things to do in zurich

What to do in Zurich to make it tolerable

Zurich is one of the most boring cities in Europe. With few sights worth a visit and nothing uniquely charming about it, trying to find enjoyable things to do in Zurich can be challenging. But here are some ways to pass the time before you head somewhere better like Interlaken or Zermatt.

Go feel poor at Bahnhofstrasse

Located in the heart of Zurich’s downtown – perhaps its most joyless area – Banhofstrasse is one of the most expensive shopping boulevards in Europe. Though it’s one of the city’s most popular attractions, I have to wonder why someone with money wouldn’t be spending their holiday in Paris or Milan instead of the saddest place on earth. Perhaps the best thing to do there if you’re not filthy rich is visit the large Laderach store, where you can get free chocolate samples.

Stroll through the Niederdorf and Old Town

things to do in zurich

The Niederdorf area is part of Zurich’s old town area east of the Limmat River. Also known as the Dorfii, it runs from the bank of the river to Seilergraben street. The area is full of mediocre cafes, overpriced hotels, and nightlife spots including LGBT nightlife. And you know a city ain’t right if the gays are hanging out in Old Town. It feels like if you asked AI to visualize an old town. It’s busy, it’s generic – but at least there are plenty of places to get drunk. Cabaret Voltaire stands here as the former center of the Dada art movement – now it’s a lifeless gallery and event space with a café and gift shop.

Check out their ugly churches

If Switzerland had been in charge of recruiting the faithful instead of the Spanish and French, we would all be secular. Some examples of Zurich’s contribution to the religious architecture of Europe are Grossmunster, Fraumunster, and St. Peter’s Church. Indeed, the Protestant churches of Zurich are no Sagrada Familia or Notre Dame, but they’re worth a visit if only to make you appreciate the better churches you’ve seen in your life. Or to get out of the cold, whatever.

Go to a museum

Looking like a Scandinavian prison from the outside, the Kunsthaus art museum is the largest in Switzerland with a collection that spans from the 13th century to today. It’s a good place to see Van Gogh, Monet, and Warhol pieces that didn’t make it into more important museums. If you prefer non-European art, Museum Rietberg features art from Asia, Africa, and the Americas. It’s housed in a 19th century villa, the grounds of which may be more interesting than the museum.

Take a hike on the Uetliberg

Its not Matterhorn, but Uetliberg Mountain is easily accessible from city center by train and it’s a good place to enjoy fresh air away from the sadness that is central Zurich. From the 870 meter peak, you can see Lake Zurich and the sprawling city below.

Enjoy the lake

Zurich sits on the northern end of the long and narrow Lake Zurich. This means lake cruises and beautiful green parks where you can go swimming like Zurichhorn are just a short tram ride away. If you don’t have the means or the time to get to better lake towns like Interlaken, Lake Zurich is an adequate substitution. Better than Grossmunster anyway.

Head to the Industriequartier

things to do in zurich

One of the only areas in Zurich that comes close to having a personality is the Industriequartier – string lights and repurposed shipping containers, you know the place. Unlike the similar revitalized industrial areas of other cities, you can expect to pay 10 euros and wait at least 15 minutes for a beer at popular urban venues like Frau Gerolds Garten. To their credit, it’s the only part of Zurich that doesn’t inherently fill you with dread and melancholia. At Viadukt, located… you guessed it… in an old viaduct, you can find trendy boutiques and some cafes.

Get the hell out of Zurich

Zurich sucks so bad that its main train station comes in at number 7 of the city’s top attractions on TripAdvisor. Though it has a large and accessible international airport, Zurich has nothing special to offer. If you’re flying in or out of Zurich, you can take the train straight out of the airport to somewhere joyful and beautiful in Switzerland like Interlaken. Otherwise, enjoy Hauptbahnhof I guess.


Get the GPS-guided version of this and other Zurich guides on GPSmyCity here.

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