Not only is Zurich the entry point for most people visiting Switzerland by plane, it’s also very well connected to the Swiss public transport system. You can reach every corner of the country by train within a maximum of 2-3 hours. With most major cities like Bern, Basel, St. Gallen, Lucerne or Chur even being only an hour away.
This makes Zurich incredibly attractive for everyone visiting Switzerland. On one hand, it’s the perfect location to spend a day or two to explore the city and its sights. But it also offers plenty of options if you’re looking to go on some day trips from Zurich to one of its many surrounding locations.
With a huge abundance of destinations and day trips to choose from, it’s not always easy to make a decision or to pick the right one. In this article, we’re going to help you get an overview of your options, which should take you one step closer to making that decision.
Which places can you visit on a day trip from Zurich?
If you’re staying in Zurich and plan to leave the city for a day to explore some other parts of Switzerland, you’ve got so many options to choose from. It all depends on what you’re interested in.
You can visit the Alps, explore a different city, go for a hike, cruise across a lake, visit a waterfall or even go on a scenic train ride. With Switzerland being quite small and having a fantastic public transport system, you can visit almost every corner in a day trip from Zurich.
If you’re planning on heading out by yourself, we recommend picking a place that can be reached within an hour from Zurich. This will give you enough time to spend at the destination of your choosing without having to spend too many hours on the train.
However, there are also several awesome guided day trips from Zurich that take you beyond this one-hour mark. These fully organised bus tours bring you to places that would be more stressful or sometimes even impossible to visit by yourself. But we’ll get to those later.
Cities to visit on a day trip from Zurich by train
In this part, we’re going to focus on destinations that can be reached within an hour or even less by public transport. This way, you can jump on a train in the morning and explore the city all day long without having to rush back. Or even connect a city visit with a trip on a lake or a short hike?
Nestled amidst the breathtaking backdrop of snow-capped mountains on Lake Lucerne, this city captivates with its preserved mediaeval architecture. Its most recognized symbol is the Chapel Bridge, a charming wooden bridge initially built in the 14th century. Visitors shouldn’t miss out on checking out the Swiss Museum of Transport or the iconic Lion Monument. Finally, Lucerne has a vibrant nightlife and music scene, including the world-famous Lucerne Carnival, make it a memorable destination.
Bern, Switzerland's capital city, takes you on a journey through time with its well-preserved mediaeval cityscape, recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Wander through the enchanting old town, visit the iconic Bear Park - a symbol of the city, and take a peek inside the Federal Palace. Art lovers will enjoy the Zentrum Paul Klee, showcasing works of the Swiss painter Paul Klee. From strolling alongside the Aare river, exploring the local food markets, to shopping at charming boutiques, Bern offers an enticing day trip from Zurich. Oh, and don’t forget to take a walk up to Rosengarten for some amazing views over the city.
Chur, the oldest town in Switzerland, blends the charm of the old with the pulse of the modern. Its historic Old Town is a car-free zone that hosts a myriad of cafes, boutiques, and noteworthy museums like the Art Museum and the Rhaetian Railway. The latter provides a gateway to the Alpine landscapes with the iconic Bernina Express and Glacier Express journeys starting here. Nearby hiking trails, wine tours, and winter sports facilities make Chur an adventure-filled destination.
St. Gallen, located in the eastern part of Switzerland and only an hour away from Zurich, is a city steeped in history and cultural richness. It’s the proud home of the magnificent Abbey of St. Gall, a UNESCO World Heritage site, whose library treasures some of the world's most ancient manuscripts. The city elegantly marries the old with the new, demonstrated in its flourishing arts scene and a textile industry that has thrived here for centuries. You can meander through its vibrant city centre, admiring the unique bay windows that characterise its architecture and stopping for a rest in the city's cosy cafes.
Art and architecture lovers will be enchanted by Basel. Home to the Tinguely Fountain, the Kunstmuseum, Fondation Beyeler, and nearly 40 other museums, the city is a cultural treasure chest. Situated on the Rhine, Basel's beautiful old town, vibrant carnival, and proximity to France and Germany make it an intriguing visit. The Dreiländereck in Basel is a unique geographical spot where the borders of Switzerland, France, and Germany converge. This symbolic tripoint offers a delightful riverside location where visitors can enjoy a stroll or a meal, while physically standing at the meeting point of three distinct European cultures.
Often referred to as Switzerland's most beautiful Baroque city, Solothurn delights with its richly decorated buildings, delightful cafes, and the impressive St. Ursus Cathedral. The city's location on the banks of the Aare river and at the foot of the Jura mountains provides numerous outdoor activities. Don't miss the chance to learn about Solothurn's unique obsession with the number 11.
