Things to do in Zurich Switzerland

zurich old town

Things to do in Zurich

Most people don’t know a lot about Zurich, except perhaps that it is an awesome place to stage a rendezvous at a bank in a James Bond film. But there is actually a lot to love about this city and in this post I am going to share some of it’s secrets with you..

Zurich is ideally located right on the shores of the stunning lake Zurich with the distant Alps as a backdrop. It  is such a compact city that it is super simple to navigate, walk around and explore at your leisure. Often without the need for a map.

Of course, there are also a lot of cool things to do in Zurich like…

Must Do In Zurich

For me, the number one must do in Zurich is to visit the old town. There is so much history packed into such a small space that you can easily take it in on foot. You will sometimes get lost as you wind your way through ancient streets, checking out boutique shops and landmarks as you go. The mix of old and modern is also quite a treat, as this is a very lived-in part of the city

If you head through the old town from the main station, this leads you right down to the lake. Here you can kick back and have a drink on the shore, or enjoy a picnic (if you are better prepared than me). Zurich has kept a lot of the shoreline free of buildings for people like you and me, so make the most of it.

Best Walk

Once you are down at the lake, you might as well go for a walk along the shoreline and enjoy the views. You can head in either direction (left or right) once you get to the lake, but I recommend you go left.

First, you can take in the crowds that gather along the shores, especially on a sunny day. If you are lucky, there might also be a little spontaneous music to stop and enjoy. There is also a small outdoor bar here, so if you need a drink, it’s a great place to stop.

Continuing along the lake, slowly leaving both the people and the main city behind, you are now heading towards the Zurichhorn park, where you can catch the tram back. This is a great place to take a break and also reflect on this:  once a year a bunch of crazy people swim across the lake and back from this very spot, apparently in the name of fun! You can also go for a swim here at the Tiefenbrunnen Standbad (swimming baths) if it’s warm enough. Swimming in the lake of Zurich is an amazing experience!

Best Restaurants

As the end of your day in Zurich nears, it is time to head for some tasty swiss treats at some of the best places in town. Now, this might not be Michellen star quality, but if you really want to try something authentic, I recommend the following:

– Zeugmas Keller, right by Paradeplatz in the centre of town will serve you lots of meaty treats and local Swiss cuisine

– Try the Fondue Tram for a double treat, a ride in an old Zurich tram and a tasty swiss cheese fondue at the same time

– Vegetarians are often forgotten in Europe, but one of Zurich’s oldest restaurants has at least 3 locations where you can choose from dozens of delicious options

– If you want a sample some of the best hot chocolate in town, head to Cafe Schober right on Niederdorf in the old town

Best Music Festival

Most of the music festivals in Switzerland take place away from the cites, but once a year, around mid-August, over a million people descend on Zurich for the Street Parade.

A long line of very large and slow moving trucks parade around the lake filled with people dancing and enjoying techno music.

But it doesn’t end there. The party extends to streets and venues all around the city, and lasts long into the night. For a city that is not know for it’s party culture, this event will potentially shock you. It’s nuts!

Best Nightlife

Although Zurich is not as happening as bigger cities in Europe, there is still plenty to do at night. Most of the clubs are hidden away, so you definitely need to know where you are going, before you head out.

The easiest and most popular option is Mascotte on Bellevue. They host everything from comedy nights, to crazy dance parties. Other top Zurich night clubs include Hive, Gonzo and Kaufleuten.

If bars are more your thing, you can head to the place that serves 200 dollar whisky, just to see what it looks like – The Widder Bar. Or, get a great view from The Jules Verne Panoramabar just off the main/Bahnhofstrasse.

Other options include: the George Bar for a cocktail, the Longstreet Bar for something more down to earth, or my recent favourite: The International Beer Bar (prices are not cheap).

Best Day Trip

If you have more than a day to spend in the area, one of the most picturesque things you can do from Zurich is to head for a boat trip to Rapperswil. You can catch the boat from the docks at the end of Bahnhofstrasse, and spend a leisurely day out.

Rapperswil is a cute historic town, complete with it’s own castle, right at the end of the lake, You also get to take in the Alps as you head towards the town, so get your camera ready, it’s a view to die for.

Something most people don’t know about Zurich

There are a couple of interesting things that people often don’t know about Zurich.

The first is a fun fact worth checking out when you are here – Einstein lived and taught here for many years at the local technical university ETH. So, come check out where one of the scientific legends of our time lived, worked and taught! There are also some of the best views of Zurich from the ETH terrace, so head up on foot, about 10-15 minutes from Central tram stop, or catch the Polybahn if you have a public transport pass (ZVV). You can even grab a beer at the Uni bar and watch the sunset if you are here in summer. Epic!

The other surprising fact is that there are over 1200 water fountains in Zurich, and you should be able to drink from 99% of them. So, if you are used to buying bottled water, don’t bother. It’s running down the streets, almost!

All in all, Zurich is an amazing city to visit, so why not book your trip now!

Roger is a mad traveler and lover of the outdoors. Originally from Australia, he is now living in Switzerland where he spends most of his time traveling, blogging, hiking, mountain biking or flying his drone. You can find him online at his blog or on  Twitter.

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