Until quite recently, Zürich was known solely as Switzerland’s financial capital (in fact there’s a Swiss joke that the name comes from Zu Reich meaning ‘too rich’). Regardless, in the last couple of decades the city has successfully revamped its image so it can be recognised for what it truly is: a beacon of culture and history, highlighted by trendy eating and drinking spots, great shopping and chocolate for which you’d trample over your mother in the street.
Zürich is safe and clean (in fact, unnervingly so), but in no way is it boring, with the Zürich Street Parade beating out London’s Notting Hill Carnival for the title of the biggest street party in Europe. There’s a stack of things to see and do, whether you want to stroll along the cobbled streets of Altstadt (Old Town) and soak up the majesty of the ancient cathedrals and palaces, or venture out into the breathtaking panorama of mountains that surround the city.
If you’re looking for culture, don’t miss the swathe of museums, galleries and, of course, the Opera House. But to really let go of the misconception that Zürich is a boring city, make sure you check out one of its Badi-Bars,the poolside lounges that line the river and transform into havens for the glitterati at dusk.
Like a typical Swiss, Zürich’s staid and orderly civic structure belies a passion and joy that’ll keep you dancing all night long.
Zurich's Top 10
10. Uetilberg Hop on a train and be mesmerised by the views from the top.
5. Lindt and Sprungli Factory A real life chocolate factory that produces some of the best in the world. Plus… THEY HAVE FREE SAMPLES!
9. Rietberg Museum This museum’s exhibits specialise in Asian art. One of the best non-Euro museums on the continent.
4. Zürich Zoo One of the best in Europe, come for a fun-filled day and subtle hints of education.
8. Grossmunster A magnificent, Romanesque church built on a Roman cemetery and steeped in history.
3. Bahnhofstrasse Even if you don’t have the coin, Zürich’s version of Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue is a must-see.
7. Kunsthaus This art museum has an impressive collection of art and sculpture.
2. Fraumunster This amazing gothic church has incredible stained glass windows and is rooted in the 13th century.
6. Lake Zürich A long, scenic cruise along this beautiful lake is a relaxing must.
1. Schweizerisches Landesmuseum Educate yourself on Swiss history in this castle-like museum.
- Grossmunster – This 12th-century cathedral in central Zurich was reportedly commissioned by Charlemagne in honour of the city’s patron-saint martyrs Felix, Regula and Exuperantius.
- Altstadt – Known as District One and divided into four sections.
- Fraumunster – To view works by master artist Marc Chagal, check out this 13th-century abbey.
- Fluntern Cemetery – Ulysses writer James Joyce is buried in Fluntern.
- Sechselauten – The coming of spring is annually celebrated by a parade of Guild Nobles from the Zunfte and the burning of a snowman named Boogg.
Zurich Art & Culture
- Kundsthalle – Experience contemporary art in this museum, which features exhibits and events from modern artists.
- Lindt & Sprungli factory – Visitors can tour this working factory, watch a film about the company’s history and view several exhibits about chocolate.
- Opernhaus Zurich – The Zurich Opera House has been the home to the city’s opera company for more than 50 years.
- Museums – Zurich is home to multiple museums, including the Swiss National Museum, the Reitberg, Museum Buehrle and the Landesmuseum.
- Seidenspinner – This is a stunning, luxurious restaurant in which decadence in décor is the rule.
- Bahnhofstrasse – One of the most fabulous shopping avenues in the world, with pricy and luxurious goods.
- Candy – Zurich has several high-end confectionaries, including Teuscher and St Jakob’s.
- Flohmarkts – Flohmarkts are basically flea markets that sell everything from bargained products to one-of-a-kind collectables.
- Pastorini Spielzeug –This is a luxury toy store for kids or those who are kids at heart.
- Sihlcity Shopping and Leisure Centre – This centre offers 80 shops, a hotel, cinema, cafes, pubs, eateries and a hotel.
Gay & Lesbian Zurich
- Clubs – There are multiple nightclubs, including Lotus Club, G-Colours House, Bastard, Boyahkasha and Lollipop.
- Pubs – Pubs include the Odeon and several selections on Spitalgasse.
- Zurich Pride Festival – The festival includes Zurich Pride week, huge parties, conventions, demonstrations and reportedly up to 40,000 attendees.
- Saunas and Massage – Saunas include Adonis, Moustache, Mylord and Apollo.
- Werdinsel – In the lower part of River Limmat, there is a bathing area where naturists can swim and tan.
- China Garden – Open from the early spring to the middle of fall.
- Lindenhof – This is a hill overlooking several parts of the city.
- Zoo – The zoo is home to more than 1,500 animals and has a rainforest area of approximately 13,000 square meters.
- Lakeside – The lake near Bellevue is a good location for street art and vendors.
- Bachlihof Jona – The Bachlihof farm is a nice place for those who want to experience a natural farm in a lush countryside.
- Sixday-Knights – This cycling race includes 30 cyclists from around the world.
- Art on Ice – An ice extravaganza that features the finest figure skaters and is held in February.
- Freestyle – A huge sporting event with extreme skateboarding, biking, skiing and snowboarding.
- Zurich Running – The Zurich Marathon is a 43-kilometer, one-stretch race.
- ZSC Lions – This professional Zurich Hockey team plays in National League A.
This medieval district sits to one side of the Limmat River and is one of the most historic areas of Zürich. Stroll along the streets to witness some of the most amazing (and oldest) structures in the country, including the Grossmünster Cathedral and Fraumünster Church. Once you’re done being a holy historian, head to one of the many restaurants for a hearty meal and well-deserved sit-down. Aussersihl
Along the Sihl River, this district hosts some of the lushest, greenest spaces in the city including Bäcker Park. Grab one of Zürich’s superb coffees, make yourself comfy and relax amongst the trees. If you’re more about the hustle and bustle of people, the Kanzlei Flohmarkt (flea market) will see you bagging a deal and a half. This area has a pretty thriving Red Light District, too, if you’re after a different sort of deal.
