Zurich is a pretty remarkable city that’s notable for its beauty and its cleanliness. It was our home base for our five weeks in Switzerland. During our extended stay and hanging out with Kevin’s local family we’ve covered quite a bit of ground in the city. Now we’re happy to share what we think are the best things to do in Zurich with you.
This list is populated with quite a few free things to do in Zurich in addition to paid attractions. We think the free options are welcome additions for most travelers in general, but they are especially welcome in Zurich considering that it’s one of the most expensive cities in the world!
1. Go Hang Out Around Lake Zurich
The lake is an awesome place to be, and taking some time to relax by the lake is no doubt one of the best things to do in Zurich. When the weather is nice it seems like everyone is there and joyfully soaking up the beauty of the city. It makes for a rather festive atmosphere.
The north end of the lake feels more urban, featuring the ferry landing and a lovely promenade.
There are large grassy areas on both the east and west sides of the lake where people commonly kick back, barbecue, and sunbathe. There’s also no shortage of people playing soccer, paddleball, and even slack lining. Oh yeah, and the lake is so clean you can go swimming in it pretty much anywhere you want.
Our favorite place to go on the east side of the lake was near the Chinagarten. If you follow the promenade on the east side of the lake you’ll get there.
On the west side of the lake we liked a park called Landiwiese, which has an enormous grass area, a little island, and beautiful views. We also liked the park south of Landiwiese near the Wollishofen ferry landing. If you’re up for a long walk you can get there on foot, else you can take the ferry.
If you venture far enough south on the west side of the lake, you’ll reach the Cassiopeiasteg, a super cool dock pathway that stretches above the water for just shy of 1000 feet.
Below is a map with Landiwiese for a frame of reference.
2. Hike Or Ride To The Top Of Üetliberg
Zurich’s tallest peak is called Üetliberg, and the summit sits at 2,851 feet. As you can imagine this is the best vantage point in the entire city. There’s a tall man-made steel tower on top of the mountain that you can climb up to get a look at the city from even higher. The mountaintop is also home to a hotel called Uto Kulm and a restaurant.
If you’re able and have the inclination, do the hike. It’s a pretty steep climb and requires effort, but it’s a really great way to see Zurich’s natural beauty in the forest. Check out our article about hiking Üetliberg for more information if it suits your style.
If you’re not able to hike, or aren’t into it, you can still visit the summit by taking the train from Zurich main station. You’ll need to take the Sihltal Zurich-Uetliberg Bahn SZU (S10). It runs every half-hour on weekdays and takes 20 to get to Uetliberg. See the Üetliberg site for more information.
Another thing to note, you can also mountain bike and paraglide on Üetliberg if that’s what you’re into!
The trip to the top of Üetliberg really is one of the best things to do in Zurich if you can swing it in your itinerary.
3. Climb To The Top Of Grossmünster
Grossmünster, a Protestant church that was inaugurated around 1220, is one of the most striking structures in Zurich.
The church features a Romanesque architectural style and cylindrical twin towers. The Karlsturm tower is the one you can climb, and boy is the 187 step climb worth it. The view of Lake Zurich, the city, and the distant Alps is incredible.
To climb the tower will cost you around 4 Swiss Francs. The tower’s hours change seasonally, so be sure to check here for the current open hours.
4. Visit The Alter Botanischer Garten
The Alter Botanischer Garten, or the Old Botanical Garden in English, is a small oasis in the middle of the city.
It’s full of greenery and lovely flowers, and also very quiet. If you visit on a weekday you’ll see some people in business attire taking breaks from the bustle of work to take in a little relaxing nature.
This is a public area with no cost for admission. It’s a good place to take a walk and then to kick back with a book.
5. Stroll Through The Altstadt District
Altstadt is German for “old town,” and the Altstadt district is Zurich’s oldest. Go for a walk through the district and get surrounded by all the quaint buildings.
If you stay around the three major churches — St. Peter’s, Grossmunster, and Fraumunster — you’ll have more than enough to look at. It’s also a great place to wander by the river and stop to grab a beer.
6. Catch A Concert At The Volkshaus
Volkshaus is a concert hall that opened in 1910 and feels pretty glamorous in an old school way. We caught a concert here during our stay and really enjoyed the experience.
Concert tickets are pricey in this city, so just be forewarned!
7. Visit Lindenhof
Lindenhof is a hill in the middle of the city that once upon a time was the location of a Roman castle.
Now it’s a scenic public space where people like to hang out and take in views of the city.
Do You Have More Insight On The Best Things To Do In Zurich?
If you’ve visited Zurich and have recommendations for other travelers please share! Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments section of this article.