13 Best Things to do in Zurich

Situated in the most beautiful part of the Alpine Massif. Surrounded by jagged mountain cliffs. Decorated with fertile green alpine valleys. Lined with small villages and sleepy little towns. A land of majestic nature, rich history, and culture, fantastic stories, delicious chocolate, great wines, perfect clocks… How else to describe Switzerland, the most extraordinary country in Europe?

In its central part, Switzerland encompasses dozens of smaller and larger lakes. In the crystalline water of the Alpine lakes created by the melting of glaciers, you can see the reflexion of the most beautiful cities in this country. On the shore of one such lake lies one of the most luxurious cities.

zurich limo service - zurich river - limmat

Though it’s not the capital, Zurich is the biggest city in Switzerland. It is the financial center of the country and a symbol of perfection in the world of banking. But is it all that Zurich is? Does everything revolve around money and business in Zurich?

Let’s find out.

Zurich Background

Zurich is a beautiful city with a great medieval ambiance. If you step away from the market and finance, you will find an artistically and surprisingly vibrant city that follows contemporary trends.

Although human history on this territory began before the Romans, the first written traces lead us back to them. Around 15 BC they established a military base at the site of today’s Lindenhof and named it Turicum. Gradually, Turicum became Zurich thanks to the inhabitants who weren’t so fluent in Latin.

The rule of Romans ended around 400 AD and a couple of centuries that followed are wrapped in a veil of secrecy. Nobody has got any idea what went on in Zurich during this period.

The arrival of the Germanic tribe of the Alemanni has obviously had a great impact and induced important changes in this obscure period. One of them is the language that was to become Swiss German dialect we have today.

Upon the end of World War II, the economy of formally neutral Switzerland boomed and mass immigration from Southern Europe set in. Being the powerful financial center, Zurich is still very attractive to people all around the world, especially to young and well-educated ones. It is the city of diversity, inclusiveness and high standard of living.

Thanks to its long and rich history, Zurich today has got a rich cultural heritage. Most of the ancient part of the city has been preserved intact. In addition to numerous castles, museums and galleries, there are world-renowned chamber and symphony orchestras as well as several notable theatres.

In Zurich, you will also find high-end boutiques, exclusive restaurants, and trendy clubs.

If you happen to find yourself in this enthralling city, and we hope you will, here is an extensive, but not exhaustive, list of things to do in Zurich.

Dive into the Mediterranean Charm of Zurich lake

Rising from the glaciers of the Glarus Alps, the Linth River forms the Zurich Lake, while its waters flow further to its northwest end, passing through Zurich as the Limmat River.

This long, crescent-shaped lake is framed on the south by the Albis and Zimerberg chain of hills and on the north by the wooded peaks of Pfannenstiel. In the past, Lake Zurich was, before all, an important route for traffic and transportation.

Today, it is a popular place for picnics and boat excursions. It is your choice to sail during sunrise or sunset. No one can resist the gentle rocking of the waves, silence and peace, relaxation, and the luring smell of food coming from the fish restaurants on the shore.

lake in zurich - zurich lake
Zurich Lake | Source: https://www.inspirock.com/switzerland/zurich/lake-zurich-a110835131

The promenade along the lake with its Mediterranean charm, the picturesque Old Town and the medieval castle make this port a popular place for excursions, walks, or cycling.

On the north side of the lake, the so-called Gold Coast will take your breath away with its dotted magnificent and expensive villas. On the eastern end of the lake lies Rapperswil, the town of roses. Over 15,000 shrubs of roses, with more than 600 of different varieties, bloom here.

Popular places to visit include many beautiful beaches, the largest covered water park in Europe, Alpamare in Pfaffikon, then the sunny islands of Ufenau and Lutzelau near Rappersville, a wooden pedestrian bridge over the lake between Rappersville and Hurden, Baroque churches in Lachen, and the famous Lindt & Sprungli chocolate factory in Kilchberg.

Related: The most beautiful places to visit in Switzerland!

Close Encounters on Zurich Zoo Field Trip

High above the rooftops of Zurich, in a pastoral Fluntern quarter, almost 90 years ago zoo was built. Spreading on an area of vast 27 hectares, it reflects the whole mother Earth and its children – 4,000 animals belonging to 380 species.

This giant ambassador of nature is nothing like other zoos. It faithfully portrays the real, natural habitat of each animal. Here, they roam freely around in an open venue. The lack of cages encourages the animals to be active and to move around.

There are some areas which enable interactive experiences. For example, the Australian area has one part in which Wallabies and Imus are moving around in the spectator area and provide opportunities for great interaction and photos.