This was once the city’s industrial core (could you have guessed from the name?), but is now a trendy area filled with warehouse-converts, hip bars and eateries, a buzz of art and culture and some serious hipsters. Some of the city’s best galleries are here, including the Galerie Peter Kilchmann, the Galerie Hauser and Wirth, and the Kunsthalle Zürich. Get into your skinny jeans, asymmetrical haircut and ironic spectacles and you’ll fit right in.
Zurich Eat & Drink
Zeughauskeller A cosy, medieval-style place with specialties of steak served on a sword (weird but delicious) and metre-long sausages.
Sprungli This place has been churning out gorgeous chocolate creations and other sugary goodies for 175 years. Grab something to go or stay for a meal.
Iroquois A popular spot for fans of Tex-Mex. The enchiladas and fajitas hit the spot.
Restaurant Mesa The chef is renowned for his traditional cuisine with a modern take.
Bierhalle Wolf A big, booming venue filled with live music (a real, honest to goodness oompah band), beer, great chow and rowdy patrons.
Zuntfhaus zur Waag This big, blue building offers high-end Swiss cuisine.
Mascotte The hippest of hipsters party their black-rimmed glasses off at this joint.
Indochine This bar/club is the place Swiss hotties like to frequent. Catch a set, down a cocktail and make eye contact with hot strangers.
Commercio Italian food and a heck of a wine selection. They serve way into the night/morning, so they’re good for a post-club nosh.
Kronenhalle Rub shoulders with celebs and socialites while sampling some very posh cuisine.
Ravers and clubbers unite in mid-June for Street Parade, a techno-lovers dream festival that promotes love, freedom, respect and tolerance. We’re talking epic sound systems and over half a million party people. There are dozens of after-parties but one of the most epic (and we mean epic) is Energy at Hallenstadion. BIG DJs spin trance, dnb and techno into the wee hours.
Zürich Festival (mid-June to early July) hosts a mix of theatre, dance and music at a mix of venues throughout the city. The programme is pretty full so you’ll no doubt find something you like.
If the thought of a heaving mob of sweaty ravers makes your skin crawl, the cute Swiss Teddy Festival could be your ultimate alternative. Held in August, it’s one of the most popular events in the Zürich calendar and the place where teddy fanatics and collectors come to celebrate their love for the cuddly cuties. ‘If you go down in the woods today’ and all that…
September through to October welcomes the Zürich Film Festival. Come and catch some work by soon-to-be-famous movie makers as well as interesting docos. The winner is awarded the freakily-named ‘Golden Eyes’.
Forget Germany, Oktoberfest in Zürich is the business. Squeeze into the tent with thousands of others and enjoy beer, sausages, beer, Bavarian music, beer, beer and beer. If you don’t get obliterated, you’re doing it wrong. Oct-Nov.
When To Go
- Spring, summer and autumn are all great times to be in Zurich as the weather is pleasant and the atmosphere is vibrant. Avoid winter’s wet days, frosty nights and all-round gloom from December to February (unlike the rest of Switzerland, Zurich isn’t noted for its ski fields).
- Winter temperatures average around -6°C (21°F), spring usually gets to around 15°C (59°F), the summer average is a pleasant 20°C (68°F) and autumn a crisp but beautiful 11°C (52°F).
- Make sure you bring warm gear at any time of year – if you plan to take any hikes to the nearby mountains, the weather can be quite cool even in summer.
- Zürich is noted for its awesome public transport system, which runs like clockwork (not surprising, it is Switzerland after all) and is managed by the ZVV. Whether you need a bus, tram, boat or S-Bahn train, this system will keep you moving.
- Ticket prices vary on the length of your travel and there are multi-trip Z-passes and Swiss Passes available.
- Cabs are reliable and standardised across Zurich, and can be hailed from the street or from the many cab ranks around the city.
What To Miss
- Parking is (pardon us) practically impossible, so don’t bother hiring a car unless you’re going further afield or you want to spend your trip looking for a space.
- While the city is safe, pick-pocketing can still be a problem in tourist areas. Keep your belongings sealed and secure, as always.
- If you are lured into buying a Swiss army knife (hey, no judgement here), don’t forget to take it out of your carry-on before going home. There’s a Swiss security guard who has a room in his house dedicated to his collection, we’re sure.
Switzerland's premier city, synonymous with banks, luxury timepieces, posh hotels and chocolate, is a wonderful cosmopolitan destination to explore. Zurich was simply made for tourists to enjoy and delivers a consistent level of hospitality and charm that almost overwhelms. With the bar set quite high in Switzerland as it is, from Gstaad to Geneva, Zurich is singularly special.
As the urban center of record in the neutral nation, Zurich, with more than 375,000 inhabitants who enjoy a rather enviable quality of life in comparison with the rest of the world, let alone the continent, is attraction-rich. The efficient and spotless city is replete with all of the typical eye candy one has come to expect from Old Europe, from dramatic cathedrals to ornate palaces. Where Zurich is truly exceptional however, is in the retail department. Magnificent shops galore, with fine Swiss craftsmanship on display, seduce and cajole everywhere you go. Fine restaurants and nightlife spots have become a hallmark of the city of late and promise memorable experiences, as only Zurich can.
Attractions & Activities
Restaurant & Nightlife
Like the rest of Switzerland and proximate continental Europe, Zurich has four seasons, with snowy winters and wet, relatively humid summers.
- Winter (December to March) -4-9°C
- Spring (April to May) 3-18°C
- Summer (June to September) 9-24°C
- Fall (October to November) 0-14°C
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