26 Best things to do in Zurich

Zurich is the capital of the canton of Zurich and the largest city in Switzerland. It is also a financial and cultural center of  the country. The city is situated in the north of Switzerland, on the western shore of Lake Zurich, within 50 km from Lucerne and 70 km from Bern.

Some of the best things to do in Zurich are to explore the beautiful Old Town with its medieval buildings and cobblestone streets, enjoy vibrant nightlife, try the local food, take a boat tour around Lake Zurich, and visit Uetliberg mountain.

Zurich is considered the major financial center in the world. It is the location of many international banks and institutions. The city is also home to plenty of museums and art galleries. 

Zurich is also ranking on top positions in the world for its high quality of life. It also offers the lively nightlife, high-end shopping and dining, and excellent public transport systems.

Zurich is surrounded by stunning natural landscapes such as Lake Zurich and the Alps, offering plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventure such as swimming, hiking, and skiing.

26 Best things to do in Zurich, Switzerland

1. Lake Zürich

Lake Zurich is one of the biggest lakes in Switzerland along with Lake Geneva, Lake Constance, Lake Lucerne, and Lake Neuchâtel.

The lake is surrounded by the hills of Albis and Zimmerberg, and the Pfannenstiel chain. It is connected with several rivers such as the Linth and the Sihl rivers.

You can explore the lake by taking a sightseeing boat tour. Boat trips are run throughout the year, and there is a option of short ride, full-day ride, and the round ride.

Lake Zürich is also a popular place for swimming. Popular beaches on the lake are the Strandbad Tiefenbrunnen, Strandbad Utoquai, and Strandbad Mythenquai. There are also water sport activities such as surfing, wakeskating, and sailing.

If you love cycling, the lake offers great bicycle routes around Lake Zurich for both beginner and experienced cyclists. You can choose Cycle Route 66, spanning from Zurich to Rapperswil as well as the Cycle Route 99, spanning from Einsiedeln to Rapperswil.

You can also visit islands nearby such as Ufenau Island and Lützelau Island. On Ufenau Island, you can explore attractions such as the abbey-owned vineyard, St. Peter and Paul Church, and St. Martin’s Chapel. There is also a restaurant and swimming spot to enjoy.

There are many lakeside restaurants that offer local and fresh cuisine, and stunning lake views. You can try freshly caught fish dishes and seafood, as well as traditional Swiss food.

2. Altstadt (Old Town)

Altstadt, also known as Old Town, is situated on the left bank of the Limmat river and is a popular area in Zurich for tourists. Altstadt is filled with the 17th-century medieval buildings and narrowed cobblestone alleys.  

Old Town is home to many historical and cultural landmarks. One of the most popular sights in the old town is the impressive 13th-century Great Minster, or Grossmünster, which is the Romanesque-style church with two tall towers that dominate the skyline.

Other churches are the Peter’s Church, or Peterskirche, which has the largest clock face in Europe, and the Minster of Our Lady, or Fraumünster, which is a beautiful Gothic-style church with stained glass windows by Giacometti and Chagall in the 1960s.

If you are a history buff or culture vulture, you can visit the Rietberg Museum, which displays Asian, African, and American arts; Museum of Art, which exhibits modern art, photography; and the Swiss National Museum. 

Make sure to take a look at the Muhlestein Footbridge, a stone bridge across the River Limmat, which is well-known for its love locks.

While visiting Zurich, you can consider taking the Lindt & Sprüngli Chocolate Factory tour to learn about the  process and history of Swiss chocolate, as well as joining a workshop, and make your own chocolate.

The old town offers a great shopping experience, with numerous boutiques and stores on Niederdorf and Rennweg streets. There are also many restaurants and cafes throughout the town, so you can try local food and drinks.

The Old Town has the highest concentration of night clubs and bars, offering vibrant nightlife. So if you are a party animal, Old Town is a great place to stay in Zurich.

The Old Town is easily explored on foot and by public transport. There are numerous tram stations in the area such as Neumarkt and Central stations, as well as multiple bus stops.

3. Viadukt

Viadukt is a popular destination for shopping, dining, and entertainment. It is a hipster area located in West Zürich where you can find a Markthalle market hall located underneath the imposing arches of an old railway viaduct.

The area is also home to many designer shops, restaurants, bars, and galleries. You can also find a fitness center with yoga classes, dance studio, an artist studio, as well as a kid’s play area.