Famous for the Rhine Falls, Europe's largest waterfall, Schaffhausen is more than a natural wonder. The mediaeval Munot Fortress, the charming old town with its oriel windows, and the nearby Stein am Rhein with its well-preserved mediaeval buildings add to the city's allure. Vineyards in the region offer wine-tasting tours that provide a wonderful complement to the visit. By the way, Schaffhausen is the city where you can find the most bay windows in Switzerland. With 171 bay windows, it is followed by St. Gallen with 111.
Known for its gardens and over 17 museums including the Swiss Science Center Technorama and the Fotomuseum, Winterthur is a city for explorers of all ages. The charming old town, the largest pedestrian zone in Switzerland, offers countless shopping opportunities. Nearby forests and vineyards invite for beautiful walks and wine tasting.
Zug might be a small city, but it's rich in character. It offers picturesque landscapes with its lakeside location and views of Mount Rigi. The old town is home to Zug Castle and numerous well-preserved buildings. Zug is also known for its cherries, making the Cherry Trail a must-do for visitors.
Known as the "city of roses", Rapperswil sits on the east side of Lake Zurich. Its key highlights include the Rapperswil Castle, the rose gardens, and a charming old town with its unique Polish Museum. For animal lovers, the Kinderzoo and the deer park on the Lindenhof offer delightful experiences.
The charming town of Aarau is known for its beautifully painted eaves, the vibrant old town, and the Aargau Kunsthaus showcasing Swiss art. The town offers various outdoor activities in the nearby Jura mountains and the Aare river. Its location, midway between Zurich and Bern, makes it a great stop to relax and take in the Swiss atmosphere.
Mountain peaks to visit on a day trip from Zurich by train
Of course, you can also visit the Alps and spend a day in the mountains if you’re thinking about leaving Zurich for a day. Here are a few of our best suggestions that you can easily do in a day trip from Zurich by train and mountain railway.
Rigi is an easily accessible mountain from Zurich and presents a quintessential Swiss experience. The mountain stands tall between Lake Lucerne, Lake Zug and Lake Lauerz and offers a broad range of activities including wellness, gastronomy and outdoor sports. A unique experience is the cogwheel railway trip from Vitznau, which is Europe's first mountain railway, established in 1871. Once at the summit, the Rigi Kulm, you can enjoy panoramic views over the Swiss plateau towards the Black Forest and lots of surrounding lakes.
Visiting Stanserhorn is an unforgettable experience. With its open-air cable car, the Stanserhorn Cabrio, you reach the mountain peak and are greeted by an impressive view of the surrounding landscapes. Stanserhorn Cabrio is the world's first double-deck open-top cable car, allowing you to experience the stunning views in a truly immersive way. Aside from the cable car ride, the Stanserhorn also offers opportunities for hiking, bird watching and dining at the Rondorama revolving restaurant. Additionally, the marmot park near the summit makes for a fun family experience.
Mount Pilatus offers an exceptional experience right from the journey to the peak, which can be via a steep cogwheel railway, the world's steepest, or a breathtaking gondola ride from Kriens. Once at the summit, the 360-degree views overlooking Lake Lucerne and the Swiss Alps are truly spectacular. Moreover, Mount Pilatus is rich in legends and folklore with stories of dragons and ghosts adding an exciting aura to the place. Summer or winter, Pilatus offers a variety of activities including hiking, mountain climbing, tobogganing and even concerts.
Zugerberg is the local mountain of Zug and offers stunning views over Lake Zug and the surrounding Alps. Just a short distance from Zurich, it's a great location for families due to its numerous trails, adventure playgrounds and picnic spots. The Zugerbergbahn funicular, with its panorama cabins, can take you up to the mountain in less than ten minutes. Also, the mountain is home to various plants and animals, making it a natural paradise for flora and fauna enthusiasts.
Mount Titlis is a unique experience for anyone visiting Switzerland. Located in Central Switzerland, it's the only place in the region where you can enjoy snow and ice all year round, thanks to its glacier park at over 3000 metres above sea level. The highlight is the Titlis Rotair, the world's first revolving gondola, which offers panoramic views of the snowy peaks, deep crevasses, and pristine white glaciers. For adventure seekers, there's the Titlis Cliff Walk, Europe's highest suspension bridge.
Bürgenstock, perched above Lake Lucerne in Switzerland, is an exquisite mountain that provides a unique blend of natural beauty and luxury experiences. This mountain peak is renowned for its world-class Bürgenstock Resort, which offers exceptional views, wellness facilities, and gourmet dining options. For nature lovers, the Bürgenstock Felsenweg and the Hammetschwand Lift, Europe's highest outdoor elevator, provide breathtaking views of the Swiss Alps and the surrounding lake.
