Zurich is a city located in the north-central part of Switzerland, at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich. The city has a long history dating back to the Roman Empire, and it has been a hub of European culture for centuries.
Today, Zurich is known for its picturesque scenery, its world-class museums and galleries, and its vibrant nightlife. With so much to see and do, it's no wonder that Zurich is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe.
In this blog post, we'll explore some of the best things to do in Zurich. Whether you're looking for historic landmarks, natural beauty, or just a good place to eat and drink, you'll find it all here.
Keep reading to learn about the 20 best attractions and things to do in this beautiful city.
1. Visit the Old Town of Zurich (Altstadt)
There is no greater place in Switzerland than Zurich Old Town (Altstadt) to explore the history and culture of this beautiful country.
With its cobblestone streets and myriad of shops, restaurants, and religious landmarks, Zurich Old Town is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking to learn more about Switzerland's fascinating past.
Located just off the main shopping area of Bahnhofstrasse, the old town is easily accessible from both the train station and Lake Zurich.
While somewhat hilly with winding cobbled streets, it is definitely worth making the trek for a chance to immerse yourself in Zurich's storied past.
Top attractions here include historic squares like Fraumünsterplatz and famous churches like Grossmünster Kirche and Fraumünster Kirche.
Whether you are an art lover or simply someone interested in learning more about Swiss history and culture, there is no better place to visit than Zurich Old Town.
Read also: 17 Best Things to do in Switzrland
2. A Stroll Through Niederdorf – Popular Promenade in Zurich's Old Town
This popular promenade in the heart of the city's old town is known for its bustling atmosphere and endless array of activities and attractions.
Whether you're looking to indulge in delicious food and drinks or browse through exclusive shops and boutiques, Niederdorf has it all.
With its winding alleyways and hidden side streets, this vibrant district is truly a labyrinth of delights. In the daytime, you can explore popular landmarks such as quaint cafes, charming boutiques, historic monuments, and more.
At night, Niederdorf transforms into a buzzing hotspot where locals and visitors alike come together for lively entertainment such as live music performances, street art shows, and more.
And if you're lucky enough to be visiting at the end of August, don't miss out on the annual Dörflifäscht celebration!
With activities like DJs spinning tunes, bustling market stalls filled with local goods, family-friendly entertainment, and so much more, there's something for everyone in this lively neighborhood.
So whether you're visiting Zurich for a day or a week, make sure to add Niederdorf to your itinerary – you won't be disappointed!
Read also: 14 Best Christmas Markets in Switzerland
3. Admire the magnificent Fraumünster Church in Zurich
As you approach the breathtaking Fraumünster in Zurich, you will be met by the stunning clock tower and its iconic blue spire that can be seen from miles away.
Dating back to the 9th century, this beautiful church is a must-see attraction for any visitor to the city.
Inside, you will find ornate Gothic and Romanesque interiors, including gorgeous stained-glass windows that reach up over 33 feet high with breathtaking designs by renowned artist Marc Chagall.
The Romanesque choir stands out for its impressive 18-meter height, while the expansive Gothic nave features one of the largest organs in all of Zurich, with over 5,793 pipes.
Admission to this wonder of architecture is free, so be sure to set some time aside to explore this beautiful building at your own pace.
To get there, simply take a tram to City Hall or use the short 2-minute walk from Paradeplatz. Whatever you do, don't miss out on this grand and impressive church as you explore all that Zurich has to offer!
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4. Visit the historic Grossmünster Church
The Grossmünster is perhaps the most iconic landmark in Zurich, known for its blend of medieval architecture and modern features.
Originally a site of religious significance, this historic institution is now regarded as one of the city's most important cultural and historical landmarks.
One of the most notable aspects of the Grossmünster is its twin bell towers, with their distinct red spires that stand out against the surrounding skyline.
The towers once had wooden towers, but in 1781 they were destroyed by fire. In their place were built neo-Gothic spires, which have now befitting a symbol of Zurich's skyline.
