Shooting for Real Rail Adventures and the new Real Road Adventures, we’ve spent a lot of time in Switzerland, crisscrossing the country to see all the best sights, eat all the tastiest food, and meet as many fine Swiss people as time allows. One thing is constant, though; we always start and end our trips in Zürich.
While it may be tempting to get off the plane, grab your luggage, take the escalator down to the train platform, and move on to the next stop on your itinerary, I’d like to encourage you to make Zürich a destination in and of itself.
Here are a few fun things to do in Zürich to get you started in this vibrant, innovative gem of a city:
If you’re headed to Zürich’s Old Town, Lindenhof is the perfect place to start. This park sits high above the Limmat under shady Linden trees. Bring a picnic lunch and top off your water bottle at the ornate fountain. On one side, you can look down over the activity on the river and on the West side of the city. On the other, you can watch locals play bocce ball or games of chess on large boards built into the ground before strolling down into the Old Town.
When the weather is good, try a standup paddle board (SUP) tour of Lake Zürich. Strandbad Mythenquai, on the west side of the north end of the lake where I toured with a guide from Supkultur, is a good place to start your tour. SUPing is a way to see the city from a new perspective while getting a bit of a workout at the same time. We nosed our way up the Limmat a little way, marveling at centuries-old buildings, and splashed through the Springbrunnen Aquaretum fountains on the lake. The water here is crystal clear, very clean, and refreshing on a hot day. Just so you know, it’s rumored that there is a GoPro video of me falling head over heels backward off of my board right in the middle of the fountains, but the video apparently burned up in a suspicious fire. I’ve heard. Or it was put up on YouTube by our vindictive editor.
Bike Tour: Public & Street Art
Bike touring is as easy as downloading the Publibike app and grabbing one of the step-through bikes from any of the conveniently-located parking places throughout the city. Don’t see one nearby? The app will guide you to the closest bikes, which seem to be everywhere. Rent a standard bike for short tours or, better yet, grab an e-bike and take a tour of the plentiful public and street art of Zürich. We used the excellent street art map at https://streetartcities.com/cities/zurich to see sanctioned and unsanctioned wall art all over the city, but we also hit city-sponsored public sculptures like you’ll find on the tour booked through Zürich Tourism. This is my kind of art museum with plenty of sunshine, fresh air, and movement.
Need I say more? Take the S8 train from Zürich Main Station to Kilchberg and walk a short way to this temple of chocolate. Built on the site of the historic Lindt & Sprüngli factory building dating from 1899, the Home of Chocolate offers tours and courses, along with an interactive museum and plenty of tasting. This place is popular, so get your tickets online before you go to avoid a wait. And hey, you there! No swimming in the two-story chocolate fountain!
If you want to swim, the place to do it is in the Limmat with everyone else. When I swam in the Rhine in Basel, locals there taught me how to use a dry bag as a personal flotation device. When you arrive riverside, put your clothes, shoes, phone, and wallet into the bag, trap a little air in it as you roll it up, clip it shut, and jump into the water with it. Float along for a little while and then get out, walk back upriver, and repeat. If you’re feeling parched and peckish, take time to get a drink and a snack at one of the “buvettes” along the water. The best place to jump in is near the Marriott, where the pedestrian bridge at the point of Platzspitz park crosses the river.
Look west of Zürich and you’ll see the Uetliberg tower on a high ridge. This is a great place to do some hiking and take in views of the city and of the Limmat Valley all the way to the Alps late in the afternoon. Save the tower climb (1 or 2 Swiss Francs) for sunset - you won't regret it. There’s also a restaurant and bar to make it a very memorable evening. From Zürich Main Station, take the S10 train 20 minutes to Uetliberg and walk up from the end station. (Note: As of publication, the S10 will be out of service weekdays until 8/21/22, but various other trams and buses can get you there, too).
Zürich is a wonderful, walkable city with many surprises if you look for them. Make sure to give yourself a day or two to take advantage of some of the many experiences it has to offer.
What are your favorite things to do in Zürich? Let us know in the comments below and subscribe so you never miss a post.