Jam-packed with history, culture, and natural beauty, Zurich is a popular European city to visit and perfect for the solo traveler. Set along its shimmering eponymous lake and with the Swiss Alps in the distance, Switzerland’s largest city has everything for travelers from the Alstadt (Old Town) and intriguing museums to modern shopping streets and a fun foodie and nightlife scene.
Zurich is one of the safest larger cities in the world. Just be aware of the occasional pickpocket. Keep an eye on your purse and bags especially in the Red Light District, Langstrasse, at the lakefront after dark, and at the main train station. Make it easier with a great travel pack for your Europe trip, one that fits close to your body.
Speaking of trains, Zurich (and all of Switzerland for that matter,) has a fast and efficient train system eliminating the hassle and danger of taxis that other cities face. The train makes it convenient to visit other destinations in this little country. For example, Geneva is another solo-friendly city in Switzerland and the train can whiz you between the two cities in less than three hours.
But before leaving Zurich, take the time to see and do the following 10 things for solo travelers.
1. Hike to the Top of the Uetilberg
To best experience the city’s beauty, a hike to the top of Uetilberg, is a must-do. Sitting at 2,850 feet above sea level, Uetilberg is easy to reach via train or with a trek out of the city from the tram or train station. Two well-maintained and marked paths lead to the top of Zurich’s home mountain. They’re even well-lit for night hiking.
The Laternenpfad is a moderately easy trek. It’s a fairly steep path that goes through the woodland and right onto the outlook. The Denzlerweg is a bit more challenging with several stairs and a ladder-and-chain structure that gets you to the final rock.
Don’t care to hike? You can also get off the train at Ringlikon for a gentle climb to the lookout that will only take about 40 minutes.
2. Spend Some Time Museum-Hopping
Zurich has a plethora of fascinating museums to explore, a top activity for the solo traveler. The Landesmuseum, also called the Swiss National Museum, is a good place to start. It features some of Switzerland’s most important art collections, displays from the prehistoric era, paintings, sculptures, and artifacts.
Art aficionados shouldn’t miss the fabulous Kunsthaus Zurich with its famous works and significant collections from the 20th and 21st centuries. You’ll see works from famous Swiss artists such as Alberto Giacometti as well as pieces by the likes of Picasso and Monet.
Since Switzerland is famous for its watchmaking, pay a visit to the Beyer Clock and Watch Museum. This private museum is small but packed with fascinating collections that tell the history of timekeeping and clock and watchmaking. Artifacts date back to the 15th century B.C. Located inside the Beyer and Patek Phillippe watch boutique, the museum also features over 300 rare timepieces.
3. Go Window Shopping Along Bahnhofstrasse
Leaving the Clock and Watch Museum, you’ll find yourself on some of the world’s most expensive real estate— Zurich’s Bahnhofstrasse. It’s fascinating to stroll along this street with its tall buildings and beautiful window displays. It’s one of the most exclusive shopping avenues in the world with shops featuring high-end brands and the latest luxury fashions.
Of course, if you plan to actually shop here, you’ll need plenty of cash. But it’s free to window shop and is one of Zurich’s iconic places. The street also leads to Lake Zurich, so you can relax and enjoy the scenery around the lake.
4. Explore Zurich’s Old Town
Zurich’s Old Town is a model for the one in every city in Switzerland. Lined with charming ancient streets, the Old Town is surrounded by stunning architecture and historic buildings and churches.
Here you’ll find the Grossmunster, the city’s most famous landmark. The ancient church was the founding point of the Swiss-German Reformation. Its adjoining college of theology gave rise to what is now the University of Zurich. Some of the highlights of this magnificent structure are its stained glass windows, Romanesque crypt, choir windows, bronze doors, and the cloister Reformation Museum.
Other churches to admire in the Old Town are St. Peter Church, the city’s oldest parish church,
and the Fraumunster founded in 853 by King Louis the German.
The Old Town is more than churches. Solo travelers can safely shop during the day and visit the bars at night on Niederdorf, a pedestrian zone where you can experience Zurich’s gastronomy, have a coffee, browse the shops, or simply people-watch.
