Zurich Attractions and Activities
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Zurich's proximity to the Alps and to other Swiss cities make it an excellent hub to enjoy leisure activities and from where to start exploring Switzerland. Zurich is among Europe's coolest cities to visit and it offers a wide variety of attractions and activities - too many to list here! This page provides a brief introduction about what you can do in and around Zurich!
Excursions: >> Mountain ExcursionsCity Excursionsother Excursions
Jungfraujoch - Top of Europe (3,454 m / 11,330 ft):
Full-day excursion (approx. 4 1/2 hours by train from Zurich to the top). Snow and ice 100% guaranteed! The UNESCO World Heritage offers the Sphinx observation hall, an impressive Ice Palace and a hiking plateau in the glacier - these are year-round attractions up on the Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in Europe. Summer attractions include a skilift, husky-drawn sledging and adventure activities. Consider a stop over in Interlaken.
Schilthorn - Piz Gloria (2,970 m / 9,742 ft):
Full-day excursion (approx. 4 hours by train from Zurich to the top). The most spectacular 360° panorama in the Alps! Dine-and-wine in the world's first revolving restaurant at an altitude of nearly 3,000 meters. Impressive views embrace some 200 snow-capped peaks, ranging from the Bernese Alps to Mont Blanc in France and Germany's Black Forest. Consider a stop over in Interlaken.
Mt. Titlis (3,020 m / 9,906 ft):
Full-day excursion (approx. 3 hours by train from Zurich to the top). Snow and Fun all year round; the Titlis is the highest alpine tourist destination in Central Switzerland, and the Titlis Rotair is the world's first revolving cable car. Visitors will be impressed by attractions such as the Ice Flyer chairlift or the Glacier Park. Consider a stop over in Lucerne.
Mt. Pilatus (2,132 m / 6,993 ft):
Full-day excursion (approx. 2 hours by train from Zurich to the top). Close to Lucerne and easy to reach by public transport, Mount Pilatus is the perfect peak for everyone, large or small. 2 aerial cableways, 7 restaurants, the world's steepest cogwheel railway and Central Switzerland's biggest suspension rope park guarantee exciting excursions. All kinds of sports fans meet here to hike, climb, toboggan sledge, bike and sledge (6 km sledge run). Consider the "Golden Roundtrip" traveling by cogwheel railway, cable car and boat. Consider a stop over in Lucerne.
Mt. Rigi (1,797 m / 5,895 ft):
Full-day excursion (approx. 1 1/2 hours by train from Zurich to the top). Follow the traces of Mark Twain and Queen Victoria, the first famous visitors of Mt. Rigi, the sun terrace above Lake Lucerne with views over the snow-capped Alps and 13 lakes. Consider a stop over in Lucerne.
Uetliberg (874 m / 2,867 ft):
Half-day excursion (approx. 20 minutes by train to the top - trains are departing at 1/2-hour intervals from Zurich Main Railway Station). To get to Zurich's local mountain, the short railway journey is mainly through woods. At the top you will have a sweeping panorama of the whole Zurich area, the Limmat Valley, Lake Zurich and the Alpine range - from Säntis in the east to the Jungfrau and the Les Diablerets in the southwest - whereas the ridges of the Jura and the Vosges are faintly visible to the west and northwest on the horizon. There are several hiking trails as well as a mountain bike route (3.5 km) down to the city.
Rapperswil – City of Roses:
Half- or Full-day excursion (approx. 40 minutes by train from Zurich; approx. 2 hours by boat). Rapperswil is a small town at the opposite end of Lake Zurich. It offers unique attractions for visitors – the Rose Gardens, the Castle, the deer park on the Lindenhof, the picturesque Old Town, Switzerland's largest wooden bridge and Knie's Children Zoo. You can take a train in the morning along Lake Zurich to get to Rapperswil; have lunch in one of the restaurants on the quai and in the afternoon take a lake steamer back to Zurich (steamers do not operate during winter from November to March).
Basel - cultural capital of Switzerland:
Half- or Full-day excursion (approx. 60 minutes by train from Zurich). In Basel you can live and breathe art and culture. The city promises "Culture Unlimited" and sparkles with an incomparable programme of culture and leisure activities. The city also is known as an important trade center, and an interesting place of archtiecture offering both - old historic buidlings as well as modern structures designed by world famous architects.