In addition, one of Grossmünster's towers, the Karl Tower also known as Karlsturm is a public attraction. The Karlsturm tower is 64 meters tall.
The observation deck at a height of 50 meters is reached via 187 stairs, offering unbeatable panoramic views across Zurich and Lake Zurich.
Beneath these impressive towers lies a 15th-century crypt, which houses the statue of Charlemagne and is one of the oldest parts of the church.
Also worth noting are the breathtaking stained glass windows, carved choir decorations, and bronze doors created by some of the best artists working in Europe today.
The Grossmünster had an important part in the country's history. Visit the church's Reformation museum, which is accessible Monday through Friday, to discover more about this time in history.
The Grossmünster is open everyday and is located on Grossmünsterplatz.
Visitors are invited to participate in services.There are also musical concerts on occasion.
If you like the Grossmünster, you should also see the Fraumünster and St. Peterskirche, the city's other two great churches.
So if you're looking for an unforgettable taste of Zurich's rich cultural heritage, be sure to check out this beloved landmark for yourself!
Read also: 14 Best Attractions & Things to do in Bern, Switzerland
5. Explore Swiss National Museum (Landesmuseum Zürich)
Located in a beautiful 19th-century Neo-Renaissance building, the Swiss National Museum (Landesmuseum Zürich) offers a glimpse into Switzerland's long history.
Discover ancient lifestyles, national arts and crafts, modern history, and current societal concerns.
The Swiss National Museum has an archaeological collection of about 840,000 original artifacts that are among the finest in Europe.
Entire collections are dedicated to goldsmiths' and silversmiths' works, fabrics, metalwork, clocks and watches, jewelry, examples of traditional costumes, scientific equipment, rural life, antique carriages and sleighs, crafts and industrial antiques, musical instruments, banknotes, Celtic coins and medals and more.
In addition, if you visit the museum between late November and early January, be sure not to miss the Christmas and Crib event. Spend time strolling between nativity scenes set in a bewitched wonderland, while children enjoy creating Christmas souvenirs under the supervision of an artisan.
The museum is located on the northern outskirts of Zurich's Old Town, right next to Zürich Hauptbahnhof, the city's principal railway station.
The Swiss National Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday and charges admission. Children younger than the age of Sixteen are admitted free of charge. Purchase a ZürichCARD to gain free or reduced entry for this and other notable Zurich museums. Tablets with built-in interactive tours may be rented at the museum's reception area.
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6. Have fun on Lake Zürich!
With its sweeping crescent shape and rich green shores, fed by clear glacial waters that flow down the Swiss Alps, this alpine lake stretches for about 40 kilometers in the heart of Switzerland.
Boasting lovely mountain scenery and easily accessible escape from city life, Lake Zurich offers plenty of things to see and do for visitors.
One of the best tourist attractions in Zurich is the lake's array of breathtaking islands, including Ufenau Island, with its charming parish church; Lützelau Island, with its pristine white beaches; and Saffa Island, which can be accessed via a short footbridge to enjoy its lush green vistas.
Beyond these tourist attractions, Lake Zurich is popular with water sports enthusiasts. Speed and adventure seekers could attempt water skiing, wakeboarding, wakesurfing or while others might choose for a canoe, sailboat, or kayak journey. Additionally, SUP paddling is currently fashionable.
Another option besides participating in water sports is to simply relax by the lake and sunbathe.
In the heat of summer, there is no beating a day spent at Lake Zurich. This expansive body of water is truly a paradise for bathers, with miles of open shoreline where you can refresh yourself in sparkling, clear waters.
Besides the outdoor bathing facilities offered in Tiefenbrunnen, Wollishofen, Enge, Mythenquai, and Utoquai - which are always busy during the bathing season - there are plenty of other lakeside spots to choose from.
In addition to these entertainments, you can go on a luxury cruise around the lake, or rent your own boat and spend time on the lake, it doesn't matter what interests you, Lake Zurich has no limits for fun!
