Justin and I moved to Zurich, Switzerland just over a month ago; and in that time, we have discovered some of the reasons why Zurich has consistently held first or second place as the city with the highest quality of life. The Swiss are notorious for an infrastructure that runs like clockwork, top quality and high priced products, and an appreciation for the great outdoors. Although not the nation’s capital, the city of Zurich – spelled Zürich, Zurich, Zurigo, and Turitg in the four official languages of German, French, Italian and Romansh – is the place where all aspects of the Swiss personality collide. If Zurich lands on your summer travel list, here are some Must Do’s when you visit Switzerland’s largest city.
1. Enjoy Lake Zurich
Swim, sail, sit, or stroll along the blue waters of Zürichsee, a natural treasure and highlight of the city. The promenade of the Golden Coast, on the east side of the lake, is a quiet morning retreat that bustles with activity later in the afternoon. Plenty of park space invites you to have a picnic with friends or chow down on your Take Away meal at the lakeshore. When the temperature heats up, head this way for a pleasant walk, a cool swim, and a fantastic view of the Alps from Bürkliplatz or Zürihorn.
2. Float Down the Limmat River
With a daring jump from the Drahtschmidlisteg, the pedestrian bridge at the base of the Zürich Marriott, you can float your way down the Limmat River to the docks of Flussbad Oberer Letten. Although packed with people on any warm day and especially on weekends, this may be my favorite place to be in the summertime! The crowd is youthful and boisterous, and the scene is lively. Arriving by noon can almost guarantee you some space on the coveted river docks. Note: strong swimming skills recommended.
3. Watch a Movie Under the Stars
Every summer, the Zürihorn becomes home to Allianz Cinema, an outdoor theater that shows one film each night for a month. What better way is there to enjoy a movie than under the stars?!
4. Tour Old Town Zurich
The narrow streets of the Niederdorf are crammed with both chain and boutique stores as well as restaurants, making the area a nice place to wander around, shop and dine. Here you’ll find two of Zurich’s biggest landmarks – the Grossmünster Church and the Fraumünster Church – which house stunning stained glass windows installed in the 20th century. History buffs may be interested in catching a guided walking tour to learn more about the history of Zürich.
Not too far from Bahnhofstrasse, the central vein for luxury shopping, you can find the Lindenhof, a park above the remnants of a castle that overlooks the flowing waters of the Limmat. Go in the afternoon for great views of Zurich’s east side.
5. Get Artsy in Zürich West
Formerly an industrial zone, Zürich West is experiencing a hipster renaissance, where factories and warehouses have been converted to trendy restaurants and boutique shops. For a unique afternoon, visit the businesses of Im Viadukt, check out the converted wares of Freitag, and then grab a beer at funky Frau Gerolds Garten.
6. Dine Like A Local
Probably the one thing that visitors complain most about when they visit Zurich is the exorbitant price of food. For travelers on a budget, restaurant costs will take a significant chunk out of your daily allowance. But don’t worry, the Swiss have a remedy for that: many people grab Take Away meals from a supermarket to enjoy on a park bench or have picnics by the water.
If you decide to enjoy Zurich’s excellent restaurant scene, remember these tips:
- Add carbonation to your drinks. The Swiss love bubbles in their beverages!
- Don’t order fondue in the summertime – unless you’re craving melted cheese on a sweltering summer day…
- Make dinner reservations. Some restaurants just can’t fit you in otherwise.
- Stop for a coffee break. The Swiss support afternoon pick-me-ups.
- Enjoy a delectable treat at Sprüngli. You can also enjoy your coffee here, too.
- Leave a bit of tip if you enjoyed your meal. Although not expected, tips are appreciated.
- Dine al fresco. When the weather is nice, be outside as much as possible.
For recommendations on where to eat in Zurich, check out my list of restaurants in Zurich.
7. Hike the Hills
The city of Zürich is hemmed in by two large hills: Uetliberg to the west and Züriberg to the east. Although the Swiss don’t classify them as mountains, we can all agree that these city hills make for a lovely walk (not “hike”) in the woods. If you are itching for some greenery, ride the Rigiblick funicular up to Züriberg or take the S10 up to Uetliberg from Zürich Hauptbahnhof for a peaceful excursion into nearby nature. Animal lovers and families with children may want to consider visiting the Zürich Zoo at the top of Züriberg.
8. Get out of Town!
Summer in the city can be quite fabulous, but let’s remember one thing: the Swiss Alps are calling, too! Take advantage of Zurich’s location and Switzerland’s efficient railway system to visit the pristine mountain valleys that are only an hour or two away from Zurich. Channel your inner Swiss and get sporty: go hiking, biking, canyoning, or kayaking! Enjoy the glorious splendor of the rest of Switzerland in the summertime… and then return to Zurich to do it all over again.
When summer hits, where do you like to end up? Do you prefer to soak up the sun or retreat to the shade? Does Zürich in the summertime appeal to you? If you’re a local or have visited this Swiss city, where are your favorite places to hang out in the summer months? How have you experienced Zürich in the summertime? Sound off in the comment section below!