The 20 best things to do in Winterthur

Winterthur, Switzerland’s sixth-largest city, has something for everyone. It has a pretty old town to explore, beautiful parks and gardens, grand villas to wander around, and 17 outstanding museums to choose from.

Its location also positions it perfectly for trips out to other places.

These include Kyburg Castle, Switzerland’s oldest castle museum, the Rhine Falls, Europe’s largest waterfall, and Zurich, with its river, lake, and plethora of city sights.

Whether you decide to base yourself in Winterthur for a short break, or day trip here from other places, here are the 20 top things to do in Winterthur.

The top things to do in Winterthur

– Explore the old town
– Look up at the Stadtkirche from the Kirchplatz square
– See the Stadthaus
– Grab some food in Oberer Graben
– Have fun at Technorama
– View art in the Oskar Reinhart Museum
– Visit Oskar Reinhart’s beautiful villa
– See more art in the Kunst Museum
– Look out over the city from the Rosengarten
– See the Alps from Baumli
– Learn about Switzerland’s natural world
– Visit the Fotomuseum Winterthur
– See the animals at the Wildpark Bruderhaus
– Visit the meeting place of 20th century artists
– Visit a castle
– Go to one of the city’s quirkier museums
– Visit the city during the International Short Film Festival
– Get into the Christmas spirit at the city’s Christmas market
– Sail close to Europe’s biggest waterfall at the Rhine Falls
– See the sights in Switzerland’s largest city, Zurich

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Where is Winterthur?

The city of Winterthur is in northern Switzerland. Located in the Canton of Zurich, it’s just 20 km from the country’s largest city, Zurich.

It’s also near to other places of interest in the area. The gorgeous Schaffhausen, which sits on the River Rhine, is less than 30 km away; the popular Rhine Falls is around 25 km away; and St. Gallen, near Lake Constance and the German border, is just over 60 km away.

Some of the other major cities in Switzerland, such as Bern and Geneva, are further away, but are still places that are easy to travel from by train.

How to get to Winterthur

Winterthur is an easy place to get to, particularly from Zurich (this is the nearest airport).

It’s around 20 to 25 minutes by train from the central train station, Zurich Hauptbahnhof. It’s even quicker from the airport (Zurich Flughafen): less than 15 minutes by direct train.

If you’re staying in other cities and want to go to Winterthur, it’s a longer journey. Although both Bern and Basel are around an hour and a half away by train, it would still be possible to visit for a day trip. However, Geneva is a longer journey: over three hours by train.

When you arrive at the train station, it’s just a few minutes’ walk to the main centre of Winterthur.

The Swiss Travel Pass

Top tip: If you’re visiting Winterthur by public transport and your visit is part of a wider trip in Switzerland, it would be worth considering purchasing a Swiss Travel Pass.

The Swiss Travel Pass provides unlimited travel throughout the country – covering trains, buses, and boats. There’s also free entry to over 500 museums and discounts on specific tours. You can buy it to cover different numbers of days.

Given that Switzerland is generally not a cheap country – and that includes the cost of travel – the pass offers excellent value for money.

Click here for more information.

Top tip: alternatively, you can buy the Winterthur Museum Pass. This is also good value for money and covers local transport and museums. Note, however, that many of the museums in the city do not open on a Monday.

Things to do in Winterthur

Winterthur is not big. Although it is a city (it’s the 6th largest in the country and the second largest in the canton of Zürich), it felt to me more like a small town.

But, even so, there’s a lot to do here (especially if you like visiting museums – there’s a strikingly large number here – 17 in fact).

You could either base yourself in Winterthur, see the main sights and day trip to other nearby places. Or, alternatively, this could be a day trip from other places such as Zurich.

The 20 best things to do in Winterthur

The following things are some of the top things to do in Winterthur.

Top tip: Stop off in the information centre when you arrive and buy a Winterthur pass. You can buy this for 1 or 2 days, giving you unlimited travel on local public transport and free entry to museums. If you plan to visit several museums, it’s the best way to save some money. I used it extensively in my time here, and it is great value for money. Note that if you want to go to Technorama, then you will need to purchase a two-day pass, even if you’re only visiting for the day.