Read also: 19 Best Attractions & Things to do in Interlaken, Switzerland
7. Reach the summit of Mt.Uetliberg
Located just southwest of the city center, Mt. Uetliberg is a must-visit for anyone exploring Zurich.
From its lofty 2,850 feet above sea level, this mountain offers sweeping panoramas of the vibrant city below, as well as amazing views of the surrounding lake and alpine scenery.
Home to numerous hiking trails that are perfect for both casual strolls and more strenuous excursions, Uetliberg is a perennial favorite among visitors.
In the winter months, these trails transform into bustling sledding runs that offer a fantastic way to enjoy the snowy scenery.
And if you're looking for even higher thrills, be sure to check out the iconic lookout tower at the top of Uetliberg - it's absolutely free to climb to the top of this breathtaking vantage point!
For those who want an up-close view of Uetliberg's magnificent scenery without breaking a sweat, there is also an elegant restaurant at the summit.
Known as Uto Kulm (or simply Top of Zurich), this aptly named establishment serves delicious regional fare in a setting with some of the most spectacular vistas in town.
However, bear in mind that with its stellar views comes equally high prices - if budget is a concern on your trip to Zurich, this might not be your best option for dining out.
Regardless, no visit to Switzerland's beating cultural heart would be complete without making your way up Mt. Uetliberg and experiencing its sublime beauty firsthand!
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8. Enjoy a Picnic on Lindenhof Hill, Zurich
Lindenhof Hill is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Zurich.
Famous for its history and beautiful scenery, this hill offers a unique blend of relaxation and exploration.
At the foot of Lindenhof Hill lies the ancient Roman Castle, which was once a prominent military stronghold in Zurich. Surrounded by beautiful courtyards and exquisite architecture, this castle provides a fascinating glimpse into Zurich's rich history.
In addition to its historical significance, Lindenhof Hill also offers many modern attractions.
With sweeping views over the city and its famous Limmat River, this hill is perfect for taking breathtaking photos or simply unwinding and admiring the landscape.
And with lush green lawns and shaded areas, it's also an ideal spot for a relaxing picnic with friends or family.
So whether you're looking for a leisurely stroll through time or an invigorating day in nature, Lindenhof Hill is truly one of the most unforgettable places to visit in Zurich!
Read also: 17 Most Beautiful Lakes to Visit in Switzerland
9. Admire the Universe at the Urania Sternwarte
Located in the Zurich’ Old Town, the Urania Observatory is one of the most stunning and visually striking places to visit in the city.
This iconic tower rises high above the rest of the city, offering visitors a bird's-eye view of the local landscape and allowing them to reach for the heavens themselves.
Inside, visitors are treated to an up-close look at some of the universe's most fascinating cosmic objects through a powerful telescope that offers magnifications up to 600x.
Whether you're interested in viewing Jupiter's swirling clouds or admiring craters on the moon's surface, there is no end to what you can discover at this unique observatory.
So if you're looking for a truly awe-inspiring experience in Zurich, be sure to head up to Urania Sternwarte and see for yourself why it truly lives up to its name as one of the top things to do in this majestic city.
10. Shopping on Bahnhofstrasse
Located in the heart of Zurich, Bahnhofstrasse is one of the most expensive strips of elegant boutiques in all of Europe. At just 1.4 km long, it can be easily covered on foot, but the endless allure of its many enticing stores makes it difficult to simply walk past!
This bustling street is renowned for its many luxury shops, offering everything from designer fashion and jewelry to perfume, chocolate, and, of course, watches.
Whether you prefer high-end fashion brands like Chanel and Gucci or timeless classics like Tiffany & Co., there is something for everyone on Bahnhofstrasse.
Beyond its wealth of fashion offerings, Bahnhofstrasse is also famous for its beautiful architecture.
Many of the buildings along this iconic street are grand examples of 19th-century style and design, with notable structures such as "Das Haus zur Trülle" nestled at Bahnhofstrasse 69 being particularly noteworthy.
In addition to its buildings, Bahnhofstrasse is also home to several notable monuments, including the marble Rebekka-Brunnen Fountain near Lake Zurich.
