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Recognised as one of Europe’s most livable cities, this up-and-coming city with a great art scene and buzzing nightlife, provides a gateway to the Swiss alps. Set on the shores of Lake Zurich, this city offers a great combination of vibrant culture and scenery. Visiting Zurich in winter will also allow you to experience some of the best skiing on offer in Switzerland.

Today our guest author Smita tells us all about visiting Zurich in winter, from what weather to expect to the best things to do on a cold or rainy day in Zurich in wintertime.

Stay tuned to learn about why you should visit Zurich in the colder months, how to get there, where to stay, what to do and how to celebrate Christmas and New year during the winter in Zurich…

zurich river in winter

Visiting Zurich in Winter – all the tips you need to know!

Why visit Zurich in winter? 

Zurich is a beautiful cosmopolitan city, steeped in history and culture and a stone’s throw away from excellent ski locations. Delicious fondue on a tram through the city, a steaming cup of hot chocolate in an Alpine restaurant, stunning Christmas markets (complete with singing trees!) and a vibrant, fun carnival, can all be enjoyed in Zurich in winter!

How to get to Zurich in winter?

Zurich has a large international airport and is very well connected to places across the world. In fact, most flights into Switzerland come to Zurich, followed by Geneva.

The Zurich Flughafen (that’s what the airport is called in German) is very close to the city centre – just 10 km! It takes only 10 minutes on a train (or 15 minutes by a car) to go from the airport to the city centre! There’s a very efficient network of trains and buses that connect the airport not only to the city centre but also to several nearby towns and cities. This first interaction with the public transportation system is enough to leave visitors awed by Swiss efficiency!

To buy tickets for the train, just follow the signs towards the train station (located in a large shopping area right at the airport) and you’ll find multiple kiosks which accept both card and cash (even Euro will work). There are also ticket windows if you’d rather speak to someone.

There is absolutely no need to book a taxi – trains/ buses will get you everywhere and are much cheaper (well, that is by Swiss standards!)

That said, if you insist on pe-boking a transfer for convenience, then you can do so by clicking here.

How to get around Zurich in winter?

Swiss public transportation system is a marvel of efficiency and cleanliness. Zurich has an excellent network of public transportation. No place in Zurich will be longer than a 10-minute walk from the nearest public transportation option – train, tram or bus. These run on the dot as per the schedule. These are also equipped to allow easy access to wheelchairs. The drivers are supremely helpful, though they may not speak English well.

Most stations will have kiosks for you to buy tickets, but you can also download and use the SBB app which allows you to see the schedules and buy tickets online.

zurich tramlines

Where to stay when you visit Zurich in the wintertime?

The old town area close to the city centre is the best place to stay in Zurich in the winter – it is close to the main train station, the lake and to a lot of the major places to visit in Zurich.

Best hotels to stay in Zurich

  • Sorell Hotel Seidenhof – Located in the heart of Zurich, next to the famous Bahnhofstrasse and only 5 minutes’ walk from the main train station.

Price: Starts from 330 CHF per double room

  • Hotel St. Josef  – 10 minutes’ walk from the main train station and 5-10 minutes’ walk from the old town and riverfront.

Price: Starts from 235 CHF per double room

Best Apartments in Zurich

Price: Starts from 350 CHF for 2 people

  • Zurich Main Station Studios – Very well-rated and located in the heart of Zurich – close to the main station and Bahnhofstrasse. 

Price: Starts from 150 CHF for 2 people

Best hostels in Zurich

  • Oldtown Hostel Otter – Well rated and located in the old town, 300 m from the Zürich-Stadelhofen train station and the lake. 

Price: 50-70 CHF per bed in a dorm 

  • Zurich Youth Hostel – Well rated however not centrally located. Close to the Jugendherberge bus stop. Price: Starts from 50 CHF per bed in a dorm

What is the weather like in the winter in Zurich?

Winters are cold in Zurich with temperatures dropping below 0 degrees C occasionally. Snowfall often starts by the end of November. On an average day, there are around 9 hours of daylight.

zurich on a bleak winters day

Things to do in Zurich in winter 

There are plenty of things to do in Zurich in winter, you won’t be bored. As well as a multitude of day trips to visit places like Jungfrau and Mount Rigi. you’ll find a huge range of activities to enjoy in the city even in the colder months. Here are a few suggestions…

Take a stroll along the famous shopping street of Bahnhofstrasse.

Shop at the numerous stores lining this street or enjoy a hot cup of cocoa at one of the cafes during the day. During the night enjoy the beautiful Christmas lights strewn over the street. To get to Bahnhofstrasse, simply walk out of the main train station and follow the crowds!

Visit Zurich’s old town

Prepare to get awestruck by the stunning architecture and the rich history. The beautiful churches of Grossmunster and Fraumunster are located in the old town across the river from each other and make for ridiculously photogenic spots. Don’t miss Lindenhof hill for some great views across the Limmat river. Located next to the Bahnhofstrasse, these areas are very easy to visit on foot.

Take a walk along the lake promenade

Take a stroll and marvel at the immense Lake Zurich. Surrounded by mountains and home to plenty of birds, lake Zurich is one of Zurich’s highlights. You can also take a ferry ride to enjoy the lake up-close.

Go ice skating

Zurich and the surrounding towns have numerous ice-skating rinks in winter (and frozen lakes too!) There are plenty of cafes around them making it a great place to spend a day ice skating. 