The zoo consists of 7 different exhibits:

  • Aquarium with 700 fish and about 70 other aquatic species living in eight large basins. Each of them forms an individual habitat, along with the penguin enclosure,
  • Australian enclosure, home to authentic Australian animals: emus, kangaroos, koalas, kangaroos, and perenties,
  • Kaeng Krachan Elephant Park, a beautiful enclosure in which eight Asian elephants live,
  • Masoala Rainforest, an enclosure for geckos, turtles, snakes, parrots, and many other rainforest animals,
  • Mongolian Steppe, home to Bactrian camels, domesticated yaks, and cashmere goats,
  • Pantanal, a separate enclosure for capybaras, squirrel monkeys, giant anteaters, and other mammals and birds. The zoo provides them with the South American climate,
  • Zoolino – an exhibit where you can learn about, but also feed and stroke pygmy goats, pigs, and other domestic and farm animals.
elephant park in zurich zoo - amazing place to visit in zurich
Elephant Park at Zurich Zoo | Source: https://www.architectmagazine.com/technology/detail/kaeng-krachan-elephant-park-shell_o

The Zoo is open whole year-round, from 9 to 5. Children under 6 years of age can visit it for free and, of course, there are family and group discounts. To avoid long waiting in the line before the entrance, purchase the tickets online. To be able to fully enjoy the charms of the zoo, plan to spend at least four to five hours to admire the extraordinary mother nature.

For families with children, the zoo is the number one thing to do in Zurich. You will spend some quality, educational time with your children and make lifetime memories. Watching how they soak in everything in amazement and amusement with all their senses will melt your heart away.

Fun fact: A Giant Tortoise from Galapagos is the oldest resident of the zoo. Nigrita, zoo’s representative of this endangered species, has improved their chances for survival –  in 2016, she hatched 9 babies at the age of 80! She was brought to Zurich Zoo in 1946 and has produced 91 tortoises since then. Well done, Nigrita!

Broaden Your Horizons in Zurich Museums

To really get familiar with the history of one country, its culture, and traditions, to get to know the spirit of its people, one should visit its museums. With more than 50 museums all around the city, having to decide where to start from can make your head dizzy.

To understand the history of Switzerland and its people, Landesmuseum is the rights place to go. Learn about the events which occurred in this territory, from prehistory to the present. Alongside the permanent exhibitions of arts and crafts, there are fascinating special showings that delve deeper into particular periods. The National Museum Zurich is the most frequently visited cultural museum in Switzerland.

things to visit in zurich - national museum in zurich
National Museum Zurich – Place to visit | Source: Wikimedia

The Museum Rietberg is an art museum dedicated to non-European art in Switzerland. It is also one of the biggest museums in Zurich. It features artwork from Africa, Asia, America and Oceania. Buddhist sculptures from China, some of which date back to the 6th century, are some of the more astonishing pieces.

Complete this experience by visiting the Ethnographic Museum. Actually, this is not a typical ethnographic museum but rather a topic-oriented one. Art and cult objects reflect the diverse craftsmanship and ideologies of people from all around the world. The collection also includes scripts and an image, sound and film archive.

Zurich Tram Museum, FIFA World Football Museum, Money Museum, Toy Museum, Beyer Clock and Watch Museum, Swiss Science Centre Technorama, Focus Terra along with Zoological, Paleontological Museum and Kulturama make just a part of many interesting and educational museums of Zurich.  To be able to catch them all, we recommend you to hire a limousine service.

Window Shopping at Bahnhofstrasse

About a minute away from the main train station is one of the priciest streets in the world per square meter – the ostentatious Bahnhofstrasse. It houses expensive shops of famous world fashion makers and brands, shopping malls, jewelry shops and luxury restaurants.

bahnhofstrasse zurich
Bahnhofstrasse | Source: https://travelmemo.com/europe/switzerland/exploring-zurich-on-foot#prettyPhoto

Chocolate shops are scattered everywhere, so there is no sweeter souvenir than handmade Swiss chocolate. Or cheese. To each their own. If cheese is your thing, go to the Burlikplatze where you will find the best Swiss cheese in Zurich. The place is also known for organic food. On Tuesdays and Fridays, there is a green and flower market, and on Saturdays a flea market.

Niederdof is another great shopping street, but oriented towards younger consumers. It is packed with cafés, bars, clubs, hotels, kiosks with Turkish kebabs, Caribbean food, etc. The plushest shops tend to be towards the south near Paradeplatz, the heart of Bahnhofstrasse.