5. Experience Zurich’s Nightlife
Solo travelers can safely enjoy an exciting night at some of Switzerland’s hottest nightclubs from intimate settings to huge venues that stay open past dawn. Even females traveling alone will feel safe when using a little common sense. Late at night, the crowds may get rowdy, so if you want to hit the larger, more popular clubs, it’s best to go with some new friends you’ve made.
If you want a quieter, more intimate night, have cocktails at one of the rooftop bars along Lake Zurich or chill out at one of the outdoor pools that transform into nightspots during the evening. You’ll have great views of the lake and all the places have yummy food and cocktails.
6. Visit the Zurich Markets
From fresh produce to flea markets, the Zurich markets are plentiful and packed with an assortment of goods to shop for. It’s fun for solo travelers to browse, watch the locals, and have a coffee.
Head to the Produce Market Oerlikon on Wednesday mornings for fresh fruits and veggies, and then stop for a delicious lunch at Marktplatz Square where you can also admire the fountains and statues. On most Wednesdays, you can buy organic produce at the farmer’s market, Bahnofmarkt. And Rosenhofmarkt in the Niederdorf area operates on Thursdays and Fridays. You can shop for handcrafted jewelry and other trinkets along with various unique cuisine at this bohemian-style market
If you visit Zurich in December, you can’t miss the colorful Christmas Markets.
7. Take a Cruise on the Limmat River
The lovely Limmat River flows through Zurich’s Old Town dividing the city in half with the Rathaus to the east and the Lindenhof to the west. A great way to enjoy the scenery up and down the river is with a slow boat trip. You’ll pass by many of the city’s top sights and landmarks including the Grossmunster church, and Lindenhof, the site of an ancient Roman castle.
These cruises leave from the Old Town and are available in several varieties and lengths. Some of them include dinner. If you want to take a long, round-trip cruise, you can deboard in one of the towns it passes by, and then take the train back to Zurich.
These cruises give the solo traveler an excellent opportunity to meet and mingle with other tourists.
8. Enjoy Zurich’s Thermal Baths
Get refreshed and rejuvenated with a Zurich thermal bath, a typical Swiss thing to do. These outdoor thermal baths can be found on rooftops with amazing views. Others are underneath store vaults or old breweries and are centuries old.
The bubbly water comes straight from Zurich’s Aqui Source, contains valuable minerals, and is 35 to 41 degrees warm (95 to 105 F.) The outdoor baths are especially inviting in the colder months.
9. Sample Swiss Cheese and Swiss Chocolate
Switzerland is world-famous for its cheese and chocolate, and no traveler should leave Switzerland without a hefty sample of both. Gather with other guests around a hot pot of cheesy fondue at one of the Old Town’s charming restaurants. Some of the Limmat River cruises also serve fondue. This is a must-do on every solo traveler’s itinerary, especially when visiting in the cold winter months.
Swiss chocolate isn’t just divine; it’s a big part of the country’s culture and history. Enjoy some samples and learn about chocolate’s history at places like Sprungli Boutiques and Laderach Chocolatier.
You’ll also find a variety of chocolate tours that are perfect for the solo traveler from walking tours to lake cruises.
10. Explore Zurich’s Secret Doors
Zurich’s Secret Doors is an excellent way for the solo traveler to join a more intimate group and experience the city’s most unique activity. It involves a few hidden doorways located around the city and waiting to be discovered. These doors lead to fascinating places such as a royal palace from the middle ages, ancient secret tunnels, a Roman fort, and the remnants of a 13th-century city wall with the city’s first water pipes.
The secret doors have existed for years and are unknown even to many locals. Zurich’s Secret Doors tour is an exclusive urban experience. It’s a private tour and requires booking at least seven days in advance. You can cancel 24 hours in advance and receive a full refund.
Guest Post Written By:
Anna was born to travel the world, having studied languages all her life. Although she has traveled the world, she now calls Switzerland home and spends her time writing about her experiences on Expert World Travel. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.