Chocolate, watches, art and more – the ‘Little Big City’ has so much to offer visitors, before and after your tour
1. For art
The largest art museum in Switzerland, Zurich’s Kunsthaus boasts a collection from the 13th century to the present. There are rooms dedicated to Swiss artist and sculptor, Alberto Giacometti, while Van Gogh, Monet, Picasso, are housed on the top floor. The permanent collection can be viewed for free on Wednesdays.
2. For shopping
Known as one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world, Bahnhofstrasse is worth a visit for the window shopping (and people-watching) alone. You’ll find luxury brand stores closer to the Lake, and at the other end, more wallet-friendly high street brands. When you need to rest your feet, grab an outdoor marble-topped table at the iconic Café Sprüngli and continue the people-watching. Serving coffee since 1883, Sprüngli is best known for its opulent hot chocolate and pastries and in December, its spectacular Christmas lights.
3. For views
Sipping on a cocktail or wine at the Jules Verne Panorama Bar with 360-degree views of the city may seem a little touristy, but once you see the views across the rooftops of Zurich, Lake Zurich, and to the Alps, you won’t regret it. Jules Verne is located below the Urania Sternwarte Observatory which opened in 1907 and is one of the Old Town’s most beautiful buildings. To stargaze in real time, check out the Observatory’s tours and events.
4. Zurich by tram
Enjoy views of the Old Town and the Limmat River on a pleasant tram ride on the #4 or #15 (tram #10 takes you to the airport). Super fans should head to the tram museum to view original models from 1897 onwards. Fun, seasonal trams like the fondue tram (winter, from November to February), the sushi tram (summer, from August until late September), and the wine tram (summer, from May to late June) all run through the Old Town and the city’s hot spots.
5. Rent a bike
Exploring from two wheels in a city like Zurich is really something special – there’s a cycling route (in fact 386 of them) for everyone. Our picks include Rhine to the Linth Canal (a comfortable route), Rapperswil to the spa town of Baden (a medium route), and more strenuous routes such as the 60km Ibergeregg to Sattelegg and ending in Linth.
6. For swimming
Talk about bragging rights – not all capital cities have a river that is clean and clear, let alone swimmable but this is Switzerland, and the water quality of Lake Zürich is impeccable so take advantage. There are a couple of swimming areas, but the most centrally located are Frauenbad am Stadthausquai (women only), and Schanzengraben for men. By night, these spots double as bars in the summer months.
7. For gardens
Enjoy an early morning stroll before breakfast? The Botanischer Garten (botanical gardens) is the perfect spot to start the day. You’ll be greeted by three futuristic glass domes and over 7,000 different types of plant species. There’s a calendar of events (including educational tours) so check the website ahead of visiting.
8. For watches
Switzerland is known for its quality watch making and there’s nowhere better to head than Beyer Watches & Jewels on Bahnhofstrasse, the oldest watch shop in the world to learn more. Founded in 1760, the basement of the store now houses a watch museum. You’ll find details about each timepiece (the oldest dating back 3,400 years) as well pendulum clocks, beautifully crafted pocket watches and more.
9. For chocolate
You can’t leave Switzerland without going on chocolate tour, and one of the most in-depth and attractive (unlimited chocolate tastings!) is at Lindt. You’ll travel to Ghana and learn all about the cultivation of cocoa and in the production plant, witness master chocolatiers transform beans into cocoa liquor, then into liquid chocolate, and finally the Lindt bars and pralines we know and love. You can either visit on a guided or audio tour, and booking ahead is a must.
10. For spas
Like watches and chocolate, you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to picking a thermal spa in Zurich, but for a spa with killer views, you can’t go past Hürlimannbad & Spa. Housed in a former brewery, relax in huge wooden water-filled tubs or head for the Irish-Roman spa with steam baths and shallow pools. For Turkish style hammam, Hammam Basar + Salon offers massages, facials and more, plus there’s a delicious organic, vegetarian/vegan and gluten free menu to enjoy.