Bern - Switzerland's captivating Capital:
Half- or Full-day excursion (approx. 60 minutes by train from Zurich). Founded in 1191, this is a city of medieval magic, listed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage. Attractions of Bern include several historic sites such as the famous Clock Tower, the bearpits (home to the city's heraldic animals), the House of Parliament, the Paul Klee Center, the Swiss Alpine Museum, and excellent shopping arcades.
Interlaken - in the Heart of the Swiss Alps:
Full-day excursion (approx. 110 minutes by train from Zurich via Bern). Interlaken, the small town between the cristal-clear lakes of Thun and Brienz is surrounded by Alpine pearls such as sparkling streams, fantastic falls and extraordinary mountain scenery including the famous peaks of the Eiger, the Moench and the Jungfrau. Don't miss strolling along Interlaken's famous "Höheweg" promenade - it is one of the best locations in Switzerland for souvenir and watch shopping, and offers superbe views of the Jungfrau mountain range. Consider combining the excursion to Interlaken with visiting other sights of the Jungfrau region, such as the Jungfraujoch or the Schilthorn, the Ballenberg Open-Air Museum or the St. Beatus Caves. When traveling to/from Interlaken, consider taking the scenic train Golden Pass (to/from Lucerne; total travel time Zurich-Interlaken one way 2 hours 50 minutes).
Lucerne - City of Lights:
Half- or Full-day excursion (approx. 50 minutes by train from Zurich). One of Switzerland's most popular excursion destinations is within less than 1 hour traveling time from Zurich. Lucerne is ideally situated in the historic and scenic heart of what many believe to be the "true" Switzerland - picture mountains, lakes, cowbells, alpine villages and meadows full of Edelweiss. Lucerne is renowned for its attractive townscape, historic Chapel Bridge and shopping facilities.
Geneva - peace capital of the world:
Full-day excursion (approx. 2 3/4 hours by train from Zurich). Known for being headquarters for many international organizations, Geneva also features the world's tallest fountain, the Jet d'Eau, Cathedrals, the University, the Opera and numerous museums and libraries. Check out the Horology Museum that highlights the importance of clock and watch making to the Genevan economy.
Other Excursions / Sights:
Guided Zurich City Tours:
The Zurich Tourist Office offers several guided city tours - some by foot, others by bus or boat, and some combined. We suggest to contact the tourist office to decide on your best option depending on time and interests (some tours are offered year round others are seasonal, some are daily others on specific weekdays). We recommend:
- The 2 hours "Stroll through the Old Town" walking tour to come face to face with Zurich’s past and present through a selection of buildings, stories and anecdotes. Offered daily during summer, on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from November through April; CHF 20.00 adults / CHF 10.00 / children (50% discount with the ZurichCARD); reservation recommended - at the Zurich Tourist Office.
- The "Best of Zurich" - Tour: 2 hours 25 minutes for the most important sites including the Old Town, a ride on a cogwheel railway and 3 picture stops. Offered daily year round (1 departure during winter / 2 departures during summer); CHF 33.00 adults / CHF 16.50 / children; reservation recommended - at the Zurich Tourist Office.
- Discover Zurich's sights on board of the nostalgic “Classic Trolley”. Tour: approx. 2 hours; with informative commentary via earphones in the language of your choice. Offered daily year round (3 departures); CHF 33.00 adults / CHF 16.50 / children; reservation recommended - at the Zurich Tourist Office.
Boat Cruises on Lake Zurich:
There are numerous options to cruise on Lake Zurich - regular point to point departures, round-trips, or short transfers as part of a guided city tour. Check the site of the Zurich Navigation Company for details and time tables.
Half- or Full-day excursion (approx. 50 minutes by train from Zurich via Winterthur or Neuhausen). Visit Europe's largest waterfall with a width of 150 meters (approx. 500 ft) and height of 23 meters (approx. 75 ft). A boat ride to the famous rock in the middle of the Falls and the short walk to the top, is an unforgettable experience for every visitor.
This Benedictine monastery with it's library including books dating back to the 8th century, belongs to Switzerland's most important cultural heritage.
The Lindt & Sprüngli chocolate factory is just a few kilometers south of the city center at Seestrasse 204 (in Kilchberg-Zurich). There is a free museum (ask for the extensive English notes) and a rather self-congratulatory film is screened. These facilities are not always open - usually Monday through Thursday from 9:30 AM - 12:00 AM and 1:30 PM - 4:00 PM, however, we recommend to phone ahead for their schedule. It is well worth a visit, not least for the very generous free gift of chocolate given at the end.
