Located in north-central Switzerland, at the tip of a long, crescent-shaped lake, Zürich is the largest city in the country, the premier Swiss transportation hub and leading in terms of sustainability. Zurich is often considered to be one of the most environmentally conscious cities in the world. It’s also an extremely relaxed metropolis, both in the hugely picturesque urban centre as well as in the surrounding region, where a range of exciting and varied attractions and excursion options are geared toward families.
From numerous museums that offer family-friendly programmes to allow young visitors to learn, investigate and experiment, to trips where children can observe animals at close quarters, experience unforgettable adventures, and let their imagination, and legs, run wild amid spectacular nature, families will stay excited, entertained, and engaged in this well-connected Swiss city (there are direct, non-stop flights from Singapore to Zurich).
What’s even more alluring is that all excursions are possible within the city — in the former industrial area Zürich-West for example, explorers will find plenty of trendy spots and artsy corners where they can dive into the bustling local scene. By the lake, families will find numerous green spaces for a relaxing picnic on the grass, and the heart of the city has many walking options along the river and lake — or on short excursions outside the urban area via excellent public transportation. With so many possibilities in this city of about 430,000, the only thing missing is you and your family.
The Lindt Home of Chocolate: A Family Travel Destination
For starters, picture yourself at the must-visit destination for any child, or adult, the Lindt Home of Chocolate, an off-white building whose facade recalls the clean lines and lettering of a freshly wrapped bar of confection. The largest chocolate museum in Switzerland — quite an accolade in a country famed for its exceptional quality of chocolate products — this is a genuine sensory journey, located on Lake Zürich about 30 minutes by boat that departs from Zürich Bürkliplatz and also reachable by train or bus.
An interactive multimedia exhibition guides visitors through seven different chocolate worlds, and information from the history of chocolate through to tasting fresh Swiss chocolate (after all, Lindt & Sprüngli, whose origin dates to 1836 in Old Town Zürich, has its production plant next door) educates guests on everything about the sweet treat. In addition, visitors can view the latest production and automation technologies at a show production facility.
Besides a wide range of chocolate to see, taste, and buy, guests will also encounter a photo point, where they can create their own personal souvenir, and see a machine that clearly explains the entire process from cultivating the cocoa beans through to creating the finished products that bring joys to millions every day.
For a truly special experience, families can join a hands-on chocolate workshop where they can make their own chocolate bar or bear figure. A visit here is an unforgettable experience, one that is sure to stimulate all the senses and that is notable for many superlatives — Lindt Home of Chocolate is where to find the largest Lindt chocolate shop in the world as well as the planet’s tallest chocolate fountain, measuring an eye-popping nine metres high. This real-life chocolate factory is one place where you will definitely need to leave room for something sweet.
Explore the “Kinder Region” in Zurich for an unforgettable family adventure
Further adventures await around the city, especially in the area encompassing Baden, Glarus, Rapperswil, Schwyz, Winterthur, Zug, and Zürich known as “Kinder Region”, or Children’s Region named for good reason. It’s a realm of cities, forests, lakes and mountains with scavenger hunts and interactive museums, zoos and adventure farms, and even a boat ride to a knight’s castle.
There are hundreds of choices in any season, from summer jaunts on playgrounds and dips in the many swimming pools to winter enjoying the snow-covered slopes. At Museum Schloss Kyburg, the oldest castle museum in Switzerland, children can dress up in medieval clothing, test the tools that were used by our ancestors, and embark on a dragon hunt.
Elsewhere in the region, adventure treks include a hunt to help a family find its missing dog, a trail that recreates the life of a millipede, and a sensory path that teaches visitors how animals overcome challenges in the forest. At Schwyz, families can try a summer sled run, whiz down a zip-line in Hoch-Ybrig, or canoe across Lake Lucerne.
An excursion to the car-free mountain village of Stoos starts with a ride on the steepest funicular in the world, and in Goldau Nature Park and Zoo, sika deer eat out of children’s hands.
For some heart-pumping, calorie-burning action, Skills Park in Winterthur has something for everyone, combining sports and games to generate non-stop fun in the largest multi-sports hall in Europe. Spread over 6,000 square metres and two floors, the complex features a Skate Park, where novices and experts can learn new skateboard tricks, an Indoor Big Air ramp for trying out tricks on dirt bikes, BMX bikes, and scooters, a giant trampoline park to get the legs working, and parkour and Ninja Warrior obstacle courses.
