Visit two countries in just 48 hours with this 2 days in Zurich itinerary to see the best of Switzerland’s largest city and Vaduz, Liechtenstein in the winter.
Want to experience the magic of two wonderful European countries in just forty-eight hours? Two days in Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city, combined with an easy day trip to tiny Liechtenstein, blends history, culinary delights, spectacular vistas, unique shopping, and top-notch museums into one short visit.
The best news is, you can follow this 2 day Zurich itinerary at any time of year! While many people visit this region in warmer weather, we adore visiting Europe during the festive winter season. On our December trip, we delighted in wandering through spectacular Christmas Markets, seeing cities decked out in twinkling lights, and enjoying the best cold-weather treats, cheesy fondue, and mulled wine!
If you are planning a trip to Zurich in the winter, follow this easy 2-day Zurich itinerary to plan your trip including things to do, where to stay, and tips for visiting.
2 Days in Zurich Itinerary
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DAY 1 in ZURICH
Shopping the Bahnhofstrasse
Whether your gang enjoys retail therapy, window shopping, cafe hopping, or chocolate sampling, start your first day in Zurich by strolling the world-famous Bahnhofstrasse, Zurich’s grand shopping boulevard. This .87-mile stretch, formerly a moat, has it all—high fashion, watch shops, department stores, chocolatiers, boutiques, local art, regional culinary specialties, and lots of action.
Explore the Old City
After the Bahnhofstrasse, take a step back in time in the city’s historic City Center. As you stroll the streets, you’ll discover quaint squares, guild houses, and even fountains spouting fresh glacier water.
Enjoy passing the pastel-colored buildings as you stroll along Rennweg, a medieval main shopping street that now offers a pedestrian zone lined with high-end stores. While walking along Augustinergasse, known as one of the most charming streets in Zurich, look up at the striking bay windows and peruse the local shops.
Two of Zurich’s most famous landmarks are the Grossmünster Church, which lies atop the city’s patron saints, and Fraumünster Church, adorned with Chagall Stained glass windows. A stand-out on the skyline is Zurich’s oldest parish church, St. Peter, which boasts Europe’s largest church clock face.
Be sure to climb up the hill to the Lindenhof Overlook for a peaceful and breathtaking view over the Limmat River. Check out the area locals call “Dörfli,” the popular Niederdorf promenade in Old Town, to take in more of Zurich’s shops and restaurants.
When it is time for lunch, dine at one of the two Neni locations for tasty falafel, hummus, and other Mediterranean dishes. Other convenient options include grabbing a table at Confiserie Sprüngli at the Paradeplatz, a restaurant/cafe known for its local sweets such as macarons, praline chocolates, truffles, and Swiss chocolate bars, or other cafes in Old City.
Pop into Black Tap Craft Burgers and Beers right off the main street, popular in the US for its mega-milkshakes and burgers.
In the afternoon, there are many great attractions to visit, depending on your interests and traveling companions.
Into cool Instagram pics or optical illusions? Kids of all ages (and parents, too) will enjoy the entertaining hands-on WOW Museum, Room for Illusions. Laugh and learn how the surprising illusions work. The cameras in each room send the photos directly to your phone.
Soccer or fútbol fans? The FIFA Museum will keep you busy for hours. Its exhibits include a collection of 211 colorful uniforms from around the world, a timeline of the game’s history, priceless mementos from teams worldwide, famous trophies, and much more.
Our family especially enjoyed the interactive exhibits that tested our kicking and dribbling skills. Make your way to the World Cup Gallery to relive all the great World Cup and the Women’s World Cup experiences of the past.
Art lovers? Wander around the Kunsthaus Zürich, Switzerland’s mega-art museum, with a diverse collection featuring works spanning the Old Masters to Expressionists to the largest Munch painting collection outside of Norway.