Maestrani: Located in Flawil, just one hour by train from Zurich, this Chocolate Factory is a true paradise for all chocolate lovers ! You can watch how chocolate is being made (guided tours on Wednesdays afternoon from March through November), and you will find a vast range of products including popular delicacies at very modest prices: ideal gifts for every occasion.
Located in Stein (Appenzell), approx. 90 minutes by train and bus from Zurich. At the Appenzell cheese dairy, you can watch the cheese makers up close and see age-old customs and the latest technology come together in a fascinating mixture of the traditional and the modern. The restaurant with its large terrace serves regional specialities and hearty cheese dishes. The souvenir shop sells a range of original, high-quality products from Appenzell besides the famous cheese.
Located in Lipperswil, approx. 60 minutes by train and bus from Zurich. Conny Land, the park with the most beautiful dolphinarium in Europe offers more than just this unique attraction. It also features a sea-lion arena, parrot circus, petting zoo, bouncy castle, auto scooters, Dino Park, pony rides, live shows with artists from around the world and much more - games, fun and attractions for young and old alike.
several guided or partially guided full-day excursions depart from Zurich to various parts of Switzerland. Visit the Zurich Tourist Office at the Main Railway Station to discuss your options and/or to book your excursion.
Sports: >> Summer SportsWinter Sports
Lake Zurich and the Limmat River invite to various sports activities in and on the water such as boating, sailing, surfing or wake-boarding, and of course, swimming: Designated areas for outdoor swimming and sunbathing are open May to September. Well-known spots are the "Utoquai" on the east shore of the lake and the "Mythenquai" on the west shore. There are also various free swimming spots, such as the one just north of the confluence of the Sihl and Limmat Rivers.
Hiking and Strolling:
Around the shores of Lake Zurich, concrete walkways give way to trees and lawns in the Arboretum on the west bank, making the area perfect for hiking and strolling. The landscape surrounding Lake Zurich is not only one of the world’s most prestigious areas to dwell, but in addition a greatly contrasting hikers’ paradise that cradles a multitude of pleasant surprises. Ask at the Zurich tourist office for tips, detailed maps and rout data of GPS tours.
From May to October, you can hire a robust City Bike in Zürich completely free of charge, seven days a week. Zurich and its surroundings offer numerous trails for bikers; at the "Uetliberg" (s. above) or the "Zuerichberg", but also along Lake Zurich you will find downhill runs, single trails and idyllic forest paths providing a recreational experience for bikers at all skill levels. Ask at the Zurich tourist office for tips, detailed maps and rout data of GPS tours.
Zurich is close to Graubunden with its well known resorts such as Davos/Klosters and St. Moritz to name just a few. There, you have the opportunity for all sorts of winter sports activities including skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing, ice skating, curling, ice climbing, sledging, tobogganing, snowshoe trekking and snowtubing. Since it takes minimum 2 hours to get to the resorts in Graubunden, you might consider an excursion to the "Hoch-Ybrig" region just 90 minutes by train from Zurich.
Indoor sports facilities are readily available in Zurich including swimming, tennis, squash, bowling, fitness and much more.
Go Out: (Dining / Entertainment / Nightlife)
The range of restaurants in Zürich is as diverse as the city on the River Limmat itself. It includes everything from gourmet eateries and traditional Zürich classics to trendy hotspots, outdoor temples of pleasure, and gastronomy inside converted factory walls. Visitors really get their money’s worth in Zürich’s stylish cafés, where you can indulge in the homemade cakes and chocolate specialties. Or enjoy a drink in one of the numerous outdoor bars directly on the lake on mild summer evenings. Zürich has blossomed into Europe's party metropolis and offers the liveliest nightlife around with Switzerland’s highest density of clubs. Party nights in Zürich-West – the former industrial district turned trendy – are truly unique. There is no such thing as closing time in the city on the River Limmat.
In 1927 the old armory (Zeughaus) on the Paradeplatz was converted into a restaurant. Today it is a typical restaurant, sure to please its visitors with a traditional atmosphere and excellent Swiss food.
