30 Best Things to Do in Zurich
See also: Where to Stay in Zurich
Zurich is considered by experts as one of the world’s most livable cities and after reading this list, you will be able to understand why. The city is replete with magical buildings and whimsical pathways which lead you to some of the most picturesque places. The Limmat River and the Zurich Lake further heighten the beauty of the city which is known to be the world’s center for banking and finance.
Here are 30 best things you can do in Zurich:
Admire the Beauty of Altstadt
Altstadt is Zurich’s old town as well as the most significant historical and cultural area of the entire city. Some of the places that will feature on this list such as Grossmunster and St. Peter’s Church are located within the narrow lanes of Altstadt. Another important place known as Fraumunster or the Minister of Our Lady is situated here and lends to the luminous character of the old town. The best way to explore the area is by strolling around the cobbled pathways and admiring the architecture some of which dates back to the Renaissance period.
Zurich-West is the city’s former industrial sector which has undergone a transition in the past few decades as a socio-cultural landmark and this is evidenced by a rustic red brick building named Lowenbrau which has become a melting pot for contemporary artists of Switzerland. If you start to get hungry, you can dine at restaurant Markthalle and Berg und Tal which is a food specialty store. Remember to visit the Freitag tower where you can purchase recycled industrial bags.
Boat on the Lake Zurich
Lake Zurich is a breathtaking lake situated in the city which stretches to the South-West environs of Zurich. During the summer months, you can enjoy a number of activities by the water as well as on it such as stand-up paddling, canoeing, kayaking and water skiing as well as book a cruise on the lake which shows you some of the best monuments such as the Rapperswil Castle. You can also grab a bite at one of the many lake view restaurants such as Kiosk, Samigo amusement, lake side and Belcanto. During the winter months, don’t hesitate to go ice skating on the frozen lake.
Pay Your Respects at Grossmunster
The Grossmunster is one of the four premier churches of Zurich and this particular one is well-known for the legend that this church is built on the graves of Felix and Regula, the city’s patron saints. While this fact isn’t well-supported by evidence but has helped elevate the status of Grossmunster. The architecture of the church is spellbinding such as the bronze doors, the Romanesque crypt, the choir windows and the stained glass windows which are illuminating. You can also visit the Cloister Reformation museum in order to learn more about the history of the place.
Learn a Little at the Swiss National Museum
The neo-Gothic building of the Swiss national museum came into existence in the year 1898 and since then has meticulously sectioned items and artifacts to convey the history of Switzerland. Here, you can marvel at Knight’s armors, furniture, watches and weaponry from the medieval area as well as paintings and other artworks. You will also get to see how the Swiss citizens lived during the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods as well as learn about the country’s currency and rich commerce background.
Feel on Top of the World at Uetliberg
Uetliberg is a towering mountain in the centre of Zurich which at 2,850 feet above sea level takes you a little closer to heaven or at least the feeling of heaven. It is a breathtaking green oasis which is the perfect place to witness beautiful panoramic views of the city. In the summer months, you can choose to experience the hiking trail and even a planet trail which is two hours long and educates the participant about the solar system. The best way to enjoy your visit to Uetliberg is by bringing along a picnic basket and having a gala time under the sun.
Greet Animals at the Zurich Zoo
The Zurich Zoo was opened in the year 1929 and ever since has been delighting visitors with 4,000 animals belonging to 340 species. The animals housed inside the zoo including Penguins, Zebras, Orangutans, Amur Tigers, snow Leopards, red Pandas, Mongolian Wolves, Otters, Indian Lions, Blackbucks, squirrel Monkeys, Blackbucks and Asian Elephants, among several others. The vast variety of species coupled with the interactive and informative format of the programs makes it the ideal family location. In the end, you can visit their souvenir shop and cafeteria.
