Summer traveller’s guide to Zurich. Looking for an outdoor adventure on your next city break? Look no further than Zurich! There is plenty to do outdoors, from swimming and boating in Lake Zurich and Limmat River to hiking in the Alps and exploring the forest trails. In addition, you can enjoy excellent gastronomy outdoors, with restaurants serving local specialities al fresco, old-fashioned riverside leisure spots and trendy rooftop bars with breathtaking views over the lake, all within walking distance. And if you’re looking for some exercise, why not try running or biking in this beautiful city?
Find your sense of being in Zurich’s waterways this summer
Summer in Zurich is all about freedom; the freedom to embrace and enjoy nature, to jump into the crisp, fresh waters of the lakes and river of the city and regain the sense of being alive. It is the pursuit of this basic need that has created an entire culture that, from dawn to dusk, revolves around the numerous water bodies in and around Zurich.
Take for instance the outdoor pools, or badis, in Zurich. These badis are a hive of activity at any given time. By day it’s yoga classes, sunbathers working on their tans while catching up with friends or folks diving off the wooden boards into the cool water during lunchtime; by night, you can find live music being performed or drinks flowing freely among those gathered around the poolside bar. The 18 outdoor swimming areas within Zurich’s city limits offer a variety of experiences for visitors and locals alike.
The historic Seebad Utoquai, located on Lake Zurich’s bustling lakeside promenade between Bellevue and Zürichhorn, has been providing guests with an opportunity for refreshing swims in this inviting waterway for over 120 years. In addition, a book box from Pestalozzi Library provides free reading material, while the restaurant here offers Mediterranean delicacies- all you need is your swimwear (and maybe some sunscreen). After enjoying these amenities, there will be no going back home early.
Just a stone’s throw from Zurich Main Station, bathers can drift leisurely downriver the River Limmat at Flussbad Oberer Letten, featuring a 400-meter-long swimming channel with a 2-meter high diving platform, two beach volleyball courts, sun terraces and a restaurant and bar stocked with snacks and drinks.
The Frauenbad at Stadthausquai, built in art nouveau style, adds a touch of femininity, making it one-of-a-kind on offer among other bathing facilities around town. Catering to only female guests, the open-air bathing facility has two over 30-meter-long pools, deck with sunshades, a small library stocked with reading material, a kiosk with sandwiches, salads & fruit juices and wellness services such as massage and yoga. Three evenings a week, this beautiful facility transforms into the “Barefoot Bar” for both men and women, with music, dancing and tranquil views of the Grossmünster, Fraumünster, and the River Limmat.
For those looking for a more adrenaline-pumping experience, the River Limmat is ideal for whitewater rafting and kayaking. And for days when the winds are up, Lake Zurich is perfect for sailing. Hundreds of kilometres from the nearest sea, Zurich is a busy playground for water sports enthusiasts, with an enormous array of activities to enjoy on the lake and river. Whether wakeboarding, swimming, SUP, or surfing, there is something for everyone.
Located in the trendy Zurich-West quarter, the Urban Surf is an ideal spot for surfing, with a never-ending supply of water and professional surf instructors on hand. Urban Surf is situated at the feet of the Prime Tower and the Freitag Flagship Store, meaning that there is plenty to see and do in the area. The atmosphere is chilled and summery, ideally suited to relax and have fun.
Boat rides are a beloved activity in Zurich, and there are many ways to enjoy them. You can join a lake cruise that runs on a fixed schedule or rent a private boat at the Lago located at Utoquai. Pedal boats, or ‘Pedalo’, are also a popular option, and they’re open to everyone. Whatever way you choose to enjoy the boat rides in Zurich, you’re sure to have a great time.
Explore the city on foot: running groups and running routes in Zurich
Zurich is a runners’ paradise. The city has many safe running routes and fitness trails that showcase the city’s thriving nature scapes, lake and tourist attractions. Zurich’s running routes, suggested by Zurich Tourism and On Running Shoes, range from 3km, 5km to 10km and even 42km. So, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, Zurich has the route suitable for you.
Zurich is home to a number of running groups, making it easy for residents and visitors alike to enjoy a morning or evening run with others. Züri rännt, for example, was founded in 2000 and has since become a passionate and lively community dedicated to the social aspects of running together. Similarly, City Running is Zurich’s biggest runners’ network, open to all levels of runners and offering free guided tours several times a week.
