Aside from the splendor of the Alps, Lake Zurich is one of the most popular destinations in Switzerland. And it’s no wonder because this gorgeous lake is framed by a beautiful collection of hills and offers prime water activities from spring to summer.
At its western shore, you’ll find Zurich, which is Switzerland’s largest city–and the country’s chocolate capital, we might add. And along the northern-east bank, you’ll find the chic “Golden Coast,” which is incredibly popular in summer and features a rich collection of high-profile homes.
There is so much to do and see around this gorgeous lake, so we’ve broken it down for you in this Lake Zurich travel guide!
What is Lake Zurich Like?
Lake Zurich is one of the “Big Five” lakes in Switzerland, meaning it’s one of the country’s biggest lakes! It’s shaped like a banana and is framed by some lovely hills on both sides.
It has four tiny islands that you can reach by boat ride and has lots of activities to enjoy year-round. Some small streams from the lake also pass through the town of Zurich, forming what’s called the Limmat river.
The people here speak Swiss German and are known to be very friendly, and the cities have a wide variety of architecture, from the Mediterranean to medieval town vibes.
The area is particularly expensive during summer and winter, due to the increase in tourist traffic. Many people flock to Lake Zurich in the winter as a hopping-off point to go skiing in the Swiss Alps, while others come in the summer to enjoy all the outdoor activities at the lake. Sometimes, that just can’t be avoided, but we recommended planning your visit during spring and fall to skip the crowds and make the trip more budget-friendly.
Where is Lake Zurich, Switzerland
Lake Zurich is located to the southeast of Zurich, Switzerland. It’s about an hour west of Lichtenstein and just 95 minutes north of the Swiss Alps. You can easily reach it from the Zurich airport via train, bus, or car.
How to Get Around Lake Zurich
The best way to get around Lake Zurich is by using public transportation, as traffic and parking can be quite difficult—and expensive! The Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) connects most of Switzerland and has a stop at Zurich HB, which is the central train station in Zurich. From there, you can take a local train or bus to your final destination.
If you’re planning on staying in one place during your trip, we recommend getting a Zurich Card. This card gives you free use of public transportation in the city, as well as free or discounted admission to many of the city’s top attractions. You can purchase a 24-, 48-, or 72-hour card.
If you’re renting a car, keep in mind that parking is very limited in the city and can be expensive. We recommend using public transportation or your feet whenever possible!
Best Things to Do at Lake Zurich
Lake Zurich and the surrounding area are teeming with fun activities to explore during all times of the year. Here are some of our favorites way to experience Lake Zurich to the fullest!
Swimming and Sunbathing on the lakeshore
One of the most popular warm-weather activities at Lake Zurich is having a beach day! With temperatures averaging in the mid to high 70s during the summer, it’s never too cold or too hot to chill out on the shores or dive into the waters.
You’ll find tons of places to go, but some of the most popular spots include Wollishofen, Mythenquai, and Enge.
Explore the Lake Zurich Islands
Lake Zurich has four small islands that are all worth a stop. Take a boat ride to Ufenau Island to see the medieval Einsiedeln Abbey, the foundations of a Roman temple, and the surrounding nature reserve. Or, head over to Lützelau Island for more nature, a campground, and a restaurant that serves the local specialty, Fischknusperli. Saffa Island is also fairly popular because it can be reached on foot via a short bridge that connects it to the mainland.
Take a Tour with The Lake Zurich Navigation Company
Want to see the lake in a leisurely manner? Book a boat ride with the Lake Zurich Navigation Company! They have everything from shuttle boats that cross Lake Zurich from end to end to leisurely cruises that feature a variety of culinary themes!
If sightseeing is your main goal, you’ll likely want to book one of their standard lake cruises, which allows you to hop on and off the boat at any of the included ports! Or, take one of their shorter (2-hour) cruises and just enjoy a loop around some of Lake Zurich’s highlights.
Try some local water sports
You’ll find no shortage of water sports at Lake Zurich or Limmat River! Local tours offer everything from wakeboarding, wake surfing, and water skiing, to kayaking, SUP, and sailing.
Alternatively, if you have a boating license, you can rent a boat and explore Lake Zurich at your leisure or enjoy some water activities like tubing and water skiing on your own.