Explore the old town of Winterthur 

As with many other Swiss towns and cities, Winterthur has a charming old town (aldstadt) that you can explore on foot.

Part of the old town in Winterthur
Part of the old town in Winterthur

You can do this independently by picking up a map at the tourist office (which is right by the train station) or by booking this self-guided tour which takes you on a fun walking tour of the city.

There are a few streets within the old town featuring pretty medieval buildings and small fountains.

One of these is Marktgasse, the country’s largest pedestrian zone. Here, there are shops, cafes, and restaurants to stop off at.

Marktgasse leads into Obertor, which then intersects with Neustadtgasse. I particularly liked this street with its quirky little buildings and one with a half-timbered façade.

Part of Neustadtgasse with a view of  a half-timbered house
Part of Neustadtgasse

I’d suggest taking time to wander through the streets, admiring the buildings, and soaking in the vibe.

Part of the old town in Winterthur
Part of the old town in Winterthur

Top tip: look out for the small alleyways that take you between some of the streets. A particularly fine example is the Town Hall Passage with its pillars, hanging lights, and decorative ceilings. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a grand alleyway!

The Town Hall Passage in Winterthur
The Town Hall Passage in Winterthur

Look up at the Stadtkirche from the Kirchplatz square

Right in the central part of the old town is the city church – the Stadtkirche – with its red topped twin towers. It was rebuilt after being destroyed by a fire, and a second tower was added in the 15th century. It displays wonderful frescoes inside.

Winterthur Stadtkirche
Winterthur Stadtkirche

The church sits in Kirchplatz. This is a small, peaceful square with benches where you can sit and escape from the crowds in the main streets.

See the Stadthaus

If you’re walking towards the old town from the train station, you may end up wandering down Stadthausstrasse (I did). As you walk along it, you’ll go past the Casinotheater and Oskar Reinhart Museum.

Although this street is not quite as picturesque as parts of the old town, there are some old historic buildings here. Several of the city’s major museums are also located along the street and behind it – so you may wish to see the Stadthaus at the same time as visiting a museum.

When you get to the end of Stadthausstrasse, you’ll see the eye-catching 19th-century Stadthaus (the Winterthur Townhouse) with its temple-like structure. This is set back behind a small park and fountain.

The Stadthaus in Winterthur
The Stadthaus in Winterthur

Grab some food in Oberer Graben

At one end of the old town is Oberer Graben. This is a pleasant tree-lined street with cafes and restaurants on either side.

Oberer Graben with restuarants and cafes with seats outside
Oberer Graben

When I was there, it was filled with people going out and about and stopping to eat lunch on restaurant terraces in the sun. So, this is an option if you’re looking to stop off for a meal and/or try out the local cuisine.

Alternatively, if you’re pushed for time, there is a little bakery on the street where you can grab something quick to eat and sit on the benches in the middle of the boulevard.

Have some fun at Technorama

The Swiss Science Center Technorama touts itself as being one of the largest museums of its kind in Europe. For me, this is a must when you’re in the city, and I’m glad I went. It’s situated in Oberwinterthur, a short distance out of the main centre.

Technorama - this museum is one of the things to do in Winterthur

The science museum has exhibits that are laid out over several floors. The different areas cover a wide range of themes. There are exhibits on subjects like magnetics, mechanics, mirrors, water, and light.

All contain interactive displays and stations that really get you thinking. They also teach you about science in a fun and engaging way.

You can pull levers, press buttons, look into mirrors and kaleidoscopes, climb ladders, and put your hand into things etc. The rotating tunnel was particularly memorable, as was the percussion band being played by dripping water.

There’s also an outdoor section to wander around if the weather is good. This has a bridge you can climb which looks down onto a small garden. Within this is a lake with a unique floating tap sculpture hovering above it.

Technorama is a place for visitors of all ages. Not only is it an excellent place for children, it’s also great for adults who fancy bringing out their own inner child!

There’s absolutely loads to do here, and to do it justice, you probably need a few hours. The website says it has over 500 “experiment stations”, and I can believe it.

You can get to Technorama via public transport. The number 5 bus runs from the side of the train station and takes you to the museum.