It is named after the Viadukt, a covered bridge that stretches the rail tracks that pass through the area. Viadukt  is easily accessible by public transportation. he river Limmat and Hardbrücke station

4. Limmat Schifffahrt boat trip

Limmat river cruise is one of the best things to do in Zurich to see the city’s famous attractions from the water. You can view the Lindenhof, the Grossmünste, and the Quaibrücke.

The Limmat Schifffahrt is a boat tour operator in Zurich, providing both traditional paddle boats and motorboats with sightseeing tours and dinner cruises. The boat tour is around 45 minutes and 1.5 hours all year round. 

This  in a glass-roof boat offers unobstructed views of the attractions. You can purchase the tickets online, on board, or at the sales outlets on Bürkliplatz.

5. Museum of Art

The Museum of Art, or the Kunsthaus Zurich in German, is one of Zurich’s best museums.

This museum displays the works of Swiss artists, and international artists such as Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall, Kokoschka, Wassily Kandinsky, Claude Monet, and Corinth.

In addition to the permanent art collection, the museum also hosts a number of temporary exhibitions and events, such as lectures, workshops, and concerts.

The Museum of Art is located close to the Great Minster in district 1, Kunsthaus tram station, as well as bus stops and train stations. The open time is 10 am/ 6 pm on Tue, Fri – Sun, 10 am/8 pm on Wed and Thu.

6. Lindenhof (Lindenhof Square)

Lindenhof is a hill above the Limmat, offers panoramic views of the city, the lake, and the surrounding Alps. It is a great location for picnics, sunbathing, and outdoor events. It also has a children’s playground and a giant outdoor chess board for fun.

Lindenhof is located on the Roman fortification site, close to the Old Town. There is a 2rd century Roman settlement and the castle dated back to the fifth and sixth centuries. 

You can find the 4th-century citadel with its 2m wide walls and ten towers. The area is also home to a large Hedwig Fountain, sculpted by Duke Albrecht I. of Habsburg, dedicated to the brave women of Zurich.

7. Zürich-West

Zurich West is a former industrial area that has been converted into a cultural district. It is located between the Limmat River and Bahnhof, and is easy to get around by public transport. 

Many warehouses and factories have been converted into trendy restaurants, cafes, bars, shops, galleries, and apartments.

Zurich West is home to cool street art, galleries, cafes, and shops. You can find indie clothing, crafts, antiques, in Im Viadukt with its 36 arch way, and fresh products in Markthalle indoor Farmers’ Market.

You can also grab a meal at the Clouds in the Prime Tower, which is Zurich’s tallest building. The building provides a spectacular view of the city, and the Alps. 

The Freitag Container Tower is another place to shop for handmade bags from recycled truck tarpaulin.

Zurich West offers great nightlife. You can check out a beer garden, restaurant, boutique shop and art spot called Frau Gerolds Garten for a drink at the foot of the Prime Tower.

If you like swimming in the area, head to Flussbad Oberer Letten on the Limmat River, a great place to eat, drink,  play volleyball, and swim.

Zurich West is easily reachable by a short tram ride from Hauptbahnhof –  Zurich’s main train station, and close to Pfingstweidstrasse, Hardturmstrasse, and Hardstrasse.

8. Swiss National Museum

The Swiss National Museum is one of the best things to do and see in Zurich if you want to learn about the history and culture of Switzerland from its origin to present days.

The Swiss National Museum has temporary and permanent exhibitions such as History Switzerland, Archaeology Switzerland, and Gallery Collections.

The Swiss National Museum houses a collection of 860,000 objects about handicrafts, everyday objects, sculptures, and paintings of Switzerland. 

There is an inner courtyard which is used for concerts and events, as well as a souvenir store selling products that are made and designed by Swiss artisans.

The Swiss National Museum is located close to the Zurich Main Station, in the Old Town of Zurich,  and is easy to reach by public transport.

9. Grossmünster Church

The Grossmünster, or Great Minister, is one of the best things to see in Zurich because this  Romanesque-style Evangelical Protestant church is one of the major churches in Zurich along with Predigerkirche, St. Peterskirche und Fraumünster. 

According to local legend, the church was founded by Roman emperor Charles the Great, on the site of the graves of Felix and Regula,  the patron saints of the city.

Constructed  in 1100, the Grossmünster has been rebuilt several times throughout the centuries. It was used as the beginning area of the Reformation under Huldrych Zwingli and Heinrich Bullinger in the 16th century. 

The neo-Gothic towers were added in the 18th century, and the interior renovations happened in the 20th century.

