Things to do in Zurich, Switzerland

Get Your Bearings in Zurich

By Sonja Holverson
Zurich Expert

Stay
Eat
See & Do
Party
Shop

Where to Stay

Zürich offers historical palace hotels which mix harmoniously with the contemporary accommodations, most of which are in the city center near the Limmat River or the shores of Lake Zürich. The elegant Hotel Schweizerhof is right across from the Hauptbahnoff (Main Rail Station). Similar “Grand Dame” styles include the Bellerive au Lac and the Eden au Lac. Boutique hotel lovers will be fascinated with the Hotel Widder, a medieval butcher’s guild.

Caution:

The Hauptbahnoff block is being renovated which could be noisy.

Hot Tips:

Zürich West, a former industrial zone, is becoming a very trendy neighborhood with new hotels, one being The 25 Hours Hotel.

What to Eat

Zürich has a plethora of restaurants in the city center and along the banks of the Limmat River. Charming cafés are tucked away off ancient streets in Neumarkt. Swiss cuisine is assured at Veltliner Keller, a restaurant since 1551. Try superb and trendy restaurants west of the center on Langstrasse. La Salle, a fusion restaurant, was created aesthetically within a shipbuilding factory in the trendy industrial district.

Caution:

Zürich restaurant prices are higher than in other Swiss cities.

Hot Tips:

Make reservations because Zürich residents love to go out and eat.

Be Sure to Sample:

Casa Aurelio's grilled and roasted meats or delicious rice dishes.

Things to See

The Bahnofstrasse, a boulevard with famous Swiss and International brands, starts at the Railway Station for sightseeing. On the north side, winding streets lead to Old Town along the banks of the river. Before crossing, enter the Fraumünster to view the Chagall stained glass windows. Grossmünster Cathedral is across the nearby bridge. Visit the Zürich Kunsthaus Fine Arts Museum that has such an enormous collection that another building will be opened in 2017.

Caution:

Although most of Zurich is flat, there are hills on the Grossmünster side of the Limmat that could be challenging.

Hot Tips:

Monuments can be seen aboard a river cruise. Lake cruises are also available.

Places to Party

There is a lively nightlife in Zurich for all ages and tastes. Large venues like the historical Volkshaus and newer Hallenstadion offer famous international and Swiss entertainers. Nightclubs and theatre clubs are everywhere, some open until 4:00 AM. Formerly industrial, Zurich West attracts nightlife as does the Langstrasse area. Enjoy casual evenings at the beer halls along the Niederdorf. Stop for a drink at the Café Odeon, Limmatquai 2 which attracts an eclectic crowd. Former patrons include Einstein, Mussolini. James Joyce and William Somerset Maugham.

Caution:

Ask for a drink list. Cocktails can be surprisingly expensive. Beer, wine or even coffee may become the preferred choice.

Where to Shop

Bahnofstrasse is THE shopping street. Most visitors look for Swiss watches, the best local souvenir. A large collection is at Bucherer. There are also smaller boutiques on and off the Bahnhofstrasse. On the other side of the river, there is a diversity of shops especially in Neumarkt and Niederdorf with clothing, antiques, books and more.

Caution:

As in all crowded places, be cautious about pickpockets.

Hot Tips:

Do not overlook the train station which has a large mall of shops below it as well as a farmers' market in the large hall on Wednesdays.

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Things to do in Zurich


Zurich is known for...

Five of Zurich's most unique features and characteristics.

1. "Downtown" Switzerland:

Although the famous grey-suited bankers and the SIX Swiss Exchange including the SMI are still thought of when mentioning Zürich, Switzerland’s largest city has come of age. Today it represents everything that is the antithesis of the agricultural folkloric image of Switzerland. Banking but also other diverse industries are vibrant in Zürich and there is now a lively burst of innovative development and activities that are gaining international recognition every day in every field. Creativity abounds in trendy architecture, design, technology, hospitality, international entertainment, conferences and nightlife par excellence. New avant-garde neighborhoods are developing in West Zürich.

2. Luxury Brands:

The Hauptbahnhof, Zürich’s main train station leads to one the most famous shopping streets in the world, the Bahnhofstrasse. A wide and long boulevard built in the 19th century, it is lined with Belle Epoque style buildings. Here are most all of the presitgious international luxury fashion and jewelry brands. However, one must remain vigilant as there are also some striking discoveries discreetly located a step or two just off the boulevard. Furthermore, there are no Swiss branded watches that are missing here. Everything is available from Swatch, Tissot, Rolex to the very haut-de-gamme watches of Patek Phillip, Audimar Piguet and Breguet.

3. Chocolate:

Almost no one goes to Zürich without visiting Sprüngli Zürich on the Paradeplatz just off the Bahnhofstrasse. Here Zürich bankers and financiers come for breakfast or coffee; with chocolate, of course. Visitors will indulge themselves with pastries or depart with luxuriously wrapped boxes of chocolates for gifts from the oldest chocolate shop (1859) in Europe. Sprüngli is still making family home-made chocolates which they began in Zurich in 1836 on Marktgasse. On the other side of the Limmat River is Teuscher Chocolates, a company that says it blends the world’s finest and most expensive natural ingredients. Champagne truffles, anyone?

4. Historical Architecture:

In addition to the Belle Epoque, Zürich is one of the best preserved cities of architectural treasures from Medieval to Baroque to a 20th c. pavilion by Le Corbusier. Medieval buildings are found on both sides of the Limmat River. The right bank streets are the Widderstrasse, Rennweg including 13th c. St. Peters clock tower and Augustinestrasse. The 13th c. Fraumünster Cathedral is adorned with 20th c. Marc Chagall stained glass windows. Across the Limmat River bridge is Romanesque Grossmünster church, founded in the 9th c. by Charlemagne. On the river’s shore going towards the lake the 19th c Opera House imposes its Neo-Classical façade.

5. Scenic Beauty:

In the middle of Zürich is Adlisberg hill the top of which can be reached by cogwheel funicular. There are forest trails and spectacular views of the city and the Alps, especially at sunset. In addition to the fairytale shoreline buildings along the Limmat River in the center of the city, there is the Lake of Zürich about 25 miles long. It is dotted with villages and hills and with Snow capped Alps behind them. From Zürich there are early 20th c. paddle steamer boats cruising the lake to Rapperswil, a charming lakeside village. Alpine scenery up close is only an hour away.