How to experience Switzerland’s Zurich without leaving your home

A picture of Zurich's Limmay river with the Grossmunster church

By Emma Marshall

People who know me know I love Zurich.  It’s one of my favourite cities (and  favourite countries). 

As the largest city in Switzerland, it has so much to see and do: a chocolate box old town, a crystal clear river that runs through the historic centre and a glacial lake from which you can see the surrounding mountains. You can also swim in both the river and lake!

The limmat river with part of the old town in the background
The river with parts of the old town in the background, including the Fraumunster church
Some of the buildings in one part of Zurich's old town - they are pastel colours (yellow, blue and pink).  There is a wide open square in front of them.
A view of a shallow part of Lake Zurich with people swimming.  There are boats moored in the water.

For me, it has pretty much everything. The only drawback is that’s it’s a pretty expensive place once you are there. 

I love Zurich so much that if I have the time and money I try to visit at least once a year. 

This year, with coronavirus, things are different.  I obviously don’t know if it will be possible to return and if not, when in 2021 regular international travel may open up again. 

So, like many people, I’m having to be a bit creative. That means trying to get my fix of Zurich in a different way. 

These are top ways I’m finding to experience Switzerland’s Zurich without leaving my sofa.

This post contains affiliate links.

Explore the city by webcam

The website offers you four webcams from which you can explore the city.  My favourite is the one that looks down over the old town, probably because this is the area I tend to spend most time in when I visit. 

You can clearly see the river with boats moored on it, as well as one of the lidos where you can take a dip and swim in the river. 

You can also see a couple of the best known churches in Zurich: the Grossmunster church with its twin towers and the Fraumunster church with its bright green steeple. 

These are on opposite sides of the river but you can’t fail to miss them if you ever visit the city.  In one part you can also see up to the lake. 

The Limmat river with the Grossmunster church in the background.  The light is fading on the buildings.
The Limmat river with the Fraumunster church.  The steeple of this church is green.

You can also log into the Zurich West webcam which will give you a different view of the river and lake. There’s also the Sechselautenplatz camera where you get a close up view of the Opera House in one part of the tour.

For scenes outside the city centre, check out the Uetliberg webcam.  This gives you a view over part of Lake Zurich from a nearby mountain. Other angles show you some of the gorgeous alpine landscape.

Get a taster of some of the city’s museums

Unlike many of the bigger cities around the world, the museums in Zurich don’t seem to be offering virtual tours (at least when I last looked).

However, this doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities to get an insight into some of them. 

The Fifa World Football Museum

The Fifa World Football Museum has a series of short videos that take you around all of its floors.  You can see all the displays, including the more interactive ones.

It’ll give you a sense of whether you may want to visit in person when travel restrictions are lifted.

The museum’s website also has a great blog that contains detailed stories about the World Cup.  Interestingly, a recent one covers the 1920 World Cup, held in the wake of the Spanish Flu pandemic. 

The blogs sometimes link to YouTube videos where you can watch entire matches if this is something you’d like to do.  You can currently link to several World Cup matches from across the years, as well as the 2003 Women’s Final.

I have to admit that this museum has never been on my list of priorities when I’m in Zurich.   But having delved into the website, the museum looks so good that I’m definitely going to check it out next time.

The Swiss National Museum

There’s also the Swiss National Museum (the Landesmueum Zurich). This houses a range of historical and cultural art works and artifacts spanning different centuries. 

The outside of the Swiss National Museum. It has a tower on the left and there are trees around it.

Although not currently open, it has an online collection that you can click into on its website.  This states that you can “browse the 14 collection areas…learn more about your chosen objects, and download images directly”.

Indulge yourself with some Sprungli chocolate

If stopping off for tea/coffee and cake is something you like doing when you’re travelling, the chances are you’ll love the Confiserie Sprungli on Paradeplatz on Bahnhofstrasse.  Here you can browse through its extensive menu of mouthwatering cakes and snacks and choose one or two of your fancy.

The cake I chose in the Confiserie Sprungli.  It is a small round gateaux with raspberries on the top and nuts around the side.

If you don’t have time to stop off and stay for a bit, or want to take a souvenir home, they have a fabulous shop full of delicious chocolates on the ground floor next to the café. 

If you’d like to tuck into some Sprungli chocolate from home, and you live in Switzerland or Liechtenstein, they do have a delivery service (it is free if you spend over 60 CHF).  

For other destinations, check out their online shop and the information on international shipping.

Try out some swiss food at home

I always have to order rosti when I’m eating out in Zurich.  My partner always likes to try out the different  Swiss sausages. 

We therefore try to fit in a visit to Zeughauskeller, a cheerful beer keller in the centre of the city.  This serves our favourite Swiss food and has a generous selection of sausage dishes to choose from.