Not So Little, the Niederdorf
The Niederdorf is affectionately known by the locals as Dorfli or the little village where the cobbled pathways are lined with historical monuments and stylish cafes, where the traditional meets the modern. In front of the Walliser Keller restaurant, you can find adorable looking red colored gondolas and if you want to enjoy a beer while watching a football game then, you should visit the big Ben pub. Your sweet tooth can be satisfied at the Dieci Gelateria. A walk around the little village is sure to recharge your senses.
Empty Your Wallet at Bahnhofstrasse
The Bahnhofstrasse is considered as one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world and the ninth most expensive in Europe. The stylish glass windows of the stores coupled with a chatty ambience is crowded with locals and tourists that makes it a great place for retail therapy. Here, the stores include Giorgio Armani, Burberry, Louis Vuitton and Chanel. If you couldn’t already tell, Bahnhofstrasse is not a place for budget shopping. You can also gorge on some delicious Swiss chocolates at Confiserie Sprungli. Despite the weight of your pocket, just a stroll around the street is enough for a great experience.
Visit the FIFA World Football Museum
The FIFA world football museum is an obvious crowd puller where the history and development of the popular team sport is showcased using 1,000 exclusive exhibits and 500 video documents wherein individuals can learn while having fun with interactive and multimedia exhibits. You can marvel at the impressive images and relive some of the most thrilling moments in football’s history as well as listen to inspiring stories as to how the sport has changed ordinary lives around the world. There is also a sports bar and bistro for you to dine at and relax.
Modern Architecture at Pavillion Le Corbusier
The Pavillon Le Corbusier is a colorful building situated on the shore of Lake Zurich and was completed by the Swiss-French architect and designer Le Corbusier in 1967 as his last completed work of art. The stunning and unusual architecture of the eccentric building is constructed entirely of steel and glass elevating its status as a national treasure. Here, you can come across temporary exhibitions, displays and workshops conducted inside the Pavillon Le Corbusier. The building is open from the months of May to November.
Feel Fresh at University of Zurich Botanical Garden
The Botanical Garden is managed by the department of systematic Botany of the University of Zurich and was started in the year 1976. While, the primary aim of the lush green Garden is to advance research and education for the students but it is also open to the public for recreational purposes. The Botanical Garden contains approximately 4,000 kinds of plants within its vicinity. To add to the immense beauty of the Garden it has three magnificent glass domes, a pond as well as a meadow.
Travel Back to the 19th Century at Dolderbahn
The Dolderbahn is a 1.3 km long rack railway line which is basically a steep grade railway situated on the South slope of the stunning Adlisberg mountain. This was started as a funicular railway line in the year 1895 but was converted into its present form as a rack railway in the 1970s. The journey to and fro from one side of the slope to the other takes a total of 5 minutes and the rack railcar can carry 100 passengers at one time. This exciting journey in the Swiss mountains is sure to be a memorable one and the sights you will witness are unforgettable.
Learn About the Colonial Past at Villa Patumbah
Switzerland’s colonial past is almost non-existent but there are relics such as this stately mansion which are a reminder of its colonial past by exploiting countries such as Sumatra. The striking building has an eclectic mix of architecture belonging to South Asia, Italian Renaissance, Rococo and Swiss chalet style. The mansion may be the centerpiece but is surrounded by a lush green English-style Garden with a variety of flowers. Today, the building houses a museum and other temporary exhibitions. In fact, the word Patumbah means ‘a place you like to be’ and we couldn’t disagree.
Meat-free Dining at Haus Hiltl
While, Swiss cuisine is more famous for its meat dishes than the ones that omit it the Haus Hiltl has been a trendsetter in becoming the oldest vegetarian restaurant of the world. Today, people of all age groups and cultures enjoy the unique and meat free menu of the restaurant but when it was opened in the year 1898, it wasn’t as well received. The restaurant has been innovative with its dishes and has even incorporated elements of the Indian vegetarian cuisine in its menu but its primary focus in on regional produce and fresh vegetables bought from the farmers of Switzerland.
