Things to do in Zurich

Must-see Zurich sights

Zurich is one of the most livable cities on the planet. Vibrant and efficient with a hip edge, the city has huge appeal.

  1. Visit the popular Grossmünster church
  2. Marvel at art in Kunsthaus
  3. Step back in time at the Swiss National Museum
  4. Enjoy the great outdoors in Uetliberg
  5. Wander around Zurich’s edgiest neighbourhood
  6. Indulge in heavenly chocolate
  7. Delve into Zurich’s café culture and hearty cuisine

Booming café culture? Yes. Interesting museums? Got that. Delicious chocolate? Of course! With thriving eateries, great day trip opportunities and hip neighbourhoods, Zurich has a never-ending charm.

In collaboration with
Rough Guides

1. Visit the popular Grossmünster church

No trip to Zurich is complete without a visit to its iconic Grossmünster, ‘Great Minster’ church. The Grossmünster, a Protestant church, dominates Zurich’s skyline. In a tightly packed city of generally modest, small-scale architecture, it is gigantic. The most impressive approach is across paved Zwingli Platz, with the main North Portal featuring capitals adorned with animals, birds and a fiddle player. Inside, you can find capitals decorated with battle scenes. There are plenty of stained glass windows, where you can watch the colourful flashes of light dance on the floor.

Best for: Architecture

While you’re there: If you’re feeling energetic, climb the 187 steps of the 62m South Tower (the Karlstrum) for a fantastic view over the city.

2. Marvel at art in Kunsthaus

Looking for art in Zurich? Look no further. The Kunsthaus art museum is where to go if you’re looking for one of the best things to do in Zurich. A truly world-class gallery of art, this is unmissable. As well as a large permanent collection, the Kunsthaus hosts a continuous flow of top-flight temporary exhibitions. The collection of art begins even before you get inside. Next to the main door is Rodin’s vivid Gate of Hell. While you’re in the grounds, you can spot sculptures by Moore, Maillol and others. Inside, most of the ground-floor galleries house whatever temporary exhibit is on, aside from one whole wing. This is given over to a permanent display of the widest array of Alberto Giacometti’s sculptures in the world.

Best for: Your art fix

While you’re there: Inside you’ll find incredible Dutch and Flemish paintings represented by Rubens, Rembrandt and Hals.

3. Step back in time at the Swiss National Museum

If you’re looking for history, this is the most rewarding thing to do in Zurich. Housed in a purpose-built mock-Gothic castle, is the Schweizerisches Landesmuseum Swiss National Museum. Superbly presented, the building presents state-of-the-art displays on the history of Switzerland. Thematic areas, such as migration and religious history, as well as a “collections gallery” form the core of the permanent exhibitions. Expect a welter of sacred art from the ninth to the sixteenth centuries, medieval stained glass, antique watches and clocks, fashion and design, many items of militaria and much more. You’ll also find incredible Dutch and Flemish paintings represented by Rubens, Rembrandt and Hals.

Best for: A look back in time at Switzerland

While you’re there: On the hunt for cheap holidays to Zurich? We recommend staying at the Bristol Hotel. It’s only a four-minute walk to the Swiss National Museum.

4. Enjoy the great outdoors in Uetliberg

What to do in Zurich if you want an adventurous day trip? Climb Uetliberg’s hill. Join the locals on this steep-sided ridge rising above the city, with stunning views and wooded walking trails. One of the best short trips out of Zurich, Uetliberg’s hill is only a twenty-minute train ride away. It’s a favoured getaway for the locals to do a spot of sledding (in winter) or picnicking (in summer).

Best for: An exciting day trip

While you’re there: Consider buying a special travel pass for the route. Swiss Travel Pass and ZurichCARD holders travel here for free.

5. Wander around Zurich’s edgiest neighbourhood

For a break from Zurich’s cobbled alleys, medieval guildhalls and glitzy shopping, you need to head west. The new home of the city’s underground is the residential and postindustrial area. It comprises the postal districts of 8004 (Kreis 4) and 8005 (Kreis 5), together known as Zurich West. Within the area, the north-south artery of Langstrasse is where the daily dramas are played out. This is absorbing 1.5km-long strip of designer bars, independent cinemas, clubwear outlets and cheap eateries. Further down, its residential side-streets have been increasingly attracting artists and creative types.

Best for: A hipster neighbourhood

While you’re there: With Zurich’s creative types in the neighbourhood comes hip designer boutiques too.

6. Indulge in heavenly chocolate

Sweet tooth? Say no more! Delve into the most exquisite sweet treats and fine coffee at the home of Zurich’s premier confectioner, Confiserie Sprüngli. This is the main branch of the world-famous confectioner’s. It’s called this location home since 1859. The display cabinets are full of divine chocolates and cakes. Enjoy it all in the upstairs café-restaurant overlooking Paradeplatz, the city’s most atmospheric tearoom, where Zurich’s ladies come to gossip discreetly over coffee and cake. Free chocolate with every espresso. This is simply the best thing to do in Zurich if you like chocolate.

Best for: Chocoholics

While you’re there: Make sure to try the confectioner’s own speciality, Luxemburgerli, cream-filled pastry bites that are truly drool-worthy.

7. Delve into Zurich’s café culture and hearty cuisine

If you’re looking to explore more culture in Zurich, then look no further than its cafés. You can find thriving food establishments along the riverside Limmatquai and the cobbled squares nearby, such as Hechtplatz and Schiffländeplatz. As a general rule, Niederdorf is livelier in the evening, while the area around Bahnhofstrasse is more popular at lunch time. Traditional Zurich cuisine is rich and heavy with meat, epitomized in the city’s trademark dish Züri Gschnätzlets - diced veal in a creamy mushroom sauce, generally served alongside potato Rösti. Vegetarians will nonetheless find plenty of options with cheaper eats available such as falafels, noodles and chips.

Best for: Foodies

While you’re there: Be warned that many restaurants close in July and August, so it’s worth calling ahead in summer.

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