The two towers are one of the most striking features of the church. You can climb up 187 narrow, winding stairs to the top of the Karlstrum tower and enjoy the views over the city and the surrounding Alps.

While visiting the church, you can check out  the stained glass windows by Augusto Giacometti, the glass windows by German artist Sigmar Polke, bronze doors by Otto Münc, and the Reformation museum.

The Grossmünster church is conveniently located in the Old Town of Zurich, on the left bank of the Limmat river. The church is open to the public from 9 am to 5 pm daily.

10. Zürich Zoo

Zürich Zoo is one of the best things to do in Zurich for families with kids because it is considered one of Europe’s best zoos. It is located in the Fluntern quarter of Zurichberg, and is known as Zurich Zoologischer Garten by locals.

Opened in 1929, the zoo has over  2,200 animals and birds and 380 species of  tropical variety. The zoo is divided into many sections.

You can visit Lewa Savannah to see giraffes, rhinos, and zebras; the Masoala Rainforest to see turtles and snakes; Australian Enclosure to see koalas, kangaroos; ‘Kaeng Krachan Elephant Park to see Elephants.

There is also an Aquarium, which is home to many fishes; and the ‘Mongolian Steppe, which is home to camels, as well as Pantanal with monkeys, and mammals.

The Zoo has a variety of interactive exhibits and educational programs such as guided tours and workshops, as well as a range of dining options and souvenir shops.

Zurich Zoo is ideal for people of all ages to come and learn more about the animals, their habitats, and the importance of conservation.

11. Uetliberg

Uetliberg Mountain is located in the Swiss Plateau, 2,858 feet above sea, providing stunning views of Zurich city and the Alps. The mountain is a popular place for hiking, biking, camping, and paragliding.

You can take the 2 hour walk on the Planet Trail, which spans from Uetliberg and Felsenegg mountains. The trail shows the enormous distances in the solar system.

Uetliberg Mountain is more popular in November when its summit is covered by fog. There are hiking, biking in summer and sledding in winter.

There are trains from Hauptbahnhof station to the mountain, which is included in Zurich Cards. The mountain has facilities such as a restaurant, a hotel, and restrooms.

12. Niederdorf neighborhood

Niederdorf, also known as Dörfli by locals, is an area of the old town that is famous for its narrow cobblestone streets, historic buildings, and lively nightlife.

Niederdorfstrasse is the main street of the Niederdorf neighborhood. It is a pedestrian area running parallel with Limmatquai and the river Limma. 

You can stroll along the area’s hidden alleyways with the coffee shops, craft studios, boutique stores, souvenir shops in the daytime, and enjoy great nightlife at one of its bars, nightclubs, and street performances.

You can also visit famous attractions such as the Grossmunster Protestant church, and try chocolate at Péclard in Conditorei Schober behind the church.

If you are visiting the area in August, you can have a chance to take part in the popular Dörflifäscht festival, and enjoy music, food, and shows.

13. Rietberg Museum

Museum Rietberg is the only non-European art and culture museum in Switzerland with a collection of artifacts from all over the world such as in the Americas, Asia, Oceania, and Africa. 

Located in the beautiful Rieter Park and founded in 1952,, the Museum Rietberg has an interesting architecture. You can find the Emerald, the modern underground extension, and the historical villas like the Schonberg Villa,  Rieter Park Villa, and Wesendonck Villa.

In addition to the permanent collection, the museum also has special exhibitions and a café for picnic baskets in summer.

14. Bahnhofstrasse

Bahnhofstrasse was built in the 19 century on the moats that protected the original fortified Zurich. It was built at the same time as Zurich Hauptbahnhof central station.

The street is home to many boutiques & jewelry shops, department stores such as Jelmoli and Globus, as well as a Swiss banking center at the famous Zurich town square, Paradeplatz. There are also fine-dining restaurants, and cafes.

Stretching from the main railway station to Lake Zurich, you can stroll along the lake in the summer, and grab a cup of  hot chocolate and mulled wine in the winter.

If you want to visit the Old Town, you can just follow the Augustinergasse and Rennweg alleys that lead off from Bahnhofstrasse.

15. Beyer Clock and Watch Museum

Beyer Clock and Watch Museum offers leading private collections of clocks on the famous Bahnhofstrasse. 

It is located in a historic building that was once the home of the Theodor Beyer family, who were prominent clock and watchmakers in the city. 

Beyer Clock and Watch Museum has exhibits presenting the history from 1400 BC to the present day. There are sundials,  Renaissance automata, oil clocks, water clocks, pocket watches, wrist watches, and scientific navigation devices.

