Zürich is a wonderful city to visit whatever the season, but it takes on a special shine in spring and summer when cafe life spills onto the streets and the city’s lake and rivers become bathing spots.
Accommodation prices tend to be a bit lower in fall, a time when the parks and surrounding mountains are painted with warm autumnal colors. So whether you’re in search of winter sports, some festival fun or a quick culture hit on a budget, these are the best times to visit Zürich.
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June to August is the best time for festivals and for outdoor activities
Although it’s among the most expensive times to visit, Zürich in summer is hard to resist. In early June, ZürichArt Weekend turns the spotlight on the city’s vibrant contemporary art scene. The same month live opera is broadcast for free from the Opernhaus onto a big screen on Sechseläutenplatz, while Zürich’s LGBTQI+ community and supporters fly the rainbow flag to celebrate Pride.
As the mercury continues to rise in July, make a splash at one of the city’s many official swimming areas known as badis (usually wooden piers with pavilions). Search out the shade by exploring countryside ravines near the city – a great hike is along the Elefantenbachweg, which starts at the Burgwies tram stop. July is also perfect for a picnic in a park such as lakeside Zürichhorn, or an alfresco meal at cafes such as Berg 8044 and Kafi Paradiesli.
If you’re visiting Zürich in July 2023, you’re lucky as this is the year for the Züri Fäscht. Known as the ‘festival of festivals,’ this weekend-long celebration only happens every four years and includes food stalls, music and spectacular firework displays.
Happening annually in early August is the Street Parade, one of Europe’s largest and wildest street parties with a strong techno beat. Meanwhile, August rounds out with the Dörflifäscht street party which takes over the historical Niederdorf quarter.
There’s snow time like Christmas in Zürich © Stefania Besca © / Getty Images
December to February is the best time for Christmas shopping, a spa or winter sports
Temperatures may be plummeting and the snow falling, but there’s plenty to enjoy in Zürich as the old year winds down and a new one begins. Browse the 120 stalls set-up in the main train station for the annual Christkindlmarkt (Christmas market). Wander along festively lit old town streets, then defrost over a comforting mug of heisse schoggi (hot chocolate) in delightful cafes such as Café Sprüngli.
There are few experiences more blissful than spending an indulgent winter’s day relaxing in the soothing waters of Thermalbad & Spa Zürich – plus its rooftop outdoor bath provides a spectacular view of the city. You’ll also be cozy surrounded by lush tropical foliage in the Masoala Rainforest of Zürich Zoo, where you can hang out with geckos, lemurs, and parakeets.
For skiers and snowboarders, Atzmännig, an easy day trip from Zürich, is an ideal resort area for families and beginners. If it’s ice skating or curling you prefer, then ride the Dolderbahn train into the city’s hills to an open-air rink, built in the 1930s that’s one of the largest of its kind in Europe.
February features the traditional festival of Fasnacht (Carnival). During the three-day Züri Carneval a heated marquee provides the venue for brass bands playing loudly and intentionally out of tune.
Zürich is bloom is a wonderful, calming time of year © Angelika Hirt / EyeEm
March to May is the best for budget travelers and nature lovers
Get the most bang for your buck by visiting Zürich in March. The added bonus is that this is when the city is transformed by beautiful budding trees and shrubs. Ornamental cherry and plum trees blossom along city streets such as Zurlindenstrasse and Zentralstrasse, while in Platzspitz Park the magnolia is particularly impressive.
Winter’s end is marked in April by Sechseläuten. The climax of this traditional spring festival is when the Böögg, a giant fireworks-filled effigy of a snowman, is ignited; locals believe the faster his head explodes the better the weather will be for the coming summer.
Towards the end of the month, both pro and amateur runners converge on Zürich for the city’s annual Marathon. Whether you gain a place in that race or not you can follow the Green Marathon. Starting and ending at the Hauptbahnhof, this signposted 42km-long (26 miles) trail does a massive loop of Zürich and its surroundings, letting you train for a marathon year-round.
May’s mild temperatures also make this a particularly good time to enjoy more outdoor sports, such as hiking and mountain biking. Cycle Week, held at Zurich’s Main Station, includes expert talks, live music and food stands as well as all the latest cycling gear and tech.
Although you’ll want to duck indoors, Zürich in late-fall is ripe for exploration too © Shutterstock / Maythee Voran
September and October and best for foodies, hikers and culture
Get the most out of even a brief visit to Zürich in September when the city’s cultural institutions extend their opening hours until 2am for the Long Night of the Museums.
September is also the month to celebrate all things gourmet at the Food Zürich. The themes of the 2023 festival are organized around what our culinary future might look like with a focus on plant-based cuisine and reducing food waste.
From the end of September into early October the Zürich Film Festival premiers around 160 movies across town, while in mid-October there’s a chance to experience cutting-edge visuals at the digital arts fest DA Z.
This is also the time of year to join locals as they soak up all the autumnal colors on a hike along the ridge of 871m (2857ft) Uetliberg, the mountain on Zürich’s doorstep, ablaze with russets and golds in autumn.