Want to see the hip side of town? Check out vibrant Zürich-West (we ran out of time, so this is on our list for our next visit!), a formerly industrial area transformed into a burgeoning cultural hub of trendy shops, restaurants, and bars.
No wintertime trip to Switzerland is complete without a fabulous fondue feast. Our fondue experience at “Helvti-Chäschtli,” located in our hotel Hotel Restaurant Bar Helvetia, titillated all of our senses. We loved the luxurious feel of dining on cozy faux fur chairs surrounded by colorful modern art, listening to relaxing background music, gazing out at a riverside view, and savoring a delicious multi-course meal.
Our whole family enjoyed dipping a variety of tasty treats into this year’s vintage fondue cheese house blend, created through a collaboration between the restaurant’s wine partner Martel and Maître Fromager, Rolf Beeler. Menu highlights include Hokkaido Pumpkin frothy “Cappuccino” style soup, a mustard-champagne dressed bacon salad, and other gourmet treats, including roasted potatoes, wiener schnitzel, and vegetables. We ended our dining experience with homemade tangy yuzu sorbet topped with amaretto. This pop-up also offers various alcoholic wines and spirits to complement each course.
Get in the Holiday Spirit
Zurich knows how to do Christmas! Everywhere you look, you’ll stumble upon a bustling market, even in the center of the Zurich Train Station. We enjoyed the Christmas Market in the heart of one of the grandest squares in Switzerland, the Sechseläutenplatz, which opens up to the opulent Opera House.
All year round you’ll find people sitting at cafes enjoying the waterfront views. We enjoyed checking out the Christmas markets at night while sipping hot drinks. Another “must do” at night is to stroll the suddenly quiet Bahnhofstrasse under the romantic twinkling lights.
Day 2 Liechtenstein & Zurich
We jumped at the opportunity to visit Vaduz, the capital of the petite Principality of Liechtenstein, located about 90 minutes from our hotel by public transportation. German-speaking Vaduz, with a population of just 38,300, sits doubly landlocked between Austria and Switzerland.
Situated in the Rhine Valley, Liechtenstein is known for its extreme wealth, compact city, and Alpine scenery. It’s also an easy bus ride from Vaduz to Liechtenstein’s most famous ski resort village, Malbun. In Malbun, you’ll find lodges, restaurants, snow sports in the winter, and hiking options in the summer.
TIP: Rent a car to save time and more easily explore the natural scenery in Liechtenstein outside of Vaduz.
It’s super easy to visit Vaduz if you follow the directions on the tourism office’s website. Catch an early train to Sargas, Switzerland. From there, hop on one of the buses right outside the train station headed for Vaduz.
Once in Vaduz, start at the centrally-located Tourism Office, where you will find souvenirs, chat with helpful staff, and receive an official stamp on your passport. Depending on your time and interests, you can fill your day in many ways.
Into museums? Check out Vaduz’s “Museum Mile.” Dive into this country’s unique history at the Liechtenstein National Museum.
Check out the Fabergé Egg and other baubles in the Liechtenstein Treasure Chamber and the extensive collection of stamps and displays about the postal service at the PostalMuseum. The strikingly designed Kunstmuseum with modern and contemporary art also houses the Hilti Art Foundation’s classical collection.
Nestled In the Rhine Valley, wander the romantic vineyards at the Prince of Liechtenstein’s Winery and sample royal wines, some of which were created by the H.S.H. Princess Marie herself, who is a trained sommelière.
It’s hard to miss the Prince of Liechtenstein’s home, a 700-year-old castle with its tower and turrets, nestled in the hilltops, sitting way above the capital city. A highlight for us was taking a 20-30 minute brisk, winding walk up a steep marked path to see the exterior of the Schloss Vaduz (Vaduz Castle); no tourists are allowed inside.
Round out your stay gambling in the quaint casino (age 18 and older admission), ducking into stores in the shopping center, and eating lunch at one of the many restaurants or cafes. Depending on the time of year, you’ll find festivals, including the Christmas Market with locals ice skating and celebrating the season. After a delightful day sampling a new country, we hopped a bus back to Sargans and then a train back to Zurich, arriving just in time for sunset.