These groups provide not only a great way to stay fit and enjoy the outdoors but also a chance to meet new people and explore Zurich’s diverse neighbourhoods. Whether you’re an experienced runner or just getting started, Zurich’s running groups will surely give you a memorable experience. So why not lace up your sneakers and hit the Zurich streets this summer?
One of Zurich’s popular running routes is the 3km Sightseeing Jogging Run, which takes runners on a tour of the city’s highlights, including the old town, Zurich Lake, and the Opera House. The route begins at Seebad Enge, a popular open-air bathing facility, and leads through the Rentenwiese park to Bürkliplatz. From here, runners can cross the former moat and run back along the other side. Next, the route heads to Bellevue for a breathtaking view of Zurich Lake and the Alps beyond before continuing to Sechseläutenplatz and Utoquai. The final stretch takes runners past Seebad Utoquai and to Blätterwiese, where they can enjoy views of Zurich’s skyline and celebrate the morning’s achievement by taking a refreshing dip in the lake!
The Zurich-West 5km route is an excellent option for those looking to explore an urban setting. The route starts by the river Limmat and runs past Flussbad Unterer Letten, the city’s oldest riverside bathing facility. It then continues past the Migros Museum of Contemporary Art and the glass Prime Tower before ending at the Freitag Tower, made of 17 stacked shipping containers rising 26 meters. From there, runners can head back to the river, following the viaduct that now houses boutiques, restaurants and event spaces. To end, runners can enjoy an invigorating dip in the river. This route is excellent for those looking to experience Zurich’s urban renewal.
E-bike tours: a fun and easy way to see more of Zurich
As anyone who has spent time in Zurich will know, the city is an ideal place to explore on two wheels. Whether you’re a fitness enthusiast looking for a new way to stay active or simply want to see more of the city than you would by walking, a guided biking tour is a great option. Thanks to the many bike lanes and other cycling amenities, it’s also a safe way to get around.
You’ll get to see the best parts of the city and some hidden gems while getting a workout in. With a guided bike tour, you’ll have a local expert showing you the ropes, so you can simply relax and enjoy the ride. Stop along the way for photo ops, coffee and pastries, and experience the city like a true local. You’ll be surprised at how much there is to see and do!
E-bikes have become a popular mode of transportation in Zurich, thanks to their electrically generated power, making climbing hills and riding long distances much easier than a traditional bicycle. EGO Movement, a Swiss e-bike company, provides stylish e-bikes for tours of the city led by expert Zurich Tourism guides. These small group tours (max nine persons) are a great way to explore the city like a local and are offered in English and German. Private tours are also available upon request. And with Zurich Tourism’s convenient online booking system, it’s easy to sign up for a tour that fits your schedule.
To make bikes more accessible to visitors who wish to explore Zurich at their own pace, Züri Rollt, a project of a local NPO, offers free bike rentals from two central locations for a small refundable deposit of 20 CHF per day with e-bikes on rent for a fee of 20 CHF per day. So either you can go with the flow and pick up a bike on the spot or plan ahead by booking online for convenient access at any time.
The ‘E-Bike Tour Public Art’ is a unique group tour that combines Zurich’s trendy quarter with great outdoor artwork. Check out modern sculptures, murals, quirky art installations and hidden treasures just waiting to be found by visitors on this one-of-a-kind excursion. There are some 1,300 public works of art to be found in and around Zurich. The city has an extensive bike paths and lanes network, and the Schweiz Mobil website provides a helpful map so cyclists can plan their routes in advance.
Explore Zurich’s gastronomy with its rooftop and garden terraces
The biking and jogging tours of this fine Swiss city only add to the appetite – it’s time for you to explore all things food-related in stylish Zurich at locations that will set your social media profile ablaze. Zurich’s gastronomy scene is world-renowned, attracting food lovers from near and far. The city is home to a wealth of Michelin-starred restaurants and lesser-known eateries that are no less delicious. Gastronomy isn’t just about eating, however. Zurich is also home to several world-class wine producers, and many of the city’s restaurants offer extensive wine lists.
Zurich’s uniquely stylish rooftop and garden terraces, perfect for those long summer evenings, offer stunning views of the cityscape, making them ideal for romantic dinners or simply unwinding after a day exploring the city. Gastronomic offerings here are diverse, so whether you’re looking for fine dining, a casual meal or cocktails, you’re sure to find something to suit your taste.
