The 10 best places around Lake Zurich are places that will delight young and old.
Text and photos by Marc Gottwald
Beautiful Lake Zurich
Lake Zurich is the 5th largest lake in Switzerland situated in the southeast of the Zurich city . If you google you will find search requests like “Lake in Zurich”. But it is much more than just the “lake in Zurich”. Three cantons are located at the Swiss lake: Zurich, Schwyz, and St. Gallen.
The lake region is among the most populated in the country. This makes the city and the region to be appealing and full of culture. In the past, “Zurich Lake” was used as a means of transport. Today, it is a famous spot for various activities. Here are my top ten places to visit around the lake.
1. Rapperswil – the city at Lake Zurich
Rapperswil is a city found in the canton of St Gallen and is situated on the east side of the “Zurich Lake”. It merged with Jonah. The medieval town has several attraction sites. Visit the Rose Garden between June and October to see over 15,000 plants from 600 different species. Besides that, there is St Johns’s church was built in 1253 and rebuilt in 1882.
The city has a castle built in 1220, and it is the house of the Polish national museum. It also has a harbor where boats from “Zurich Switzerland” are coming. But you can also rent a boat there and enjoy a beautiful boat trip on the lake. Across the lake, you will see a reconstructed wood bridge which has a length of almost 1 kilometer. This means that it is by far the largest wood bridge in Switzerland. This is my absolute favorite as you can enjoy a huge panorama on the Swiss Alps, the Etzel, Bachtel and of course over the Lake Zurich. There are also some benches where you can sit down or read a book. The walk on the wood bridge is also a perfect trip with the family.
Juckerhof – the perfect excursion in Rapperswil
Do not leave the area of Rapperswil without visiting the farm “Juckerhof” near the “Zurich Lake”. It is an experience farm made with so much love and very popular among the locals. You can eat in the farm restaurant with a huge buffet, do your shopping in the farm shop with locally produced goods like vegetables, fruits, meat and much more. You even can visit their fruit plantations or their animal park for the kids.
Lastly, Rapperswil has many restaurants with a wide range of cuisines which cook Swiss, Indian, Spanish, Chinese, Thai, and Italian food. The city is compact and the different destinations can be accessed easily by foot, bicycle, or public buses. And it is very easy to reach in just 30 minutes from “Zurich Switzerland”.
2. Arboretum Zurich – swim in Lake Zurich
The arboretum is a public botanical garden in “Zurich Switzerland”. The park is found on the west side of Zurich Lake. Furthermore, it is close to the main areas of the city like the Bahnhofstrasse and Bürklipatz.
It was inaugurated in 1887 and made part of Lake Zurich embankments. The beautiful park is well maintained since 1985 and ranked as the first historic park in Zurich. You can go to the botanical garden and look at the plants, trees, and a collection of rocks. This makes it great for a picnic and relaxing under the trees. People often use the place to sunbathe during summer and swim in the “Lake in Zurich” or to relax and hang out with friends. The great thing is when it’s getting really hot in summer, the trees are spending shadow. That is why I regularly use this park to spend my free time in Zurich.
There is a spot at the lakeside where you can see the peaks of the alpine panorama. However, it can only be identified well during clear days. This spot is especially fascinating when the weather turns on a hot summer day and a thunderstorm is coming. I love to observe those weather changes especially at this place with the great view.
I am convinced you could spend hours here on the lakeshore. By the way, drinks and snacks can also be bought to make your stay even more unique.
3. Au peninsula
Peninsula Au is a hotel and restaurant in Au next to Wädenswil at the “Zurich Lake”. It is a quiet place on a peninsula with a beautiful view of the whole lake and the Swiss Alps. The area is surrounded by a garden and vineyard which is the perfect place to relax. But you can also go cycling or go for a walk in the vineyards. Moreover, there is a wide selection of cuisines, including freshwater fish, fresh vegetables, coffee types, and kid meals in the restaurant of the “Peninsula Au”.