Approximately halfway down the street lies Paradeplatz (or Parade Square), where you can find a number of impressive historical landmarks.
For those interested in Swiss watchmaking culture, the Uhrenmuseum Beyer Zürich is located in the basement of Bahnhofstrasse 31.
Here you will find an extensive collection of stunning timepieces and clocks from years past.
Finally, if you're visiting the city at Christmas time, you'll like to visit one of Zurich's largest Christmas markets, that is also one of Europe's largest indoor Christmas markets , - which takes place inside the Bahnhof train station, just at the start of the Bahnhofstrasse.
So if you're looking for a splurge-worthy shopping experience in one of Europe's most fashion-forward cities, look no further than Bahnhofstrasse. You won't be disappointed!
Read also: Christmas markets in Zurich
11. Zurich Opera House (Opernhaus Zürich)
Located in the heart of Zurich, the iconic Zurich Opera House is a must-visit destination for lovers of both classical music and beautiful architecture. Opened in 1891, this stunning building was designed by Viennese architects and takes inspiration from both neoclassical and rococo styles.
Boasting numerous productions in a variety of genres, including opera, ballet, song recitals, and concerts, the Opera House draws visitors from all over the world.
With its sweeping arches, elegant columns, and spectacularly conceived interiors, the Zurich Opera House truly is one of the city's most dazzling landmarks.
From open-air performances beneath starry summer skies to immersive indoor programs celebrating up-and-coming young talent, there is something for everyone at this world-renowned cultural establishment.
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12. Visit Zurich Zoo
Located in one of the most vibrant and exciting cities in Europe, the Zurich Zoo is a must-visit destination for animal lovers.
With more than 360 different species scattered throughout its sprawling grounds, this world-class zoo truly offers an exotic experience unlike anything else.
Whether you are marveling at the snow leopards that roam among the rocky Himalayan landscape or watching the adorable family of elephants play and swim in their spacious outdoor enclosure, there is something here for everyone to enjoy.
In the spectacular Kaeng Krachan Elephant Park, you can marvel at majestic elephants and be amazed by their strength and grace.
In addition to the incredible range of animals on display, there are also plenty of other activities to explore at the Zurich Zoo.
For those looking for adventure and excitement, be sure to join a night walk through the Mongolian Steppe and keep an eye out for iconic creatures such as camels, yaks, and cashmere goats.
And if you want to interact with some friendly wildlife, make sure to check out the Zoolino zone, where you can feed alpacas, rabbits, goats, ponies, and more.
But the true highlight of a visit to the Zurich Zoo is its long-time resident Nigrita, the Galapagos giant turtle. At over 70 years old, Nigrita is truly a marvel of nature.
Zurich Zoo is easily accessible by public transit or on foot, this exciting zoo is just a short distance from the city's charming Old Town center.
If you want to plan your visit ahead of time, be sure to >check out the zoo's official website. With up-to-date information on its hours of operation, admission fees, and special events and activities, it's a great resource for planning out your day at Zoo Zurich.
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13. Discover every Gorgeous Fountain in Zurich
With hundreds of stunning fountains all throughout the city, Zurich is a true paradise for fountain-lovers.
With more than 1,200 fountains scattered throughout the city, from soaring, grandiose fixtures to quaint little bubbling streams.
And most importantly, there is always fresh, premium quality drinking water available from these fountains.
Some of the highlights include the gleaming Amazon Fountain near Rennweg, which features shooting jets and rhythmic light displays as well as an abundance of delicious drinking water.
Or the regal Alfred Escher Fountain at the Main Train Station, with its giant bronze figures.
And finally, be sure to check out the Lindenhof Fountain on the Lindenhof, where you can enjoy sweeping views over Lake Zurich and beyond from this popular public gathering space.
Whether you're visiting for a day or spending longer in Zurich, these gorgeous fountains are sure to delight and enchant.
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14. Admire non-European Art in the Rietberg Museum
The Rietberg Museum in Zurich is a must-see for any traveler with an appreciation for art. The museum is dedicated to non-European art and houses some of the most renowned collections in the world.
