Zürich has an abundance of awesome places to see and amazing things to do for kids and their parents all year round. The cold days and nights of winter are no exception.
Being Switzerland’s largest city and metropolitan area, Zürich never runs out of delightful surprises for the young and the young at heart. Month in, month out, it offers a chock full of unforgettable experiences not only for children but for entire families, too.
If you’ve got kids and are looking for fun things for them to do in and around the city from December to February, here are 9 of the best winter activities in Zürich that your little ones will surely enjoy:
#1- Having a magical ride with Santa on the Märlitram
Kids may not be too big on winter per se, but they do love the holiday cheer and Christmas spirit that comes at the start of the season. In Zürich, a great way to give them joy at this time of year is to have them hop on the Märlitram and hobnob with Santa Claus (“Samichlaus” to the Swiss).
The Märlitram is a streetcar decked for the holidays. Santa himself drives the tram through a good part of the city. During the downtown journey, angels sing Christmas carols and tell Yuletide stories in the German language. At the end of the mini-excursion, these celestial beings bid their little passengers farewell with a Tirggel.
The festive tram welcomes four- to ten-year-olds. Too bad, no parents are allowed on board. Rides happen every day until Christmas Eve (24 December), from afternoon until evening. Each trip begins in Bellevue and lasts 20 minutes. You may buy tickets at the Jelmoli department store, which operates the Märlitram.
#2- Climbing Regensberg Castle’s fairytale-like round tower
Like Christmas, fairytales know how to knock children’s socks off.
This is why Regensberg Castle in greater Zürich is well-visited by kids and their parents: Its round tower allows visitors to picture Rapunzel letting down her golden hair. Or Sleeping Beauty falling asleep in a tower room and being forgotten by her family. Or Rumpelstiltskin finding Mistress Miller locked in a tower room filled with straw, which the king had ordered her to spin into gold.
Regensberg Castle (“Schloss Regensberg” in Swiss German) is nestled on a hill about half an hour’s northward drive from downtown Zürich. It boasts a mystical medieval feel and has a commanding view of the Glatt Valley. The castle grounds are open to the public, free of charge, although entry into the tower requires a minimal admission fee.
#3- Marveling at Altstadt’s storybook scenery
If you and your kids need to stay in the city proper but want a storybook adventure anyway, go to District 1 (or, officially, Kreis 1) where the Altstadt sits.
Die Altstadt (“the old town” in German) contains the historical city of Zürich. It has rows of fascinating buildings from the Middle Ages that come right out of a storybook. Some of the most prominent structures are the church towers of St. Peter and Fraümunster that are best viewed from across the river Limmat in the blue hour of twilight.
On winter nights, the streets of Altstadt are enchanting, what with a seemingly never-ending shower of fairy lights. It doesn’t cost anything to soak up the spectacular sights and the merry ambiance.
#4- Joining the Landesmuseum’s Illuminarium festivities
Your family shouldn’t miss Illuminarium, the so-dubbed Christmas Magic Music Festival of Lights. The show is a tradition of the Landesmuseum (or the Swiss National Museum) taking place on winter evenings, from Advent until the final days of the year.
A feast for the senses, Illuminarium provides a whimsical winter wonderland of illumination, illusion, and interactivity. The fantasy world features glowing cotton candy, magical storytelling, concerts by mythical characters, and incredible experiences such as diving into the sky.
It’s free to enter the festival and savor culinary delights in the courtyard. However, there’s an admission fee for the main events.
#5- Solving animal puzzles at the Zoological and Paleontological Museum
It’s perfectly all right if your family can’t make it to museum evening shows. The city is, after all, replete with opportunities for daytime adventure, some of which are being offered by the University of Zürich’s Zoological and Paleontological Museum.
The museum prides itself on an impressive collection of fossils, as well as exhibitions of marine and land animals that existed as far back as hundreds of millions of years ago. It has huge animal puzzles for kids to solve, plus a sandbox designed to bring out the archeologist in them.
The University of Zürich’s Zoological and Paleontological Museum is a wheelchair-accessible facility. Its regular opening times are Tuesdays through Thursdays, and it doesn’t charge any entrance fees.
#6- Meeting and greeting birds from the shores of Zürichsee
When your kids want relaxing yet refreshing outdoor experiences in the mornings or afternoons of wintertime, take them to the shores of Zürichsee—the magnificent, pristine Lake Zürich. Here, they can go birdwatching, channel their inner ornithologist, and meet and greet the winged species that are native to the place or are just visiting for the season.
You may also want to take your children to the Voliere Zürich, an aviary and sanatory for common and exotic birds. A part of the Arboretum Zürich in Kreis 2, admission is free.
#7- Exploring nature at the Arboretum and running freely on its grounds
Speaking of the Arboretum Zürich, your family will absolutely enjoy a pleasant, peaceful day at this public park and botanical garden set amid the green splendor and Alpine panorama. You and your little ones can breathe in all the fresh air you want and need, and then run freely on its grass-carpeted grounds.
As its name suggests, the Arboretum has a remarkable collection of trees, along with rocks. It also prides itself on a lido, not to mention a lakeshore sauna that runs in the winter season.
A highly important asset of the country, the Arboretum is a Class A object in the Swiss Inventory of Cultural Property of National and Regional Significance. It’s open 24/7 even in the cold months.
#8- Touring the Lindt Home of Chocolate
Kids are synonymous with candy. So, what better way to please them on a cold winter day than to take them on a tour of the Lindt Home of Chocolate?
A museum, shop, and café rolled into one, the Lindt Home of Chocolate showcases chocolates, chocolates, and more chocolates. It features one of the world’s best-loved brands of edible treasures made from cacao: Lindt, founded in Zürich in 1845.
Located in Kilchberg, about half an hour away from the city center, this wonderful place hosts Planet Earth’s largest chocolate fountain, where close to 400 gallons (1,500 liters) of luscious chocolate flow from a super-sized whisk.
The Lindt Home of Chocolate accommodates visitors daily, except during maintenance and on special occasions. In winter, it has special opening times on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve but is closed on Christmas Day (25th of December) and New Year’s Day (1st of January). Admission is free for children 7 years old and below.
#9- Drinking Heisse Schoggi
Being a chocolate paradise, Zürich should be celebrated appropriately with Heisse Schoggi, otherwise known as Heiße Schokolade or, well, hot chocolate.
A cool way to warm the body, mind, heart, and soul of the young and the young at heart, Heisse Schoggi is available at cafés across town. But if you want your kids to experience making some and then relishing the fruits of their labor, have them whip up their own right in the comforts of home (or accommodation, if there’s a kitchen at your disposal).
For Heisse Schoggi recipes, ask around or look for authentic ones on the Internet, then buy the finest chocolate from confiseries in the city.
Whatever Zürich winter activities you choose for your kids, remember to help them understand what they’re seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and feeling. It’s the learning and bonding moments that make family outings truly memorable. Too, never forget to keep an eye on them and stay safe at all times.