7 Things to Do in Zurich in Winter

I’ll be honest: this Southern girl is over the winter weather in Zurich. Here in Switzerland’s largest city, it’s been cold, grey, windy and rainy for months on end, and my soul is dying for a drop of sunshine! I’m most certainly not in Florida anymore…

Ok, ok…. we have had some really gorgeous days here and there, hence featured photos. So, don’t let my weather-based complaints stop you from visiting my Swiss city! Although I’m partial to Zürich in the summertime, there are still plenty of ways you can enjoy Zurich in the winter, too!

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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:

Kunsthaus Zürich
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!

Kunsthaus Zurich

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!]

Löwenbräu Areal Zürich

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!

Landesmuseum

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.

2. Splurge on yourself
What better way to improve your mood with a bit of spa therapy? For the high rollers, consider a day at the The Dolder Grand for a luxurious session of relaxation. (I imagine it’s wonderful.) For the rest of us peons, a soak in the warm waters of the Thermalbad & Spa Zurich is a nice way to spend a winter day. The views from their rooftop pool is quite a special treat.

IMG_11683. 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.

Katie and Scott Reintgen
We love sharing meals with Katie and Scott Reintgen, including fondue and raclette!

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. And yes, I know what you’re thinking: just call us the Swiss Family Domecks.

4. Shop like a local
Leave crowded Banhofstrasse behind 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.

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IMAGE SOURCE

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.

Schiffbau

6. Be outside anyway
For those rare 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!!

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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’m a Free Walk Zurich guide, too!

Trip Advisor - FWZ Review

7. Get out of town
One thing I love about Swiss culture is their collective desire to enjoy the Alps all year long. In winter, locals head to the mountains in search of big snow and sunshine! So, after you have had some time in the “big city,” set off for some winter fun in the Alps – like the time we explored the (Italian) Alps with the Reintgens. And remember: I can always offer you a few important lessons on skiing and sledding in Switzerland… just don’t ask Scott and Katie about our Saturday in Fiesch!!


Hoi fellow Zurich residents! How are you beating the February blues? Do you have any tips for visitors staying in our city during this time of year? Who’s ready for spring and summer?!?

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7 Comments

  1. Myself and my sister plan on visiting Zurich early December any ideas on tours, restaurants, accommodation or Christmas Events in the city, much appreciate any suggestions

  2. hi Hailey
    my husnaband and I plan to to come in mid january to exoerirnperience the winter. could you help us skiing options? your post mentioned that you are an instructor?also.. where to meet for the free walking tour?
    appreciate your help.
    thank you
    Riddhi

    1. Hi Riddhi,

      There are many places to ski in Switzerland – from big resort areas list Zermatt or Davos-Klosters to small mountain villages with a few runs. What is your level of skiing?

      If you’d like to take a walking tour in Zurich, visit the Free Walk Zurich website to learn about all our tours. We have two every day, one of the Old Town at 11am and one of the ZuriWest neighborhood at 3pm. They are great ways to enjoy the city… just don’t forget to tip your guide!

      All the best, HD

  3. Hi Hailey!
    Thanks for the post. Excelents tips. As Jan, i’m going to Zurich in February 2018, but i’m thinking to stay in Zurich for two days and go to Grindelwald for another two days. Well, what do you thing about that? Is it a good idea? is it difficult to go to Grindelwald from Zurich in winter?
    Thanks for your help.

    1. Hi Mauricio – good questions!

      Visiting Zurich and Grindelwald over four days is certainly doable – even in the winter. All of Switzerland is well connected by train, and the journey from Grindelwald to Zurich takes a little over 2.5 hours.

      If you are a skiier or a winter sports fan, you may want one less day in Zurich to have one more day in the mountains. But if you are traveling to Switzerland from overseas, having a day in Zurich to adjust to the time zone is helpful.

      Personally, I love the Bernese Oberland, as I shared in my post “In the Heart of Jungfrau” (http://www.globalheartbeat.co/jungfrau/). However, I have not visited that region in the winter… but I can imagine its beauty!

      Please let me know if you have any more questions about your trip.
      Best wishes, HD

  4. Hey Hailey,
    That’s a nice post, I definitely would love to be in Zurich. Is February a good time to visit Zurich or is it too cold to bear? I am planning for February 2018 but a bit reluctant as the temperature is in minus…

    1. Hi Jan!

      Thanks for dropping a line. From my expat experience, I’d say that Zurich is not at its best in February. Generally, it’s a cold month (not sure what your tolerance for “cold” is…) and the city isn’t nearly as lively as it is when the weather is warm. However, there are still things to do and fondue to be eaten in winter, so you wouldn’t be without activities. Plus, the mountains aren’t too far away, and you could easily escape to some winter wonderlands nearby :)

      Let me know if you have any more questions!
      Bests,
      Hailey

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