Chinagarten Zürich Chinese gardens
© Max Schmid

Zurich’s best museums and attractions

Time Out’s Zurich museum picks – as well as the city’s top attractions, in our essential visitor checklist

By Peter Carty and Katharina Blansjaar

An impressive array of striking monuments and pretty parks are among the top attractions to see during a day in Zurich. Museum culture is a key highlight of the city, with fine art especially well represented. Highlights include the massive historical collections in the Kunsthaus, as well as the contemporary art shows in the Kunsthalle and the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, while the Museum fur Gestaltung prominent for design. Museums come in all varieties here. Perhaps the most quirky Zurich museum of all is the Tram Museum, much beloved by kids, as is Focus Terra and its natural science exhibitions. If you want closer contact with nature there are many options. Zoo Zurich is a family favourite, while relaxing outdoor spaces include Chinagarten and Botanisher Garten Zoo. Check out our guide for information on all of these and many more.

Kunsthaus Zürich

Things to do Hochschulen

It's not the MoMa, the Louvre or the Tate, but Zurich's art museum has a lot to offer and a good collection of modern art. Lovers of Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti will be thrilled to walk through the ground floor rooms dedicated to this artist alone, and the likes of Van Gogh, Monet and Chagall are displayed in small but bright rooms on the top floor.


Things to do City

No, it's not a castle. And no, it's not medieval. Actually, it's not even really old. The Landesmuseum was built in 1898 by Felix Gull and caused controversy from the beginnings because of its mock-medieval architecture. It hosts a vast collection of documents and artefacts from Switzerland's culture and history - from the Stone Ages to the 21st century. There are guided tours in English once a week and various activities for children.


Zoo Zürich

Things to do Fluntern

Zurich’s zoo has risen to international fame for its 'Masoalahalle': a large dome filled with the wildlife of Madagascar. Don’t worry – they’ve not included any predators, so it’s safe to walk around and climb the steps to the viewing platform. And don’t miss the zoo’s newest attraction – the elephant park with its modern outside spaces and large indoor area. The on-site Thai food stall serves delicious snacks while you watch the elephants.

Focus Terra

Things to do Unterstrass

Run by the ETH's university's geology department, this museum focuses on our planet and its wonders. From rocks and minerals to volcanism and plate tectonics there is a lot to learn. If you participate in a guided tour you will even be allowed inside the spectacular earthquake simulator! The museum organises special tours and events for children's birthday parties and other pastimes for children throughout the year.

FIFA World Football Museum
©Fifa/Adam Naparty

FIFA World Football Museum

Sport and fitness Enge

This museum is dedicated to the triumphs of football and its heroes with a focus on interactive experiences for all ages.

Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst

Things to do Industriequartier

Exhibiting the latest trends in contemporary art, the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst has a more light-hearted approach than many of its more renowned counterparts. It is financed by Migros, the largest Swiss retailer and features pieces by John Armleder, Pamela Rosenkranz, Richard Jackson and many more in its permanent collection.

Botanischer Garten, Zuerich, Juni 2014. Photo by Elisabeth Real
Elisabeth Real

Botanischer Garten

Things to do Weinegg

The three glass domes of the botanical garden's palm houses might make you worry about an alien invasion. But despite their exotic and often stunning appearance, all the plants inside the spheres appear to be earthlings. Take an early morning stroll across the vast grounds or just sit and relax for a while on a sunny afternoon. The botanical garden is rarely crowded and can deliver instant peace and happiness when you stumble upon a pretty flower or watch the branches of the old trees swing with the wind.


Things to do Hottingen

You can learn more about the history of Zurich’s trams in its own tram museum. Original carriages from 1897 onwards are on display as well as models. A special museum tram runs to the venue every last weekend of the month (check the website for timetable), and there are special family Sundays with handicraft activities.


Museum für Gestaltung

Things to do Industriequartier

Posters, design, applied arts and graphics are the four pillars of the massive collection at the Museum für Gestaltung, Zurich’s museum of design. Dating as far back as 1875, exhibits chart the technical and aesthetic milestones of industrialisation’s evolution through crafts, furniture, prints, fashion, photographs, film, fine art pieces and everyday commercial products and packaging. The poster collection alone comprises around 330,000 works, and is one of the most important archives of its kind in the world, as well as a key resource for Zurich’s arts university, Zürcher Hochschule der Künste, to which the museum belongs. The museum moved in September 2014 into colossal new premises called the Museum für Gestaltung – Schaudepot in Zurich West. In this new space a programme of stylishly staged, insightful exhibitions explore historical movements, resonant innovations and synergies with contemporary trends. It also maintains an elegant outpost in Museum Bellerive, a lakeside 1931 villa that was fittingly the former home of a fabric manufacturer and which now houses the excellent applied arts collection. This is particularly strong in art nouveau – with work by William Morris, René Lalique and Hermann Obrist – and textiles, with Coptic and Peruvian examples dating back 1400 years


Things to do Seefeld

Opened in 1994, the Chinagarten is a present from Zurich’s Chinese partner city Kunming. Its theme is the 'Three Friends of Winter': the three symbolic plants in Chinese culture - pine, bamboo and winter cherry. Several typical buildings are grouped around a lake, and the garden with its restaurant can be rented for events.



Things to do Rathaus

According to the legend, Charlemagne discovered the graves of Zurich’s local saints Felix and Regula and ordered a church to be erected above them. Today’s church was built between 1100 and 1250 and was the centre of the Protestant reformation in Switzerland. Among its more recent attractions are the seven windows designed by contemporary German artist Sigmar Polke. One of Grossmünster’s two towers is open to the public and offers great views of the city.


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