Zurich city guide

You’re never short of things to do in Zurich. Before becoming the wealth (and chocolate) capital it’s known as today, it was once a bustling trade town dating back to 15BC. Having seen over a millennium of history, it’s no surprise that the capital radiates so much culture and heritage… but it’s kept up with modern life, too, and is also a hotbed of exciting activities, amazing entertainment and truly great food.

Yes: Zurich has it all! Get a trip to the Swiss capital on the cards and start pulling together your itinerary by checking out the top things to do in Zurich below. You won’t be sorry.

Culture spots to see in Zurich

If you’ve made your way to our website, chances are high that you’re a culture lover. In which case, you’ll be delighted by the things to do in Zurich! This lavish city doesn’t hold back when it comes to delivering the historic goods, from having more museums than you can count to sporting a tremendous medieval minster - one of its best-known landmarks.

Start with a little taste of the eclectic by visiting Villa Patumbah. Built in the late 1800s by the wealthy merchant Carl Fürchtegott Grob-Zundel, this architectural anomaly factors in styles including Italian Renaissance, Rococo and Swiss chalet. On the second floor you’ll even find an Asian temple, which you can visit as part of a tour led by the ‘immortal’ butler Johann. Apparently, he’s worked there for 130 years (or so he says)...

Grossmünster

Grossmünster is also one of the city’s classic ‘must-see’ spots. This Protestant reformed church was inaugurated around 1220, and has been at the base of many interesting legends and stories since. In fact, it’s said that the church was originally built because the famous king Charlemagne stumbled across the graves of the patron saints of Zurich, Felix and Regula. Amazed by his discovery, he allegedly decided to have the church built on the spot. Now, its characteristic towers have become something of a symbol for the wealthy and wide-ranging capital… and they’re well worth a closer look, particularly from the top. Make sure to book your tower climb before you go for some of the best views of the city.

Next up under the magnifying glass: Zurich’s magnificent museums. Dive into the history of Switzerland or take a ‘magic carpet ride through history’ at the Swiss National Museum: the country’s most frequently visited museum, and one that’s crammed with memorable displays, artefacts and historic tidbits. If walking with dinosaurs is more your thing, the Zoological Museum definitely won’t disappoint, either… and once you’ve satisfied your palate for all things prehistoric, there are over 1,500 animals to see up close! Equally impressive, Zurich’s Kunsthaus contains one of the largest art collections in Switzerland, covering the present day all the way back to the 13th century. From Warhol to Rembrandt, nearly every artistic legend you can think of is included in one of this museum’s aesthetic exhibits. Keep your eye on the events calendar to check out if there’s anything extra special happening that you should factor in when you go.

Kunsthaus Zurich

Lots of cities are defined by their old town, and Zurich is no exception. The city’s historic heart is split in two by the Limmat river and offers a range of compelling sights that will fill more than an afternoon or two, like its historic main street, the banking centre Paradeplatz and some truly stunning churches. Of particular note are the Giacometti murals tucked within the Uraniastrasse Police Station: a rich red display of botanical brilliance splashed across arched ceilings. And of course, it would be remiss to not mention Niederdorf - a popular spot for both locals and tourists alike. This nostalgic neighbourhood is like Zurich’s perfume - a concentrated splash of everything that makes the city so charming. Between its quaint and striking architecture and endless range of fun activities and foodie finds, you’ll find yourself heading back to its cobbled streets time and time again. Make sure you pack good walking shoes.

Other things to do in Zurich

When you think of a city, the words ‘lake’ and ‘mountain’ don’t often spring to mind… but that’s exactly what you get with Zurich! Marked by its gigantic lake and sprawling mountains, this capital is more than just a city dweller’s dream: embodying the perfect yin and yang of city sights and countryside delights.

Intersperse your urban getaway with a trip to Lake Zurich first - a huge splash of crystal water that’s easy to access from any point in the city. Here, you can engage in a range of group excursions, hikes, camping opportunities, swimming sessions and more. It’s the perfect way to get in touch with your wilder side, if you’re a fan of the water. For those of you who want to ride the waves, there are some incredible boat rides to choose from, including mini lake cruises and a ‘brunch boat’ (which really is as good as it sounds)...

Uetliberg, Zurich, Switzerland
Uetliberg

If you’re all about the best views with a heady dose of thrills thrown in, step lively to Uetliberg, Zurich’s very own mountain. At a whopping 2,850 feet above sea level, this mountain simply soars over the metropolis below, and with its exquisite trails, hundreds of trees and photogenic displays of Swiss nature, it’s a stunning place to visit no matter what time of year you go. Walk with your family, trek solo, zip around on your mountain bike or wait until winter to toboggan down the hiking trails which are converted into sledding runs during the colder seasons. There’s nothing quite like flying through the crisp winter air in a landscape of white and crystal blue, sheltered by the snowkissed boughs of the surrounding trees. It’s Narnia brought to life.