The Zurich Opera House is without doubt one of the best known in Switzerland and indeed Europe. A varied program of productions has helped director Alexander Pereira to turn this late-baroque style building into the city's most-frequented cultural institution. Its reputation has grown steadily throughout the world ever since it opened in 1891.
The Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra named for its concert hall, the "Tonhalle", which was inaugurated by Brahms in 1895, enjoys international acclaim and attracts stars of world stature on the classical music scene. There are also solo recitals and chamber programs. The season runs from September through July; tickets sell out quickly, so book directly through the "Tonhalle".
Grand Casino Baden:
The Casino in Baden, by train just 15 minutes from Zurich, provides visitors with ample thrills and enjoyment, in addition to outstanding live entertainment and excellent gastronomy.
Europe's largest indoor water park is located in Pfaeffikon on Lake Zurich, approx. 40 minutes by train from Zurich. The park features thrilling waters slides and various wave pools, as well as iron- and saltwater thermal baths.
The main shopping zone is concentrated in the city center, which makes it ideal for pedestrians. The famous Bahnhofstrasse - one of the most beautiful shopping areas in Europe - is a must. Elegant fashion stores, department stores, boutiques with top quality products (shoes, furs, accessories, porcelain, jewellery and watches), banks and pastry shops.
During the day this is a pedestrian zone and a shopper's paradise with lots of boutiques hidden away in a patchwork of alleys. At night the many bars, restaurants and street artists turn the Niederdorf into an exciting center of entertainment for a colorful public.
The shops are opened as follows:
Monday through Friday: 9 AM - 6:30 PM (shops in the city center till 8 PM)
Saturday: 9 AM - 5 PM (shops in the city center till 6 PM)
Sunday & late night: shops at ShopVille Rail (Main Train Station) and at Zurich Airport are open
Vegetable and Flower Market: on Saturday at the Rathausbrücke (which has been a market place long ago and therefore, is called by locals "Gemüsebrücke" = Vegetable Bridge).
Food & Fresh Produce Markets: on Tuesday through Saturday at 6 different locations in Zurich (Altstetten, Bürkliplatz, Helvetiaplatz, Milchbuck, Oerlikon, Rathausplatz) regional specialties, organic produce, breads, delicious “Zopf” (a braided Swiss bread), freshly caught fish, cheeses and pasta, as well as vegetables and fruit directly from the producer. The selection of fresh mushrooms, herbs and spices, as well as all sizes and variations of gorgeous bouquets provide fantastic variety.
Bürkliplatz: This established flea-market is the perfect place to hunt for that cuckoo clock for the folks back home. The stalls offer a range of goods, mostly antiques, and the variety of food stalls will keep you energized for shopping. The market is open 6 AM - 3:30 PM every Saturday, May to October; it's near the northwest bank of Lake Zurich, off the bottom end of the Bahnhofstrasse.
Kanzlei: Just a 15-minute walk from the main train station, this low-key flea-market attracts a young artsy-kitschy crowd of bargain shoppers. Amid the piles of secondhand records, clothes, bicycles and what-have-you on offer every Saturday, there is an outdoor café with fresh pastries and kick-start coffee, and a wine bar where you can wind down at day's end. A small cinema nearby shows independent films in a comfortable, velvet-couch fashion.
in the Old Town: Zurich’s oldest Christmas market.
at the Railway Station: The Zurich Christ Child Market – Europe’s largest indoor Christmas market held in the great hall at Zurich’s Main Railway Station.
at Werdmühleplatz Square: Christmas market with "Singing Christmas Tree".
at the Central: The City Christmas Market in the heart of the city.
at the Bellevue: charming Christmas with 15 market stands.
Sechseläuten: (in April)
Zurich shakes off any remains of winter with the spring festival and parade, Every year, the guilds of Zürich and the general public celebrate their traditional "Sechseläuten". The celebrations start on Sunday with a colourful children's procession. This is followed by the main festival on Monday: People in historical guild costumes, 500 horses, 30 marching bands, together with 50 carriages and coaches, parade through the city center to the Sechseläuten-Platz on Lake Zürich. There, at 6 PM a pile of wood, on which the 'Böögg' – a symbolic snowman – sits enthroned, is set on fire. The quicker his head catches fire and explodes, the finer the summer should be...
