Just a short walk from Linnatquai is a small bridge going from one side of the river to the other. Just like the famous Parisian bridge, this one is also covered in locks. Add your own or simply walk across enjoying the views around you.

Muhlestag bridge, what to do in Zurich, Switzerland

The Muhlestag bridge is full of locks, like the one in Paris.

What to Do in Zurich, Switzerland #9: Check Out the WOW Museum

Looking for that super Instagrammable shot? How about heading to a fun interactive museum? WOW Museum (also known as Room of Illusions) is full of colorful and creatively designed rooms for the photographer in you.

The museum is open from .10 am to 8 pm Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. On Fridays it opens at 10 am to 10 pm, Saturdays from 9 am to 10 pm, and Sundays from 9 am to 8 pm. Tuesdays it is closed, and tickets cost 23 CHF. 60-90 minute time slots are available for reservations on their website.

What to Do in Zurich, Switzerland #10: Check OutNeumarkt

This area is part of the historical center of Zurich, and is a beautiful area to walk around. If you want to enjoy the beautiful pastel colors of Zurich and get some great pictures, then this is the spot for you.

Niederdorf, Neumarkt
colorful streets of Zurich

What to Do in Zurich, Switzerland #11: Take Photos Around  Augustinergasse

This is another one of those quaint streets in the center of the city, You can find colorful buildings with cute shops along here, and it is definitely one of the best Instagrammable spots in Zurich.

Augustinergasse, what to do in Zurich, Switzerland

This street is full of color, and is leading up to Lindenhof.

What to Do in Zurich, Switzerland #12: Visit the Zurich Opera House

Want something fun and different to do on your layover in Zurich? Head to the Opera house! We suggest checking gout one of the shows. However, if you're not an opera fan, it is still worth visit, at least on the outside. The architecture is beautiful, and the square around it is very lively.

opera house, what to do in Zurich

The opera house is one of the highlights in Zurich.

What to Do in Zurich, Switzerland #13: Try Swiss Hot Chocolate

The food and drinks in Switzerland are undoubtably expensive. While you can skip the coffee and juices to save a few bucks, we do urge you to do a little splurge on the hot chocolate.

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Switzerland is known for their chocolate, and it would be a sin not to try the hot and creamy goodness from one of the local cafes. 

A cup of hot chocolate will run you about 6 CHF, but it'll truly warm your heart and soul- especially if you experience a cold rainy day like we did!

hot chocolate, what to do in Zurich, Switzerland

Having a cup of hot chocolate is a must in Switzerland!

What to Do in Zurich, Switzerland #14: Visit the Lindt Home of Chocolate

Now that you know the chocolate is a must, let's take you to the home of one of the best chocolate companies in the world.

The Lindt home of chocolate is one of the only things on our list a bit further outside the city center, but it is definitely worth the trip.

What to Do in Zurich, Switzerland #15: Explore Chinese Gardens

Looking for some greenery? Head to the Chinese gardens on your layover in Zurich to enjoy the beautifully manicured trees and Chinese inspired buildings. We suggest only visiting here if It is a warm and dry day. Tickets are 4 CHF and they are open from 11 am to 7 pm.

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What to Do in Zurich, Switzerland #16: Dip Into Some Fondue

This was high on my bucket list for our layover in Zurich. Fondue is Switzerland's most famous dining experience, and I mean, who wouldn't want to have a whole pot of melted cheese to dip their ingredients in?

Well, the answer is Fede. He is not a cheese lover like I am, and cheese fondues are for sharing. So I'll just have to save this for another time, but I encourage you to have some on your layover in Zurich!

You can find great restaurants all around Zurich offering fondue, and the average price is about 30 CHF. This is definitely one of the best things to do on a layover in Zurich for a couple or group.

Where to Stay on an Overnight Layover in Zurich

If you have an overnight layover in Zurich, you may get put into a hotel provided by the airline. However, if you have to get your own, then you have two good options for areas to stay. 

The easiest option is to stay at or near the airport. There is a stunning hotel inside the airport, which is of course the most convenient, although it may not be the cheapest. This will allow you to easily leave all your luggage and go straight into the city. Additionally, it definitely leaves you with a better peace of mind not having to worry about bringing all of your stuff back and forth.

On the other hand, a good option is also to stay right in the city center. You can grab the train straight from the airport, and have the flexibility of visiting both at night and in the morning without having to go back and forth. This is good for those that want to make the most of the city. We suggest booking a hotel as close to the train station as possible to avoid having to get expensive taxis or walk a lot around the center with your belongings.

Is Zurich Safe?

Zurich may be super expensive, but you can definitely ensure that you're safe in this city, and everywhere in Switzerland. The country has a very low crime rate, and is full of smiley and helpful people. Enjoy your layover in Zurich stress free!

Packing for a Layover in Zurich

If you're planning on traveling to Zurich for a short time, don't stress too much about packing differently. We did experience lower temperatures here than other parts of Europe though, so bringing a sweater is definitely recommended in spring and fall, and a warm coat in the winter time. 

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Tips For Saving on a Layover in Zurich

Did you know Zurich is the third most expensive city in the world? Having a layover in Zurich can get expensive fast, but luckily we were able to do it on a budget. Here are a few things you should do to keep your layover in Zurich budget friendly.

  • Use public transportation
  • Visit a supermarket and make a sandwich
  • Have street snacks instead of eating out every meal (they have great pretzels!)
  • Always check prices. Even something as simple as a cup of coffee can end up being outrageously expensive. It's always better to check than to assume.

So now you are ready to have the perfect layover in Zurich! We hope you enjoy your small taste of Switzerland, and it leaves you wanting more.

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