Zurich Old Town
Not only Switzerland’s largest city and one of the most significant financial and industrial cities in Europe, Zurich is mainly a very charming and attractive place to visit and spend some time. Zurich old town is one of our top things to do in Zurich – rich with medieval and Renaissance architecture, its museums and its art is fascinating enough to amuse culture lovers for days!
Swiss National Museum
One of Zurich‘s major attractions is the impressive Swiss National Museum, built by Gustav Gull in the French Renaissance style in 1898. It houses artifacts and relics dating from prehistory to modern times – especially Gothic art, panel paintings, coins and Swiss furnishings through the ages – as well as several temporary exhibitions which are always worth visiting.
The Museum is located on Museumstraße, 2 minutes walk from the main railway station.
Opened in 1929 in the Fluntern quarter, Zurich Zoo homes 300 different species and thus got its deserved place in our 11 top things to do in Zurich. The zoo became especially famous for its daily penguin parade in cold weather when temperature goes under 10° C, and for its magnificent Asian elephants. A huge aquarium containing predators such as stingrays and piranhas is just fascinating for visitors of all ages!
The Zoo is situated on 221, Zürichbergstrasse, just under 5 km from the railway station.
Bahnhofstrasse and the Bahnhof
Zurich‘s “Main Street” is Bahnhofstrasse, the busy pedestrian stretch from the main train station (Bahnhof) to the Bürkliplatz at the head of the lake. This is one of the most attractive shopping streets in Europe with its fountains, public art, trees, and distinguished buildings. The beautifully decked windows and the buildings themselves make it a popular place for everyone to stroll.
In the lower part of Bahnhofstrasse is the Paradeplatz, with the palatial 1876 headquarters of the Schweizerischen Kreditanstalt and the Hotel Savoy Baur en Ville. Two centuries ago there was a cattle market on the Paradeplatz, and later it was used as a parade ground. The Bahnhof itself is an attraction! It has a soaring hall lined with shops and cafes, as well as the giant mall underneath. Zurich‘s largest Christmas market is held inside the Bahnhof, and is worth visit during end November-December period each year.
Hürlimann Areal Thermal Baths & Spa
Looking for a unique relaxation experience? The Hürlimann Areal Thermal Baths and Spa, located in the aged vaults of a former brewery is an excellent choice. An ultra-modern complex that offers many pleasures. Aromatherapy, mudpacks, peeling, massage and fresh thermal waters from Zurich‘s “Aqui” spring to name a few. To top it all, go the bath on the roof! From there you can enjoy a wonderful view of the whole city!
The baths are situated on Brandschenkestrasse 150, just under 2 km from the main railway station (around 20 minutes by car or tram).
Grossmünster (Great Minster)
Can’t be missed for its remarkable twin towers, Zurich‘s principal church dominates the city skyline, and stands in an open terrace overlooking the river. Built between the 11th and the 13th centuries, it is a Romanesque three-aisled galleries basilica with a chancel over a crypt. Although the upper levels of the towers date from 1487, the domed tops were only added in 1782. High on the south tower on the river side is a seated figure of Charlemagne. What not to miss: the two modern bronze doors done in 1935-36, the sculptured Romanesque capitals, remains of Gothic wall-paintings and the Late Romanesque cloister from about 1200.
Limmatquai and the Rathaus (Town Hall)
Limmatquai is a popular riverside shopping street. Stretching along are a bunch of elegant old guild-houses with marvelous interiors. Have a stroll and capture some of this history on your camera! Many of these houses now became house restaurants. So you can take a peek inside at the 1719 Haus zur Saffran, the 1660 Haus zur Rüden and the two-storied Haus zur Zimmerleuten from 1709. Zurich‘s Town Hall, the Rathaus, is easy to locate as it overhangs the river and is supported on wide arches at the east end of the Rathausbrücke. This is a massive Late Renaissance building with rich sculptured decoration and a Baroque ceremonial hall – worth seeing!
Boating on Lake Zurich
No visit to Zurich is complete without chilling around its lake. Rent a boat or a pedal or simply take a cruise around the lake and explore its banks and islands. The island of Lützelau is a nature reserve. It boasts a campsite, a barbecue area and a beach. Neighbouring it, is the larger Ufenau which has a number of ruins and archaeological finds from the 2nd and 3rd centuries.
If you have some more time on your hands, the towns of Pfäffikon, Rapperswil, Küsnacht and Lachen and worth visiting by boat too.
For a relaxing break from the buzz of city life head to Seebad Enge. In summer its two pools, yoga classes, sauna and outdoor grill bar attract many overheated visitors. In the winter sauna visitors can cool off by jumping directly into the lake – an unmatched experience! This leisure center is located on two floating bridges on the shores of Lake Zurich, 8 minutes south of Zurich’s main railway station by car.
Stein am Rhein
Stein am Rhein is one of the prettiest villages in a country well known for cute villages! This little gem with only 300 inhabitants is probably the best-preserved medieval village in Europe. From a tiny fishing village it developed into a prosperous trading center in the 11th century. It is when the Benedictine Abbey of St. George was relocated to the village owing to its strategic position.
Stein am Rhein is famous for its beautifully frescoed house fronts and its “Rathausplatz”.
Stein am Rhein lies in the canton of Schaffhausen in northern Switzerland, close to the German border. It is around 55 km northeast of Zurich and is accessible by car or train.
Rapperswil-Jona is a charming town located on the east bank of Lake Zurich in the Canton of St. Gallen. It’s locally known for its thousands of roses and an ancient medieval castle, which is its main dominating landmark. The town owes its charm to its medieval houses and the Capuchin monastery. The wooden bridge to Hurden as well as the fish market at Rapperswil harbor are definitely worth a visit.
Rapperswil-Jona is located around 40 km South-West of Zurich and is easily accessible by car or train in around 40 minutes. We think that a visit to Rapperswil-Jona is a must! Let us know in comments if it gets on your list of top things to do in Zurich!