Since 2001, out of 300-plus cities every year, Zurich has been awarded the ‘City with the world’s best quality of life’ title a total of 7 times and enjoyed the runner-up position 3 times. The award (which is put on by the Mercer research organisation) examines aspects like leisure and recreation, safety, cleanliness, and political and economic stability. And, it proves that the Swiss city of Zurich really is a small paradise in the middle of Europe. Although it’s on the pricey side, there are options to explore Zurich without breaking the bank. Here are my suggestions of what to do in Zurich and experience why it is arguably the city with the world’s best quality of life.
Hike up Uetliberg
Uetliberg is ‘Zurich’s very own mountain’, and from where you have beautiful views of the city, lake, and Swiss Alps. At around 900 metres high, Uetliberg is not huge, but what it lacks in size makes up for in popularity. In winter, the hiking trails are converted into sledding runs. In summer, there are hiking trails to the top, mountain bike routes, and a ‘Planet Trail’ of our solar system.
The now disused Käpfnach coal mine offers an exciting underground adventure, highlighting a 1.4-kilometre ride through a railway tunnel. There is also a Mining Museum here with exhibits relating to the centuries-old local coal-mining industry.
What to do in Zurich in an eco-friendly way? A Bicycle Tour!
One of the best ways to discover Zurich is by bicycle. There are various guided bike tours around the city’s picturesque urban districts and famous sites.
Visit a medieval castle
Kyburg Castle is high above the River Töss and is Eastern Switzerland’s most important feudal castle. It is also home to a living museum where you can hear tales about the knights and castle maidens and see the castle torture chamber, medieval kitchen, and armour and weapon rooms.
What to do in Zurich for culture and history fans: Visit museums
The Kunsthaus Zurich art museum is a must-visit for art enthusiasts. It houses one of Zurich’s most important modern art collections. There are also artworks from the medieval era and a significant collection of international works, including key pieces by Picasso, Monet and Chagall.
The National Museum houses the most extensive collection of historical objects in the country. The building looks like something out of a classic fairytale story.
One of the world’s leading private collections of clocks can be found at the Beyer Clock and Watch Museum. Over 300 valuable exhibits are on display and present you with a history of timekeeping over 3000 years.
Take the kids to Kindercity
This edutainment centre is where your kids can discover the joys of science – and where they can learn how to manipulate, observe, analyse, exchange and experience their natural, physical world scientifically.
See the Swiss Alps from Bürkliplatz
Lake Zurich’s Bürkliplatz dock is the starting spot for many tours, the venue for various events, a vegetable market (which takes place twice weekly), and a flea market every Saturday in the summer. It is also where you’ll get a view of the majestic Swiss Alps peaks.
Stroll through the Gardens
Open every day of the week, the Zurich City Gardens await thousands of flowers, a large display garden with botanical rarities, two greenhouses overflowing with tropical and subtropical plants and animals, a pumpkin plantation, and much more. It’s an excellent place for a relaxing, ‘escape-the-city’ stroll.
Another garden, the ‘Temple Garden by the Lake in Zurich’, was a gift from the city’s Chinese partner town of Kunming. There is a pond at the centre of the temple, with a small island, pavilions, and a small palace.
Schipfe is Zurich’s oldest district and where boats docked during the Middle Ages to deliver silk, gold and food to the city. Today, it is an idyllic location to linger around, shop at, and enjoy some good food at the many restaurants in the area.
What to do in Zurich for your taste buds?
For tourists, any trip to Zurich can be considered incomplete without a traditional Swiss cheese tasting session, or a traditional cheese fondue served in a hotpot (especially in winter).
You can also dine on Zürigeschnätzlets and other Zurich dishes: The classic Zurich dish is Zürigeschnätzlets, which consists of chopped veal in a cream and wine sauce, served with potato Rösti (a type of hash-brown). Grilled Würste (sausages) is also popular and served with boiled potatoes or small noodle dumplings.
Buy a Swiss Army Knife
The now legendary Swiss Army Knife (represented by the Victorinox brand) is one of life’s practical little luxuries – and always extremely handy to have in your pocket or handbag. And, there’s no better place to acquire one than from the country where they originally came from.
Explore Zurich Zoo
Amur tigers, snow leopards, giant tortoises, penguins, and gorillas are just some of the over 360 different animals that provide Zurich Zoo with an exotic world adventure. There is also a spectacular treetop tour through the Zoo’s Masoala Rainforest.
A romantic option of what to do in Zurich: Take a cruise on Lake Zurich
The best way to explore the famous Lake Zurich is by boat. Cruise operators like the Lake Zurich Navigation Company offer tours on the lake during summer with various food, dance and entertainment themes.
Hang out at Niederdorf Promenade
Located in Zurich’s Old Town, the Niederdorf Promenade offers you a chance to explore some of Zurich’s most interesting sights, culinary delights, nightlife, people shopping, and a whole lot more.