The biggest city and financial capital of Switzerland is best known for its banks, high prices and top quality of life. But the “world’s smallest metropolis”, as the locals proudly call it, has much more to offer to the visitants. Here are my favorite things do in Zurich, or seven reasons why you should visit Zurich at least once in your lifetime.
1. Stroll along Lake Zurich. In Zurich all streets lead to the lake. All year round, the lake is the favorite meeting point for a lunch break, running or cycling, while getting some vitamin D. But it’s during the summer that the Zürichsee really comes to live, with hundreds gathering on its shore for a barbecue (a national obsession!) and a swim, or simply contemplating the sights and feeding the swans. Stroll along the promenade between Bellevue and the Chinese Gardens, filled with street performers, music and street vendors. You can also take the boat at Bürkliplatz and make a round trip cruise to see the famous Goldcoast, the lower eastern shore of Lake Zurich, known for its low tax rate and high property prices.
2. Shop at Bahnhofstrasse. Considered one of the most expensive shopping avenues in the world, the famous Bahnhofstrasse is definitely among the top things to do in Zurich. Connecting the main railway station to the lake, this pedestrian street offers everything you could possibly want and pay for, from swiss chocolate to haute couture. Boasting many luxury brands, including Cartier, Chanel, Dior, Armani, Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Prada, its 1,4 km hide nevertheless some more affordable retail shops, like H&M or Mango. Bahnhofstrasse is also a good spot for people watching. Just sit in one of its many cafés or restaurants and enjoy the view!
3. Explore the old town – Start your visit to the old town at Augustinergasse, once home of the medieval artisans of Zurich. This pedestrian lane is one of the most picturesque streets in Zurich, with its colorful houses, wooden bay windows, tourist shops, cafés and restaurants.
Continue through the narrow streets of the Altstadt up to the Lindenhof square, for a magnificent view of the old town and the Limmat river. Site of the former Roman fort, the Lindenhof hill is the oldest area of Zurich, around which the city has grown. Today is listed as a Swiss heritage site of national significance.
Going down the Lindenhof and crossing the Limmat, you’ll find Niederdorf, or “Dörfli” (meaning “little village”), as the locals affectionately call to this area of Zurich’s old town. Running parallel to the Limmatquai, this popular pedestrian street is always buzzing with people and activity. During the day, its many restaurants and shops welcome the visitors from all over the world. During the evening, it turns into a vibrant nightlife district in the heart of the city.
4. Visit the Kunsthaus. If you’re an art enthusiast, another memorable thing to do in Zurich is a visit to the museum of fine arts, with one of the most impressive art collections in Switzerland. Presenting works by artists as Monet, Munch, Picasso, Van Gogh, Manet, Matisse, Magritte or the swiss Alberto Giacometti, this is one of those museums you will want to return to again and again.
5. Explore the Rote Fabrik. This former factory made of red brick (hence its name, meaning Red Factory) is today a music venue and a cultural center located on a scenic spot by Lake Zurich, in Wollishofen. Art events, political debates or solidarity parties, there’s always something worthy of a visit going on here.
6. Admire Zurich from Üetliberg. At 871 meters above sea level, Üetliberg offers the most beautiful view over Zurich and the lake, all the way to the alps. This city mountain is easily accessible by train or through one of its many walking paths. Once you reach the top you can climb the look-out tower, for breathtaking views, or sit on the terrace of the Uto Kulm hotel, for a taste of Zurich specialties.
7. Discover the Rhine Falls. The list of things to do in Zurich is not complete without a day trip to the lovely town of Schaffhausen and the impressive Rhine Falls. Located about 40 minutes from Zurich, between the cantons of Schaffhausen and Zurich, the Rhine Falls is the biggest waterfall in Europe, attracting tourists for centuries. Find out more about Schaffhausen and the Rhine Falls here.
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