The Zurich Oberland is a paradise. Here we present 15 excursions and sights to experience unforgettable moments.
Text and pictures by Marc Gottwald
The Zurich Oberland is located in the southeast of the Canton of Zurich. In addition to Hinwil, Uster, Pfaffikon, the Töss valley in the district of Winterthur is also part of it.
It is a popular region, especially among Zurich residents, for hiking and cycling. In addition, the Zurich Oberland is home to the Schnebelhorn, the highest mountain in the canton of Zurich. Let’s take a look at the most beautiful excursions and sights in the “Züri Oberland”.
The most beautiful lakes in the Zurich Oberland
Lake Lützelsee is one of the most idyllic lakes in the Zurich Oberland. The lake has an area of 13 hectares. This makes the circular route doable for a walk in around 45 minutes. It is also only 3 km long and leads along a tarmac road and also a flat gravel path. The walk is also suitable for families with prams.
The Lake Lützel is a nature reserve, but part of it is still farmed. Accordingly, you will also discover lush meadows and shady forests next to the lake. Furthermore, there is a bathing area with raft, diving board and paddling pool for children. After the activities on the lake, you can fortify yourself in the Hasel garden restaurant. Admission to the bathing area costs CHF 4.50 per adult (as of 2021).
2). Lake Pfäffikon (our favorite in Zurich Oberland)
There is something for everyone at Lake Pfäffikon, which is why it is a great destination for an excursion in the Zurich Oberland. It has a 9 km long circular hiking trail that you can take with your family. The hike takes around 2 hours.
Lake Pfäffikon has high reed belts that are home to birds and bog plants. That is why part of the lake shore is a nature reserve. No people are allowed in here.
Photo enthusiasts also get great moments, as fantastic pictures can be taken especially at the fishing piers. And visitors who want to swim can do so at the three bathing spots.
You can also have fun and pamper yourself at the Juckerhof adventure farm, one of my top sights. The Juckerhof can be perfectly combined with the round hike on Lake Pfäffikon. But more about that later.
Only a few kilometres from Zurich lies the Lake Greifensee, the largest lake in the Zurich Oberland. It’s a great place to go for walks in winter and summer. In summer, the lake is admittedly quite crowded. From autumn to spring, the crowds are pleasant.
A large part of Lake Greifensee consists of a nature reserve with reeds. In addition, footbridges and viewing platforms provide the ideal place to watch birds. In summer, the water warms up to over 20 degrees and is therefore ideal for swimming. Other activities include stand-up paddling, cycling or inline skating on the 19 km track around the lake.
The most beautiful valley in the Zurich Oberland
Another destination for a great excursion in the Zurich Oberland is the Tösstal. The steep Nagelfluh walls are impressive, especially after the snow melts. In summer, the Tösstal river becomes very dry. Nevertheless, the valley is also an ideal excursion tip from Zurich in summer, because at the Tösscheide there is a fireplace including a fountain.
A popular hike leads from “Steg im Tösstal” to the Tössscheide, and heads towards Alp Scheidegg. Did you know that the Tössstal is one of the largest nature paradises in the canton of Zurich? The Töss forest is home to rare capercaillies, among others.
Waterfalls in the Zurich Oberland
There are various waterfalls in the Zurich Oberland. However, many of them dry up in summer.
5). Buri waterfall
For example, the waterfalls in the Tösstal. While a lot of water still flows in spring when the snow melts, they are usually no longer visible in summer.
One of the most beautiful waterfalls and a great excursion from Zurich is the Buri waterfall in the Tösstal valley. Here you can not only enjoy nature, but theoretically also swim.
Another waterfall in the Tösstal is the “Wasserfall Lauf”. As it is difficult to access, it is better to admire it only from a distance.
6). Greiselgubel-Tobel Waterfall
The name of the waterfall is very special, we should agree. But not only the name, also its beauty is special. On the one hand, the Greiselgubel-Tobel waterfall is the highest waterfall in Zurich at 43 metres. On the other hand, the rock banks near the waterfall are beautiful.
If you want to see it, you have to hike the last few metres through the stream. But it is the ultimate insider tip in the Zurich Oberland.
Farms in Zurich Oberland
As the region is very rural, there are many farms in Zürich Oberland. But the best known is the Juckerhof.
7). Juckerhof Adventure Farm
As already mentioned, the Juckerhof is located on Lake Pfäffikon and is one of the best excursions and sights from Zurich. It can be perfectly combined with the circular hike. At the Juckerhof you can not only pick apples from the tree. There is also a nice farm restaurant including a warm buffet and a large selection of cakes.
In autumn, one of the most beautiful pumpkin exhibitions I know takes place there. Every year is a different theme. There have been many pumpkin figures, from unicorns to Ellis Presley and aeroplanes. The figures are huge and a great photo opportunity.
