Best Things to do in Zurich in Winter 

Heading to Zurich in the winter? Then check out this winter guide for Zurich to find out what to expect. 

Switzerland’s biggest city is one of my favorite places in the country – I have spent quite a lot of time in the city and feel at home here.

BUT I am going to be honest: winter in Zurich can be semi-great. If you visit Zurich before Christmas, when the Christmas Markets take place, it can be an amazing place to visit. 

However, if you visit on a rainy day, then it feels like a… let´s say not-so-good place. And if you visit Switzerland on such a day for the very first time, you might be disappointed.

Let me be clear: Switzerland is one of the most stunning places to visit, but Zurich on a gray winter day might not convince you of that.

However, there are some fun things to do in Zurich in winter and here are my tips for your Zurich winter trip along with many travel tips.

Church and Christmas Tree in Zurich, Switzerland
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Visit Zurich – Important Travel Information for Zurich

Before discussing the best winter activities in Zurich, here is some info for your Zurich winter trip.

How to Get Around in Winter

My tip: walk and use public transportation.

Public Transportation: Zurich has amazing public transport and it is the best way to get around in the cold winter months. However, most of the time, you can just walk but when needed just – so on a tram/bus. 

Christmas shopping in the decorated Zurich Bahnhofstrasse
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With the Zurich Card, you can use public transport and have free entry to almost all museums in Zurich which is great to explore much of the city. Click here to find out more and check out pricesfor the Zurich Card.

If you have a Swiss Travel Pass you will not need an extra Zurich Card. With the Swiss Travel Pass you can use unlimited public transportation, even use the boat on Lake Zurich, and get access to many museums and some attractions without any extra fee. Click here to find out more about the Swiss Travel Pass.

Where to Stay in Zurich

Zurich is very expensive, and there are no real bargains. If you need to budget, I recommend booking an Airbnb apartment (first-time users can save $$ by using my link).

My full accommodation guide for Zurich is here.

Luxury Hotels in Zurich: Zurich has some great luxury hotels which are amazing to get spoiled and enjoy life. Baur au Lac is some of the best-rated luxury hotels close to the city center.

Mid-Range Hotels in Zurich: Arlette am Hauptbahnhof is one of the best-rated mid-range hotels close to the city center.

Budget Hotels in Zurich Warning, there are not many budget hotels in Zurich, this one is a good-rated hostel in Zurich that I tried out during my last trip to Zurich. It is a decent hostel with perfect location right in the center of Zurich.

Read more: For more Zurich travel tips, check out my detailed 2-day Zurich itinerary. 

Things to do in Zurich in the Cold Winter Months

Okay, here are some winter activities in Zurich.

Christmas Markets

If you visit Zurich at the end of November or in December (before Christmas), then you can experience some of the best Christmas Markets in the country.

Zurich downtown at night
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There is a Christmas Market for every taste – whether you are looking to buy gifts or just want to enjoy strolling the illuminated and beautifully decorated markets.

Though I am not the biggest fan of Christmas Markets, Zurich´s markets know how to impress.

Especially with tons to eat and drink (people are somehow crazy about mulled wine at Christmas Markets), it is a good place to eat your weight in yummy food and drinks.

Visit Zurich’s oldest Christmas market in the Old Town, or the urban “Wienachtsdorf” Christmas village on Sechseläutenplatz near Bellevue. 

Even the Zurich train station dresses up and you’ll find a 15-meter (49 ft) tall sparkling Christmas tree at the Christkindlimarkt. With around 150 stalls it is  actually one of the largest indoor Christmas markets in Europe.

Christmas Market in Zurich train station
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Christmas market on Zurich main train station is one of the best places to visit in December
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Date: The Christmas Markets take place from the 21. November – 23. December in 2019, so visit Zurich in December is good time for the festive atmosphere.

Jelmoli Märlitram

Who does not like to listen to Christmas stories right before Christmas? Bad news: the Jelmoli Märlitram is just for kids between 4 and 10 years old. 

So, if you visit Zurich with children in winter, book tickets for this unique winter activity. Angels read their young passengers Christmas stories while the tram, dressed in its best  “Christmas dress,“ rides through the city.

Uetliberg 

I am a fan of mountains, and even though Uetliberg – Zurich´s house mountain – is quite small and “simple,“ I still recommend visiting it – whether in the winter or the summer.

Uetliberg in Winter is one of the best places to visit in Zurich
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Uetliberg are just a short train ride from Zurich train station and the ride offers lovely views – so, it is a great place to visit in the winter and enjoy a day in the snow.

Tobogganing

Switzerland in winter is normally all about winter sports – and while Zurich surely is not the very best place to do winter sports, whether you are big or small, tobogganing is a popular winter activity for locals and visitors alike.

Since snow in Zurich does not last for long, the best place to go tobogganing is outside of Zurich. One of the best places to do that is the Uetliberg. 

What a great coincidence that I have mentioned it as a great place to visit in the winter before – so combine a trip to Zurich´s house mountain with some tobogganing.

There are also more places to toboggan, like Mount Rigi, Mount Pilatus, and Engelberg.

Ice Skating 

So, another fun winter activity in Zurich is surely to go ice skating. You can choose from numerous ice rinks – whether you slide on natural ice rinks of frozen-over lakes, indoor rinks, or areas set up in the middle of a Christmas market . 

