One of the top things to do in Switzerland is to visit Zurich. One of the main things to know about Zurich is that it is an expensive city, so be prepared. If you’ve only got a short amount of time in the city and want to know what to see in Zurich in two hours, we suggest sticking exclusively to the picturesque Altstadt, or Old Town.
If you’re searching for unusual things to do in Zurich, check out the unique Frau Gerolds Garden in trendy Zurich-West. As for things to do in Zurich with kids, you need to head straight for the zoo. Keep reading for more fun things to do in Zurich.
Established in the 12th century, Grossmünster is a Romanesque-style Protestant church and one of the city’s four major churches. It’s Zurich’s most recognizable landmark and literally translates to ‘great minster’ in German. Inside, it has exquisite features like stained glass windows, a Romanesque crypt, and bronze doors. There’s also a Reformation museum in the cloister. Legend has it that Charlemagne had the church built over the graves of the city’s patron saints, Felix and Regula.
Rising to 2854 feet, Uetliberg is the city’s main mountain. From its vantage point, there are panoramic views of the city, lake, and the Alps on a clear day. There are several hiking trails – and a downhill mountain bike trail – that can take you to the top of Uetliberg, which magically transforms into sled runs in winter. One of the most popular (and easiest) hikes is the two-hour journey from Uetliberg to Felsenegg.
3. Swiss National Museum
One of the city’s top tourist attractions is the Swiss National Museum. Three museums and a collection center come under the Swiss National Museum umbrella, which has an extensive collection of over 860,000 artifacts. The National Museum Zurich is one of these premises and resembles a fairytale castle. With displays on Switzerland’s history from the very beginning, its exhibits include Archaeology of Switzerland, Simply Zurich, A Magic Carpet Ride Through History, and Ideas of Switzerland.
4. Lake Zurich
Lake Zurich is a 25-mile-long lake that extends southeast of the city. Although Zurich is the largest city on the lake, there are several smaller towns around its perimeter. It’s a popular place to visit in summer when locals and tourists alike take to the lake on boats, stand-up paddleboards, and even waterskis. Meanwhile, ice-skating rinks pop up around the lake in winter. Don’t miss dining at a lake view restaurant either, such as Fischer’s Fritz.
5. Fraumünster Church
Another one on the city’s main churches is Fraumünster, which translates to ‘women’s minster’ in German. Its name comes from the fact it was built on the remains of a former abbey for aristocratic European women. Louis the German founded the abbey in the 9th century for his daughter Hildegard. Fraumünster is also another one of the city’s most prominent landmarks, thanks to its green steeple. Step inside to see the impressive stained glass windows.
6. Zoo Zürich
One of the most family-friendly things to do in Zurich is to visit the zoo. Said to be one of the best in Europe, Zoo Zürich was established in 1929. It has over 4000 animals from more than 380 different species, and its oldest resident is Nigrita, a Galapagos giant turtle. Its exhibits aim to reflect the animals’ natural habitats as much as possible and include Australia, Masoala Rainforest, the Aquarium, and Kaeng Krachan Elephant Park.
7. Kunsthaus Zürich
Art enthusiasts must visit Kunsthaus Zürich, as the art museum houses one of the country’s most important art collections. It has over 4000 pieces of art that range from the Middle Ages to contemporary art, with a strong focus on Swiss art. The museum’s permanent collection includes works from world-renowned artists like Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, René Magritte, and Vincent Van Gogh. It’s worth noting that it’s free to visit Kunsthaus Zürich on Wednesdays too.
8. St. Peter, Zürich
Another day, another one of the city’s main churches – but this one happens to be Zurich’s oldest parish church. St. Peter’s current building was consecrated in 1706 and was the city’s first church built under Protestant rule. Its random claim to fame is that its steeple’s clock face has a diameter of 28.5 feet, which makes it Europe’s largest church clock face. St. Peter also has five bells that date back to 1880.
Often shortened to Zurich HB, the Hauptbahnhof is the city’s main railway hub and the largest railway station in Switzerland. Serving over 2900 trains daily that arrive from across Europe, it’s one of the world’s busiest railway stations. Its main building is built in the neo-renaissance architecture style. Besides catching a train, head to the Hauptbahnhof to check out ShopVille-Zurich, a shopping center open until late that’s filled with restaurants, fast food options, and convenience stores.
10. Patio of Frau Gerolds Garten
Dining on the patio at Frau Gerolds Garten is one of the most fun things to do in Zurich year-round. Located at the bottom of the Prime Tower in the trendy Zurich-West quarter, Frau Gerolds Garten is an urban oasis. Surrounded by greenery and overlooking the railroad tracks, the terrace at Frau Gerolds Garten is open until midnight in the summertime. In winter, get cozy inside by the open fireplace and enjoy some delicious fondue.