Looking for things to do in Zurich with friends? Your search ends here. Foxtrail is a team experience in which you use clues, codes and riddles to ‘outfox’ an elusive fox! Not only is this a brilliant way to bond with your loved ones, the trail itself snakes through some of the most gorgeous parts of the city and even, occasionally, its monuments: allowing you to drink in the best of the capital while you play the game. Able to accommodate nearly any number of players, it’s a great option to explore regardless of how many are in your group.

Botanical Garden in Zurich

For a more chilled way to engage with the city, Zurich’s Botanical Garden is well worth considering. A tropical idyll with greenhouses, abundant ponds and verdant flora and fauna around every corner, it’ll sweep your inner horticulture lover off their feet. Those committed to the garden theme should also bear Rieterpark, Zurich’s largest park, in mind. This sweeping landscape garden covers over 70,000 square metres and simply oozes with 19th century decadence. Wander through the stunning flower displays and tree groves for a couple of hours to tap into your inner zen while marvelling at the longevity of nature: some of the park’s beech trees are over 150 years old! There’s also a beautiful villa, Museum Rietberg, in the grounds, an art museum with art from all over the world.

Of course, Zurich is well known for its shopping culture, too… so if picking up a souvenir or two is high on your list of priorities, make your way down to Bahnhofstrasse. As Zurich’s main shopping street it is, as you’d expect, jam-packed with places to pick up everything from designer wares to household items and high-end fashion to traditional Swiss chocolate, interspersed with plenty of places to take a break and assess your purchases over coffee as well. A great place to satiate your inner big spender.

Places to wine and dine in Zurich

Onto one of the most important things to do in Zurich: eating! Switzerland is top tier when it comes to comfort food, and is a land that’s well-versed in indulgences such as cheesy fondues, buttery soft veal and crunchy rösti. Trust us when we say that your tastebuds are about to take the trip of a lifetime...

Starting with lunch, Zurich offers some truly charming cafes for your midday meal. Search out Kafi Dihei Zurich for some light bites or a spot of high tea, featuring two scones fresh from the oven: truly one of life’s greatest pleasures. You can’t miss this place, either. In the summer it’s covered in a blanket of deep green vines - a lovely, natural facade to complement the rustic vibes within. Elsewhere, Café Sprüngli is the number one choice for those with a sweet tooth. This longstanding sweet shop was first acquired by its namesakes David and Rudolf Sprüngli in 1859, and quickly rose the ranks to become the best place for confectioner’s goods in the city. Get yourself a seat in the cafe to enjoy art nouveau furnishings and chocolate made by some of the best artisans in the business. It’s a real treat in every sense of the word.

Moving on to dinner, embrace traditional flavours and ambience at Wirtschaft zur Burg: a half-timbered building that offers an ever-changing seasonal menu within. The restaurateurs here are passionate about making food that reflects the region, and rely on ingredients that can be locally sourced, helping the environment while thrilling your tastebuds to no end. Alternatively, the art of fine dining has been mastered by The Restaurant at the Dolder Grand. With two Michelin stars under its belt, you know you’ll be experiencing - and tasting - only the very best from the minute you pick up the wine list. Hello, food heaven.

Also striking the perfect balance between tradition and finery is the Kronenhalle, which has been blazing a mouthwatering trail in the capital since 1924. Many artists and celebrities have flocked here over the decades, attracted by its enticing menu and proximity to Zurich’s best theatre and entertainment venues. When you book a table here, you’ll be continuing in the tradition of James Joyce, Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and many more, besides. Quite the classy affair.

Historic with a difference, the restaurant Hiltl has been serving vegetarian dishes since 1898, making it officially recognised by the Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest vegetarian restaurant! Whether you’re vegetarian or not, this locale is well worth visiting for its historic significance and delectable platters. We particularly like their mediterranean board - ideal for sharing.

After feasting on flavourful food at the restaurant of your choice, venture over to the Jules Verne Panorama Bar. The views from this locale are among the most romantic in all of Europe, particularly at night: with the city lights twinkling below and rippling across the waters of Lake Zurich. Simply curl up with your cocktail and gaze out of the windows that encompass this sophisticated space. The perfect way to end yet another perfect Zurich day.

Where to stay in Zurich

Though it may take a minute to discover the best things to do in Zurich to suit your tastes and interests, there’s no question about where you should stay during your visit to the Swiss capital. Marktgasse Hotel is a four-star boutique hotel in the heart of the city’s old town... a fitting location, considering its status as one of our best-loved historic hotels! Enjoy close proximity to a range of colourful amenities before heading back to your room or suite, fitted with modern furnishings and decorated in a minimalist style that brings the city’s contemporary edge into a historic mould.

In addition, guests of the hotel enjoy special perks. For one, you can enjoy free access to the fitness and wellness areas and group classes of two neighbouring gyms. What’s more, there’s an extremely tempting dinner and drinks option onsite - the restaurant IGNIV. Priding itself on its innovative creations and Gatsby-esque ambience, it’s a model place to sample gourmet dishes or close off your evening with a fancy nightcap. Sweet dreams - another glorious day in Zurich awaits.



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