You can also catch other buses and trains out to Oberwinterthur train station. From here, it’s less than a 10-minute walk to the museum (the walking route is flat).

Technorama is open every day between 10 am and 5 pm.

Visit an Oskar Reinhart museum

There are many museums in Winterthur – and among these are two art museums named after the Swiss art collector Oskar Reinhart who was born in Winterthur in the late 19th century.

Top tip: if you particularly want to visit the main museums in Winterthur, visit between Tuesday and Sunday. Generally, these museums are closed on a Monday.

The Oskar Reinhart Museum 

The first of the two Oskar Reinhart museums (part of the Kunst Museum Winterthur) is in the main centre near the Stadthaus. It’s just a short walk from the train station on Stadthausstrasse and is apparently Switzerland’s first private museum.

The Oskar Reinhart Museum
The Oskar Reinhart Museum

The art displays are set out over three floors. However, at least when I visited, the main collection – an exhibit of work by the German artist Caspar David Friedrich – was on the top floor.

If you’re an art lover, it’s worth visiting this museum – there are some great artworks here. What surprised me, however, was that very little of the information about the individual pieces had been translated into different languages. It would have been good to learn more about them without having to look up information up afterwards.

Winterthur’s Oskar Reinhart Museum is open every day except Mondays.

The Oskar Reinhart Collection

The second of the museums is the Oskar Reinhart Collection. This is a short way out of the centre in the beautiful Am Römerholz villa overlooking the city.

The outside of Oskar Reinhart's Am Römerholz villa - this is one of the things to do in Winterthur
Oskar Reinhart’s Am Römerholz villa

The art is displayed on the first floor of the villa. There are a few rooms in the old building and a larger, more modern, wing.

The European works here cover different periods: from 14th century artwork to that from the early 20th century. They include work from a number of famous artists, particularly French Impressionists such as Renoir, Monet, and Cezanne.

Even if you’re not a die-hard art fan, I think it’s worth visiting if you have time. The villa is really pretty and has a beautifully manicured lawn in front of it. This is surrounded by a garden that you can wander around in.

You’ll also find a café with seats on the outdoor terrace that offer good views overlooking the lawn. I stopped here for tea and an ice cream in the sun – it’s the perfect place to take a break from sightseeing.  

The villa and cafe terrace with a neat lawn in front
The villa and cafe terrace

If you do want to visit the villa, you unfortunately can’t take public transport all the way. You can catch either bus 10 to Haldengut or bus 3 to Kantonsspital. From both you then need to walk on for 10 minutes.

Note, however, that this is quite a steep climb, so consider this if you’re planning on going.

Again, while the Oskar Reinhart Collection is open most days (with extended hours into the evening on a Wednesday), it is closed on Mondays.

See more art in the Kunst Museum Winterthur

Art lovers will be pleased to know that as well as the two Oskar Reinhart museums, there is another art gallery where you can view some world class art.

The Kunst Museum Winterthur/ Beim Stadhuis complements the other museums in the city. It features a wide range of artistic styles – from impressionist art to more modern art.

Apparently, it houses the country’s fourth-largest collection of modern art. It is just a short walk from the Oskar Reinhart Museum.

The museum is open every day except Mondays.

Look out over the town 

The Rosengarten

If you fancy being outside in a peaceful environment with fabulous views of the city, then head to the Rosengarten (Rose Garden). This is not far from the city centre – although you’ll need to do a bit of climbing (a couple of slopes and steep steps) to the top of a hill.

Part of the Rosengarten in Winterthur
Part of the Rosengarten in Winterthur

The rose garden is small but has an array of different bushes and a small lawn in the middle. There are also benches where you can sit and look out across Winterthur. In one direction, you can see the spires of the church.

The view from the Rosengarten across the city
The view from the Rosengarten across the city


You can also enjoy great views over the city – and of the local vineyards below – from the Baumli terrace. It’s also possible to see over to the Alps from this vantage point.

Baumli is a little way out from Winterthur’s centre, but you can catch a bus there (the number 10 will take you most of the way, after which it’s a short walk to the viewpoint). And, as this is in the direction of Oberwinterthur, you could potentially stop off there en route to Technorama.

There is also a panoramic restaurant at Baumli where you can enjoy a meal in superb surroundings.

