Visiting Zurich - What to See and Do
(Zurich Airport ZRH, Switzerland)
Switzerland's largest city, Zurich
, is the epitome of Swiss efficiency, running its banking and finance sectors like the clockwork that made this nation famous. With the Swiss Alps looming all around and sparkling Lake Zurich right on its edge, there are many reasons to incorporate this busy city into your trip to Switzerland
Save up your money, because this city doesn't come cheap. Its historic Altstadt (Old Town) district is an absolute gem, packed with luxury boutiques, fine dining cafés and as much indulgence as most people can handle. However, this luxury is far from staid. Zurich revels in its reputation as an innovator and creator. Just browse the fashion-heavy boutiques and you will get the idea.
Besides all the urban pleasures and attractions on tap, this Swiss city is also blessed with amazing outdoor scenery and recreation right on its doorstep. Take a cruise on the lake or along the Limmat River, or venture up to the Uetliberg peak for classic alpine hiking and views to die for. There is simply no end to things you can do here if you have the funding available.
Ten things you must do in Zurich
- There are few better ways to experience the beautiful attractions of Zurich than taking a boat ride on the water. Visitors can choose from either the Limmat River or Lake Zurich for their pleasure cruise. Take your pick of a 90-minute or four-hour cruise on one of Europe's prettiest lakes. Of note, cruises are easy to arrange at the Burkliplatz, located at the end of the Bahnhofstrasse.
- The city's bustling Bahnhofstrasse has been called the planet's most beautiful shopping street, and to be honest it is hard to disagree. Over a century ago, some clever person had the idea to pave over the city's moat and create a pedestrian paradise. Along either side of the Bahnhofstrasse is a continual parade of high-end retailers to tease your wallet.
- A truly fun way to get out of the city for the day is on the electric train that ferries lucky passengers up to the peak of the Uetliberg, Zurich's resident mountain. Hop off the train at the summit and wander around, soaking in the views that run forever. This is one of the world's greatest picnic spots, so be sure to bring a bottle of wine and a snack for a really memorable time.
- If you are visiting during summer you can enjoy the rare joy of swimming in Lake Zurich. There are many ways to explore the lake's shore - on sandy beaches or by biking through the woods from the Seebach station to Katzenruti, with lovely picnic spots along the way. Bike rentals are easy to arrange right at Seebach station, and swimming is only limited by your tolerance to the water temperature.
- There are some very impressive museums in Zurich, so art lovers won't want to pass up an afternoon browsing the works on display in the Fine Arts Museum. It is one of Europe's finest institutions, focusing extensively on the 19th and 20th centuries. Most of the masters are here, including Rodin, Picasso, Monet and Chagall.
- The city's other essential museum is the Swiss National Museum, a repository that spans the entire culture and history of the Swiss people. From prehistoric artefacts to a wonderful collection of religious art, the museum really captures the essence of this region of the European Alps.
- One of Europe's most popular and famous zoos is here in Zurich, where it serves as a major family attraction. The Zoological Garden has some 260 species and 2,200 animals, separated by habitat. The Tropical Rainforest and Africa House are particularly impressive, while the sizeable aviary and aquarium really round off the wildlife experience.
- When the sun goes down, head to the river and the Altstadt's maze of charming historic lanes. There are dozens of places to have a drink, see live music or dance to a touring DJ's tunes in this vibrant neighbourhood. From the literary heritage of the James Joyce Pub to the slick Art Nouveau scene at the Café Odeon, there is something for every taste in the Altstadt.
- The oldest church in the city is St. Peter's Church, a remarkable piece of 13th-century architecture on the left bank of the river. Romanesque and baroque elements combine inside the soaring interior, while the church face boasts Europe's largest clock at a whopping 9 metres / 30 feet in diameter.
- You'll be surprised just how fun the Zurich Toy Museum is. This isn't some kiddie showroom. It is a veritable North Pole of around 1,200 vintage toys, originating from across Europe and spanning centuries. It won't take more than an hour or two to see the whole collection, but the museum's location in the oldest part of Zurich allows you to easily incorporate it into a day tour.