The largest and wealthiest city in Switzerland, Zurich is a vibrant metropolis packed with things to do. Its unique location means you can spend your time exploring art galleries in the morning, swimming in Lake Zurich in the afternoon, and going on a boozy bar crawl in the evening.
The heart of Zurich is its Old Town, where you can easily spend a whole day just wandering around. From architecture that looks too amazing to be real and charming fondue restaurants to artisan shops specializing in delicate timepieces and vibrant annual festivals, you’ll never get bored!
You’ll find tons of things to do in Zurich’s other neighborhoods, too. From outdoor cinemas and lakeside picnics during the balmy summer months to miles-long sledding runs and cozy saunas during the chilly winter months, you’ll always find plenty of things to do in Zurich, no matter what time of year you visit.
With such a huge choice of things to see and do in Zurich, it can be almost impossible to put together your own itinerary without getting overwhelmed. To help you out, we’ve created a list of the coolest things to do in Zurich. Add these activities to your Zurich bucket list, and get ready for an incredible vacation you’ll be talking about for years!
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15 cool and unique things to do in Zurich
1. Go Ballroom Dancing at the Zurich Opera House
If you’re looking for cultural things to do in Zurich, take a look at what’s on at the Zurich Opera House. Known in German as Opernhaus Zürich, this magnificent building dates back to 1891 and has hosted all the main operas, musical events, and dramas in Switzerland since then.
For the chance to get involved and do more than just watch a performance, buy tickets for one of the Opera House’s balls. Held regularly throughout the year, these glamorous balls give you the chance to put on your most glitzy outfit and experience a night you’ll never forget!
If you’d prefer someone else to be the star of the show, you’re spoiled for choice, with around 250 performances held each year. The program is known for being remarkably diverse, although the operas are often deemed the most spectacular and are performed by some of the industry’s most famous voices, such as Vesselina Kasarova, Edita Gruberová, and Cecilia Bartoli.
2. Window Shop at the Exclusive Stores Along Bahnhofstrasse
Bahnhofstrasse stretches for almost a mile, starting at the Hauptbahnhof railway station and ending at Lake Zurich. There’s an astonishing variety of stores, ranging from independent boutiques and jewelry stores to giant department stores and designer fashion emporiums. The closer to the lake you get, the swankier (and pricier!) the stores become.
While you’re wandering around, keep an eye out for the Paradeplatz. The most famous square in the heart of Bahnhofstrasse, the Paradeplatz is one of the most expensive places to own property in Switzerland and is where you’ll find the headquarters of some of the biggest Swiss banks.
3. Broaden Your Cultural Horizons at Kunsthaus Zurich
It doesn’t matter whether you can’t get enough of art or you don’t understand why people make such a big deal about it, a visit to the Kunsthaus Zurich is one of the must-do things in Zurich. Home to one of the most important collections of art in Switzerland – covering masterpieces from the 13th century up to today – this art gallery will blow you away.
The permanent exhibitions include the most important collection of Classical Modernist art in Zurich, the biggest Munch collection outside of Norway, and masterpieces you’ll definitely recognize by iconic names such as Monet and Picasso. There are around 4,000 paintings and sculptures, as well as 95,000 prints and drawings spread out across almost a millennium.
Temporary exhibitions are often carefully chosen to appeal to visitors who aren’t particularly into art. From mind-bending sculptures that take up entire rooms to thought-provoking pieces about current events, the Kunsthaus Zurich will give you plenty to talk about.
4. Pamper Yourself at the Thermalbad & Spa Zurich
One of the best things to do in Switzerland if you need to relax and unwind, the Thermalbad & Spa Zurich is a peaceful oasis in the center of the bustling city. You can soak in the healing mineral waters of the Aqui source and take part in Roman-Irish bathing traditions, which go back centuries.
The best part about the Thermalbad & Spa Zurich is the huge rooftop pool. Open year-round, you can unwind and let the powerful underwater jets work their magic while watching the sun set in the distance over the city’s skyline. Nothing compares to it!
That’s not all there is to this incredible spa. You’ll also find submerged wood barrels set inside centuries-old vaults, steam baths at various temperatures, and a vast selection of massages and treatments available for when you need something a little extra. If you get hungry, there’s even a cute bistro serving drinks and seasonal salads, sandwiches, and soups.
5. Uncover Switzerland’s History at the Schweizerisches Landesmuseum
The Schweizerisches Landesmuseum (Swiss National Museum) might look like a fairytale castle from the outside, but step inside, and you’ll find yourself face-to-face with the biggest collection of artifacts unveiling everything there is to know about Switzerland’s cultural history. From sculptures and paintings to handicrafts and everyday objects, this collection offers a great insight into Swiss heritage.
