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Switzerland has spectacular mountains, pristine lakes, lush valleys, and charming cities. Although Bern is its capital, some people consider Zurich as its unofficial capital. Zurich is the financial center of and most populous city in Switzerland.
Although there is more than enough to see and do in Zurich, there are other places worth visiting as well. This list presents ten small but beautiful towns near Zurich if you have only a day to spare.
Along the shores of Lake Constance is the charming, historic port city of Arbon in Thurgau. It is not only an excursion destination but also a holiday region. It also offers lots of possibilities for biking, hiking, and water sports.
How do you get from Zurich to Arbon? From Zurich, take the train to Romanshorn. Transfer to the next train to Arbon. The total trip from Zurich to Arbon takes 1 hour and 19 minutes including transfer time. Arbon can be reached from Zurich by car in an hour.
While visiting Arbon, you can begin by strolling in its historic old town. You can also visit the following sites:
- The Arbon Castle – is currently a regional historical and cultural museum. It also has a 33-meter-high tower
- The Roman watchtower of the fort “Arbor Felix” was built back in 280
- The Gallus Chapel from the 12th century was built in honor of the Irish messenger Gallus
- St. Martin’s Catholic Church – is probably the oldest Christian community in Lake Constance
There are more historical buildings to visit aside from the list above. A more comprehensive list is available as a PDF from the Thurgau Bodensee tourist center.
Once you are done visiting the historic sites, you can also ride the Lake Constance ship, go to the swimming pools, or cycle along the famous Arbon terrain overlooking Lake Constance. For old-timer fans, the Saurer Museum presents 20 historic vehicles produced in Arbon (trucks, buses, military vehicles, and firetrucks).
If you want to read more about Arbon, check out our article The Historic Town of Arbon, Switzerland.
2. Stein am Rhein
The idyllic town on the Upper Rhine is full of medieval buildings with painted facades and half-timbered houses. Stein am Rhein owes much of its preserved beauty to the Windler Foundation, which provides yearly financial support to maintain this beautiful town. Its location is right where Lake Constance flows into the Rhein River.
How do you get from Zurich to Stein am Rhein? From Zurich, take the train to Winterthur. Transfer to the next train to Stein am Rhein. The total trip from Zurich to Stein am Rhein takes 1 hour and 7 minutes including transfer time. Stein am Rhein is accessible from Zurich in 40 to 55 minutes by car.
If you would like to read more about Stein am Rhein, you can check out The Pretty Town of Stein am Rhein, Switzerland.
Worth visiting is Lindwurm Museum – the only Empire House in Stein am Rhein which dates from 1279. The lovingly completed reconstruction of this bourgeois house from the middle of the 19th century showcases the upper-class lifestyle of small towns.
One of the best-preserved Medieval monastery complexes St. George’s Abbey and the Hohenklingen Castle, built high above the town in 1225, are also worth visiting. The tourist office of Schaffhausen also provides a 75-minute guided tour of the old town. Click here for more information.
GetYourGuide offers a great city tour of Zurich alongside Rhine Falls & Stein am Rhein. This is a decently priced tour with a professional multilingual guide and a comfortable bus. You can buy it from GetYourGuide with this link – Best of Zurich City Tour: Rhine Falls & Stein am Rhein.
Along the river Aare lies a small town called Aarburg, which is dominated by its fortress once owned by the Habsburg family. Located in the district of Zofingen, the town of Aarburg connects the Olten region with the rest of inner Switzerland.
How do you get from Zurich to Aarburg? From Zurich, take the train to Olten or Aarau. Transfer to the next train to Aarburg-Oftringen. The total trip from Zurich to Aarburg takes 50 minutes including transfer time. Aarburg is accessible from Zurich in 46 minutes by car.
The Aarburg fortress is a nationally recognized cultural asset and is currently used as a youth center. Public tours are available every Saturday at 2:00 PM from spring until autumn. For more information, click here.
Aarburg is not only a beautiful old town recognized as a Swiss Heritage Site. It also has wonderful and relaxing hiking trails along the river Aare and a baroque museum from 1750.
If you would like to read more about Aarburg, you can check out this article: The Picturesque Town of Aarburg, Switzerland.