Ice skating is quite big in Zurich in the winter so join the locals and visitors and do your rounds, too.

Lindenhof Hill

No matter when you visit Zurich, make the effort and “hike“ up Lindenhof Hill.

Lindenhof Hill in winter, Zurich
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If you are in the Old Town, it is just a few-minutes walk up to enjoy lovely views from a small hilltop park known as the Lindenhof. 

It is a popular public space where locals often bring their food and have a quick lunch. 

In warmer months, you could probably just chill and sit on the benches for a while. In the winter though, it might be too chilly to sit there forever – but the view is still lovely even in the cold months.

Old Town

The Old Town in Zurich is one of the prettiest places in the city – especially at Christmas time.

Old town in Zurich in winter, Switzerland
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Old Town in December in Zurich, Switzerland
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You´ll find many boutiques and stores – and of course, many restaurants and cafes.

And let’s not forget about the beautiful old buildings – which Americans in particular find overly exciting. It is a lovely place to visit during the day, but also in the afternoon/evening.

Fraumünster 

Of course, there are also some churches to visit in Zurich – not only to warm up, but to admire the beautiful – yet simple – interior. If you are religious, visit the church before Christmas and enjoy the special atmosphere.

One of the most important churches is the Fraumünster. The church is quite easy to identify from afar thanks to the golden clock face on its bell tower and the greenish roof.

In the winter months, it is open from 10 am to 5 pm and is only open after services on Sundays and holidays.

Tourists have to pay an entrance fee (and then can also visit the crypt museum), while non-tourists can enter for free.

Limmatquai Riverfront

Strolling along both banks of the Limmat River is a good thing to do in the winter – there are many restaurants you can sit down at and have a proper dinner or just have a drink.

Winter landscape in Zurich with lake
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There are some beautiful buildings along the river.

Grossmünster

Another indoor place to visit in Zurich in winter is Grossmünster – this church is easily recognizable because of the two Romanesque towers and is located close to the Limmatplatz.

For an entrance fee, you can visit the towers and enjoy some lovely views (be prepared to climb 187 narrow steps).

In the winter months, it is open from 10 am to 5 pm – and on Sundays, it opens after the service.

Lake Zurich

On a gray day, Lake Zurich does not look that beautiful, but somehow, it is still a must in the winter months to stroll Lake Zurich.

Lake Zurich in winter
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The lake is quite big and you probably won‘t be able to walk around the lake But if you start from Buerkliplatz, then you can walk the lake and maybe fancy a boat tour on Lake Zurich?

I enjoy Lake Zurich definitely more in the summer, but it is not a bad place to visit in winter either.

Zurich Thermal Bath

I admit that I never got to experience spa treatments in Zurich – mainly because I like to explore the outdoor places and because Switzerland is just very expensive.

However, I just found out that there is a cool thermal bath that is not actually that expensive. So, if you want to indulge, you can visit the Thermal Baths & Spa.

Take a hot bath while enjoying great views of the city – there is a discount with the Zürich Card, or there are many more spa places in Zurich to choose from.

Bahnhofsstrasse

If you want to do some shopping – e.g. Christmas Shopping – then stroll Bahnhofsstrasse. This is the most expensive shopping street – IN THE WORLD.

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In December it is quite busy but also very festive and at the beginning of the  year the crowds are gone. But so are all the snack stalls and most of the illuminations. If you worry about your budget – though the street is expensive there are also quite a few affordable shores.

National Museum

You can do this activity at any time of the year, but also save it for a rainy and gray day – visit the National Museum.

It is located right behind the main train station and is the place to go if you want to learn more about the cultural history of Switzerland.

It is open daily (except Mondays) and great to do during the day. With the Zurich Card, you will have free entrance.

Mount Rigi

Beautiful Mount Rigi – nothing beats watching the sunset on a snowy day on Mount Rigi. The “Queen of the Mountains“ is located near Lucerne, so it is a train ride there, but it is absolutely doable to visit in one day or even half a day. 

What to do in the winter at Mount Rigi_
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While there is not that much snow in Zurich, the chances of a Winter Wonderland are quite high at Mount Rigi. 

This makes Mount Rigi a fun place for easy winter sports activities – but if you are like me, you might be happy to just enjoy the sunset (it is one of the prettiest places to watch the sunset in all of Switzerland).

Mount Pilatus 

Another fun mountain trip from Zurich in winter would be a trip to Mount Pliatus.

Mount Pilatus in Switzerland in the winter
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Of course, Mount Pilatus is a great alternative to Mount Rigi. A bit more time-consuming and a bit more expensive but definitely worth a trip in winter.

The views aregreat (in the winter months, the cogwheel train ride is not available, so you can only go up via cable car) – but it is of course not only about the views but also about winter sports.

Skiing, snowshoe hiking, snowboarding, and sledding – you can do all this in the region of Lucerne, and especially on Mount Pilatus. It takes about an hour to get to Lucerne from Zurich and then it takes some time to get up Mount Pilatus, so I would plan in a full day tour.

Read more: Here are more fun day trips from Zurich

These are some of the most fun winter activities in Zurich – enjoy the best things to do and have a safe trip!

Safe Travels, Arzo
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