There is no traffic and the street is all the richer in December when all the Christmas decorations are out. It is all shining at its best, lurking you to spend the last cent with no regrets.

Walking Tour in Zurich Altstadt

Before 1893, Altstadt used to be the entire city of Zurich. Today, it is the entrance to medieval Europe. Sightseeing in Zurich usually starts right here in the Old Town. It is one of those places where you easily get lost in time. You’ll come across squares, cafés, peculiar one-of-a-kind shops and historic monuments – from the four medieval churches to 17th-century Town Hall.

On a two-hour walking tour over the cobblestone alleys of the old town, you will come across the main Zurich landmarks – Fraumunster, Grossmunster, St. Peter’s Church, the aforementioned Swiss National Museum, the Museum of Art, and Cabaret Voltaire, the cradle of Dadaism. That is along with other attractions like the most exclusive boutiques, hotels and restaurants in town.

St. Peters Church in Zurich

To avoid the crowd and enjoy it in peace, go for a walk early in the morning. As a sign of affection to your partner, take them by the hand and go on a stroll along the Limmat River to leave a love lock on the fence of the Muhlesteg Footbridge. No expensive thing can replace the memory of such a romantic act at the moment in which the day is born.

When you are done uncovering the secrets hidden under the palatial and everlasting arches, you can take a seat at the terrace of some of the most opulent restaurants and enjoy the traditional specialties of the Swiss or some international cuisine.

After the sunset, the Old Town Zurich gets a different dimension. Overladen with nightclubs, it turns into a nightlife district, the most popular one in the entire country. Offering both casual and alternative bars, bars with live music, as well as both classy and strip clubs, it is so vibrant and exotic that it attracts people from all over Switzerland.

Clear Your Head in Lindenhofplatz

Lindenhofplatz is an idyllic green space located at the top of a little hill in the Old Town that used to be an important place. The very first settlements in Zurich were situated right here in Lindenhof.

The park was originally a Roman Fort, which was at the time a tax-collecting point. Centuries later, the grandson of Charlemagne built a regal palace here to live in. Medieval royals used to stay here overnight while they were on their journeys around the region.

A Roman tombstone dating back to the 2nd century was discovered at the site, bearing the Roman name of Turicum. This area continued to be a place for gatherings right up to the beginning of the modern era. For example, in 1798 the citizens of Zurich swore the oath to the Helvetic Constitution right here on the Lindenhof.

Shaded by the lime trees, Lindenhof today is a serene place, a haven of peace and tranquillity in the heart of the city.  This spot provides a glorious view of Zurich’s oldest quarters on the right bank of Limmat River: the waterfront on the Limmat, the Old Town, Grossmunster Church, the City Halls, the University and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Along with the views, you can enjoy a game of chess with some of the passionate chess players.

chessboard in lindenhof park - things to do in zurich
Chessboard at Lindenhof | Source: Wikimedia

Explore the Avant-garde of Zurich-West

What once was an industrial zone and working-class district is now one of the most interesting parts of the city. Old silos, shipyards, factories, and industrial halls have been transformed into shops, clubs, apartments, theatres, and offices. Zurich western district is undergoing constant change, providing a very special kind of time travel.

Once noisy and dusty, with machines buzzing and clouds of soot hanging in the air, Zurich-West has evolved into a hotspot for night owls, epicureans and fashionistas. Structural contrasts make this district so extraordinary, to the delight of architecture lovers.

One of the symbols of Zurich-West is the colorful Freitag Tower near the central Hardbrucke Station. Rising 26 meters into the air through 19 stacked shipping containers, it is the object of worship for recycling fans. The thing is that it contains the world’s largest selection of “individual recycled freeway bags” from the renowned Zurich label Freitag. We are talking about frickin’ 1,600 bags!

Climb to the top of the canned skyscraper to enjoy the view of the whole Zurich. Your eye will get caught by the Prime Tower, the tallest skyscraper in Zurich, by the nearby Frau Gerold’s Garten, and the arches of the old railway viaduct, home to chic boutiques, exquisite restaurants, and event spaces.

zurich west viaduct

The old factory now pulses with new life. Frau Gerold’s Garten is a popular urban garden with cute little shops, flea market stalls, food trucks, and some seasonal attractions, such as a fondue tent in winter and a Sunday market in summer. It’s a cool place to hang out and is open until midnight all year round.

Party at the Street Parade

In summer, Zurich really comes to life. The second Saturday in August is reserved for the greatest festival of electronic music. Inspired by the now-defunct Love Parade in Berlin, in 1992 the Zurich Street Parade came to life.

