If you aren’t immediately sold on Zurich just by its quaint cobbled streets of the Old Town (Altstadt), then head over to the trendy Kreis 5 district or take a boat ride on the picturesque lake. The “things to do” in this Swiss city are plentiful, and here is just a taste.
15 Cool Zurich Things to Do
1. Eat Fondue
Fondue was invented as a way to use stale bread and aged cheese in the cold winter Swiss months when fresh produce was unavailable. It is now one of the most recognized Swiss dishes and quite possible the most delicious. What can be better than a hot pot filled with a blend of gooey cheese? You can get your fondue fix at Swiss ChuchiRaclette Stube or Le Dezaley. Or, for a more unique experience take a cheese fondue cruise along the lake.
2. Photograph the Gerold Cuchi Umbrellas
Even if you don’t eat at Gerold Cuchi restaurant, head over to the Kreis 5 district of Zurich to photograph the artsy umbrellas hanging over the patio. The colorful canopy consists of over 50 umbrellas each with a unique design: polka dots, stripes, plaids and vibrant flowerals.
3. Drink from a Water Fountain
There are over 1200 unique fountains located around the city of Zurich, most of which spew drinkable water 24 hours a day. There is no need to purchase bottled water, just stick your water bottle under one of the flowing spouts and drink from an iconic Swiss fountain.
4. Explore the Old Town (Altstadt)
Typically walking through a historic old town would not make one of my bucket lists, but I will easily make a special exception for Zurich’s beautiful Altstadt. Stroll through the narrow cobbled streets, ogle the 19th century buildings or walk uphill to Lindenhof park to get a glimpse of the city in action. The streets are filled with history as well as modern shops and cafes. For a more in depth experience, take the Zurich Extended City Tour from Get Your Guide where you will begin by seeing all the major attractions.
5. Soak in a Thermal Spa
Enjoy the pure relaxation of the Thermalbad & Spa Zurich where the water varies from 35 to 41 degrees Celsius. Located in an old brewery, you can either choose to soak in the wooden tubs of the thermal baths, take in the view from the rooftop pool or have an Irish-Roman spa ritual. Whichever you choose, you are in store for a special bathe experience.
6. Eat Sausage at Zueghauskeller
A former Swiss armory, Zeughauskeller is now a huge beer hall with over a dozen sausage dishes to choose from. It is full of tourists most of the time, but there is a reason…the sausage is really good. Try the sausage sampler where you will be able to test six different types of sausage topped of with slabs of bacon. Don’t forget to order a Eidgenoss, a ginormous flaming beer, but be prepared to be video taped by all the surrounding tables as they watch the show.
7. Go Inside the Glass Biodomes at the Botanical Gardens
Zurich’s botanical garden is compact, yet comprehensive with around 9,000 different species. This is not so much a tourist attraction as a place where you can see the locals sunbathing on the grass, having a picnic or watching the frogs in the large pond. Be sure not to miss the architectural glass biodomes that house a variety of exotic tropical plants. .
8. Relax on the Patio of Frau Gerolds Garten
Located next to the train tracks, this trendy spot is a meeting place for locals and visitors alike. The grounds house a garden, small shops, a cafe and beer bar. It’s a little bit of Bohemian meets college dorm meets urban garden. The bar is made of shipping cargo boxes, plus you can lounge at picnic tables, on large cushioned stairs or at a bistro set near the fresh garden. It is the perfect setting to enjoy a beer on a warmer Swiss night.
9. See the Chagall Windows
The world famous Chagall windows can be found at Fraumünster Church in Old Town Zurich. Marc Chagall, a Russian-French artist, created these five magnificent stained glass windows that bath the chapel in a rainbow of light. Each window located in the choir depicts a different Christian Story.
10. Eat at the World’s Oldest Vegetarian Restaurant
According the the Guinness Book of World Records, Hiltl is the world’s oldest vegetarian restaurant. You will find over 500 dishes when choosing either to order from the al a carte restaurant or opt for the famous Hiltl buffet. At the buffet every gram will count as they will be weighing your food to determine the cost of your meal.