Other parks and gardens

Other parks that you can visit in the city include the Wildpark Bruderhaus, the Eulachpark, and Stadtgarten. A bit further out, there are also the three Walcheweiher park ponds, surrounded by trees and walking trails.

Because of the number of parks and green open spaces in the city, Winterthur is known as the ‘Garden City’.

Visit the meeting place of 20th-century artists

To view yet more art and design, there’s Villa Flora in Winterthur. This was built in the mid-19th century and then renovated in art nouveau style in the early 20th century.

It is the former home of art lovers Hedy and Arthur Hahnloser-Buhler, who bought up art and used the villa as a meeting place for artists.

On a visit to Villa Flora, you can go inside and explore the house and garden, and see the couple’s art collection. This includes work by artists such as Van Gogh, Matisse, Cezanne, and Bonnard.

Note that the villa is currently closed for renovation and expected to reopen in 2024.

Learn about Switzerland’s natural world

If natural history interests you, head to the Naturmusem Winterthur (it’s in the same building as the Kunst Museum, so you could visit both at the same time).

The museum focuses on Switzerland’s nature, with the permanent exhibition covering animals and plants in local habitats such as cities, gardens, and ponds. There are also exhibits that explore different historical and geological time periods.

The museum contains the Kerala Children’s Museum. This has displays, interactive exhibits and tasks that teach little ones about the natural world.

The museum is open every day except Mondays, from 10 am to 5 pm (with extended hours to 8 pm on Tuesday evenings).

Visit the Fotomuseum Winterthur 

For a small city, there are a lot of opportunities to see some art. However, if photography is something that you are particularly passionate about, then you’re also in luck.

The Fotomuseum Winterthur houses contemporary photography exhibitions. These cover fine art photography, documentary photography and international work. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions for visitors to view.

Zuerich.com describes it as the “Swiss Mecca of photography”.

Note that this museum of photography is currently closed for renovation work but will continue to host events and workshops during this time.

See the animals at the Wildpark Bruderhaus

The Wildpark Bruderhaus (which translates as ‘Brother’s Wild Park’) is one of Switzerland’s oldest wildlife parks. The first arrivals in the late 19th century were red deer and fallow deer, but the park is now home to 11 different species of animals. These include wild boars, wolves, lynx, bison, and horses.

The animal park is open all hours and is free to enter. However, if you want to take a guided tour, you’ll need to pay for this.  

There is a restaurant that offers an extensive menu if you want to stop off for a bite to eat. For children, there is a playground in the middle of the park.

The park is a great place to get some fresh air and see animals. However, this is not a zoo so it’s not possible to pet or feed any animals during your visit. You may be lucky though to watch staff feeding some of the animals at certain times.

The park is best reached via public transport using the line 12 bus. However, this bus service is seasonal (from the beginning of March until the end of October) and only runs on Wednesdays and at weekends. So, bear this in mind when planning your trip. You can also walk to the park or drive.

Visit Kyburg Castle

If you’re only in Winterthur for a short time, you’re probably going to focus on the main sights in the city centre. However, if you’re here longer, it would be worth taking a trip further out to Kyburg Castle (Schloss Kyburg).

The castle is about 3 km outside the centre overlooking the Toss River. It came into the ownership of Zurich city in the 15th century and contains a museum (the country’s oldest castle museum), that is housed in different parts of the building.

Kyburg Castle and the garden
Kyburg Castle

You can wander through various parts of the castle, including the courtrooms, dungeon, chapel, and armoury. There’s an exhibition about Kyburg’s rulers in the Knights’ Hall.

The exhibition also contains various everyday items you can see that depict life and work back in medieval times, as well as films that cover parts of the castle’s history, and its residents.

Interestingly, there’s also an exhibition on mosquitos and fleas!

The castle is open between the start of April and the end of October, as well as over the Easter public holidays. Opening hours are Tuesday to Sunday from 10 am to 5.30 pm.

Although there is an entrance fee, you can walk around the gardens and castle walls for free. There are great views from the walls.

Go to one of the city’s quirkier museums

As mentioned at the start of this post, Winterthur seems to have a disproportionately large number of museums for a relatively small place.

