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How to Spend an Epic Layover in Zurich, Switzerland


View inside Zurich Airport, showcasing the modern architectural design with a large glass facade, steel structures, and the “'Flughafen Zürich” sign overhead. Silhouettes of passengers waiting and walking can be seen against the daylight shining through.
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Zurich may not scream “essential layover stop” at first glance, but behind the business-like facade, this city is surprisingly lovely, surrounded by mountains and dotted with mediaeval churches and ancient cobblestones. Oh, and of course, how could we forget to mention Swiss chocolate or Swiss cheese?

Whether it’s a quick peek or a full-day stop, there’s plenty to see and do that could easily make your Zurich layover the highlight of your trip.

So, how do you squeeze the best out of Zurich during a layover? We've got you covered.

In this guide, we'll lay out some top spots that are easy to hit on a time crunch, as well as our favourite layover itineraries and top tips for a fabulous short trip to Zurich.

Things to do during a layover in Zurich

Aerial view of the Grossmünster Cathedral in Zurich during sunset, showcasing its twin towers with silver-coloured roofs and gold accents. Below, the city stretches towards Lake Zurich, lined with trees and buildings. This is one of the top places to visit on a Zurich layover.

Choosing the best activities in Zurich for a layover is tough, but, if we had to narrow it down to just our favourites, they’d be:

  • Zurich Old Town
  • Swiss National Museum
  • Lindenhof
  • Lake Zurich
  • Kunsthaus Zurich
  • Uetliberg Mountain (if you have time)

If you’re looking for things to do in Zurich in one day, we recommend using this list of suggested activities and throwing in a stop for fondue, raclette, Rösti, or Swiss chocolate at a traditional restaurant. There you have it: the perfect one day in Zurich!

Best Zurich layover itineraries

What you can see and do on your Zurich layover itinerary totally depends on how long you have, and what your priorities are. It’s also worth remembering that Zurich is one of the most expensive cities in the world, so we’ve included as many cheap or free activities in our suggested itineraries as possible. Zurich is extremely welcoming to solo travellers, boasting a stellar safety rating and an efficient public transport system.

Thankfully, reaching Zurich's city centre from the airport is a breeze with the train, which only takes about 10 minutes and arrives directly at Zurich Hauptbahnhof, the city’s main train station.

Trains run frequently between the airport and the city, so you won’t waste precious layover time waiting around for your next train. It’s possible to catch a Zurich Airport Taxi or order a Zurich Airport Transfer, but there really is no need. Plus, it’d be super expensive!

So, once you’re in Zurich, what’s on the agenda? Here are our recommended layover itineraries for you to consider.

4 hours layover in Zurich

A tram travels down a tree-lined street in Zurich during autumn, with fallen yellow leaves covering the tracks and road. Buildings with shops line the pavements under a cloudy sky.

With just four hours, you’re cutting it fine, so your best bet is to not venture too far. Hop on the train to Zurich Hauptbahnhof, the main station, and take a brisk walk along Bahnhofstrasse, one of the world’s most exclusive shopping streets.

Grab a quick bite of Swiss chocolate and a coffee, snap some photos, and then head back to the airport. It's short and sweet, but you'll feel you've at least touched the city.

5 hours layover in Zurich

Five hours give you a little bit more leeway, but you’ll still be in a time crunch. From the Hauptbahnhof, wander along the water for 20 minutes until you get to Lake Zurich, soaking up the views from the scenic Quaibrücke.

Enjoy the serene views of the water against the city backdrop, and, if you have time, maybe even stop somewhere nearby to sample some Swiss cheese. Then, dash back to the train station for your return to the airport.

6 hours layover in Zurich

View of Zurich's waterfront featuring a boat cruising on the turquoise waters of the river. The cityscape includes historic buildings and a riverside promenade under a clear blue sky.

With six hours to kill, hit the Swiss National Museum, located just next to the main train station. It's housed in a grand castle-like building and has everything, from ancient artefacts that tell the story of Switzerland's origins, to objects that give insights into Swiss life through the ages.

Post-museum, take a quick detour through Platzspitz Park, right behind the museum. It's a perfect spot to stretch your legs and enjoy some fresh air before heading back to the airport.

7 hours layover in Zurich

With seven hours at your disposal, head straight to Zurich's Old Town (Altstadt), the prettiest part of the city. Weave through its cobblestone streets and mediaeval alleys, check out the Grossmünster and Fraumünster churches, and listen to the chimes of the largest clock face in Europe at St. Peter’s Church.

After the churches, make your way to Lindenhof, a hilltop area that offers knockout views of the city and river you won’t be able to resist snapping a tonne of photos of! Cap off your layover with a meal at a traditional Swiss restaurant in the Old Town, where you can try Zurich specialities like zürcher geschnetzeltes (a veal and cream stew).

8 hours layover in Zurich

Wide-angle interior shot of Zurich's main train station, highlighting its grandiose architecture with high arched ceilings, classical columns, and expansive hallways. Zurich Hauptbahnhof is where you’ll start your layover in Zurich.‍

Eight hours is the perfect amount of time to take a quick trip to Uetliberg Mountain. So, leave your bags at the Zurich International Airport Luggage storage, head into the city, and catch a 20-minute train from Zurich Hauptbahnhof to Uetliberg station.

From here, head straight to the trails leading to the summit. It’s an easy walk, taking about 10-15 minutes, and you’ll be rewarded with killer views of the city and Lake Zurich. Snap some pics, take it all in, then head back down. Back in the city centre, find a cosy cafe to sample some Swiss chocolate or Rösti, and then return to the airport with time to spare.