11. See an Opera
Enjoy a special evening watching the famous opera stars at the 1,100 seat Zurich Opera House that sits on the shore of the lakes left bank. It is known as being one of the best opera houses in the world and In 2014 was named the Best Opera Company of the Year.
12. Drink Whiskey at the Old Crow
There are plenty of places to get a cocktail in Zurich, but none quite like Old Crow, cozy bar where liquor bottles line the walls and Old Crow memorabilia is scattered about. Choose from over 1200 spirits, everything from a $170 shot of Glenfiddich 30 Years 1974 “Playboy” to a $1,300 shot of 1963 Glen Grant 50 years. Or order a specialty cocktail and watch the expert barkeeper make it right before your eyes.
13. Take a Boat on the Limmat River
Take a leisurely boat ride along the River Limmat and be rewarded with views of the beautiful buildings of the Zurich Old Town, continue on to explore Lake Zurich by sea.
Limmat River Cruises | Website | MAP
14. Drink Absinthe where Dadaism was born
Dadaism is an artistic and literary movement that born out of a distaste for political and cultural values of the time. And Cabaret Voltaire is where this art form all started. Head over, drink a glass of absinthe (a potent green aniseed-flavoured liqueur) and take a peek at the newest exhibitions.
Read > An Introduction to Dadaism
15. Ride a Cable Car for the Perfect View of Zurich
One of the best known vantage points for a spectacular view of Zurich is from the Felsenegg lookout. But, you must take the one and only aerial cable car to get there. Once at the top, not only can you take in the view, you can also hike the several trails and enjoy a meal at the cafe. This excursion is included in the Zurich Extended City Tour from Get Your Guide.
Luftselbahm Adliswil Felsenegg | Website
Essential Tips for Visiting Zürich
Getting There: The Zürich International Airport, also known as Kloten Airport, is a major hub and most airlines will fly into it. You can easily check for the best fare deals at Skyscanner, which also has the option to choose ‘cheapest month’ as the departure to find the lowest priced dates to fly to your destination. From the airport to the city center, you can use the train, which is a 10 minute ride to Zürich. You can also take a taxi, an Uber, or take a shuttle.
Where to Stay in Zürich: It’s best to stay near the city center, public transportation or the area that you will be spending the most time in. Aja Zürich (moderate) is a great choice in Altstetten. Dakini’s Bed and Breakfast (moderate) is another great choice in Aussersihl. For something on the less expensive side, try the Pension FürDich, or Placid Hotel Design & Lifestyle (with airport shuttle) located in the city center. For a hotel with a little more extravagance, book a room at the Savoy Baur en Ville, or the Alden Suite Hotel Splügenschloss Zürich. Or search some great deals on hotels of your choice at Booking.com. If you’re looking for more of a home atmosphere (or are traveling with a group of people), head over to Airbnb that has houses, apartments and even just a room for rent in every price range.
Getting Around: Driving in Zürich can be a bit of a challenge and parking fees can be expensive, but if you choose to rent a car, RentalCars.com has great deals. If you are not renting a car, there are plenty of options. It is best to explore Zürich by foot or bicycle. The public transportation system is also easy to use. In addition, Taxis and Uber are available all over the city.
City Transportation Passes: The Zürich Card gives you unlimited travel on public transportation in and around Zürich, including a short boat trip on Lake Zürich. The Zürich card also gives you free or reduced admissions to 40 museums, as well as a 50% discount on the Zürich Old Town Walking Tour. Prices for the Zürich Card start at $29 USD.
- Mount Titlis Day Tour from Zürich
- Zürich: 4-Hour Tour by Ferry, Cable Car, and Coach
- From Zürich: Day Trip to Jungfraujoch – Top of Europe
Insurance: It’s always a good idea to travel fully insured so you are protected in case of trip cancellations or medical emergencies. You can check out pricing at Travelex Insurance.
Universal Adapter: Your American plugged equipment will need an adapter. I use the Celtic Universal Adapter, which has brought me around the world with no problems.
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