The collections span thousands of years and include works from Asia, Africa, America, and Oceania. If you're looking for a cultural experience unlike any other, the Rietberg Museum is the place for you.
One of the highlights of the Rietberg Museum is the Asian Art Collection. This collection includes over 10,000 objects from China, Japan, India, Korea, Iran, and Central Asia.
The collection spans 5,000 years of history and features a wide variety of materials such as jade, porcelain, lacquerware, metalwork, and textiles.
Another highlight of the museum is the African Art Collection. This collection includes over 2,300 objects from sub-Saharan Africa.
The collection focuses on traditional cultures and features a wide variety of materials such as wood, bronze, ivory, ceramics, and textiles.
If you're planning a trip to Zurich, be sure to add the Rietberg Museum to your list of must-sees. You won't be disappointed!
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15. Relax at the Chinese Garden in Zurich
Located along the peaceful shores of the Zürichhorn, the Chinese Garden is a beautiful temple garden that draws visitors from across the globe.
Originally a gift from the adjacent town of Kunming, this lovely sanctuary is today regarded as one of the top temple gardens outside of China.
Featuring an idyllic pond with a small island in its center, as well as rows of elegant pavilions and palaces, the Chinese Garden is truly a marvel to behold.
This carefully curated space showcases one of the most central themes in Chinese culture: 'Three Friends in Winter', which celebrates three plants that brave the cold together - pine, bamboo, and winter cherry.
Built with intricate designs and patterns that reflect China's rich history and cultural traditions, this remarkable garden also features sculptures depicting clouds and dragons, along with finely carved panels featuring mystifying figures from ancient Chinese tales.
Whether you are exploring this captivating retreat for the first time or returning for another visit, there are always new things to discover in this majestic garden.
16. Learn about Wildlife in Zoological Museum in Zurich
Whether you're a nature enthusiast or simply looking for an exciting day out in Zurich, the Zoological Museum is the place to be.
Tucked away in the University of Zurich, this massive museum is home to over 1500 amazing animals from all corners of the globe.
From towering elephants and playful monkeys to creepy spiders and gigantic frogs, there's something here for everyone to discover and explore.
What makes this museum truly special, though, are the immersive exhibits that let you get up-close and personal with some of your favorite animals.
Whether it's watching insects buzz around you through headphones or stroking the soft fur of a wild boar, there are plenty of ways to engage with nature at the Zoological Museum.
And if that weren't enough, they also hold regular events such as lectures and workshops that can help deepen your knowledge of botany and zoology.
So if you're looking for things to do in Zurich that will both educate and entertain you, look no further than the Zoological Museum!
17. Don't miss Kyburg Castle
Located near the bustling city of Zurich, Kyburg Castle is a must-see destination for those looking to experience both old world charm and modern excitement.
With its soaring 150 meters above the serene River Töss, Kyburg Castle offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape and the medieval architecture will transport you back in time.
Not only is this castle museum one of the oldest in Switzerland, it has won international acclaim for its impeccable preservation and interactive exhibits that bring castle life to life in engaging and hands-on ways.
Outside the castle walls, visitors can enjoy wandering through the well-maintained grounds, taking in all of the lush greenery and beautiful gardens without paying a dime.
18. Get lost in the Lindt Chocolate Wonderland
At Lindt Home of Chocolate, you can experience the best that chocolate has to offer.
This interactive attraction is the perfect destination for people of all ages, featuring everything from a massive Lindt chocolate shop to a spectacular chocolate fountain.
Alongside its wide variety of incredible chocolate creations and unique attractions, this destination also offers an insider's look into Swiss culture and chocolate-making traditions.
With fun interactive tours and informative museum exhibits, you will gain a whole new appreciation for all things chocolate.
Plus, if you're feeling inspired by your newfound knowledge and expertise, you can even take part in interactive workshops where you can learn the tricks of the trade from professional chocolatiers themselves.