Flumserberg is a beautiful destination throughout the year. As the largest winter sports region in Eastern Switzerland, it offers a wide range of slopes for skiing and snowboarding. In summer, it transforms into a hiking and biking paradise, with well-marked trails and routes suitable for all levels. The 8-seater gondola Prodalp-Express can take visitors up to the mountain offering stunning views of the Churfirsten mountain range and the Walensee. Moreover, its proximity to Zurich makes it an ideal day trip for both relaxation and adventure.
Lakes and waterfalls to visit on a day trip from Zurich
If you’re looking for a lake or a waterfall to spend a day, you’ve got some beautiful options as well.
The Rhine Falls, which are located next to Schaffhausen, are Europe's largest waterfall and a thrilling spectacle of nature. Its thunderous roar and misty sprays can be best experienced from the various viewing platforms or a boat ride that takes you close to the roaring waters. Not only is the falls itself a sight to behold, but the surrounding scenic landscapes make it a perfect day trip from Zurich. And they can easily be combined with a visit to the beautiful town of Schaffhausen.
Nestled amidst the Swiss Alps, Lake Lucerne offers breathtaking panoramas that reflect in its shimmering waters. The city of Lucerne, with its historic Old Town, iconic Chapel Bridge, and Swiss Museum of Transport, serves as an excellent base to explore the lake. Take a leisurely boat ride or enjoy the many hiking trails around the lake, offering majestic views of the surrounding mountains. If you buy a day pass for Lake Lucerne, you can jump on any boat you like and explore the area.
Since you’re already in Zurich, you might as well spend a day on and by its very own lake, right? You can spend a day exploring the lake on one of the many cruise boats or simply relax at the lively lake promenade, known for its cafés, restaurants, and vibrant art scene. The lake also offers several recreational activities like swimming, sailing, and stand-up paddleboarding in the summer. Moreover, several parks and gardens along the shore provide excellent picnic spots, allowing visitors to unwind amidst nature, right in the city's heart. Our favourite town to visit in combination with a boat ride on Lake Zurich is Rapperswil.
A hidden gem in the heart of Switzerland, Lake Zug is renowned for its tranquil beauty. The old town of Zug, with its quaint narrow streets and historical buildings, is a charming place to explore. With cycling routes, water sports, and fishing opportunities, Lake Zug offers a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.
River Rhine from Schaffhausen to Stein am Rhein
Sailing down the River Rhine from Schaffhausen to Stein am Rhein offers a glimpse into the Swiss countryside's charming beauty. The journey takes you past vineyards, mediaeval towns, and charming Swiss villages. Stein am Rhein, known for its well-preserved mediaeval architecture, is a picture-perfect ending to a serene river journey. By the way, this boat journey is supposed to be one of the most beautiful in Switzerland.
Walensee is a jewel in the Swiss landscape, flanked by steep cliffs and verdant meadows. It's an outdoor enthusiast's paradise, with hiking trails leading to stunning viewpoints and crystal clear waters for swimming and boating. The picturesque villages of Weesen and Walenstadt on its shores are worth exploring for their Swiss charm.
Guided day trips from Zurich
Now, if you’re looking for a guided tour where you can sit back, relax and enjoy the view without looking for your train, there’s a handful of trips available to you. One of the big upsides of joining a guided day trip from Zurich is that you can see places that would be difficult to pack in your own one-day itinerary.
Like for instance the trip to Jungfraujoch or the Appenzell region. While you can visit most places in Switzerland by public transport, if you only have a day, it’s sometimes easier to just jump on a bus and let your guide take you to incredible places. Here’s a list of all the guided day trips from Zurich that you can book on Swiss Activities.
Guided day trips from Zurich into the Alps
- Day trip from Zurich to Jungfraujoch
- Day trip from Zurich to Lucerne and Bürgenstock
- Day trip from Zurich to Lucerne and Pilatus
- Day trip from Zurich to Lucerne and Mount Titlis
- Day trip from Zurich to Stanserhorn
- Day trip from Zurich to Rigi
- Day trip from Zurich to Grindelwald and Interlaken
- Adventure day trip from Zurich to Grindelwald First
- Day trip from Zurich to Lucerne and Engelberg
Guided day trips from Zurich in winter
- Snow day trip from Zurich to Lucerne and Mount Titlis
- Snow day trip from Zurich to Grindelwald for beginners
City and culinary day trips from Zurich
- Day trip from Zurich to Lucerne (including a boat ride on Lake Lucerne)
- Day trip from Zurich to the Rhine Falls
- Day trip from Zurich to Bern and Kambly biscuit factory
- Culinary day trip from Zurich to Appenzell
- Day trip from Zurich to Lucerne
- Day trip around Zurich including Lindt Home of Chocolate
- Half-day trip from Zurich to Stein am Rhein and the Rhine Falls
As you can see, you have a wide selection of day trips from Zurich to choose from. We hope you found some inspiration and now have a few ideas on how you could plan your trip.