Each year, larger and larger numbers of people are drawn by the sounds of Techno, House, Drum’n’Bass, Dubstep, Trance, Trap, and other subgenres of electronic music. It started with about 1,000 ravers and just two “love mobiles”. Fast-forward 27 years and the Zurich’s Street Parade is one of the biggest electronic parties ever, with over a million visitors from all around the world.

zurich street parade
Zurich Street Parade | Source: Wikimedia

The Parade grew to eight stages around the Lake, 30 brightly decorated love mobiles, and 200 of DJs sparking an incredible party atmosphere. East to west from Hutoquai to Hafen Enge, electronic sounds make the city vibrate.

Although the festival ends at midnight, the party doesn’t have to stop. You can prolong the night in some of the city’s many night clubs. Along with the Street Parade, the legendary Lethargy festival takes place in August in the Roten Fabrik. The same way as the Street Parade, the Lethargy has transformed from an underground party into one of the Zurich’s summer highlights.

Take a Time Out at Thermalbad & Spa

Your shoulders and back are knotted, your feet are swollen and weary, and your batteries are almost drained. We feel you. But, we also know exactly what you need. Your body and mind crave for a full-day spa treatment!

A mineral-rich ‘bathing sanctuary’, Thermalbad & Spa Zurich is the perfect place to bliss out. Upon receiving a large wardrobe and a towel at the reception, walking through a dim-lit passage, you are entering an oasis of relaxation, peace and tranquillity, leaving the frantic hustle outside.

Century-old barrel-vaulted rooms are merged with simple, yet elegant modern design and comfort. Stylish, yet unpretentious. Chandeliers that softly illuminate the high stone arches, combined with the roaring water, give you the impression of being deep inside a cave. The subtle warm tones of grey, brown and white dominating the interior make you feel cosy and embraced.

Only a few people visit it early in the morning, so be an early bird at least this one time. To cleanse your body, mind and soul, go straight to the Irish-Roman bath that combines hot, dry Irish with Roman hot water baths.

Ten stations take you from a warm blossom to a hot herbal steam room, and then to a number of warm and cold pools with Jacuzzi and underwater jets that massage your body.

The spotlight of the Thermalbad is an open-air rooftop that offers a marvellous cityscape of Zurich. When the weather permits, even the snow-capped Alps can be seen.

Close your eyes now and imagine yourself staying in the pool heated to pleasant 35˚C and feeling the crisp air on your face while watching the fog rising slowly. Beautifully invigorating, isn’t it? Go and live it!

outside pool in zurich spa
Outside pool Thermal Bath and Spa | Source: https://www.timeout.com/switzerland/things-to-do/thermal-baths-spa-switzerland

Smell the Scent of Tropics in the Botanical Garden

Welcome to the kingdom of 8,000 different plant species. Spreading over 53,000 m², the Botanic Garden of the University of Zurich serves to advance research and teaching, to educate the public, and as a lovely spot for relaxation. The new Botanical Garden was built in 1976, while the old Botanical Garden in the center of the town is still maintained as a public park.

The main purpose of the Garden is to provide a systematic representation of world-wide flora varieties, European plants, and special collections. You’ll recognize it by the three dome-shaped greenhouses.

Depending on the plant species, the “bubbles” have different climatic conditions. Two smaller greenhouses are with subtropical and savannah plants, while under the roof of the largest one you can find interesting and unique tropical species. Palms and woody ferns, orchids and numerous crops. Scenic images of the rivers of Central Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia are also presented.

zurich botanical garden
Zurich Botanical Garden | CC0

Outside is an arboretum, Mediterranean scent garden, and history-themed gardens growing plants for dyeing and medicine. You will come across wadi (dry sump) with species adapted to drought, spring garden with types of flowers that bloom during spring and summer, alpinums on different geological bases, insectivorous plants, a large meadow and a pond with a variety of aquatic plants and, in spring, full of singing frogs.

Regardless of the time of the year or the weather conditions, any time spent in the Garden is rewarding. All your senses will be tickled by intriguing stimuli. The botanical garden is rarely crowded, so take an early morning stroll across its vast grounds. We promise you an instant feeling of peace and happiness.

A Spirit of Orient at the Chinese Garden

A piece of Asia in the center of Europe. Zurich is an international city, in good relations with cities and countries all around the world. So don’t be surprised by the Chinese Garden tucked at the shore of its Lake.