Explore the medieval town of Rapperswil – a family favourite
Back outside, on the southern part of Lake Zürich, the village of Rapperswil is a beautiful medieval town with a castle on the hill and striking views of the lake, easy to reach by train or boat and a perfect destination for families. The castle itself dates to the early thirteenth century, though destroyed a century later before being rebuilt; today visitors to this stone edifice bookended by towering turrets might spot deer wandering around the grounds.
Between the months of May and September, Rapperswil is famed for its floral blooms, giving it the name of the ‘city of roses’ — more than 20,000 roses grow here in the many parks during the summer months. The sight of endless delicate rose blooms, the shimmering waters of the lake and the medieval buildings combine to transport travellers to another era.
A typical excursion to Rapperswil includes a stroll in the old town and up to the castle and its rose gardens, a boat tour on Lake Zürich, and perhaps a stopover on the nearby island Ufenau, where the church was built in the twelfth century.
Other options here for families are the Knies Kinderzoo (a children’s zoo where youngsters can interact with the animals), and swimming at Strandbad Stampf in the warm summer months. Finally, for the best photos, take a stroll over the reconstructed wooden bridge from Rapperswil to Hurden — the views of the lake and the mountains are breathtaking.
Family-friendly farm experience at Bächlihof Jona, Lake Zurich
For a rewarding rural excursion close to Rapperswil, Bächlihof Jona is a local farm experience right by Lake Zürich, perfect for families with a sense of adventure who want to spend time in nature and learn about Swiss agri-tourism. Young adventurers can let off steam in the outdoor playgrounds, storm a ‘castle’ made from hay bales, feed the goats in the petting zoo, or pick their own blueberries — many fruits and vegetables are grown on-site.
In between, visitors can fortify themselves in the farm store with coffee and cake or enjoy a tasty lunch at the farm restaurant that uses sustainable, high-quality seasonal produce. In addition to other regional specialities, the store also sells its own fruit and schnapps produced from it. Furthermore, the Bächlihof regularly hosts different events: Of note are the amazing sculptures at the Pumpkin Exhibition and the Straw Worlds.
Escape to an otherworldly sculpture garden at Bruno Weber Park
As stimulating for the eyes are the otherworldly sights at Bruno Weber Park, a relatively unknown sculpture garden on the outskirts of Zürich. Weber, who was born and raised in Switzerland, was an architect and artist whose works inhabited the world of fantastical realism.
The five-acre park, which includes his house with its 25-metre tower, is an artistic dreamscape populated by mythical creatures and characters. The rich vein of objects he created here succinctly represents his life’s oeuvre. This is a wonderful place for adults to take photos and to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Children will especially enjoy the hands-on nature of figures that can be climbed and walked on, and that appear to have magically materialised straight from the pages of an ancient fairy tale book.
Step into a world of optical illusions at Wow Museum, Zurich
Magic might also be used to describe the Wow Museum, situated a five-minute walk from Zürich Hauptbahnhof, the city’s main train station and the largest rail hub in the country. A total immersion into optical and sensory illusion, this three-floor, 400 square-metre institution is colourful, crazy, educational, fun and truly mind-bending, with visitors constantly asking themselves what is real and what is a trickery?
Here, various small rooms with twisted perspectives, creative patterning, and reconfiguration of spaces weave a journey like no other. Suited for people of all ages, it’s a great option for those looking to fill a couple of hours, or somewhere to drop by when the weather is inclement, and is guaranteed to provide everyone with laughs, thrills, and photos that defy belief.
Beyond visual chicanery, the museum also explores culture and self- and external image, dealing with very current topics such as virtuality and diversity. And as with all the family-friendly excursions that Zürich and its environs offer, it’s something you’ll never forget.
Everything you need to know to visit Zurich
Where can I stay when visiting Zurich
Zurich is a city that has it all – luxury hotels, world-class shopping, and stunning scenery. If you’re looking for a city break with a touch of class, Zurich should be top of your list. There are plenty of luxury hotels to choose from when visiting Zurich, so you can be sure to find one that meets your needs.
Zurich: The Dolder Grand, Hotel Baur Au Lac, La Reserve Eden au Lac Zurich, Widder Hotel, Park Hyatt Zurich, Storchen Hotel Zurich, Sorell Hotels, 25 Hours Hotels and Moxy Hotel. ◼
© This article was first published online in May 2022 – World Travel Magazine.