Stop by the first floor of the historical part of the museum to check out the permanent Simply Zurich collection, which is always free. Here you can learn more about Zurich’s intriguing history and the incredible diversity found within the city today. Much better than just a place to look and not touch, this exhibit includes state-of-the-art interactive displays, making this museum a great choice for kids, too.
The quaint inner courtyard is regularly used to host concerts and events throughout the year. Check out the Schweizerisches Landesmuseum’s events calendar to see if there’s anything interesting going on when you’re there.
6. Eat Your Way Through Zurich On a Food Tour
Swiss food is amazing and the best way to be able to taste it all is to sign up for a food tour. Definitely one of the top things to do in Zurich for foodies, a food tour will take you to all the best food markets, cafes, bars, restaurants, and street food vendors to sample the very best that Zurich has to offer.
Because they’re so popular, there’s a huge variety of food tasting tours available in the city. If you’re interested in doing a food tour, Swiss Food Tours is a popular pick.
You can choose from traditional Swiss food tours, brunch tours, happy hour appetizer tours, and chocolate tours. If you can’t pick just one, there’s no reason you can’t do them all!
If you don’t like the idea of an organized food tour, you can design your own. Some goodies we recommend adding to your must-try list include rosti (they’re really similar to hashbrowns), raclette cheese (it’s very strong and recommended for cheese lovers only!), bircher muesli (it was invented in Zurich), Bündnerfleisch (rich cured beef), and Zuger Kirschtorte (a meringue, sponge and buttercream cake with cherry brandy).
7. Watch a Movie Under the Stars at the Allianz Cinema
One of the best things about visiting Zurich during the summer is that you can head down to Lake Zurich and watch a movie. The program usually begins in mid-July and stops at the end of August and features different showings every night.
From striking documentaries and laugh-out-loud comedies to cinema classics and family-friendly cartoons, there are tons to choose from here. You don’t have to worry about dragging your own chairs down, either. There’s plenty of seating provided in the form of individual deck-chairs spread out over a staggered floor so that everyone can see.
Head down early for the chance to grab something to eat before the movie begins. There’s a surprising number of food kiosks, bars, and casual restaurants to choose from. When your food’s ready, you can take it down to the waterside and dig in while soaking up the blissful scenery around you.
8. Wander the Cobblestone Streets of Altstadt
You don’t have to do much to catch a glimpse of the best Zurich sightseeing opportunities. A simple stroll around Altstadt will do it. Also known as Old Town, Altstadt is bursting with impressive Medieval houses, grand town halls built in the Renaissance period, and countless winding lanes you can follow to discover it all.
It’s in this part of the city you can see the Grossmunster double towers – Zurich’s main landmark. It’s also where you can see Peterskirche (Peter’s Church), which is famous for having the largest clock face in Europe. You can make a list of must-see sites or simply wander the streets and see what you come across.
Thanks to its immense popularity, Altstadt is brimming with amazing places to eat and drink. Whether you want some bircher muesli for breakfast, Älplermagronen for lunch, fondue for dinner, or a glass of delicious local wine to help you chill out at night, you’ll find everything you’re craving here.
9. Find Zurich’s Secret Doors
If you’re looking for unique things to do in Zurich, you have to hunt for the city’s secret doors! The best way to find them is to team up with a local tour guide and get ready to uncover hidden parts of the city most visitors never get to see. The key to unlock the doors needs to be loaned from the City of Zurich, which is why you can’t do this activity on your own.
LocalBini offers the one-of-a-kind Secret Doors of Mysterious Zurich tour. We don’t want to spoil it for you by revealing too much, but this tour is so cool!
The first door you’ll come across is practically invisible and will lead you to a secret tunnel from the Middle Ages. You’ll get to see original parts of the city which date back to the 13th century.
The tour takes around two hours to complete and is the best way to get a sneak peek at secret parts of the city. The walk isn’t strenuous at all, and it’s a great activity to do with kids.
10. Shop Till You Drop at the Viadukt
One of the best places in Zurich to pick up something special, Viadukt is a shopping street tucked away in a 19th-century viaduct in what was once the industrial Zurich-West neighborhood. Nestled underneath the imposing arches, you’ll find a huge choice of shops, ranging from Swiss fashion boutiques and designer home stores to urban bicycle outlets and secondhand stores.
If you need a break from retail therapy, you don’t have to go very far. The Viadukt is also home to a small selection of cafes, bars, and restaurants where you can stop and reenergize. If you’d rather take your goodies back to your hotel, there’s also a giant food market where you’ll find gourmet cheeses, truffles, fish, pastries, produce, and more from all around the world.
