The fifth-largest lake in Switzerland, Lake Zurich is the focal point of much of the leisure and recreational activities of Zurich. The city sits at the northwest end of the long, narrow, arc-shaped lake. On both sides of the lakeshore close to the city, there are seasonal restaurants, bathing facilities, beaches, and watercraft rentals—enough to keep any outdoors enthusiast entertained and active.
Zurichers, like most people who live near lakes in Switzerland, seem to seek out every opportunity to be in and on the water, so when you visit Zurich, especially in warm weather, make like a local and spend some time enjoying its beautiful lake. Here are some of the top things to do in and around Lake Zurich.
Stroll, Bike or Scoot Along the Lakeside Promenade
The easiest and most immediate way to take in the beauty of Lake Zurich is along the lakeside promenade, which runs for several kilometers along both sides of the lake and connects several lakefront parks. There are lanes for walkers, bikers, inline skaters, and those on electric scooters (the latter of which are everywhere in Zurich). A pleasant stroll will take you past parks, bathing facilities and beaches, and to lakeside restaurants and bars. The Bürkliplatz, right at the bottom of Bahnhofstrasse, is the midpoint of the promenade.
Take a Boat Ride
At any time of year, a sightseeing boat ride on Lake Zurich is a way to get acquainted with another side of the city and appreciate the lake without getting wet—and it’s one of our top things to do in Zurich. Lake Zurich Navigation Company operates a large fleet of sightseeing vessels, including motorboats and steam-powered ships, which also serve as commuter vessels for people who work in Zurich but live in its bedroom communities along the lake. During warmer months, sailings are more frequent and varied and include themed cruises. Zurich Card holders ride for free on certain sailings.
Swim in the Lake
If you visit Zurich in the summertime, you’ll notice that everyone is in the lake! Zurichers take to lake swimming at the first hint of warm weather, often when the water is still quite brisk. There are bathing facilities all along the lakeshore, which allow you to swim either in an enclosed “pool” area filled with lake water or just dive right into the open lake. You can also wade in just about anywhere along the lake, as long as there aren’t posted signs telling you otherwise. Lake Zurich, like all of Switzerland’s lakes and rivers, is crystal clear and clean.
Drink and Dine at a Lakeside Bar
In warm weather months, lakeside bars and restaurants open up around Lake Zurich and are an essential part of socializing for Zurichers. Most are very casual, to the point you can jump in the lake and take a dip between courses. In Seefeld, on the eastern shore, Lake Side is a seasonal favorite. The Pumpstation is a casual spot close to the opera house. In the evenings, many bathing facilities convert to lively open-air bars.
See the Lake from a Stand-up Paddleboard
Glide across the smooth surface of Lake Zurich on a stand-up paddleboard—which can be rented from SUPSWISS and other vendors along the lakefront. SUPSWISS offers lessons and tours, including daytime and moonlight city tours via SUP. If you’ve never used a SUP before, we suggest taking your tour on a sunny day when the water is warm—just in case you fall in.
Hit a Lakeside Beach
Another delightful summer pastime in Zurich, lakeside beaches spring up all along Lake Zurich. Most are grassy lawns with small sandy beaches and swimming areas. Many have piers, boat rentals, picnic facilities, and snack bars or simple restaurants, as well as lakeside or inland pools. There’s a day-use fee that usually includes lockers and changing facilities.
Ride a Bike Around the Lake
Dozens of biking trails starting in Zurich explore the towns and natural areas on both sides of the lake. Trails may offer easy riding along the level lakefront, or lung-busting climbs which are rewarded by stupendous lake and mountain views. Zurich Tourism offers suggestions for short jaunts and longer trips, as well as information on bike and e-bike rentals.
Rent a Boat
Setting out on your own is a carefree and adventurous way to see the lake. The Lago boathouse rents small motorboats for which no boating license is required, as well as non-motorized boats like pedalos. If you want to let someone else do the navigating, they also offer charter services on skippered sailboats.
Visit the Monastery Island of Ufenau
From April to November, Lake Zurich Navigation Company runs boats to the monastery island of Ufenau, site of the 12th-century St. Peter and Paul Church and St. Martin’s Chapel. The island is a nature reserve and no swimming is allowed, but it’s a pleasant place to spend a half-day or so. There’s also a cozy restaurant on the island.
Warm up in a Sauna
When temperatures cool off, that doesn’t mean fun on Lake Zurich has to end. At the Enge swimming area on the western shore of the lake, a wintertime sauna opens up allowing guests to work up a sweat indoors while gazing through windows out onto the lake. The brave can even take a quick dip in the frigid lake waters—allegedly good for blood pressure and circulation after a sauna session. There’s a women’s only sauna and a mixed sauna—all are for adults only.
Ice Skate With a View
The cold weather need not stop you from enjoying lake views. While ice skating rinks pop up all over Zurich in the wintertime, only a couple of them are right on Lake Zurich. The open-air rink at the Romantik Seehotel Sonne offers day and evening skating, skate rentals, and a snack bar from November to January. Set close to the opera house, the Wienachtsdorf Christmas market is open in November and December and has a skating rink near the lakeside promenade.
Get Out of Town on a Day Trip
Several day trips from Zurich explore quaint towns and recreational areas along Lake Zurich. Check our list of day trips from Zurich for more ideas on how to spend a day on or near the water.