The Garden was a gift by the Chinese sister city of Kunming and since 1994 has been a must-see attraction. Except in winter, when it’s closed. Set aside as a separate and self-sufficient microcosm, with many Chinese symbols and water as a central element, it is one of the highest-ranking gardens outside of China.

Surrounding the central pond, the pine tree, the bamboo and winter cherry tree make the so-called Three Friends of Winter. The pine symbolizes long life, bamboo the forest, while winter cherry represents the coming of spring.

Chinese Garden in Zurich
Chinese Garden in Zurich

A plethora of colors and their reflection in the lake are real refreshments. The park is enclosed by a great red wall. In Chinese culture, the red-colored gate is reserved for the emperor, so here you can feel very honored, like entering the imperial garden. In the wall, there are small windows with bamboo and lotus tiles, and the eaves and frieze have drawings of the Chinese dragon. The carved panels depict Chinese old stories.

Zen oasis in the heart of Zurich downtown. Lovely, peaceful, decorative garden with plenty of places to sit, relax and contemplate, it will make you daydream about samurais and onna-geishas.

Enjoy the Scenery of the Magnificent Rhine Falls

Switzerland’s major attraction for tourists is the delightful Rhine Falls. In summer, go to a boat excursion. Come close to the falls, continue through the dazzling countryside, then go over Schaffhausen with its majestic Munot Fortress all the way to the medieval town of Stein am Rhein.

The boat can also take you straight to the middle of the Rhine and then downstream to the Swiss-German border or further to the Rheinau power station.

rhine falls near zurich
Rhine Falls near Zurich

The Belvedere panoramic lift can take you to the platform right above the Falls. Up there, stupendous vistas will captivate your soul forever, while the spin-drift of the rumbling waters will shake your heart. That is the power of 700,000 liters of water per second plunging across a 150 meters width into the basin below.

The waterfalls look heavenly magnificent, almost as out of this world. The water is crystal clear, with plenty of fish in it, especially eels. Presenting its entire history, Laufen Castle stands in front of the waterfall. Inside the castle, you can take a break in the historic ambiance of its restaurant. Next to the castle is a lookout with more fascinating views of the waterfalls.

Around the castle, there are trails for hiking and jogging. Children can enjoy a modern adventure park with 165 obstacles and a large playground.

Visitors who descend to the foot of the waterfall can return in a transparent elevator. At night, all the way from the castle to the waterfall is illuminated. You will spontaneously stop blinking to soak up all that beauty and not miss a thing.

Go on a Chocolate Tour

Switzerland is a synonym for chocolate for many people. Many worldwide known brands, like Nestle, Lindt, and Toblerone, are produced with milk from Swiss cows that graze grass on alpine pastures.

In the 17th century, while the chocolate was still gritty and chewy, almost inedible, Switzerland had a strategic position in passing the goods through Europe. They used their advantage and at the beginning of the 19th century the first mechanized chocolate factory opened in the town of Vevey.

It didn’t take long for chocolate factories to spring up across the country. In 1836, the Sprungli family set up a shop in Zurich which would later merge with Rodolphe Lindt’s Bern based factory in 1892, the basis for the Lindt brand which we know today.

lunch cafe paradeplatz spruengli
Lunch Cafe | Source:spruengli.ch

Believe it or not, Sprungli Café & Restaurant still makes its customers happy with their delicacies – Luxenbourgerli, pralines, Champagne truffles, cakes, and tartlets. Standing proudly in the heart of Paradeplatz, the confectionery tells the story of a family business, hard work, and perseverance.

Zurich is such an amazing city, one that respects its history and distinctions and preserves culture and traditions. So, there is no wonder that they provide 2-hour long group chocolate tours accompanied by local guides. You learn about the city of Zurich and sample delicious Swiss chocolate at the same time! Don’t forget to bring some home as your palate will yearn for more of that smooth, creamy texture and rich chocolate taste.

zurich christmas market
Zurich Christmas Market | Source: https://s.inyourpocket.com/

It is the Advent season and Zurich is vested in its festive attire. Sparkling Christmas lights are lit and the city’s numerous Christmas markets are especially multifarious and inviting. You can sense the magic in the air. To warm up, take a glass of punch or mulled wine, or a hot bite of raclette or fondue.

Regardless of the time of the year, make a list of your favorite – best things to do in Zurich, book our limousine service – Edelswiss to ease you’re traveling around and enjoy the time of your life. We are at your service to make your stay in the city complete and more pleasant.

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1 year ago

Thanks for using our photograph, we feel flattered 😉

And yes, Zurich is quite something!

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