Einsiedeln is a town popular not only among Catholics and pilgrims wanting to see the famous Benedictine Abbey and the Black Madonna but also among all other visitors wanting to view this 300-year-old baroque monument. The interiors are splendid and culturally meaningful. A garden and a horse stable can also be found on the abbey grounds.
How do you get from Zurich to Einsiedeln? From Zurich, take the train to Wädenswil. Transfer to the next train to Einsiedeln. The total trip from Zurich to Einsiedeln takes 50 minutes including transfer time. Einsiedeln is accessible from Zurich in 34 minutes by car.
Guided tours of the monastery organized by Einsiedeln Tourism are available daily (except Sundays and public holidays) and cost CHF 18 per adult.
The town of Einsiedeln itself is charming and filled with small shops, hotels, restaurants, and bakeries. Our favorite is Bäckerei Schefer. There is also a national ski jumping center with four hills located in Eschbach, Einsiedeln.
If you would like to read more about Einsiedeln, check out our article: Einsiedeln – The Most Famous Monastic Village in Switzerland.
Bremgarten is a charming little medieval old town along the banks of the Reuss river. It is listed as a heritage site of national significance.
How do you get from Zurich to Bremgarten? From Zurich, take the train to Dietikon. Transfer to the next train to Bremgarten. The total trip from Zurich to Bremgarten takes 39 minutes including transfer time. Bremgarten is accessible from Zurich in 24 minutes by car.
Guided city tours can be booked for individuals (CHF 10.-) or groups of up to 25 persons (CHF 120.-) on the website of the Bremgarten Tourist Office.
Bremgarten has a lot to offer, such as the town hall, the armory, the former prison, and the still existing city fortifications. It also has a church district called the “Little Vatican.”
For kids, there is a large sprawling area in St. Josef Foundation with various animals and play areas.
Lenzburg is well-known for the Lenzburg Castle – one of the most important hilltop castles in Switzerland. The museum and the exhibitions at Lenzburg Castle show 1000 years of castle history. Various rooms within the castle present how families lived from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. On the topmost floor is the children’s museum where little children can play as little princesses and knights and get to know the resident dragon Fauci.
How do you get from Zurich to Lenzburg? From Zurich, take the direct train to Lenzburg. The train journey from Zurich to Lenzburg takes 19 minutes. Lenzburg is accessible from Zurich in 35 minutes by car.
The small town with medieval Old Town of national importance is discovered at the heart of the Lenzburg castle region; home to the Lenzburg, Hallwyl, Wildegg, Brunegg and Habsburg castles.MySwitzerland.com
The Lenzburg Castle is open to visitors from Tuesdays to Sundays. The Children’s Museum closes earlier at 4:30 pm.
Rheinfelden, Switzerland is located on the left bank of the river Rhine across the German town of the same name. Once a part of the Kingdom of Burgundy and Further Austria, it later joined what was known as the Helvetic Republic in 1802.
How do you get from Zurich to Rheinfelden? From Zurich, take the direct train to Rheinfelden. The train journey from Zurich to Rheinfelden takes 1 hour and 6 minutes. Rheinfelden is accessible from Zurich in 53 minutes by car.
The town received the famed Wakker prize in 2016, which is awarded by the Swiss Heritage Society for the development and preservation of its architectural heritage. It is also a spa town with the existence of sole uno – a wellness park resort.
There are several sites worth visiting in Rheinfelden:
- The Catholic Church of St. Martin
- The Johanniter Chapel
- The entire medieval city wall
- The Feldschlösschen brewery
- The Fricktaler Museum
There are various tours within Feldschlösschen Brewery available to the public for CHF 18 to CHF 40 from Mondays to Fridays. The brewery and Maestro Zobler tours are also open on Saturdays.
The nearby town of Augst is also worth visiting from Rheinfelden. It is the oldest Roman town at the Rhine and the archeological site of Augusta Raurica still stands.
Laufenburg Switzerland is a town in Canton Aargau on the Rhine river directly across from its twin town Laufenburg in Germany.
How do you get from Zurich to Laufenburg? From Zurich, take the train to Döttingen, Brugg AG, or Stein-Säckingen. Look for the bus to take you thereafter to Laufenburg. The total travel time from Zurich is 80 to 90 minutes. Laufenburg is accessible from Zurich in 48 minutes by car.