Children, by the way, can spend time and play in the playground, goat enclosure and rabbit enclosure.
There are various castles in the Zürich Oberland region, as there were many noblemen. Here are two particularly beautiful ones:
The Kyburg is a castle that rises 150 m above the river Töss. As a result, it offers views of the surrounding landscape. The building has been preserved for over 800 years. It was once the seat of the dynasty of the Counts of Kyburg. Today it conveys the history of Kyburg in the castle museum.
During the tour, you will learn what a knight wore in his armour and how the bailiff’s wife served the guests. You can also explore the castle garden from the end of May. But it’s not just the castle that is named after Kyburg, but an entire village.
So don’t miss out on exploring the village after the castle. Here you’ll also find great restaurants that invite you to linger. For me, this is a must-do destination in the Zurich Oberland.
9). Greifensee Castle
Greifensee Castle was the seat of the governors of Zurich for many years. It dates back to 1250 and was destroyed in the old Zurich War in May 1444. In 1530 it was rebuilt into a modern castle. Today it is a cultural venue for education and exhibitions. It is also possible to rent spacious rooms for conferences, workshops, weddings, meetings and congresses. Tourists enjoy the historic walls and the lake landscape of Lake Greifen.
Museums in Zurich Oberland
10). Local Museum Maur
Maur has two local museums. The museum served as the court authority and residence of the Zurich copper engraver from 1749 to 1775. The museum has a historical collection of furniture, farming tools and everything needed in textile processing.
There is also a sawmill that was built in 1778. You can see the sawmill’s water wheel at that place.
11). Museum Grüningen Castle
Grüningen Castle has been the home of the bailiffs for centuries. The bailiffs administered justice over areas in the Zurich Oberland. The museum is located on the first floor of the building. It shows the history of the bailiwick, Grüningen and the lordship. Please note that it is only open on Sunday from 1 to 4 pm.
Otherwise, there is a castle café, which is open on Sunday from 10.30 am.
The idyllic Zurich Oberland is characterised by beautiful mountains and hills. Here lies the Schnebelhorn, at 1,292 metres the highest mountain in the canton of Zurich. It is followed by the Bachtel and the Hörnli, which are above 1,100m. From these peaks, cyclists and hikers can enjoy views of the entire region.
Hikes in the Zurich Oberland
The Zurich Oberland is predestined for hikes with fantastic views. Here we present three of them:
12). Hike to the Hörnli
The Hörnli lies at 1133 metres and is one of the highest mountains in the Zurich Oberland. It is a great peak for a hike of around 2.5 hours from “Steg im Tösstal” through the meadows and forests. When you reach the top of the Hörnli, you have a view over the Zürich Oberland and the Swiss Eastern Alps. There is also a restaurant on the mountain to fortify you during the hike.
In winter, the Hörnli is a great destination for enjoying a speedy toboggan ride down into the valley.
13). Hike to Alp Scheideg
Alp Scheidegg lies at 1200 m above sea level and is the highest alp in the canton of Zurich. You can hike from the forest to the summit of the alp. The hike goes along roads and forest paths to Alp Scheidegg. If you want, you can also just drive up to the alp.
According to insiders, the restaurant at Alp Scheidegg serves the best cordon bleus in the Zurich region. This means that the restaurant is popular. On nice days there can be a big crowd here, which is why there is also a self-service.
But the alp is also worth a visit in other ways. The view over Lake Zurich and the surrounding hills is fantastic.
14). Hike Bachtel
At Bachtel you can enjoy the view at 1115 metres. If that’s not enough, there’s a free viewing tower. The tower is 75 metres high thanks to an antenna and presents a dream view of the Zurich Oberland, Lake Zurich and the Swiss Alps.
There is also a restaurant on the Bachtel that is very busy even during the week. A hike leads from Wald to the mountain.
Even in winter, hikes are feasible. Another highlight are the benches on the Bachtel, which offer a direct view of Lake Zurich. Pure enjoyment!
Wellness in the Zurich Oberland
Wellness in the Zurich Oberland? Yes, there is! And what a great one.
15). Alpenbad Wellness
The alpine pool below the Bachtel near Wald ZH is one of the top destinations in this area. Here you can enjoy the view over the Swiss Alps and Lake Zurich in a hot tub and with fondue.
What could be better in winter? The Alpenbad is definitely one of the most innovative wellness spas in Switzerland. And thanks to the warmth, every guest feels welcome right from the start.
Especially those who want to visit the Alpenbad in winter should book as early as possible. Thanks to the Christmas events, the bath is also very popular for company events.
Final thoughts about Zurich Oberland
The Zurich Oberland is a perfect destination for excursions and day trips from Zurich. The region is full of history and culture. Swiss and tourists can explore museums, monasteries, castles, villages and mountains. Finally, you can also enjoy outdoor activities such as swimming, hiking and biking.