Zurich is a vibrant city nestling beside Lake Zurich and along River Limmat. Its proximity to the Alps and other Swiss cities makes it an excellent hub to enjoy leisure activities and tour Switzerland. Zurich is Switzerland’s largest city and hosts the main Airport in the country. Let Magic Switzerland advise you on things to do in Zurich.
Zurich is considered Switzerland's most important financial, industrial and commercial center. The city offers gastronomy for all tastes and preferences and the night life is equally exciting. There is a broad cultural scene, from art in public spaces to festivals to established Zurich museums and theatres. The Opera House and the Tonhalle Orchestra attract stars of world stature on the classical music scene. The main shopping zones are concentrated in the city center with numerous boutiques in historic buildings and in the upcoming neighborhood Zurich West with shops from local brands.
Our travel guide will help you deciding on what to do in Zurich Switzerland and seeing some of the best Zurich attractions.
What to do in Zurich
The pedestrian streets of the old town contain most of the major sights, including winding alleyways, 16th- and 17th-century houses, guildhalls and courtyards – and a lot of fountains (1,030 if you're taking notes). Lindenhof, a well-known Zurich attraction, is also located in the old town, providing beautiful views of the Niederdorf, Grossmünster church and the Limmat – and perfect for a break from the hustle in the heart of the city.
The terrace of the ETH, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, is another great spot for views over the city, Lake Zurich and the Alps.
Visit Zurich's attractions by foot
The city can easily be explored by foot, starting with a stroll through the Niederdorf and along Limmatquai with its many cafés and small shops. By continuing down along the river Limmat visitors reach Zurich West. The former industrial district has become a trendy neighborhood with art, design, food, culture, shopping and architecture at the center of attention. Make sure to check out the «Viadukt», old railway arches hosting restaurants, a market hall and local design boutiques. The Freitag Tower, consisting of various stacked shipping containers is interesting not only for the views but also for the products on offer: Freitag bags and accessories, designed in Switzerland and known all over the world. On the other side of Hardbrücke (bridge) you will see the Prime Tower which is Zurich's highest building and has a bistro on the top floor.
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 turn this late-baroque style building into the city's most-frequented cultural institution.
Art in public spaces
Travelers interested in public art should walk through Zurich main station with open eyes: Niki de Saint Phalle’s colorful, gigantic “Nana” in the shape of a guardian angel can’t be overseen. At Zurichhorn, visitors can admire the «purposeless machine Heureka» by Jean Tinguely and take in the view over lake Zurich. Throughout the city many more pieces of art in public spaces are waiting to be discovered.
Swiss National Museum
The impressive building right behind Zurich main station is interesting for its exhibitions but also for the architecture, part of it like a historic fairytale castle, part of it minimalist modern. The museum houses the most comprehensive collection documenting Swiss cultural history. Especially worth visiting are the historical rooms as well as the special exhibitions about relevant topics and the permanent, free Zurich exhibition.
The Kunsthaus surprises visitors with attractive exhibits and a high-carat permanent collection. The museum houses some 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, a significant group of works by Claude Monet and the Chagall hall.
Kosmos cultural center
The arts and leisure center Kosmos, located in Zurich’s new district Europaallee, combines movie theatre, restaurant, bar and book salon with store and café under one roof. Plus, they house a variety of cultural events like readings and workshops.
Excursions from Zurich
Uetliberg is Zurich’s «house mountain» and local recreation area which can be reached by a short train ride. The terrace of the nearby hotel-restaurant provides a sweeping panorama of the whole Zurich area, Lake Zurich and the Alpine range – from Säntis in the east to the Jungfrau and Les Diablerets in the southwest. For a leisure hike, we recommend the panorama trail leading from the Uetliberg arrival station on a 6km ridge walk to Felsenegg.
Rapperswil - City of Roses
This 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 and the picturesque Old Town and various restaurants on the quay. Rapperswil can be reached by train or with a cruise on Lake Zurich.
Lindt Home of Chocolate, Kilchberg
A must for all chocolate lovers is a trip to the Lindt Home of Chocolate where an interactive multimedia exhibition, a huge chocolate fountain, workshops, a café and of course a Lindt Chocolate Shop await visitors. Kilchberg can be reached by direct bus from downtown Zurich.
Location and Map
Zurich is located in Central Switzerland, 277 km (172 miles) from Geneva and 76 km (48 miles) from Basel, the other 2 main airports in Switzerland. Travel time to Geneva is 3 hours; Basel is 1 hour by train or by car.
Contact Magic Switzerland’s Zurich, Switzerland Vacation Guides to get started planning your next trip.
Elevation: 408 m/1,339 ft