Altstadt is the city’s Old Town, located in the historic city center. Lining both sides of the Limmat River, top attractions in the Alstadt include Bahnhofstrasse, a luxurious shopping street; Augustinergasse with its photogenic and colorful houses; the churches mentioned above; and the famous Giacometti Murals. Head to Niederdorf for interesting shops and eateries during the day, and the best nightlife after dark. Visiting the Alstadt is one of the top things to do in Zurich.
Located in the Altstadt, Lindenhof is a leafy park with views over the Limmat River, Lake Zurich, and the Old Town. Many historical events have taken place at Lindenhof over the years. For example, a Roman fort stood on Lindenhof in the 4th century, and in the 9th century, Charlemagne’s grandson built a regal palace there. Today, people visit Lindenhof for its tranquility and panoramic views. It’s also a meeting place for competitive chess players.
Once the city’s industrial quarter, Zurich-West is now its trendiest district. Buildings that once housed factories are now home to designer boutiques, market halls, gourmet restaurants, and furniture stores. The aforementioned Frau Gerolds Garten is one of the area’s most popular establishments, along with the Freitag Flagship Store. Head to the Viadukt for more shopping and dining opportunities, such as the impressive Market Hall, Ambrosi Coffee Bar for Mediterranean cuisine, and eco-friendly streetwear at Tarzan.
14. Town Hall
Translated in German to the Rathaus, Zurich Town Hall is found in the Alstadt. Located directly on the Limmat River, get a great photo of the Town Hall from the appropriately named Town Hall Bridge (Rathausbrücke in German). Constructed in the late 17th century, the building is built in the renaissance-style with baroque elements. Visitors can step inside the Town Hall to see displays featuring historical artifacts and artworks that tell the city’s political story.
15. Limmat Cruise
We’ve mentioned the Limmat River just a few times already. Snaking through the Swiss countryside, the river flows through the historic city center before reaching Lake Zurich. A Limmat River Cruise is a part of the city’s public transport network, so it’s an inexpensive way to see many of its prominent landmarks. This includes the Town Hall, the main churches, and the National Museum. The 50-minute journey on a glass-roofed boat is available from April to October.
16. Chinese Garden Zurich
Classified as a temple garden, the city’s Chinese Garden is one of the highest-ranking gardens located outside of China. The garden was a gift from the city’s Chinese partner town, Kunming, to thank Zurich for its technical and scientific support in regards to Kunming’s urban drainage and drinking water facilities. The Chinese Garden features a pond with a small island, as well as pavilions and a water palace. The garden is open from March until October.
As mentioned, Bahnhofstrasse is located in the city’s Old Town. A walk down the main street is one of the top things to do in Zurich. However, depending on your budget you may need to stick to simply window shopping, as it’s one of the world’s most expensive and exclusive shopping streets. Just some of the designer brands you can expect to find along Bahnhofstrasse include Dior, Tiffany and Co, Cartier, Prada, and Louis Vuitton.
If you’re looking for things to do in Zurich at night, you need to visit Niederhof. Along the river from the Hauptbahnhof and located in the Old Town, Niederhof is the city’s main nightlife destination. Aside from being home to the city’s best bars and clubs, Niederhof is also lined with trendy clothing boutiques, independent bookshops, craft stores, and fast food options. Called Dörfli (little village) by locals, don’t miss a visit to picturesque Niederhof.
19. Zürich Opera House
Zurich Opera House has been the home of Zurich Opera since 1891. It’s known as one of the world’s best opera houses, hosting around 250 annual performances. It doesn’t just focus on opera though, as it’s the primary home of Philharmonic and Ballet Zurich as well. Visit their calendar to see upcoming events, which include the aforementioned fields as well as world-renowned singers, plays, family-friendly performances. Guided tours of the facility are also available.
20. University of Zürich Botanical Garden
The Botanical Garden at the University of Zurich is fortunately open year-round. Managed by the university’s Department of Systematic Botany, the former private garden aims to both advance research and educate the public. Focused on representing the world’s flora, the botanical garden currently features over 8000 different plant species. Head inside the bubble-inspired tropical greenhouses to see more plants (and to warm up in winter). Check out the touchscreens at the entrance to learn more information.
21. FIFA Headquarters
The current FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) Headquarters building in Zurich has served as the company’s official headquarters since its completion in 2006. It features two upper levels and five underground levels, which are home to the all-important offices, as well as a fitness center, meditation room, and a full-sized football pitch. Although you can’t visit the FIFA Headquarters, you can go to the FIFA World Football Museum – conveniently located in the city’s downtown area.