The museum also has a workshop where visitors can see demonstrations of clock and watch repair, and learn about the mechanics of these timepieces. 

16. Fraumünster Church

Fraumünster Church is conveniently located on the west bank of the Limmat, opposite the Grossmünster. The church is famous for its stunning architecture with Romanesque and Gothic features and beautiful glass windows.

It is famous for its green steeple, the five stained glass windows designed by Russian-French artist Marc Chagall in the 1970s, and The Heavenly Paradise created designed Augusto Giacometti.

The church was constructed in the 9th century by Louis the German, King of East Francia.

Fraumünster Church has 5793 pipe organs which is the biggest in the Canton of Zurich. There is also the Romanesque chancel, the high vaulted transept, a series of frescoes by Paul Bodmer in the cloister.

The church has undergone several renovations and expansions over the centuries, and today it is a popular tourist attraction in Zurich.

17. FIFA World Football Museum

The FIFA World Football Museum is a must-see for football fans because it is the history and culture of soccer. 

You can learn about the history of FIFA and the Football World Cup through  its exhibitions, as well as experience through interactive displays and activities such as a virtual reality experience that allows visitors to experience what it’s like to play in a real match.

There is an original FIFA World Cup Trophy, and many items such as the national soccer shirts , as well as a pinball machine.

The museum is home to a Sportsbar 1904, restaurants, and shop selling gifts and souvenirs for fans of all ages.

18. St Peter

St. Peter church, also known as St. Peterskirche, is the oldest parish church and the only baroque church in the city. It was built in the 9th century, in the old town area with a Roman Catholic church, but it later became a Protestant church during the Reformation. 

The church is named after Saint Peter, one of the 12 apostles of Jesus.

The church has Europe’s largest clock on the tower, and the 119th century five bells. The church tower served as a fire lookout point from the Middle Ages to 1911.

The church is also the burial place of the first mayor of Zurich, Rudolf Brun. IT has a Baroque nave and a Romanesque choir with some faded medieval murals.

19. Pavillon Le Corbusier

Pavillon Le Corbusier, also known as the Heidi Weber Museum,  is located on the shores of Lake Zurich and is the last work of the famous Swiss architect Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, or Le Corbusier.

The building was completed in 1967,with a simple, rectangular shape and functionalist design. There is a flat roof, big windows, and a white concrete exterior. 

The building’s interior has several levels that hosts galleries, exhibition spaces, and a library.

The pavilion has temporary exhibitions, events, and workshops and is open from May to November. 

20. Zürich Opera House

Zürich Opera House is a 1200 seats theater to visit for those wanting to watch performances, plays, concerts, opera, and ballet.

The Opera House was created by Karl Moser, a Swiss architect. It was opened in 1891, close to  Old Town and Lake Zurich and it has neoclassical style, with a grand façade and an ornate interior.

If you’re interested in a performance in the Zurich Opera House, you can visit their website for more information on ticket prices and upcoming events. If  you want to grab lunch and dinner at its Piazza Terrace at the on-site Restaurant Belcanto.

21. University of Zürich Botanical Garden

The botanical Garden of the University of Zurich is not only research place, conservation, education,  but also a lovely place to visit and relax.

The Garden has more than 8000 different kinds of plants from all over the world on its grounds. The Botanical Garden was constructed in 1976 and created by landscape architect Fred Eicher.

You can also find three aquariums, a cafe, as well as dome-shaped greenhouses with climates of tropical, subtropics, and savannah with a cloud forest, and the rainforest. 

22. Outdoor Swimming

Zurich is located on the shore of Lake Zurich which has many places to swim. There are mountain pools, thermal baths, and rivers that make for ideal water fun. It has cleaner water than in most European cities. 

In addition to the lake, the city has many outdoor swimming baths that come with facilities such as cloakrooms, toilets, kiosks.

You can find the women-only outdoor swimming pool on the Limmat river called Frauenbad, as well as Oberer Letten, Badi Enge Sauna am See, Hürlimann Spa, or Strandbad Tiefenbrunnen.

23. Schanzengraben

Schanzengraben was once a moat that surrounded the city of Zurich, and is now a tranquil canal, boats and swimmers connect Lake Zurich to the Limmat.

You can stroll along its wooden walkway, a quiet waterway, connecting the Bürkliplatz ferry docks  withZürich main train station. Along the way, you can find the Old Botanical Garden, Flussbad am Schanzengraben, which is the public swimming bath for men.

