I’ll be honest: this Southern girl has a love-hate relationship with winter in Zurich. Here in Switzerland’s largest city, it can be cold, grey, windy and rainy for weeks on end, causing my soul to die for a drop of sunshine! (Now I understand why people love to visit Florida…) But Zurich can also be a winter wonderland, blanketed by snow or dripping with holiday cheer, making it a lovely place to spend a long weekend.
So, if you find yourself in Zurich during the winter, here are a few ways you enjoy this sparkling Swiss city, no matter what kind of weather you encounter.
7 Things to Do in Zurich in the Winter
1. Visit a museum or two
Zurich has loads of museums that will entertain, educate, and offer you shelter when unsavory weather strikes. Here are just a few top choices to consider:
Zurich’s Fine Arts Museum is a modest but well assembled art program. The permanent collection provides visitors with a pleasant walk through art history, while the temporary exhibitions are usually bold and eye-catching. I recommend visiting on a Wednesday, when the permanent collection is free to the public – woot woot!
The Löwenbräu Areal
The renovated and reinvented brewery from 1897 is one of my favorite buildings in trendy ZuriWest. The stylish residence is home to contemporary art exhibits, such as the Kunsthalle and Migros Contemporary Art Museum, as well as other private galleries and businesses. [Tip: Free admission on Thursday evenings!]
The Swiss National Museum
You can learn all about Switzerland’s history at this newly renovated castle museum next to the train station. With dozens of exhibits to explore, the Landesmuseum Zürich is a good place to roam on rainy days. Make sure to download the museum app from the kiosk inside before you begin your visit!
The FIFA World Football Museum
Sports fans, this is the place for you guys! The brand new building and exhibition dedicated to all-things-football will surely pump you up.
The University of Zurich’s Zoological Museum
This free museum is a great place to take young kids, as its home to a large number of (taxidermied) animals! A giant sloth named Meggie will greet you at the entrance; she’s a furry friend to all children. To thrill the kids even more, take the UBS Polybahn funicular from the Central tram stop up the hill to reach the museum.
2. Splurge on yourself
What better way to improve your mood with a bit of spa therapy? For the high rollers, consider a day up at the The Dolder Grand for a luxurious session of relaxation. (I imagine it’s wonderful.) Others might want to consider a soak in the warm waters of the Thermalbad & Spa Zurich, a nice way to spend a winter day. The best part is the views from their rooftop pool!
3. Get Cheesey
If there is one advantage to visiting Switzerland in the winter, it’s a free pass to eat all the melted cheese your stomach can handle. And it comes in two ways! Fondue is the iconic Swiss dish; it’s the best Alpine dairy bubbling in a sturdy pot on the dinner table and comes with bread chunks for dipping. I personally enjoy adding pineapple and pear for a bit of sweetness!
And then there is Raclette, the lesser-known Swiss method of devoting an entire meal to melted cheese. The common raclette set-up looks like a tabletop grill where veggies or meat cook away, while individual pans sit under the broiler to melt your cheese slices. When the raclette starts bubbling, you slide it off the pan and onto your pile of potatoes. Simple and delicious.
I encourage you to enjoy these dining experiences to your heart’s content in the winter. While many restaurants feature fondue and raclette this time of year [click here for the best fondue restaurants in Zurich], the Swiss prefer to have it at home with family and friends.
4. Shop like a local
Leave crowded Banhofstrasse behind (unless it’s Christmas season!) and slip over to a secret shopping spot at the Zurcher Brockenhaus. This particular Brockenhaus is an upscale, vintage/antique secondhand store. You’re sure to find some fun things as you wander through this museum-for-sale. Even if you can’t bring home a wooden chair from the early 20th century, rambling through this Brocki makes for an enjoyable respite from winter weather.
For more shopping off-the-tourist-trek, stroll down Europaallee, on the Sihlpost side of the train tracks. You’ll find some specialty stores, like jewelry from Tara Style or Swiss clothing designs at Alprausch, as well as bigger brands like outdoor superstore Transa. And then there’s always shopping around ZuriWest…
5. Catch a show
Zurich has a wide variety of venues for live performances. Put on your formalwear for a night at the Zurich Opera House. See a show at the Theater 11. Raise your voice at a pop star concert or hockey game at the Hallenstadion. If you’re feeling bold and edgy, see what’s going on at the Maag Music Hall and Schiffbau’s Schauspielhaus in hip ZuriWest.
6. Be outside anyway
On those days of sparkling winter sunshine, head outside to enjoy those rays of glory!! Grab a chair at the Sechseläutenplatz (in front of the Opera House) to bask in the warm light or take a stroll among the wooded hills lining the city. Just promise me that, if and when you see the sun, you’ll revel in it!!
Walk in the woods
Framing the city of Zurich are three large hills (or small mountains depending on who you ask) that have great walking trails: Uetliberg, Zurichberg, and Kaferberg. They are fantastic places to breathe in the fresh winter air. Leave me a note in the comment section if you want to know where to get started!
Tour the City with Free Walk Zurich
According to Trip Advisor, the number one activity in Zurich – all year long – is take a walking tour with Free Walk Zurich. Every day, through rain or shine, hot or cold, FWZ guides will meet you at 11am and 3pm for a tour of historic Old Town or a tour of creative ZuriWest respectively. The tours are completely free; however, if you enjoy your tour, consider tipping your hard-working guide. I promise that your generous support will be much appreciated, as I speak from personal experience. I was a Free Walk Zurich guide, too!
If you are visiting Zurich from late November through December, then you just have to get out and enjoy the Christmas festivities! Check out my post Christmas in Zurich for what to expect from this city over the holidays.
7. Get out of town
One thing I love about Swiss culture is their collective desire to enjoy the Alps all year long. (In fact, I have an entire theory about the secret to why the Swiss are happy.) In winter, locals head to the mountains in search of big snow and sunshine! So, if you have time and have had enough of the city life, set your sites on some winter fun at higher altitudes. And remember: I can always offer you a few important lessons on skiing and sledding in Switzerland. :)
If Zurich is on your Winter Travels list and you’d like some assistance planning your time in this Switzerland, send me a direct message through the Contact Form and let’s create a customized itinerary just for you.
Hi there! How do you beat the winter blues while traveling? Does the weather affect you as much as it does me? Which Zurich museum looks most interesting to you? Have you ever visited this Swiss city over the Christmas season?