TIP: For cost savings, consider buying the Adventure Pass from the country’s official tourism office. The Adventure Pass offers free or discounted admission to sights and attractions throughout Liechtenstein and free transport on the LIEMobil bus network, providing an easy way to travel from the train station to Vaduz and around the capital as well as the countryside.
Historic Dinner in Zurich
Time your return back to Zurich to soak in the beautiful sunset over the Limmat River and kick off a night you won’t forget.
Dinner at the famed Hiltl Haus lived up to all the hype! Listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest continually operating vegetarian restaurant, dating from 1888, and with oodles of outstanding reviews praising its belief in “healthy indulgence,” we could not wait to sample its extensive menu.
You have two options at Hiltl Haus, a scrumptious buffet featuring dishes from around the world (pay by weight) or an elegant multi-story full-service restaurant complimented by exceptional service. Our highlights included the Hiltl Starters Platter overflowing with hot and cold treats, flavorful Greek-inspired Tagliatelle alla Mediterranea, a hearty Hiltl vegetarian Cheeseburger (we opted to order it with real cheese), and the zesty Indian Palak Paneer.
The homemade juices and wide range of dessert options were also a hit with our table. Hiltl Haus also offers a variety of family-friendly cooking classes and invites guests to dance and enjoy craft cocktails after dark.
TIP: This restaurant has several Zurich locations so that you can select the best option for you. The Hiltl Haus is their flagship location.
A treat for all ages! End your wintertime trip with a visit to the Illuminaraium, set up seasonally at nightfall in the Swiss National Museum’s courtyard. There’s no entrance fee. Immerse yourself in a winter wonderland full of colorful lights, music, and concession stands offering food and beverages. For a fee, watch one of two light shows projected on the museum’s walls surrounding you with beautiful sounds and lights.
Where to Stay in Zurich
Just a short walk from the train station, a quick ride from the airport, and nearby the town center is the 34-room Boutique Hotel Helvetia. The cool vibe of this classic art nouveau-decorated boutique hotel blends modern room design with a historically charming building on the riverside.
With a welcoming hotel staff, this boutique is the perfect base for exploring Zurich. The hotel also offers some great features to enhance your stay including free passes to a nearby fitness club, a pub-like restaurant and bar, a modest European breakfast for hotel guests to start the day, and the wintertime fondue pop-up described earlier in this article.
Find more places to stay in Zurich:
How to Get Around Zurich
Zurich is a supremely walkable city. Like most Swiss cities, Zurich has excellent public transportation. We took a few taxis and found the prices to be reasonable.
In this pricey country, there are some things you can do to make your visit budget-friendly. Consider purchasing a public transportation pass or Zürich Card, which includes free travel on Zurich’s public transportation, free/reduced museum admissions, and other discounts in stores and restaurants.
In just forty-eight hours, your family can sample the highlights of Switzerland’s largest city Zurich and Liechtenstein’s compact capital, Vaduz. We loved our wintertime escape to this region that knows how to celebrate the Christmas season.
If you have more time in Switzerland, consider adding in a day trip to Mt. Titlis or 2 days in Lucerne.
DISCLAIMER: Lisa was provided with meals and some complimentary attraction passes so that she could experience them and review it for your information. All opinions are her own.
About the Author
This guest post was written by Lisa Grabelle. Lisa, a travel writer for Hilton Hotels, has been traveling all her life…35 countries and loving it! Originally from the sunny skies of Miami, Lisa, a former lawyer, lives near Philadelphia with her husband and has two daughters who are in college. Travel is her passion. As soon as one vacation ends, Lisa busily plans her next adventure for her non-stop family of adventurers. Lisa’s motto is “don’t just visit the destination…live it!” You can follow Lisa on Twitter or Instagram.