So why wait? >Visit Lindt Home of Chocolate today and experience the best that chocolate has to offer!
19. Attend one of the many festivals in Zurich
Zurich is a city that is known for its rich culture and vibrant festivals. There are a variety of exciting festivals and events in Zurich that are not to be missed.
One of the best-attended festivals in Zurich is ZüriCarneval, which takes place over several days in February. During this time, you can experience everything from interesting performances and street parades to delicious food stalls and other cultural events.
If you are looking for an exciting way to ring in the new year, then consider attending one of the many New Year's Eve celebrations that take place throughout the city.
Another popular choice for those seeking fun and entertainment in Zurich is to visit one of its many Christmas markets during the holiday season. These festive seasonal events attract thousands of visitors each year and offer a wide variety of activities, from shopping local crafts to enjoying live music performances.
And if music is more your style, check out blues'n jazz Rapperswil-Jona - an annual festival featuring some of the best musicians around and held right on Lake Zurich.
To experience all that Zurich has to offer, be sure to check out some of its other renowned festivals like the Zurich Wine Exhibition to enjoy some of the best wine at the Zurich or Sächsilüüte – Sechseläuten, which is Zurich's version of springtime celebrations like St. Patrick's Day or Mardi Gras.
Whatever your interests or travel preferences may be, there is something for everyone in this amazing city!
20. Take a Day trips from Zurich
If you're looking for an exciting day trip destination near Zurich, there are plenty of options to choose from. We have listed just some of them…
One of the most popular destinations is Rapperswil, which is situated on the southern shore of Lake Zurich and known for its beautiful rose gardens, lakeside riviera, and majestic castle.
If you're in the mood for some adventure, you could also head to Rhine Falls, Europe's largest waterfall. This natural spectacle draws visitors from all over the world thanks to its powerful water flow and picturesque surroundings.
Finally, if you're looking for a peaceful day out in nature, a trip to Walensee may be just what you need. With charming towns and villages situated along its peaceful southern shores and majestic mountains looming along its tranquil northern edge, this scenic lake offers something for everyone.
No matter where your travels take you near Zurich, there are sure to be unforgettable experiences waiting around every corner!
Best hotels to stay in Zurich
When looking for places to stay in Zurich, it is important to consider a variety of factors to ensure you find the best option for your needs.
Luxury stay in Zurich
For luxury accommodations, one option to consider is the Hotel Schweizerhof Zürich. Situated opposite the main train station at the beginning of the Bahnhofstrasse, this hotel offers exceptional service and top-of-the-line amenities. Additionally, its onsite French restaurant, La Soupière, serves delicious seasonal cuisine that is sure to satisfy all cravings.
Baur au Lac has frequently featured on "Best Hotels in Europe" lists for its excellent service, stylish, spacious rooms with lake views, and Michelin-starred Pavillon restaurant.
Mid-Range stay in Zurich
If you are looking for something a bit more mid-range, then the Seegarten Hotel might be a good choice. Located in the sophisticated Seefeld district near Lake Zurich, this hotel puts you close to key attractions like the famous Bahnhofstrasse and Opera House.
Hotel Adler, located in the heart of the Old Town and close to shops and restaurants, provides complimentary breakfast and in-room soft drinks in a modern setting.
Cheap stay in Zurich
For those seeking a more budget-friendly accommodation in Zurich, Gasthaus zum Guten Glück may be just what you need. Situated in a prime central location near popular attractions like Paradeplatz and the Swiss National Museum, this charming inn offers simple yet comfortable rooms at an affordable price point.
Walhalla Hotel, located just below the station and on a tram line, overlooks the river and has a nice breakfast buffet.
Zurich is a city with something for everyone. Whether you’re looking for an adrenaline rush or a more relaxed day out, there are plenty of attractions and things to do in Zurich to keep you entertained.
We hope this list has helped you to plan your perfect holidays in Switzerland’s largest city.
If you have any questions about our recommendations or need help booking tickets, don’t hesitate to get in touch – we would be happy to help!