Hit the slopes for skiing or tobogganing

There are a number of ski areas within an hour’s travel time from Zurich – Flumserberg, Stoos, Amden and Rigi are some of the closest ski resorts and are amongst the best areas to enjoy winter activities in Zurich.

swiss alps near zurich in winter covered in snow

Enjoy the great food scene in Zurich

Warm-up with some mouth-watering fondue and hot chocolate. See below for some of the best places to enjoy traditional Swiss food or take a food tour

Things to do in Zurich in the rain

Visit Kunsthaus Zurich

Visit the renowned museum, Kunsthaus Zurich, which offers a large selection of modern classicism for fans of arts and architecture

Catch a show at the Zurich Opera House

With 200+ yearly performances varying from plays and ballets to premieres, there’s sure to be something to interest you.

Where to eat and drink in Zurich in winter? 

Winter is a great time to curl up in a cafe or restaurant in Zurich. Here are a few options for all tastes and palettes…

cheese fondue in switzerland

Sprüngli Café & Restaurant. This is the most renowned and the oldest café in Zurich, and a must-visit for all tourists. Sprüngli recently celebrated its 175th anniversary – a true testament to its popularity! Chocolates, cakes, truffles are just some of its specialities. You could also visit for breakfast or lunch. This café is located at Paradeplatz.

Grande Café & Bar – Located on the historical Limmatquai, this cosy café is a favourite among locals. Serving coffee and light snacks during the day and wines, cocktails or Zurich beer during the evening, Grande offers something for everyone.

Fondue tram – While in Switzerland, you have to try the most famous Swiss dish – Fondue! What better way to enjoy it than on a tram that takes you through the most beautiful areas in Zurich?! This tram starts on its circular route from Bellevue and operates from November to March.

Älplerstube – Experience Swiss tradition at this restaurant which will make you feel like you are in an Alpine resort high up in the mountains. Älplerstube offers traditional Swiss food, from fondue to hearty meat dishes. This restaurant is located close to the Bahnhofstrasse.

Haus Hiltl – The first vegetarian restaurant in the world, this icon of Zurich is located in Sihlstrasse. It offers over 100 vegetarian delicacies. 

Splendid Piano Bar – Another iconic place in Zurich, this bar is known for its cocktails and live music. Located in the old town, this is another favourite among the locals.

Kronenhalle Bar – This historical bar is part of the famous Kronenhalle restaurant and offers its renowned cocktails to be enjoyed among original Picassos and Chagalls!

Things to do in Zurich at Christmas Time

Zurich is a magical place during Christmas – quaint Christmas markets, beautiful concerts and shows all add to the joy in the city. Twinkling lights cover the entire expanse of Bahnhofstrasse and the old town. The areas around the Limmat River are illuminated by countless fairy lights. A walk through these areas is an absolutely enchanting experience.

zurich christmas lights

Zurich also outdoes other cities with its Christmas markets – the market at the main train station is the largest covered market in Europe! A gigantic Christmas tree adorned with Swarovski crystals serves as its centrepiece.

Another stunning market is the one at Zurich Opera House – one of the largest in the city and located right in front of the opera house. There’s an ice rink here as well for the skating enthusiasts.

If you’re looking for the most romantic Christmas market, head to the old town for the market in Niederdorf, the oldest in Zurich.

Multiple events take place around Christmas in Zurich which make the holiday season even more magical. Circus Conelli with its stunning acrobatic feats has been part of Zurich’s Christmas for over 30 years. Head to Bauschänzli to catch this show. 

Another highlight during Christmas in Zurich is the singing Christmas tree – a vertical podium in the shape of a Christmas tree houses choirs spreading cheer! This unique ‘tree’ is located at the Christmas market in Werdmühleplatz.

Celebrating New Year’s Eve in Zurich

Celebrating New Year’s Eve at Lake Zurich is one of the best parts of visiting Zurich in the winter. The entire area around the lake is covered in food stands, bars, and live music performances. The atmosphere of celebration and revelry is absolutely magical and continues through the night.

A stunning firework display at midnight is the highlight of the festive ambience – made infinitely more spectacular by the reflections on the lake!

new years eve fireworks in zurich

Other events and festivals in Zurich in the winter 

Züri-Carnival or the carnival in Zurich takes place in early March and transforms the city into a fun, colourful, well, carnival! Parades in elaborate costumes, marching bands with foot-stomping music, street shows, colourful decorations and an overall ambience of happiness mark this event.

Packing for wintertime in Zurich

  • Since the temperature can drop below freezing, warm coats, shoes, scarves and gloves are a must
  • Don’t forget an umbrella for the occasional rainy day

Any other top tips for visiting Zurich in winter?

  • Things in the city (stores, cafes) close early so plan ahead and make reservations. Everything is closed on Sunday other than the stores at the train station and the airport.
  • Check the weather webcams at ski locations before heading out

Many thanks to Smita for this really useful insight into visiting Zurich in winter. Learn a little more about here…

Guest Author: Smita

www.MyFaultyCompass.com

What happens when a management consultant takes up travelling itself as a project? Meet Smita, who is putting her consulting skills (read: extensive excel planning!) and travel curiosity to good use.  A part-time traveller and travel writer, her travel articles aim to include meticulous details – don’t be surprised to even find hour by hour itineraries – which can come as a delight for the more laid-back travellers! Follow Smita on Facebook and Instagram.

https://myfaultycompass.com/

 Have you spent any time in winter in Zurich? Any top tips? Be sure to drop them in the comments below!

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