Stopovers suck, don’t they? We just want to get to that final destination we’ve been dreaming of for months on end, yet we get stuck for hours (or even a night) in these cities that we seemingly have no interest in. If you’re travelling to/from Europe and the city you’re heading to has no direct connections to your hometown, then chances are that you’ll be preparing yourself for a layover in Zurich.
Much like Frankfurt in Germany, Zurich is one of the continent’s biggest and most important business hubs, and therefore its airport enjoys a great deal of worldwide connections. However, contrary to what one might think, this wonderful city is way more than banks and white-collar workers! It enjoys a picturesque old town, a lovely lake surrounded by snowcapped mountains, and a very walkable city centre – perfect for you to explore while carrying your bags. Plus, it is outrageously expensive, so the fact that your time there will be quite limited may actually be an advantage.
Don’t worry though, there’s plenty to see and do for free during your layover in Zurich!
HOW TO GO FROM ZURICH AIRPORT TO THE CITY CENTRE
Another feature that makes a layover in Zurich such a pleasant experience is how quick and simple it is to move around between the airport and the city centre.
With the two places located just 10km away from each other, the train is by far the easiest and cheapest of all the transportation options available. A single one-way ticket costs 6.80 CHF, and the ride between the airport station and Zurich Hauptbahnhof (Central Station) will take between 10 to 15 minutes.
WHAT TO SEE & DO DURING A LAYOVER IN ZURICH
Despite being one of Europe’s biggest financial and business centres, Zurich’s historic core is actually quite compact, allowing you to explore freely and without rushing from one attraction to the next – even if you only have a few hours!
As soon as you exit Zurich’s Central Station, you will immediately see Bahnhofstrasse – the city’s most famous street. This boulevard might be one of the world’s most exclusive (and expensive!) shopping streets, but its pedestrianized core, pleasant architecture and lovely tramline make it one of the best places to get acquainted with Zurich’s atmosphere.
Although the local lake might be Zurich’s most prominent feature, the Limmat River and its picturesque banks are what truly make this city so freakin’ adorable! For those picture-perfect images, we recommend taking the Limmatquai, a street located on the right bank of the river. This street runs through the Altstadt (the Old Town), offering awesome views of some of Zurich’s most beautiful and notable buildings, such as the Town Hall, the Lindenhof Hill or the spires of the city churches.
Regarded as the Old Town’s most charming section, while walking through the Niederdorf area you will get a small glimpse of medieval Zurich. Filled with small houses, narrow streets and colourful façades, exploring its alleys and corners is a real joy! Among its most popular attractions you will find the Predigerkirche, a church whose spiky blue tower can be seen from all over the city centre.
Quietly hidden inside the local police station, and with no tourist signs whatsoever, you’ll hardly find a more unsuspicious sight! However, as soon as you set foot inside, you’ll instantly realize why this is Zurich’s ultimate hidden gem and one of its best kept secrets. The building’s walls and ceiling are completely covered with paintings by Swiss artist Augusto Giacometti, and the atmosphere inside is pure magic! No ticket is required as you’ll only have to leave your ID at the police station’s front desk.
The Lindenhof is recognized as a hilly viewpoint where a roman castle used to stand in medieval Zurich. Nowadays, it offers what are arguably the best views in the city, as its privileged position allows for a great sightseeing experience over the Limmat River and the gorgeous Old Town. Unfortunately, our schedule in Zurich was so cramped that we didn’t get to see it, so there you have another photo of the Altstadt’s lovely backstreets.
Although this city boasts some other seriously awesome churches (such as the Grossmunster or the St. Peter’s Church), if we had to pick just one to visit during a short layover in Zurich, then it would have to be the Fraumunster. Not only is this the church with the most impressive interiors, but it also has the quirkiest and most appealing tower/spire of the bunch! Plus, it’s located in the Münsterhof, the biggest square in the Old Town, so you can kill two birds with one stone.
ZURICH OPERA HOUSE
Although it may not possess the grandeur of its counterparts in Vienna, Budapest or Paris, the Zurich Opera House is nevertheless a beautiful building deserving of your visit. Best of all, it’s located by the lake in the huge Sechseläuten square, a huge public space where gatherings, markets or special events are usually held. In fact, the popular Zurich Christmas Market was on when we visited!
For the last thing you should see on a layover in Zurich, we saved the city’s ever-present lake. Whether you’re visiting during Summer, when the scenery is green and the lake is filled with boats and people catching sun, or in Winter, when the landscape is asleep and you can see the surrounding snowcapped mountains, this is definitely a sight you cannot miss!
You may now consider yourself ready for a layover in Zurich! Have you ever been to this city? What other attractions should visitors see in such a limited time? Let us know on the comments below!