Switzerland is a land of boutique towns, turquoise lakes, stunning mountains, and breathtaking valleys. Whether you’re planning a weeklong holiday, a day trip, or just an excursion for a couple of hours, this landlocked country has lots of interesting sights to offer. And if you’re based in Switzerland’s largest city, Zurich, there is never a lack of places to see and things to do.
Located in the north east, Zurich is a cosmopolitan financial hub and boasts a wonderful mix of classic and contemporary style. Thanks to its convenient position, there’s as much to do outside the city as there is within. Here are some of the best day trips from Zurich, from tiny culture hubs to peaceful waterfront villages.
Situated on the River Limmat, this small town’s name translates to ‘bath’ in German and has been famous for its hot springs since the Roman era. Often referred to as Baden bei Zürich (‘Baden near Zürich’) to avoid confusion, this little town is located about 15 miles (25 kilometers) from Zurich, making it easily accessible by road and train.
The best place to begin your exploration of Baden is to visit the History Museum, where you’ll gain insight into the history and evolution of the town through the ancient coins and various artifacts on display. Not to be missed is the exhibition dedicated to the supposed healing properties of Baden’s springs. When you’re finished at the History Museum, be sure to take a stroll down the medieval streets of Baden’s old town to immerse yourself in its old world charm. Most importantly, don’t forget to carve out sometime for a visit to the famous thermal springs.
Located about 15 miles (25 kilometers) from Zurich and home to more than 15 museums, Winterhur is the perfect getaway for culture and history lovers. It’s also known for its charming rose gardens and bustling old town, which boasts a stellar shopping and restaurant scene. You won’t want to miss the famous marktgasse, city church and Fisher Maiden’s fountain spread out across idyllic streets and quiet gardens.
Apart from the Fotomuseum Winterthur (photography museum) and the Swiss Science Centre Technorama, the Clock & Watch Museum Winterthur is an attraction not to be missed. Also known as the Uhren museum, the collections are divided into the Konrad Kellenberger Collection and the Oscar Schwank Collection. Spanning six centuries, the display of pocket watches, wooden wheel clocks, and elaborate Renaissance-era watches make it a great attraction for connoisseurs and rookies alike.
Just over an hour from Zurich, Diessenhofen is a quaint, picturesque village just off the shore of the River Rhine, opposite the German town of Gallingen am Hochrein. Thanks to its waterfront location, you’ll find plenty of activities in the summer months, making Diessenhofen a perfect retreat if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy a weekend of camping, canoeing, and other outdoor activities.
One of the highlights of the town is the 19th century wooden bridge that stretches across the Rhine. It’s beautifully decorated with flowers, creating the perfect backdrop for shoreside picnics. And if you’re the active type, you’ll find plenty of walking and cycling spots along the river including a route that links Germany and Switzerland.
Perched on the upper end of lake Zurich is the town of Rapperswil—also called Rapperswil-Jona—and known as the town of roses, located just under 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Zurich. Roses are an intrinsic part of the city’s history and culture with the flower adorning the city’s coat of arms and the famous rose garden in the local Capuchin Monastery boasting more than 15,000 varieties.
Rapperswil also has a beautiful waterfront, promenade, and castle that overlook the town. A walk along the promenade leads to the largest wooden bridge in Switzerland and the entire area offers a host of recreational activities like cycling, hiking, and swimming. If you are into bird-watching, the waterfront is a great place to spot birds like storks, pochards, gulls, and other birds.
Located on the upper Rhine in the northernmost corner of Switzerland, Schaffhausen is surrounded by vineyards and boasts a picturesque, vehicle free old town, as well as ancient streets lined with guild houses and painted façades. What’s not to love?
The soul of the town is the majestic ring-shaped Munot fortress, which was built in the 16th century. A climb to the top offers some stunning views of the city’s Renaissance-era buildings and is the perfect way to get some blood pumping while exploring the town.
Just under 18 miles (30 kilometers) is yet another waterfront town that seems to have been taken from the pages of a fairy tale: Eglisau. Just off the German border, Eglisau is framed by picture-perfect vineyards and unspoilt countryside, not to mention the medieval charm within the city walls.
One of its most notable attractions is the railway viaduct towering over the Rhine, a nod to the town’s once thriving railway industry. History-buffs will love the 17th century buildings and well-preserved old town, while adventure enthusiasts will have plenty of opportunities for swimming and boating along the shore.