Fed by clear glacial waters that flow down the Swiss Alps, the crescent-shaped Lake Zurich (Zurichsee) forms the scenic backdrop to Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city, which spreads along the western tip of the lake. Measuring 25 miles (40 kilometers) in length and 1.9 miles (3 kilometers) in width, this alpine lake offers an easily accessible escape to nature for those based in the city, with plenty of swimming spots, hiking routes, tranquil islands, and picturesque mountain scenery.
Most everyone who visits Zurich will come across the lake at some point. Perhaps the best way to fully appreciate Lake Zurich’s scenic beauty is on a boat tour; options range from leisurely sightseeing cruises to high-adrenaline watersports excursions. Some city tours incorporate a boat trip across the lake, as well as a ride on the Felsenegg cable car, which leads to a 2,624-foot (800-meter) viewpoint overlooking the lake. If you’d rather stay on solid ground, land-based tours from Zurich often combine stops at lake-edge villages, such as the medieval old town of Rapperswil, with trips to storybook mountain towns like Appenzell, or even Vaduz in the neighboring microstate of Liechtenstein.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Bring a swimsuit to try out the lake’s swimming spots (May through October).
- Water-based excursions range in duration, from short round-trip outings to leisurely half-day cruises.
- The Felsenegg cable car is wheelchair accessible. Private sightseeing tours can be customized to meet the needs of wheelchair users.
How to Get There
Lake Zurich is easily accessible by public transportation. To get to Zurich’s Lake Promenade park, take the tram (5, 6, 7, 8, or 13), train (S, S8, S24, or SN8), or bus (161 or 165) to Zurich Wollishofen station, then walk the short distance to the waterfront. Alternatively ride the tram to Burkliplatz (2, 5, 8, 9, and 11) at the end of Bahnhofstrasse, or Bellevue (2, 5, and 9), which brings you to the edge of Lake Zurich where the Limmat river begins.
When to Get There
The best season at Lake Zurich is summer, when warmer temperatures make boating, swimming, and sunbathing feasible. Boats do not run during the winter months (mid-October to early April), though you’ll find ice-skating rinks at the lake’s edge during this time.
What to See and Do on Lake Zurich
Among the most popular spots to visit on the lake is Rapperswil, a small town famed for its medieval old center and its public gardens, where a bounty of roses blossom. For the sweet-toothed, there is the Lindt & Sprungli chocolate factory in Kilchberg on the southern lake edge, not far from Zurich, while the sunny stretch along the northeast—known as the Gold Coast (Goldkueste) is dotted with lakeside mansions owned by Europe’s elite.