There are 17 in all, so it stands to reason that there will be some that cater for more niche interests and that offer visitors a different experience.

So, after you’ve done the main museums, you might want to go to one of these more niche – or quirky – ones. There are quite a few to choose from! They include:

  • The Gewerbermuseum: a museum that showcases “exhibitions at the interfaces of design, art and society”; its exhibitions cover subjects like the sustainability of photography, bike design, and the plastic bag.
  • The Clock Museum: the Uhrenmuseum Winterthur displays collections of watches, clocks, and antique timepieces that span the 15th century right up to the 20th century.
  • The Wrestling Museum: located above a restaurant, this is the country’s only museum dedicated to wrestling, with exhibits that showcase the sport and former wrestlers.
  • The AXA museum: as its name suggests, this museum covers the insurance company’s history in the city.

Visit the city during the International Short Film Festival

Every November, the city hosts what is said to be the county’s principal festival celebrating short films. There are screenings of short films from both Switzerland and elsewhere in the world, as well as concerts, talks, and parties.

In 2023, the Winterthur International Short Film Festival takes place between 7th and 12th November.

Get into the Christmas spirit at the city’s Christmas market

Like many Swiss cities, Winterthur hosts a Christmas market every year. This takes place in the old town, with wooden stalls selling various festive gifts, as well as food and drink to warm you up in the chilly weather.

It’s an ideal way to get into the Christmas spirit.

In 2023, the Winterthur Christmas market will be held between 23rd November and 22nd December.

Sail close to a waterfall at the Rhine Falls

The location of Winterthur in the north of Switzerland means it’s not far from the Rhine Falls.

At 23 metres high and 150 metres wide, this is Europe’s biggest waterfall. It’s estimated that during the summer months, it has a flow of around 600,000 litres of water per second. This reduces to 250,000 litres per second in the winter months.

The Rhine Falls
The Rhine Falls, not far from Winterthur

It’s a popular destination for visitors, and having recently visited, I can see why.  

On a day trip to the falls, you can take a boat ride, climb a rock in the middle of the waterfall, wander along a panoramic trail, and stop off for lunch with the sounds of the crashing water in your ears. 

I went on a boat ride into the waterfall, and it was amazing. Climbing the rock was a really unique experience, with panoramic views of the waterfall in all directions.

You can check out some of the boat trips you can take here.

If you visit, you can also navigate the largest rope course in the country, see some immersive art, and explore the museum in the small castle overlooking the waterfall.

It’s easy to get to the Rhine Falls from Winterthur. You can go directly from the train station to Schloss Laufen Am Rheinfall station in around 30 minutes.

Or you can book organised tours to the Rhine Falls here.

See my recent post for things to do on a day trip to the Rhine Falls and practical information to help you plan your day.

Visit Switzerland’s largest city, Zurich

Unlike lots of other Swiss cities, Winterthur is not a lakeside town. However, there are plenty of places to visit nearby if you want to go on a lake cruise.

One such place is Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city. If you haven’t been, I’d recommend you do – it’s one of my favourite places.

There’s a magical old town that runs down both sides of the River Limmat. This flows through the centre of the city and up to Lake Zurich. You can catch boats that sail along the river and then lake cruises that will take you to other nearby towns.

Along the river is the impressive town hall (Rathaus). Zurich’s famous twin-spired Grossmunster church (climb to the top of this for great views out across the city) is not far away.

You can also pop into the Fraumunster church which is opposite and admire its tall green spire and eye-catching stained-glass windows. 

The Fraumunster Church in Zurich across the other side of the bridge over the river
The Fraumunster Church

In addition, there’s a fantastic public park with great views of the lake; nestling inside this is a small Chinese Garden with temples and a lake.

The city also has many fabulous museums, including the Fifa World Cup Museum, the Lindt Chocolate Museum, several art museums, and a tram museum.

And then, when you’re tired from all this sightseeing, you can chill out in a rooftop thermal spa bath in a former brewery.

Things to do in Winterthur

Winterthur is a perfect destination from which to see other places that are nearby, or further afield in Switzerland.

If you are planning trips to other Swiss destinations, I have posts that may also interest you. 

My other posts on Switzerland include information on:

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