Things to do in Zurich

Zurich - Great beginnings. Wonderful conclusions

Zurich can be the ideal starting point or ending point for a perfect vacation in Switzerland. Zürich was once the Roman city Turicum, and joined the Swiss Federation in 1351. Zürich is the largest city in Switzerland and is a center for culture, shopping, science, and banking. Zürich is predominately Swiss German speaking and has a population of close to 400,000 inhabitants. The city is admired for it's rich architectural heritage with many buildings dating to the 15th and 16th centuries. These treasures include many of the old guild halls, churches, and shops in the old city. Zurich also has over 1200 public fountains, and you can safely drink pure refreshing water from every one of them. There are many things to do in the city of Zürich which attracts millions of visitors each year.

Shopping

Zürich has the reputation of being a shopping city. Shoppers will find all the latest luxury and international brands, as well as a good number of unusual boutiques and local specialties. Many stores are closed on Sundays except for those at the train station and the airport.

View of the Bahnhofstrasse shopping district

 

 

  • Bahnhofstrasse, Zürich's main shopping boulevard is one of the world's most beautiful, expensive, and exclusive shopping avenues. You will find department stores, boutiques, and specialty stores with an offering ranging from shoes, furs, pottery, jewelry, watches, pastry, and chocolates. It is a popular destination for visitors and locals. Some of Zürich's favorite chocolate shops are located here, including Sprungli, Teuscher, and Laderach.

  • Zürich's Old Town (the Altstadt) offers fascinating things to see, culinary pleasure, and shopping in a medieval setting. The 19th century buildings and winding cobblestone lanes host a selection of modern cafes and shops, antique stores, and art galleries. During the day, the pedestrian zone among the cobblestone streets entice you to shop and at night it is a popular place filled with nightclubs.

  • Zürich Hauptbahnhof is an old and beautiful railway station with classic architecture. It is the largest station in Switzerland and boasts over 200 stores in their underground shopping center. Grocery stores, souvenirs, clothing, and electronics are just a sampling of you will find here. From November to December the station transforms into Europe’s largest indoor Christmas Market with over 150 shopping stalls. When this station was first opened in 1871 it received four trains a day. Today it receives 2200 trains a day.

 

Outdoor Recreation

Enjoying nature while staying in the big city of Zürich is possible with a variety of outdoor recreational options nearby.

 

 

  • Uetliberg is a mountain that towers over the rooftops of Zürich at 2,850 feet above sea level. The mountain provides an impressive panoramic view of the city, Lake Zurich and the Alps. It is a popular place for hiking and mountain biking trails in the summer and sledding runs in the winter. There is even a path called the Planet Trail which is a two hour walk from Uetliberg to Felsenegg (Adliswil) that takes you on an interesting tour through a model of our solar system.

  • The Zürich Zoo is a nature center with a focus on protection of ecosystems and biodiversity. It is located on a hillside away from downtown and has about 2,000 animals with the centerpiece being the Masoala Rainforest. In addition the Madagascar pavilion and the elephant house are attractions worth looking at too. 

  • Lake Zürich holds plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation. Taking a boat ride on the lake provides the chance to get to know the city and its surroundings from another angle. There are a variety of boating options to choose from with lake cruises ranging from short 2 hour excursions to longer 4 hour roundtrip tours available in summer and winter. Lake cruises include culinary specialties such as a brunch boat, BBQ boat, Cheese fondue boat and even a Chinese fondue boat.

  • Parkanlage Zuerihorn is situated on the gold coast area in Zurich and is a river delta housing beautiful parks next to the banks of the lake. This is a great location to spend a leisurely day soaking up the sun, having a picnic, strolling along the paths, or swimming in the lake.

 

Zürich Culture

Zürich is a historic city filled with a wide array of cultural attractions. MySwitzerland.com  recommends the following attractions in Zürich:

 

  • The Zürich Opera House is the smallest of the world's large opera houses with approximately 1100 seats. They feature popular plays, famous singers as well as frequent premieres, performances for children and ballets. The Zürich Opera House is one of the best in the world. In 2014, it was awarded Best Opera Company of the Year at the International Opera Awards. 250 performances take place every year. 

  • Pfauen is the Largest Stage of the Schauspielhaus Zürich. Visitors can enjoy performances everyday ranging from traditional, classic or modern with ten new productions every season. They offer half-price admission in all categories at all its venues on Mondays. 

  • The Tonhalle Zürich is well-known across the world for its excellent acoustics. It was built in 1895 and can seat 1455 guests. In recent years, the Tonhalle Orchestra has developed into one of Europe’s leading ensembles. Around 100 highly motivated musicians and a dedicated conductor (Lionel Bringuier since 2014) perform around 100 concerts every season and approximately 50 different programs.