10 hours layover in Zurich

Historical buildings along a river in Zurich, with colourful facades and flags. The architecture includes white, pastel blue, and beige tones. This is one of the best areas to explore on a Zurich layover.

With a solid 10 hours, you’ve got time to sample Zurich’s famous art and its old-town charm. Start with a few hours at Kunsthaus Zurich, the largest art museum in Switzerland that shows off masterpieces by the likes of Munch, Van Gogh, and Swiss icon Giacometti.

After some gallery time, head over to Zurich Old Town. Wander around, check out landmarks like the Grossmünster and St. Peter's Church with its massive clock face, and grab some lunch - maybe some Rösti or a quick fondue.

In the afternoon, consider a quick visit to the Swiss National Museum, just a short walk from the central station, or head up to Lindenhof for wonderful views of the city. Wrap up your day with dinner by the Limmat River before catching the train to the airport. Done!

12 hours layover in Zurich 

There are loads of things to do on a 1 day itinerary in Zurich and, with a full twelve hours on your hands, you’ve got plenty of time to see the city’s highlights. Start in the city centre, climbing the Grossmünster for stunning views and visiting the lion-guarded City Hall.

Next, it’s up to you: if you’re a football fanatic, you won’t want to miss the FIFA World Football Museum. If football isn’t your thing, head over to the trendy streets of Zurich West to check out its cool industrial vibe and take a wander.

In the afternoon, delve into the history of Switzerland at the Swiss National Museum, or, if you fancy checking out some of Zurich’s art scene, Kunsthaus Zurich is an unmissable stop. Round off your day in the Old Town, the city’s prettiest area, to dine on traditional Swiss foods like raclette or Rösti in a cosy local restaurant. Enjoy your onward flight!

Overnight layover in Zurich

A panoramic view of Zurich at dusk, as seen on an overnight Zurich layover, featuring prominent buildings such as a church with a green spire and a large dome-shaped structure in the background. The city is lit with a soft glow against a dimming sky.

After checking into your central hotel or affordable hostel (we recommend staying close to Zurich Hauptbahnhof for the best convenience), head up to Lindenhof to catch the sunset. It’s one of the most gorgeous spots in the city, and this is the prettiest time of day.

Since you’re lucky enough to have an overnight layover, you certainly shouldn’t miss out on exploring the nightlife of the uber-cool Zurich West. Indulge in a rooftop cocktail or two - after all, you only have one night in Zurich, so you may as well make the most of it.

In the morning enjoy a scenic breakfast at a cafe by Lake Zurich, taking a post-coffee wander around the water before, if you have time, heading over to the Swiss National Museum or Kunsthaus Zurich. Quickly have a peep around Zurich’s ever-so-lovely Old Town before heading back to the train station to return to the airport. And that’s it - 24 hours in Zurich complete!

Best Zurich Layover Tours You Can Book 

Don't want the hassle of planning your Zurich layover by yourself? We get it! Opting for a layover tour is the best way to make your stopover stress-free.

Here are our top picks:

This totally customisable layover tour is a Zurich choose-your-own-adventure, so, depending on how long you have, you could take the ferry across Lake Zurich, savour a Swiss hot chocolate, check out the city’s top landmarks, and return to the airport with plenty of time for your next flight.

You’ll need at least 8.5 hours for your Zurich layover to tackle this 5.5-hour city tour - and that’s because it departs from the city centre, rather than the airport, but it’s well worth it. On this whirlwind adventure, you’ll marvel at the city’s iconic landmarks by bus, take a short sightseeing cruise on Lake Zürich, and visit the Lindt Home of Chocolate. Cool!

If you’re short on time but want to explore the city from a local’s perspective, joining this 2-hour Zurich walking tour is a great idea. You’ll uncover over 2,000 years of history through a locals’ eyes as you check out the hidden gems and top attractions of the city centre.

Cheap Things to Do in Zurich

A Swiss flag fluttering against a clear blue sky with soft white clouds.

While we all know that Zurich isn’t one of the cheapest places in Europe, but that doesn't mean you can't find affordable activities to enjoy. Here are our favourite budget-friendly things to do in Zurich:

The Zurich Botanical Garden, which is home to over 15,000 species of plants and trees from around the world, is totally free to enter, and a relaxing place to hang out between your flights if the weather is on your side.

Hiking up the Uetliberg Mountain is one of the best things to do in Zurich on a budget. All you’ll need to pay for is the train to get there. From the top, you’ll get jaw-dropping views over the city and Lake Zurich that look like they were snatched straight from a postcard.

The best way to learn more about a city is with a local guide, and Zurich is no exception. However, since you’re on a layover, you’ll want to keep things flexible, and on your own schedule. That’s where this local audio tour comes in! You can follow it at your own pace to learn more about the city’s highlights on your layover.

FAQs about layovers in Zurich

Can you leave the airport in Zurich during a layover?

Yes, if your layover in Zurich is long enough, you can leave the airport to explore the city. Zurich Airport is well connected to the city centre, making it feasible for layovers of 4 hours or more. However, you'll need to go through customs and immigration, which could take longer than expected.

How do I get from Zurich Airport to City Centre?

Getting from Zurich Airport to the city centre is quick and easy. The most efficient way is by train; trains run every 5 to 10 minutes from the airport's own railway station located below the airport. The journey to Zurich Hauptbahnhof (the city’s main train station) takes about 10 minutes.

Do I need a Visa for a layover in Zurich?

Whether you need a visa for a layover in Zurich depends on your nationality. Citizens of the EU, EEA, US, Canada, and many other countries can enter Switzerland without a visa for short stays of up to 90 days within a 180-day period. However, if you are from a different country, you may need a visa for Zurich.

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