Hotel staffs speak many languages, including German and English. Also, the property is found at an excellent location to stay during your visit. Rooms are well furnished, clean, and comfortable with free Wi-Fi. People who use wheelchairs can access the place and the rooms as well. Opening hours and closing hours are from Monday to Saturday 7.00 am to 23.00 and Sunday from 8.00 am to 22.00.
Perfect place to slow down
The peninsula Au is a beautiful recreational area near “Zurich Switzerland”. Thanks to the many paths, you can explore the island perfectly. My favorite is the walk to the castle. The many beautiful plants, the imposing building and the view on Lake Zurich make it a place to relax. With a little luck, you’ll even see wild squirrels, which are becoming increasingly rare in Switzerland.
For me the “Peninsula Au” is definitely a highlight on the Zurich lake.
4. Ufenau Island – in the middle of Lake Zurich
“ Insel Ufenau ” is an island situated at “Lake Zurich Switzerland”. It is in the middle of Freienbach and Rapperswil. The island is ranked as the largest in the lake region with 11ha of land. The owner is the Monastery of Einsiedeln. Additionally, Ufenau is home to flora and fauna.
Even though swimming is not allowed, there are many activities to carry out. This lovely place has beautiful views on the Zurich lake. You can come with friends and families to take pictures. Religion on the island is strong with medieval churches as the owner is still the Monastery of Einsiedeln. During a tour, you will see St Martin’s Chapel, St Paul, and St Peter parish church. Here you will learn history from the 2nd and 3rd centuries. But you can also observe the beautiful wildlife and vegetation on the large piece of land or enjoy eating delicacies in the restaurant. To reach the area, take a boat from Rapperswil between April and October. Please ensure to check the boat crossing timetable.
5. Panoramic lake walk from Wädenswil to Richterswil
Wädenswil and Richsterswil are municipalities found in Horgen district, canton of Zurich in Switzerland. Shores of Zurich lake leads among others from Wädenswil to Richterswil, an area which I can highly recommend you. Visitors are allowed to use the modern wooden lake walkways to walk across the water. On the way, there are wooden benches to relax, a wooden tower for viewing, and bathing areas. Plus, clean toilet facilities and playground. The place can be accessed by stroller or wheelchair.
In summer you can see some people taking a swim in the Lake Zurich. For me, it is one of the most beautiful places that can be reached quickly from Zurich main station.
Bachtel is a mountain found in the Canton of Zurich and situated between Hinwil and Wald. It has an elevation of 1,115m makes it one of the highest mountains in the area of “Zurich Switzerland”. The summit has a tall radio tower (60 meters) called the Bachtel tower, built-in 1986. In 1873, the first wooden tower was built in Bachtel. However, it was destroyed by a storm in 1893. In 1883, the wood got replaced by steel lattice. Going up to this tower is a highlight, as the view you will have over the Swiss Alps, alpine foothills, the Lake Zurich and the whole region will be very impressive. Especially on clear days you have a wide view up to the Black Forest in Germany.
Compared to the Üetliberg, there are no entry fees applied to enter the tower.
Refreshments and food for the hungry and thirsty people are available at Bachtel Kulm restaurant. A perfect stop when hiking or biking. The Bachtel can be reached as well by car, the parking spaces are limited.
Alpenbad is a beautiful family run wellness over the “Lake Zurich” and can be found at “Schulhaus Unterbach”. It is situated at a distance of 1km from the Bachtel mountain and is a huge insider tip I highly recommend you. It’s a totally different experience from what you know so far around the “Zurich Lake”.
Everyone will enjoy being in Alpenbad. It has a quiet environment, thus a perfect place to relax. It has tasty dishes, including fondue, meat, pizza, burgers, pork, steaks, pasta, sandwiches, poultry, salads, and soup. There are even special romantic offers for couples. The Alpenbad offers a great view over the Swiss Alps and Lake Zurich. The hospitality staff is friendly and ready to serve on time.
Üetliberg is a mountain right next to the city of “Zurich Switzerland”. It has an elevation of 870m hence offers a clear view over the whole city and the “lake Zurich”. Once you arrive at the final train stop, you will walk for 10 minutes to the mountain top.