  • Museums and art galleries: culture in Zürich can certainly be found in over 50 Museums and more than 100 art galleries. You will be captivated by a huge variety of exhibits and exhibitions of new and old things such as curiosities, Swiss handicrafts, graphic arts, architecture and design, Dadaism art, folklore, contemporary art, and Native American artifacts.

 

Zürich Festivals

Festivals in Zürich are a fun way to enjoy local culture and festivities. Here is a list of some of the most well-known festivals during the year.

 

  • Sechseleuten - Annual procession of the Zunft ("Guilds") through Zürich culminating in the burning of the Böögg - aka Mr. Winter. At 6:00, the Böögg is set on fire and according to legend, the quicker the Böögg burns, the hotter summer will be. There is a fun procession in traditional costume even if the Böögg isn’t an accurate predictor of the weather! (April)
  • Caliente – Is the largest celebration of Latin-American culture in the German speaking world. There is a large selection of bands and musical styles around Helvetiaplatz and the Langstrasse areas of Zürich  (June/July)
  • Swiss national day — Celebrations are carried out in many cities in the evenings and fireworks are launched at night and you can watch them over the lake. (August 1st ) 
  • Streetparade - Zürich 's largest and most outrageous event with about  20 "love-mobiles" blaring out techno and dance music through the city - each love-mobile sporting a selection of scantily clad people aboard. People from across Europe descend on Zurich for this annual 3 day event which can tend to be a little wild and crazy. (August)
  • Knabenschiessen - is a three-day annual shooting competition for Zürcher boys - the winner of which is crowned Schützenkönig ("Shooting King") for the year. If you are not interested in shooting, it's also great fun with all sorts of rides and games for all ages. (September)
  • Expovina - Each year 12 ships and boats are moored at Bürkliplatz for an annual Wine Exposition. Importers, dealers and traders from all over Switzerland come to show their wares which makes for an excellent opportunity to sample a wide range of wines. (November)
  • Zürich Christmas Market- Christmas markets are widespread throughout Europe but Zürich's most central Christmas Market takes place inside the main hall of the train station. It features 150 stalls and is the largest indoor Christmas Market in Europe. (November 20 – December 24)
  • Silvesterzauber New Year’s Eve Magic- is organized by Zürich’s hoteliers and takes place around Zürich lakeshore. The area around Bellevue and Bürkliplatz turns into a huge open air party with food stands, bars, and music. At midnight the city’s church bells ring for 15 minutes to bring in the New Year. Zürich hoteliers pay for a firework display 20 minutes after midnight where hundreds of rockets take off from boats on the lake. Around 200,000 people attend. (Dec 31)
 

Cuisine

When thinking of cuisine in Switzerland, you instantly think of chocolate and cheese which is absolutely correct! Of course there are many delectable restaurants to choose from in Zurich and here are a few specialties that you will definitely want to sample here.

 

  • Zurich Geschnetzeltes is made with small pieces of veal cooked in a creamy mushroom and white wine sauce and is usually eaten with noodles.
  • Fondue is probably the most famous of Swiss foods. It is a pot of melted cheese that you dip  pieces of bread. Although cheese fondue is the most popular, fondue does not necessarily have to be made with cheese; there are meat fondues and even chocolate fondues too. Fondue is usually shared between two or more people.
  • Raclette is another traditional Swiss dish. Slices of cheese are placed on a raclette grill and the melted cheese is typically eaten with boiled potatoes, gherkins and pearl onions.
  • Rösti is a potato dish that resembles hash browns. Grated potatoes are fried in a pan and topped with ham, bacon, cheese, and/ or fried eggs.
  • Swiss Breakfast is one of the best meals in Switzerland. Muesli was invented in Switzerland and is always available for breakfast. Switzerland also has a great variety of breads that is traditionally served with butter, cheese, jam, or honey.
  • Vegetarian cuisine has a shrine in Zurich named Hiltl, the world's oldest vegetarian restaurant. It's such a fun and fascinating place, located just off Bahnhofstrasse, that vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike will have no problem finding flavorful, well-prepared exotic dishes to get excited about. 
 

ZürichCARD

It's a great value and the ideal ticket for culture lovers and city travelers who would like to maximize their short stay exploring Zurich at a minimum cost. The ZürichCARD offers the following benefits over a period of 24 or 72 hours. Check out  www.zuerich.com for more information. 

 

  • Unlimited 2nd class travel on all forms of public transportation in the city of Zurich and surrounding region.
  • Free admission to the majority of Zurich’s museums
  • 10% discount in various local shops
  • Culinary surprise in selected restaurants
  • 50% discount on public city tours organized by Zurich Tourists
  • Many more discounts on a variety of cultural and leisure activities

 

 

Enjoy a Zurich pre- or post-trip tour as part of your Switzerland tour