The sophisticated La Réserve Eden au Lac Zurich Hotel is famous for its lakeside location, spectacular views and La Muña, the fantastic restaurant on the sixth floor with two rooftop terraces. A Peruvian and Japanese-inspired menu is served on their terrace and is perfectly paired with an impressive wine list. From this rooftop destination, you can enjoy 360° views of Lake Zurich, the historic city centre and the Alps. La Muña is the ideal destination for a sunny lunch, sunset cocktail or romantic dinner.
The Nest at Storchen Zürich is a must-visit modern and stylish rooftop lounge for those looking to enjoy the view with their friends. With an elegant bar that offers stunning visuals of both city lights and river banks during evening hours – this lounge has something perfect no matter what you’re craving.
Roof Garden is an elegant rooftop restaurant and bar on the top floor of the Globus department store at Bahnhofstrasse. The menu offers French Mediterranean dishes with fine wines for those who want to indulge in true luxury and good taste. So, this place has it all if you’re looking for a romantic sunset overlooking Zurich or need some downtime after shopping at the luxurious department store below.
Next to Zurich’s Primetower is Frau Gerolds Garten, an urban experimental landscape home to various bars, eateries, and shops. The shipping containers around the garden are the building blocks for this unique space, with the outdoor eatery offering local and seasonal gastronomy. The garden is also a location for balmy summer nights, with its raised garden beds and greenery. This urban garden is a feel-good oasis that encourages community spirit and with its abundance of unique dining options, the green zone is sure to please even the most discerning foodies.
Day trips from Zurich allow you to enjoy the best of Switzerland
Zurich is an ideal base for exploring the Swiss Alps. Day trips from the city allow you to enjoy the best of Switzerland: the excitement of the mountains and the comfort of an urban centre without spending the entire vacation packing and unpacking luggage while on the move. With so much to see and do in Zurich, you’ll never have to worry about missing out on any of the city’s many attractions. From museums and shopping to gastronomy and events, there’s something for everyone in Zurich. So whether you’re looking for an adrenaline-filled day of skiing or a leisurely hike through the countryside, make sure to add multiple guided day trips to your Swiss adventure.
Day trips from Zurich to Mt Rigi are popular for visitors to Switzerland. Mt Rigi is known as the ‘Queen of the Mountains’ and offers stunning views of the Alps. The trip up to the summit is by aerial cableway, followed by a ride on Europe´s first cog railway. The journey takes one hour and thirty minutes from Zurich. Once at the top, visitors can hike over meadows with Alpine flowers, enjoy alpine gastronomy such as Rigi Alpkäse fondue and mountain beer at the various cosy restaurants in the area.
When you need a revitalising break, head to Mineral Baths & Spa Rigi Kaltbad for some pampering. With an outdoor pool with sweeping Alpine panorama, luxurious facilities and an excellent selection of massages, it will be a challenge to say goodbye to Mt Rigi. The descent is by cog railway to Vitznau and then a cruise to Lucerne. The old town of Lucerne is among the most beautiful in Switzerland and well worth exploring.
Day trips to Stoos from Zurich are popular for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, the views of central Switzerland from the village are simply stunning. In addition, the ride on the Stoosbahn, the world’s steepest funicular railway, is an exhilarating experience. The cabins are state-of-the-art and rotate to keep level as the rail climbs up 1.7 km, overcoming a height difference of 744 m. Zip up the mountain at 10 m per second! Finally, the village of Stoos is located 1,300 m above sea level, making it a good starting point for hikes, especially the famous ridge hike on top of the mountain. So whether you’re looking for an exciting thrill ride or a peaceful escape from the city, a day trip to Stoos is sure to please.
Heading on a day trip to Jungfrau Top of Europe from Zurich is fun. At 3’454 meters, the Jungfrau train station is the highest in Europe, and provides breathtaking views of the Aletsch Glacier, the largest and longest glacier in the Alps. Visitors can enjoy the snow all year round, making it the picture-perfect destination for a summer day trip. The journey up to Jungfrau is an adventure in itself, with stops at charming mountain villages along the way.
There are many more summer day trips that can be taken from Zurich. One such trip is to Rhine Falls, the largest waterfall in Europe. This spectacular sight is located just a short distance from Zurich, and many tour companies offer trips to the falls. Another popular summer destination is Rapperswil, a village situated on the south coast of Lake Zurich. This charming village is known as the city of roses, as over 20,000 roses grow there in the summer months. In addition, Rapperswil has many restaurants, making it a dainty place to spend a summer day. You’ll never have a dull moment with so much to see and do in both the city and the countryside. ◼
© This article was first published online in July 2022 – World Travel Magazine.