Zurich tourist attractions, activities, sightseeing, travel guide.
Landesmuseum (Swiss National Museum)
This Swiss National Museum provides with an epic survey of the culture and history of the people of Switzerland. The museum’s collection, kept in a feudal-looking, nineteenth century edifice, behind the Zurich Hauptbahnhof, features works of religious art, including sixteenth century stained glass from the Tanikon Convent and beautiful frescoes from the church of Mustair. Some of the Carolingian art dates from as far as the ninth century. The altarpieces are also impressively carved, painted, and gilded.
The prehistoric section is simply outstanding - some of the artifacts here are from the fourth millennium B.C. There’s and a large exhibit of Roman clothing, medieval silverware, fourteenth century drinking bowls, as well as painted furniture, costumes, and dollhouses of different periods. Another impressive exhibition is the one of weapons and armour, showing the methods of Swiss warfare from 800 to 1800. There is also a display following Swiss watch-making from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries.
Additionally, special exhibitions are presented twice annually, which last from three to six months. Their themes are always different, for example a recent one was dedicated to Swiss fashion design.
Kunsthaus Zurich (Fine Arts Museum)
The Fine Arts Museum in Zürich is one of the most important art museums in Europe, dedicated mainly to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, but the range of paintings and sculpture goes back to antiquity. Kunsthaus Zürich was established in Victorian times and was reconstructed in ‘76. Now it is one of the most modern and sophisticated Fine Arts museums world-wide.
Some very impressive displays are Rodin’s “Gate of Hell”, near the entrance, and the Giacometti wing, presenting the development of this Swiss-born artist. The collection of modern art features works by great artists, such as Picasso, Bonnard, Marini, Mondrian, Lipschitz, Rouault, Braque, Chagall. Additionally, Kunsthaus Zürich owns the largest collection outside Oslo of works by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch.
Botanischer Garten (Zurich Botanic Garden)
These magnificent gardens contain more than 15000 living species, including some very rare specimens from New Caledonia and the Southwestern parts of Africa. The gardens’ herbarium contains the impressive 3 000 000 plants! The Botanic Gardens, possessed by the University of Zürich, were laid out on the site of a former private villa.
Foundation E. G. Bührle Collection
Some of the highlights in the Bührle collection include, French Impressionist works, featuring those by van Gogh, Renoir, Cézanne, Monet, Gauguin, Degas, and Manet. The private collection also features paintings by Rubens, Rembrandt, Guardi, as well as Picasso’s “The Italian Girl”. Also there is a limited, but very special and impressive section with twenty-four sculptures from the Middle Ages.
This church, located on the left bank and overlooking Münsterhof was once a Benedictine abbey, established at the site in 853 by Emperor Ludwig. The present church dates from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, but the crypt of the initial abbey is still preserved in the undercroft.
The main attractions of Fraumünster are 5 stained-glass windows, each with its own colour theme, designed by Marc Chagall. The Münster is also famous for its elaborate organ.
From here one can cross the Münsterbrücke - an 1838 bridge that will take you to Grossmünster. On the bridge one will find a statue of Burgomaster Waldmann.
The Romanesque and Gothic cathedral was, as a legend says, established by Charlemagne, whose horse bowed down on this spot marking the graves of 3 early Christian martyrs. The Grossmünster cathedral has 2 three-storey towers and is located on a terrace above Limmatquai. Apart from the legend, the construction of the cathedral actually began in 1090 and some additions were made until the early fourteenth century. In the 16the century it was very important part of the Swiss-German Reformation and the theological college there is now the University of Zurich.
The Grossmünster is devoted to the patron saints of Zürich - Regula, Exuperantius and Felix. In the third century the 3 martyrs tried to convert the citizens of Turicum (the initial name for Zürich) to Christianity. According to the legend, the martyrs were dipped into boiling oil and forced to drink molten lead. They refused to renounce their faith and were finally beheaded. However, miraculously they picked up their heads, climbed to the top of the hill (the present place of the Grossmünster), where they dug up their own graves and interred themselves. The seal of Zurich honours the three saints, representing them carrying their heads under their arms. In the church you can see a Romanesque crypt, a window made by Augusto Giacometti and the Reformation Museum.
Additionally to all said, the cathedral’s towers offer some impressive views. From the towers you can see the amazing landscape around and you can also take a guided tour.
Museum Oskar Reinhart am Stadtgarten
Oskar Reinhart, a renowned art collector who passed away in ‘65, willed many of his treasures to the city of Zurich. Exhibited in this gallery are works of various Swiss, Austrian and German artists, with a fine representation of the Romantic painters – Runge, Kersting, Friedrich and Blechen. There are about six hundred works here - from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries.