You can go to the mountain by tram, bike or by foot. On the Üetliberg there are many biking, hiking and in winter even sledding trails in case there is snow. There are even people who start with their paragliding adventure near the peak of the mountain. There is a lookout tower for people who are not afraid of heights. It will cost 5 Swiss francs to go to the tower which belongs to the hotel Uto Kulm. It has a great hotel and restaurant on the top but often needs reservation, especially on crowded days. And yes, the Üetliberg is mostly overcrowded on beautiful sunny days in summer.
The easiest way to get here is by train because vehicles are not allowed. It departs every 20mins on weekdays and 30mins on weekends. Guests who have Zurich cards travel for free, while those without the cards pay $ 18 for adults and $ 9 kids / half fare (round trip).
What I highly recommend is to hike from Üetliberg to Felsenegg which takes approximately 1h30min. The most part of the walk is through the forest but you will get to some very beautiful view points with a fantastic panorama over the city, Lake Zurich and the Swiss Alps.
Cities in Switzerland are beautiful thanks to the history of their old buildings, but many villages can compete as well. Lachen is for me the most beautiful village on “Lake Zurich”. And you can do quite a lot here: Water sports on the shore like water skiing, jet skiing, surfing and boating.
What I especially love about Lachen is the huge conservation area directly on the lake called “Nuoler Ried”. There is a lookout tower for bird watching. You may meet even photographers with huge cameras looking for rare birds. As it’s very close to the small airport Wangen-Lachen you will see a lot of planes taking-off or landing during beautiful days.
If you want to enjoy Lachen a bit longer, you can stay at the 4 Star Hotel “Marina Lachen”. It is a beautiful hotel facing in the direction of the lake. The property offers elegant rooms, free Wi-Fi, food, drinks, and outdoor activities. Travelers can get to Lachen from Zurich airport via train, bus, car, or taxi.
Switzerland is known for producing chocolate. Therefore, there is a high density of high-quality chocolate brands here. One of my favourite brands in terms of chocolate quality, besides Sprüngli, is definitely Läderach.
Läderach shops can be found in large tourist centres in Switzerland and now also abroad. Due to the high quality, the chocolate also has its price. But I’ll give you a big tip: visit the newly opened “House of Läderach”. Here you will find everything your heart desires: a chocolate outlet at factory prices, a chocolate museum with tasting opportunities and a café.
Great chocolate next to Lake Zurich
And best of all: the “House of Läderach” is very close to Lake Zurich in Bilten. For me, this event is a big highlight every time, because I love Läderach chocolate and you can save up to 70% in the factory outlet compared to the normal Läderach shops. That’s why it’s on the to-do list every time I’m in the region or on a guided tour of Switzerland with our clients.
The chocolate factory tour of the museum costs 15CHF for adults and 10CHF for children. However, the money is compensated in the tour because you can taste chocolate and you receive a 5CHF voucher that can be used in the shop afterwards. Furthermore, the tour is not compulsory. So you can also buy in the factory shop without visiting the chocolate museum. But if you’re going for the first time, I recommend doing the museum tour.
The production of the sweet chocolate takes place in the factory. You can learn about the different processes and taste chocolate. Together with its competitor Sprüngli, Läderach offers the best chocolate in “Zurich Switzerland” and in the whole country.
Opening and closing times start at 9.00 am from Sunday to Saturday and end at 6.00 pm. The “House of Läderach” in Bilten (Läderach Factory Outlet) is also easily accessible for wheelchair users who are chocolate lovers.
Final thoughts about the top places around Lake Zurich
“Lake Zurich” is much more than the “Lake in Zurich”. It is a place worth visiting also outside of Zurich in Switzerland. There are many things to enjoy. Take the time to explore the cafes, views of the lake, neighboring villages, and historical buildings. Furthermore, you can participate in recreational activities such as swimming, hiking, surfing, skiing, boat riding, and sailing.