Get Messy With Fondue at Le Dezaley
Fondue is a world famous dish that involves dipping bread or any other food item of your choice into a pot of melted cheese which is steaming hot. This mouthwatering dish has its origins in Switzerland and the restaurant Le Dezaley is well-known for their family recipe of fondue which is unlike any other and even comes with mushrooms. The restaurant is a charming space with wooden chairs and tables coupled with a cozy atmosphere. Besides fondue you can also try their other dishes such as sausages which belong to Western Switzerland.
An Urban Oasis at Frau Gerolds Garten
Frau Gerolds Garten is situated in the former industrial sector of the city called Zurich-West and uses old industrial boxes as decorations and accommodations but don’t be mistaken, this is much more than a restaurant and café. In fact, this is an oasis for urban agriculture farming where customers can be sitting on one side of the building and the other side is occupied by wooden crate boxes of freshly grown produce. Frau Gerolds Garten is famous for its dishes such as Bratwurst, fondue chinoise and salads made with seasonal vegetables.
Say a Prayer at the St. Peter Church
The St. Peter Church is located in the old town part of the City and is considered by many as the most significant religious and historical structure of Zurich owing to the fact that its roots go back to the 8th century making it the city’s oldest Parish Church. Here, the most visible aspect of the Church is its striking tower which contains five bells and it rings according to religious events. The tomb of the city’s first mayor can be found in the outer tower wall as well as the gravestone of the first reformed pastor named Leo Jud. St. Peter’s Church is the perfect place to learn about Switzerland’s history while admiring the magnificent architecture of the building.
Get Serenaded at Zurich Opera House
The Zurich Opera house is one of the smallest opera houses in the world with only a little more than a thousand seats inside the auditorium. Yet, it has often been considered as the world’s best opera houses in terms of the performances that have occurred here such as plays, premiers, ballet and live singing performances. The opera house has also been witness to some of the most well-renowned personalities such as Emily Magee, Stephen Gould, Rene Pape, Joyce Didonato, Fabio Luisi and Carlo Rizzi. The opera house is wheel chair accessible and has the Bernhard bar and café for you to dine at.
Cruise Around the Limmat River
The Limmat River is the premier water body of the city of Zurich and provides for a cool and balanced atmosphere while elevating the beauty of Zurich. The picturesque River is well known as a recreational spot for tourists where they can book tickets on a local cruise which takes them around the entire city while witnessing some of the most significant areas such as the Town hall, Grossmunster Church, the national museum and the Lindenhof. The ride which takes a total time of 50 minutes is worth every penny and should be a must on your travel bucket list.
Become a Dadaist at Cabaret Voltaire
In the year 1916 an avant-garde movement began in a small café of Zurich called the ‘dada’ which left a mark as a new cultural movement. This anti-war movement was started by artists such as Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, Tristan Tzara and Jean Arp. Cabaret Voltaire was the place where this artistic revolution began and a hundred years after its demise, the building was converted into a bookstore, café and educational workshop area. If you want to grab a bite while learning about this lesser known literary movement then make sure you visit Cabaret Voltaire.
Visit the Museum of Art
The museum of art is also referred to as the Kunsthaus Zurich and has a marvelous collection of paintings and sculpture belonging to Swiss and international artists. When you visit the museum, make sure you take a look at Vincent Van Gogh’s self portrait with bandaged ear, Andy Warhol’s famous Campbell’s soup can as well as Rodin’s magnificent sculpture done entirely in bronze called the gates of hell. You can also find other artists work here such as Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet and Marc Chagall. The architecture of the museum is just as gorgeous as the art works situated inside it.
Ruins of the Past, the Lindenhof
The Lindenhof is one of the oldest neighborhoods of Zurich dating back to the fourth century when the hilltop was occupied by a Roman fort but today, there are only ruins of the fortress walls left behind which makes it a picturesque location. From the top of the hill, you will be able to witness breathtaking views of the city and the Limmat River as well as have a moment to catch your breath and relax under the beautiful trees surrounding the area. Most importantly, carry a picnic basket with you for having a lovely time with your loved ones in one of the most charming areas of the City.