Museum Reitberg showcases African, Asian, and various other non-European works of art. It is located in the lush Rieter-Park overlooking Zurich. The museum’s collection is rich in highly acclaimed displays of Chinese, Indian and Japanese drawings and paintings. Here one can enjoy everything from Tibetan bronzes to jade Chinese funereal art, even the weird Japanese Noh masks. The museum is situated along Seestrasse, on less than two kilometers south of the downtown.
On about 6 km from Winterthur, Schloss Kyburg is the biggest castle in the eastern part of Switzerland, dating back to the Middle Ages. The stronghold was ceded to the city of Zurich in the fifteenth century and is now a museum of antiques and impressive armour. Once here, one may also see the residence hall of the knights, parapet, and the chapel.
Technorama is the National Center for Science and Technology of Switzerland. It has a permanent display, divided into 8 areas, featuring many interactive experiments and phenomenas - Water/Nature/Chaos, Mechanical Music, Mathe-Magic, Physics, Energy, Textiles, Materials, and Automation. Technorama has also the greatest tin-plate train collection in the world. In the hands-on Youth Laboratory, kids can learn from about one hundred experiments in different areas of science, mathematics and biology.
The observatory is in the middle between the Bahnhofstrasse and the Limmat River, situated on Uraniastrasse. When the weather is good and the skies are clear one can look through the telescope here, however on bad days the observatory doesn't open, so it is best to call in advance to find out. Because of its good central location, one has a beautiful panoramic view not only of the city, but of the lake and the distant Alps as well. And of course if the weather conditions allow it, one can see the stars, planets, and galaxy through the big Zeiss telescope, weighing some twenty tons.
Zürcher Spielzeugmuseum (Zurich Toy Museum)
Zurich’s Toy Museum situated in one of the oldest parts of the city, houses over 1200 antique toys from all across Europe. The collection is exhibited on the 5th floor of a house, accessible by an elevator.
Zunfthaus Zur Meisen
Across the bridge from the Wasserkirche is located one of the Zurich’s renowned old guildhalls. Dating back to 1752, there is a branch museum of the famous Swiss National Museum. It is dedicated mainly to eighteenth century Swiss ceramics, porcelain of Zurich, and some antiques.
Zoologischer Garten (Zoological Garden)
That is one of the most popular zoos in Europe; Zurich’s Zoo Garden houses about 2200 animals of about two hundred and sixty species. This Zoological Garden also features an aquarium and an open-air aviary. Of interest are also the Africa house, the terrariums, along with the elephant, the ape and the giant-tortoise houses. There are separate sections for red pandas, otters and snow leopards, and a special premises for clouded leopards, tigers, Amur leopards, and Indian lions.
Zurich is encircled by some of the most attractive sightseeing areas in Switzerland. One can easily get to all these places on a short trip from Zurich, either by train or by a lake steamer.
Take the Dolderbahn for a short cable-ride to the Dolder Recreational Area, located at 596 meters elevation above the city of Zurich. Trains depart on every ten minutes from Römerhofplatz, which one can easily reach by taking tram # 3, 8 or 15. The recreational area is open year-round and features restaurants, nature trails, rustic taverns, a path to the zoo and between October and March, a huge ice-skating rink. There is also a very nice place to swim - the Dolder Schwimmbad, which is carved into a hillside offering a great view of the city.
Due to its proximity to Zurich, the excursions to the alpine Felsenegg are very popular. To reach it, one should get one of the frequent (one about 25 minutes) trains from city’s Hauptbahnhof for the fourteen minutes ride to the residential suburb of Adliswil. Get off in Adliswil and then take the fast cable car, the Luftseilbahn Adliswil-Felsenegg, for a six minutes uphill ride to the top of Felsenegg, at 795 meters elevation.
We would also like to recommend a visit to Alpamare – Europe’s largest water park as listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. It is situated at Churstrasse 111, in the village of Pfäffikon on the Zurich Lake, and provides its visitors with year-round fun in and around the water on four body flumes, as well as indoor and outdoor tube slides. There is also an indoor swimming pool with breakers, a bubbling hot spring, and an outer pool with underwater music and massage jets.
Southwest of Zurich is the northernmost peak in the Albis ridge - Uetliberg, which is one of the most popular side trips from the town, and can be reached in just fifteen minutes. Take the mountain railway Uetlibergbahn from the Selnau station in the city and you will arrive near the Sihl River, at 840 meters above the sea. From this station, one can hike to the summit, which takes only ten minutes and then have a coffee and snack there.
Some other place, which are easily reached from Zurich include The Forchbahn, Kilchberg and Winterthur.