…mountain by the waterfall, by the whirlpool, by the rapidsBeat Zehnder: Die Gemeindenamen des Kantons Aargau, on the meaning of laufenburg
A beautiful town also crowned with the famed Wakker prize in 1985, Laufenburg has the following places also worth touring:
- The old town with its walls and towers
- The remains of Burg Laufenburg – fell into ruins after the 30-year-war
- Church of John the Baptist
FUN FACT. Did you know? Until 1801, Laufenburg in Germany and Laufenburg in Switzerland were actually just one town.
If you would like to know more about Laufenburg, check out our article: Laufenburg, Switzerland: One Town, Two Countries.
Eglisau is a town in Canton Zurich on the Rhine river.
How do you get from Zurich to Eglisau? From Zurich, take the S9 train directly to Eglisau. The total travel time from Zurich is 32 minutes. Eglisau is accessible from Zurich in 28 minutes by car.
Surrounded by vineyards on the banks of the Rhine River, Eglisau is definitely a beautiful town near Zurich to visit. The Gothic-style Church of Eglisau built back in 1716 sits in the old town. It is a protected monument due to its being a national cultural asset.
The biggest and most beautiful house in the region is Weierbachhus. In this house from 1670 sits the local museum. It presents the town’s history and lifestyle including ships, fishing, salt trade, and many more.
If you would like to read more about Eglisau, you can check out this article: Eglisau, Switzerland: The Best Of This Wine Village.
Steckborn is a town in Canton Thurgau on Lake Constance (Bodensee). It is in the southwestern area of Untersee.
How do you get from Zurich to Steckborn? From Zurich, take the train to Schaffhausen. In Schaffhausen, transfer to the connecting train going to Steckborn. You can also take the train to Frauenfeld. In Frauenfeld, there is a bus going to Steckborn. The total travel time from Zurich including transfer is 70 to 76 minutes. Steckborn is accessible from Zurich in 58 minutes by car.
Steckborn has a charming old town. Its distinguishing landmark is the Turmhof Museum. The 700-year-old Turmhof Museum was once the seat of the abbots of Reichenau. Now, it shows the culture and history of the Untersee area. The exhibitions include prehistoric finds from the region, rural furniture during the age of enlightenment, and a collection of handicraft tools from the local craftsmen.
You can also visit the baroque church in the city center. It is an understated but nevertheless beautiful church that has been added to the country’s cultural heritage protection (Denkmalschutz) since 1968.
Don’t Forget: Zurich’s Old Town
For those who just wish to stay in Zurich, don’t forget that Zurich also has a pretty little old town called Niederdorf. It is a pedestrian-friendly old town between Central and Grossmünster, Limmatquai, and Seilergraben. It houses quaint boutiques, restaurants, cinemas, and hotels.
In Zurich, you can visit the following:
- The Grossmünster Church (Great Minister) – is likely the most recognized landmark of Zurich. It is a wonderful church in the old town. The Romanesque-style Church has slender and striking towers. It is the cradle of the Zwingli Reformation.
- The Frauenmünster Church – Is the smallest of the 34 Evangelical Reformed churches in the city. Built by the grandson of Charlemagne back in 853, it also showcases windows created by world-famous Marc Chagall and Augusto Giacometti.
Click here for more detailed information regarding Zurich’s best attractions:
- 12 Best Unique Experiences In Zurich
- 25 Best Things To Do In Zurich, Switzerland
- 14 Popular Zurich Attractions Near Zurich Train Station
- Complete List Of Museums in Zurich Open On Mondays
- 10 Best Free Museums and Parks in Zurich
- The Historic Town of Arbon, Switzerland
- The Pretty Town of Stein am Rhein, Switzerland
- Laufenburg, Switzerland: One Town, Two Countries
- Einsiedeln – The Most Famous Monastic Village in Switzerland
- The Picturesque Town of Aarburg, Switzerland
- Eglisau, Switzerland: The Best Of This Wine Village
- An Enjoyable Lenzburg Castle Visit – Aargau, Switzerland
- Most Beautiful Lakes Near Zurich
- Closest Mountains To Visit From Zurich
- Popular Ski Resorts Near Zurich
- 10 Beautiful Medieval Towns in Switzerland