A gorgeous waterfront, cobblestone alleyways, and haute couture? Financial capital Zurich has more to offer than first meets the eye. As the city undergoes a hip transformation, old favorites such as a thriving art scene and a gateway to the great Swiss outdoors make Zurich the perfect destination for a weekend getaway.

Spend the first day exploring the city, with its museums and intriguing neighborhoods. Then use the second day to take advantage of Zurich's varied open-air spaces. The city is small enough that you can do all of this within a stone's throw of your Zurich hotel!

Here's how to spend 48 hours in Zurich:

Day 1 in Zurich

how to spend 48 hours in zurich
Photo by Dennis Jarvis via CC BY-SA 2.0 License

See Old Town

The high cost of living in Zurich comes brings plenty of modern comforts, but the city itself dates back to Medieval times. As a result, Old Town (or Altstadt) is filled with narrow cobblestone lanes and charming storefronts. For a touch of romance, walk across Muhlesteg Footbridge and admire all the love locks (and even leave your own). Next, see how old and new collide, with a visit to the contemporary art museum Musée Visionnaire. Set in the heart of Old Town, the museum reverses the usual exhibition model and allows the public to decide what modern works will be shown next.

Stained glass by Chagall

Beautiful Fraumünster church stands across the river from Zurich's town hall. The tall steepled church is built on the remains of an abbey that date back more than 1,000 years. Today, however, Fraumünster is best known for its modern details - specifically five stained glass windows designed by well-known 20th century artist Marc Chagall.

FIFA Museum

After getting a taste for Zurich's art scene, the focus turns to soccer. Football lovers will have the opportunity to indulge their inner sports nerd at the FIFA Museum located in Zurich's Enge quarter. Wander through the World Cup gallery or try your hand at the giant pinball machine that recreates a soccer match. Much of the museum is interactive, meaning there are plenty of opportunities to test your sports skills while learning about the history of the game.

Head West

Formerly an industrial area, Zurich-West has undergone a cool revival that attracts creatives and young at heart. Old factory buildings and even viaducts have been transformed into edgy boutiques and modern cafes. Beeline to Frau Gerolds Garten for outdoor dining and drinking, which combines contemporary design in a garden setting. In colder weather, the gardens are covered with a tent and serve Switzerland's famous cheesy fondue.

Day 2 in Zurich

how to spend 48 hours in zurich
Photo by Dennis Jarvis via CC BY-SA 2.0 License

Get out on the water

Neatly bisected by the Limmat river and set on the shores of Lake Zurich, Zurich is a city surrounded by water. Make the most of the setting with a leisurely cruise along the river during the day, or book a night cruise with dinner atop the lake. The boat tours which leave regularly from the riverfront offer a unique vantage point to take in the city. The one hour cruise will take visitors on a slow voyage under each of Zurich's seven bridges. When the weather is warm, skip the boats and take advantage of Zurich's badis - outdoor pools created by docks that allow swimmers to jump directly into the Limmat.

Shop and stroll

Leading from the shores of the lake to the main train station, Bahnhofstrasse is Zurich's most famous shopping street. The long boulevard offers plenty of options for browsing pricey Swiss timepieces or shopping for unique designs at boutique shops. During the winter, outdoor vendors sell mulled wine and hot chocolate to add a bit more warmth to the holiday cheer.

Enjoy the Uetliberg views

Uetliberg may not be Switzerland's highest mountain, but the taller vantage point does offer impressive views of Zurich's city center. Take a train from the central station to the top of the small summit for vistas over the lake, and even catch a glimpse of the Alps. In the summer, trails are filled with hikers and mountain bikers. In winter, the inclines along the mountain make it the city's preferred sledding spot.

For more, check out our holiday packages to Zurich!