Forget About Calories at Laderach Chocolate Shop
The Laderach is the most well-known chocolate shop of Zurich and has several locations around Switzerland. The shop provides a variety of chocolates for you to choose from such as the mixed fruit, classic, strawberry-raspberry, almond milk, hazelnut milk, confetti, rocher, cornflakes, honey, fudge caramel and alcoholic truffles. You can also purchase gift boxes of assorted chocolates for your loved ones and of course, some for your overzealous sweet tooth.
Dance the Night Away at the Street Parade
The street parade of Zurich which takes place in the summer month of August is a marvel to behold as it is the world’s largest techno music festival. This occurs around the lake basin where numerous stages are erected and famous DJs and musicians entertain the massive crowd of thousands of people wearing colorful wigs and bohemian clothing. It feels like travelling back to the summer of love but with EDM music instead of the Beatles. Started during the crazy years of the 1990s, the party never stops with mobile vehicles trailing the streets; Zurich becomes a playground for the new generation.
Feel Inspired at the ETH Zurich
The ETH Swiss federal institute of technology was constructed in the year 1864 by architect Gottfried Semper. The magnificent main building of the institute is worth a tour and a guided one will reveal some surprising facts about ETH such as its association with Albert Eisenstein. The university which specializes in subjects such as Mathematics, engineering and science has vast expanses of lush green gardens perfect for a stroll or a picnic. The other sites worth seeing here include the Terra tower and the Polyterrase from where you will be able to see magnificent views of the old town.
Take a Stroll Around Rieter Park
The Rieter Park is the most beautiful and largest Park of Zurich and was opened to the public in the year 1855. The Park looks straight out of a fairytale with its perfectly cut green Gardens accompanied by a wide variety of flowers and beech trees. This is arguably the best spot for having a picnic with your loved ones during the summer months. There is also a villa at the Park called Museum Rietberg which houses art from Asia, Africa, Oceania, America and Switzerland.
Hear a Whale Sing at the Zoological Museum
The Zoological museum is a part of the University of Zurich and contains approximately 1,500 animals most of which are native to Switzerland. While all these animals aren’t real as they are stuffed versions of themselves but are made to look lifelike by making them interactive. Here, you can marvel at animals such as the Minke Whale, large Frogmouth and singing Whales. If you still aren’t convinced about the museum, they also have an in-house cinema where they showcase films about nature and wildlife. This is a great place to learn while spending quality time with your family.
Do Some Sightseeing at the Bellevue Square
The Bellevue square is the best known town square of Zurich and was constructed in the year 1856 as a recreational spot for locals and tourists along with some significant buildings. The square’s main attractions include the Café Odeon which was once the meeting point of artists and writers of Zurich, Haus Bellevue and the Kronenhalle restaurant which serves local Swiss dishes. The square is a picturesque place to spend your afternoons for sightseeing or simply enjoying a slow stroll on the cobbled pathway.
Feel Serene at the Chinese Garden
While, most people don’t think a Chinese Garden should be on their travel visit to Switzerland but this one is definitely worth a visit. This is classified as a temple Garden and was a gift by the Chinese town on Kunming and has become one of the best in the entire world. The Garden has a Pond which contains a small island in the center and a Palace stands on the side with its vibrant colors of red and yellow. The Garden has a gorgeous park and trees providing ample shade to the area.
The beautiful hilltops, the breathtaking views and the delicious chocolates add to the sweetness of this wonderful city. At first glance, it may seem like a typical tourist magnet but the city has a unique flavor which is coupled with its rich history and attention to detail. Leave your worries behind and stroll along the Lake basin while dreaming of the world’s most sumptuous fondue.