Zürcher Festspiele: (mid-June to mid-July)
The Zuercher Festspiele (or Zurich Festival) concentrate on music and the arts. The festival features a unique combination of opera, concerts, dance, drama and art, thus presenting the rich diversity of the city's cultural institutions.
Zürcher Theater Spektakel: (mid-August to beginning of September)
Founded in 1980 as an annual international meeting of independent theatre groups, the Zürcher Theater Spektakel quickly evolved into a cultural event of international appeal. Today it ranks among the most important European festivals for the contemporary performing arts. The Theater Spektakel is a popular venue for both renowned and upcoming theatre and dance companies from all over the world offering an artistically outstanding programm in a unique atmosphere at Zurich's "Landiwiese", a park-like site located directly on the shores of Lake Zurich.
Street Parade: (in August)
The most colourful house and techno party in the world attracts hundreds of thousands of dance enthusiasts to the Zürich lake basin every year. The parade is a colourful mix of love mobiles, live performances by top DJs, international stars and demonstrations. The Street Parade is open to everyone who would like to enter into the Spirit of Street Parade, dancing to electronic music.
Freestyle.ch: (in September)
Freestyle.ch is the biggest freestyle sporting event in Europe. Top international stars will perform daring tricks on their snowboards, freestyle skis, FMX bikes and skateboards and provide pure action during the competition. In addition to the numerous meals available, the latest trends and products of freestyle sports are to be found at the Label World trade fair.
During the Züri Fäscht, held once every three years at the start of July (the next one is in July 2013), a huge fairground takes over central Zürich, topped off with a lavish fireworks display.
Current Events in Zurich
Swiss National Museum:
The castle-like building houses the most comprehensive collection of artifacts pertaining to Swiss cultural history. Especially worth mentioning are the ancient wheels, which were found in Zürich and are considered to be among the earliest ever found, the Celtic artifacts and those of the early Middle Ages. Especially worth visiting are the historical rooms as well as the monumental fresco by Ferdinand Hodler Retreat of the confederates at Marignano. Several times a year, topics relevant to society are dealt with in special exhibitions that are put together in cooperation with other museums.
The Kunsthaus surprises visitors with attractive exhibits and a high-carat permanent collection. It was completely renovated between 2001 and 2005 to improve exhibition room security and conditions for the artworks, and now also provides access to wheelchair users. The Kunsthaus also houses selected sculptures and panels from the Middle Ages, exquisite paintings of the Dutch and Italian Baroque period as well as highlights of 19th and 20th century Swiss painters. This includes the most famous group of works by Johann Heinrich Füssli and Ferdinand Hodler. Among the museum's international focal points are the largest Munch collection outside of Norway, important works by Picasso and the expressionists Kokoschka, Beckmann and Corinth, a significant group of works by Claude Monet, among them two water lily paintings, and the Chagall hall. Younger tendencies are represented by Rothko, Merz, Twombly, Beuys, Bacon and Baselitz.
Marc Chagall Windows - Fraumünster:
Located between the Limmat River and the Bahnhofstrasse, the Münsterhof is dominated by the graceful, slender-spired Fraumünster, a beautiful church that boasts a breathtaking series of stained-glass windows by Marc Chagall and Augusto Giacometti that should not be missed. In 1967, Marc Chagall – then 80 – accepted the commission to make new stained glass for the five 10 meters-high choir windows. The stunning artistry of the windows he produced makes them one of the highlights of Zurich.
The Rietberg Museum is set up in the former Wesendonck Villa in the middle of a park and next to Lake Zurich. It is the only art museum for non-European cultures in Switzerland, and one of the most important of its kind in Europe, containing valueable collections formed by Baron van der Heydt; statues from India, Cambodia, Java, China, Africa and the South Sea Islands. The collection of Japanese prints, works of art from the Near East, Tibet and pre-Columbian America, paintings from the Far East, a collection of Swiss masks and some Flemish and Armenian carpets complete the exhibition.
Museum für Gestaltung:
The Museum of Design holds temporary exhibitions based on themes derived from the applied arts, architecture, grafic art and industrial design.
Art Galleries: Zurich offers more than a 100 Art Galleries that are spread over the entire city.
Observe 4,000 animals from all over the world on 69 acres in the Zurich Zoo which offers numerous highlights such as the new "Masaola Rainforest" where you can discover the fascinating world of the rainforest on 11,000 square meters and enjoy its tropical climate.
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