As if that wasn’t enough, the Viadukt also boasts a fitness center with yoga classes, an artist studio where you can have your portrait painted, a children’s play area, and a dance studio where a variety of different dance classes are taught.
11. Make Your Own Chocolate at the Lindt Home of Chocolate
If you’re a total chocolate lover, visiting the Lindt Home of Chocolate will be one of the top Zurich activities you do on your vacation. This delicious interactive museum is home to things you won’t find anywhere else, including a 30-foot chocolate fountain and the biggest Lindt chocolate store in the world!
One of our favorite parts of this museum is the Lindt Chocolateria, where you can make your very own chocolate. You can make gourmet chocolate bars and decorate them with all sorts of yummy extras before taking them with you. If you’re really creative, you can make chocolate lollipops and delicate chocolate figures.
Even if you pass on the chocolate workshops, you’ll still have an amazing time here. The museum teaches you where chocolate came from and how it’s made, and there’s even a section where you can indulge in an unlimited chocolate tasting. Before you leave, don’t forget to stop by the chocolate shop, where you’ll find the most comprehensive selection of Lindt products in the world.
12. Take a Dip in Lake Zurich
Taking a walk around the lake is one of the best things to do in Zurich, whatever time of year you visit.
Summer is the best time to try all kinds of watersports, from swimming and paddleboarding to sailing and kayaking. At this time of year, a huge number of lakeside bars and restaurants open up, providing you with an almost endless number of places to eat and drink with a view! If you prefer something a bit more casual, there are plenty of places along the riverbanks where you can have a picnic.
Winter in Lake Zurich is just as fun as the summer. Although you can’t swim at this time of year, you can go ice skating. Several ice skating rinks are built on the lake itself and offer both daytime and evening skating.
If the low temperatures get to be too much for you, you can warm up in one of the saunas, which only appear in the winter. The walls are completely clear, so you can admire the snowy scene while being perfectly cozy.
13. Take a Thrilling Sled Ride Down the Uetliberg
For the best view in Zurich, head to the top of the Uetliberg, the city’s very own mountain. Rising 2,850 feet above sea level, this mountain soars above the city’s skyline and provides you with an amazing view that stretches out across Zurich, over the lake, and up into the Swiss Alps!
There are several hiking trails you can follow to reach the top of the Uetliberg. Some of them are easier than others, but whichever you pick, you’ve got to have a fairly high fitness level to get there. For a more laid-back option, there’s a tram, which will take you straight to the top without any hassle.
Most of the hiking trails are only accessible during the warmer months. In the winter, when the snow falls, the trails are transformed into sledding runs, giving you another reason to visit this landmark. If you’re feeling brave, you can even go down the sledding runs at night equipped with nothing more than a flashlight or the light on your smartphone!
14. Indulge in an Authentic Swiss Fondue
A trip to Zurich isn’t complete without trying some authentic Swiss fondue. There are countless places to try the iconic dish, so whether you’re looking for something offbeat or traditional, you’ll find it here.
Winter is a great time to try fondue when pop-up restaurants specializing in the cheesy dish appear all over the place. But no matter when you visit, you can treat yourself to fondue in intimate restaurants, outdoors under the stars, in a boat on Lake Zurich, or even on an eTukTuk fondue tour!
Traditional fondue is made from melted cheese. Sometimes there’s a duo of cheeses (often gruyere and emmental), but sometimes it’s a special blended recipe that the chef will be very reluctant to reveal. Whichever you choose, you’ll often have the chance to enjoy your fondue plain or have it livened up with ingredients like peppercorns and chili peppers.
If you want to sample traditional fondue, Swiss Chuchi Restaurant serves up some of the best fondues in town. Or, for something a little more creative, Walliser Kanne Zürich offers offbeat flavors, including fondue flavored with truffles and fondue flavored with champagne! However you have it, enjoy your fondue alongside a glass of dry, acidic wine and finish your meal with a shot of cherry brandy for the authentic Swiss experience.
15. Visit the Birthplace of Dadaism
Dadaism (or Dada) was an exciting art movement that began in 1916 in Zurich. You can visit the exact spot it was created by Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings by popping into Cabaret Voltaire, just a short walk from the Zurich Main Station.
When it first started out, the concept of Dadaism was to question the present (WWI was going on at the time) through innovative forms of art, including painting, dance, literature, and music. Today, the tradition carries on and local artists continue to visit Cabaret Voltaire to display their work in exhibits and perform sets during special events.
Visit during the day, and you’ll find nothing more than a historical hall where you can read about the history of the art movement. But visit after dark, and you’ll find the space transformed into a lively bar where you can sip beer, wine, schnapps, and absinthe until the early hours.
There you have it! The 15 best things to do in Zurich. What’s your favorite thing to do in Zurich?
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