You can reach down to the canal through Rio Bar, behind Migros City, or by the Gessnerallee Theater. There is also the baroque Schanzenstern  fortification, which was constructed from 1642 to 1678.

24. Zurich Zoological Museum

The Zoological Museum is one of the best things to do with children in Zurich. The Zoological Museum is a natural history museum of the University of Zurich

The Zoological Museum is free, and easily accessible by public transport. It is home to 1500 stuffed animals behind glass of all kinds and 1000 fossils.

You can hear the whales singing and insects buzzing. There are also interactive exhibits  workshops for children to learn on a special biology-related topic.

25. Dolderbahn

Dolderbahn is one of the oldest railways in the city, built in the 18th century. You can take a train ride up to Sonnenberg and admire the stunning views of the city. 

The Dolderbahn railway travels 1328 m in six minutes. Along the way, you can see the beautiful houses of Hottingen.

The Dolderbahn line runs every day, every 10, 15 or 20 minutes depending on the time of day. The line was opened as a funicular railway in 1895, connecting Romerhoff to Hotel Dolder Waldhaus, and transformed into rack operation in 1973. 

26. Street Parade

Zurich is the capital of the techno world. Street Parade is an annual electronic dance music festival in August. It attracts thousands of fans to techno and House music in Zürich. 

Around 30 Love Mobiles, trucks filled with huge music systems, DJs and party people, as well as many stages with top DJs, live acts and multimedia.

Most night clubs open until the early hours of the morning.

Street Parade routes are located within walking distance from Zurich main station, Zurich Stadelhofen, and  Zurich Enge.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Zurich best known for?

Zurich is best known for its high quality of life and Switzerland’s financial and cultural hub. The city is home to many banks and financial institutions, as well as many museums and art galleries. It is also best known for its medieval Old Town, and stunning natural surroundings of  the Alps and Lake Zurich with lots of outdoor activities.

Is Zurich worth exploring?

Zurich is worth exploring because it is Switzerland’s biggest city that has a rich cultural scene, and  beautiful natural surroundings for outdoor activities. There are plenty of museums and art galleries, as well as parks and  green spaces, and lively nightlife.

Is there anything to see in Zurich?

There are plenty of things to do and see in Zurich from the charming Old Town with many museums, galleries, and parks, to the Bahnhofstrasse shopping street, and Lake Zurich.  There are also many cafes, restaurants, and bars to choose from.

Is 1 day enough for Zurich?

One day is possible to see some of the major attractions of Zurich, but it is not enough time to fully experience all that the city has to offer. To make the most of your day, it is recommended to plan your itinerary carefully and prioritize the sights and activities that are most important to you.

What are the best things to do in Zurich in one day?

Some of the best things to do if you have only one day in Zurich are visiting the Old Town, Limmat River, Swiss National Museum, taste some delicious Swiss chocolate, take a boat tour to Lake Zurich, and shop at Bahnhofstrasse shopping street.

What are the best things to do in Zurich for free?

Some of the free things to do in Zurich are exploring Zurich Old Town, strolling along the lakefront, parks, and gardens, as well as visiting famous sights such as the Swiss National Museum, St. Peter’s Church, and Grossmünste. You can also visit the markets and street fairs for free.

What are the non-touristy things to do in Zurich?

Some of the non-touristy things to do in Zurich are visiting the weekly farmers’ market, parks and green spaces, as well as eating the local food at a traditional Swiss restaurant. You can also take a boat tour on Lake Zurich and visit the Zurich Zoo.

What are the best things to do in Zurich at night?

Some of the best things to do in Zurich at night are visiting  many bars and clubs in the city, taking a night walk along the beautiful Lake Zurich, or watching a concert or theater performance. You can also eat local Swiss cuisine or visit one of the city’s many street food markets.

What are the unusual things to do in Zurich?

Some of the unusual things to do in Zurich are fishing in the Limmat River, visiting Lindt Home of Chocolate, or exploring unique street art installations and underground tunnels in the city, or participating in a Swiss cheese fondue culinary tour.

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So there you have it, the best things to do in Zurich, Switzerland for your next trip. If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment below.

About Author: Linda Smith

I'm Linda Smith, the Hotel Expert, an experienced travel blogger who passionate about traveling. I'm here to share with you all my travel experiences and tips. I cover a wide range of travel topics, specializing in sharing information about the best areas, neighborhoods, and hotels in each city. I hope all these things will make your travel easier.

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