Go hiking on Uetliberg Mountain
No matter the season, visiting the local mountain is a great idea! Uetliberg overlooks Zurich, providing panoramic views of the city, Zurich Lake, and the Swiss Alps in the distance! In the warmer months, you’ll find plenty of hiking trails, plus a mountain bike trail. In the winter, the trails are turned into sled runs so you can still enjoy the area!
Walk the Lakeside Promenade
Don’t miss a relaxing stroll around the lakeside promenade at any time of year! This public park area provides visitors and locals alike with incredible views of the lake plus shopping and recreational activities. Plus, it’s free to enjoy, which is always a bonus.
Catch a performance at the Lake Zurich Opera House
Since 1891, this gorgeous Neoclassical and Rococo-style building has hosted operas, theater productions, and the Zurich Ballet. Due to the incredible architecture and art of the opera house, it draws thousands of people annually for guided tours of the building. However, if you want to experience Lake Zurich to the fullest, we recommend booking a ticket for an actual performance as well.
Tour the Lindt and Sprungli Chocolate Factory
We weren’t kidding when we said that Lake Zurich was the chocolate capital of Switzerland (which is pretty much the chocolate capital of the world, right?). If you’re interested in a Swiss chocolate tour, head over to Kilchberg on the western shore to visit Lindt Home of Chocolate.
Visitors can tour the factory shop and museum for an interactive tour on the cultural heritage of Swiss chocolate. It also includes stops at the world’s biggest Lindt Chocolate shop, where you can buy as much chocolate as your heart desires, and a nine-meter-tall chocolate fountain!
Take a day trip to the Alps
You can’t get that close to the Swiss Alps and not take a visit! Rent a car or take a day tour to explore their beautiful scenery in any season.
Discover the City of Roses
The city of Rapperswil, located at the other end of Lake Zurich from Zurich, is known worldwide for its incredible roses. In fact, you’ll find over 600 varieties and 15,000 bushes blooming here!
In addition to the rose gardens, the 12th-century Rapperswil Castle and the connecting medieval town should be on your bucket list. Tourists and locals can enjoy panoramic views of the area and explore the castle’s chapels and monasteries before taking a stroll along the longest wooden bridge in Switzerland!
Make a Splash at Alpamare
You don’t need a sunny day to enjoy the water at Lake Zurich! The largest covered waterpark in Switzerland and the longest waterslide in Central Europe are both found at Alpamare in Pfäffikon. The park is decorated with palm trees and a Mayan ruin theme that make it feel like summer even when there’s snow outside! And since there are both indoor and outdoor sections, there’s no seasonal limit on the fun here.
It has many slides, a whirlpool, a lazy river, and a sauna, plus a sun terrace for sunbathing in warm weather.
Check out Old Town Zurich
If shopping and dining are high on your list, head over to Altstadt in Zurich. This historic area is full of gorgeous architecture and plenty of activities. The area has a high concentration of shops, restaurants, and clubs to keep everyone entertained. It also has plenty of lovely sites to see, including the famous Grossmunster and Fraumunster churches.
Visit the Zurich Zoo
One of Europe’s finest zoos is located in Zurich! Here, you can see more than 380 types of animals in incredible habitats. The zoo is also a big player in animal conservation, and they’ve already laid our their conservation plan for the next 30 years to help restore environmental balance! All in all, it’s an incredible visit
Relax at local cafes
Who says your trip has to be all hustle and bustle? Take time to slow down and enjoy some of the best coffee of your life at the local cafes. And maybe grab a sweet treat while you’re at it. Try Kafi Dihei with its antique furniture and homemade cakes and bread or Cafe Peclard, which features Baroque ceilings and renowned selections of pastries and cakes.
Take a Foodie Tour
Food tours are good in many cities, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything quite like the ones in Zurich. Choose from many different types of restaurants and food options, like a vintage cheese and chocolate tour or one featuring wine and fondu. You can even take a TukTuk tour that includes a guided landmark tour through the city while you enjoy the hot stone barbecue and wine. You’re guaranteed to find many unique food tours that will satisfy your stomach and thirst for adventure!
There’s so much to do in Zurich, and we hope this guide has helped you plan your trip. Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventure, cultural experiences, or just a chance to relax, you’ll find it all here.