The outside of the Zeughauskeller restaurant.  It has bright yellow signage and a Swiss flag flying outside.
My partner eating at an outside table at the Zeughauskeller restaurant.  He had 2 large sausages with potato salad in a gravy.  He has a beer on the side and a small plate of pickles.

Beforehand we pop around the corner for a glass of wine. If you’re lucky, you can sit outside on the outside terrace of the Hotel Storchen and look out over the river to the Grossmunster.

A side view of the Storchen hotel in Zurich.  There is a stork above a balcony on the outside.  Some bikes are tied to a railing on the side of the river.  The Grossmunster church is across on the other side of the river.
The Limmat river with the Hotel Storchen.

On our last visit, we were also lucky enough to be introduced by a friend to Haus Hiltl. 

The outside of the Haus Hiltl vegetarian restaurant in Zurich

The oldest vegetarian restaurant in the world, this does an amazing Sunday buffet brunch. 

The choice on offer is extensive to say the least: an impressive and eclectic mix of traditional Swiss dishes and more modern gastronomic inventions, as well as local and international flavours. See my post for further information.

Some of the food on offer in the buffet in Haus Hiltl

If you visit Zurich, I’d recommended this restaurant, which is located about a 10 minute walk from the city’s main train station. 

Swiss cookery books

Obviously, it’s not possible to visit the restaurant at the moment.  But they do have a cookbook that you can buy online. This will whet your appetite for a time when you might be able to visit.

There are also other cookery books that will inspire you to recreate some Swiss dishes from your kitchen at home. 

Helvetic Kitchen: Swiss Cooking recreates dishes that the author remembers from her childhood, some of which was spent in the capital, Bern. 

Amongst the recipes you’ll find here are rosti, St. Gallen Klostertorte (a chocolate tart), cheese fondue and raclette (both involving melted cheese), and spitzbuben (jam biscuits).

The Helvetic Kitchen also has a website where you can find recipes as well as the history of some of the dishes. 

A selection of recipes (e.g. a traditional rosti) look remarkably easy so you shouldn’t be put off if you’re not a culinary expert.

Plan a future trip

Last, but certainly not least, one way I can get my Zurich fix is by planning my next trip there. 

I want to walk down the Limmat river again (we have a tradition of dipping our toes in the water here).

My partner's feet over the river in Zurich after we'd dipped them in!  The Fraumunster church is in the background

I want to catch a boat up to Zurichhorn Park and wander around the small, but beautiful, Chinese garden. 

A boat sailing up the Limmat river in Zurich
A small colourful Chinese temples on a river in the Chinese Park in Zurich.  It has a yellow roof.  There is a small bridge to the right with trees in the background

I also want to visit the Thermalbad spa again and look out over the city from their thermal rooftop spa.

The rooftop pool at Zurich's Thermalbad and Spa
Image courtesy of the Thermalbad and Spa

Most of all, I want to explore some of things that I’ve not yet had the chance to do. 

I haven’t been to the Museum of Art.  And I haven’t yet been to the Frauenbad lido, housed in a beautiful 19th century building on the river.

This is a womens’s only lido, but on three nights a week men can visit the “barefoot bar” here. 

The Fraunbad lido on the river.  There is an outside terrace with red umbrellas.  Boots are moored on the river.  The Grossmunster church is in the background.

And there are a number of day trips from Zurich that I really want to do. I’ve been to Rapperswil and Lucerne, as well as Vaduz in nearby Liechtenstein.

The Chapel Bridge in Lucerne. This is a side view and there are swans swimming by the side of it.
The Chapel Bridge in Lucerne
A picture of the Red House in Liectenstein's Vaduz.  This sits underneath mountains and with alpine vegetation to the side
The Red House in Liechtenstein’s Vaduz

But I’ve had a trip to Schaffhausen, with the nearby Rhine Falls waterfall, Europe’s largest waterfall, on my list for a long time.

If Switzerland is somewhere  you’d like to explore, then check out my previous post on 5 reasons why Switzerland is a perfect place for a short break. 

You can also experience amazing alpine scenery by booking some of the world-famous train trips.  These include a trip up the Jungfraujoch to a glacier in the Bernese Alps. 

You can also ride the Bernina Express, a 122 km train journey through some of Switzerland’s most breath-taking and picturesque scenery. See my post for our experience on this.

The Bernina Express train riding through the alpine scenery.  There are mountains in the background.
The Bernina Express train

Go to my website for more ideas to inspire you to plan for your next trip away; I hope that is soon as possible.

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One Comment

  1. Ich vermisse zurich dass ist meine liebe start ganze welt my liebe zurich HB und stadelhofen burkli platz wollishofen thalwil doner kebab migros flughafen etc

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