Zurich

Zurich may just be one of Europe's best-kept secrets.

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The Swiss city's long association with financial order and good timekeeping disguises an increasingly progressive cultural hub, where historic landmarks sit alongside arty pop-ups and night spots. With its windy streets, stunning lakeside backdrop and scope for Alpine adventure, Zurich is a medieval gem reborn for the 21st century.

Getting active

Water sports on Lake Zurich

The vast Lake Zurich offers 25 miles (40km) of water sports action, with sailing, kayaking, wakeboarding, water-skiing and stand-up paddle boarding all popular. Cruise boats depart the Burkliplatz at regular intervals, while outdoor swimming is popular in summer. Ice skating on the lake is possible during a particularly cold winter – although it hasn't frozen over since 1963.

Climb Uetliberg

The miles of trails covering Uetliberg make Zurich's local mountain a haven for hikers and bikers. At 2,850ft (870m) above sea level, the peak offers unrivalled views of the city skyline and lake, plus a stunning Alpine panorama. The walking trails double as sledging runs in winter, offering an adrenaline-fuelled descent.

Hire a bicycle

With its mix of gradients and long, flat sections by the lake, Zurich is built for cycling. Casual riders can take advantage of free bicycle hire – simply arrange your ride at the railway station; bikes are also available Bellevue and Pestalozziwiese in summer. For a change of gear, you can take on the steeper cobbles in the Old Town or hit the testing slopes of Uetliberg.

Excursions

Be awestruck by the Rhine Falls

At a width of 490ft (150m) and height of 75ft (23m), the spectacular Rhine Falls is Switzerland's largest waterfall. Situated on the High Rhine next to the medieval town of Schaffhausen, this stunning natural sight is easily accessible by car and railway, with SBB stations on either side of the river. Lookout platforms are reachable on foot from Laufen Castle, while cruise boats explore the falls basin.

Explore historic Baden

The attractive spa resort of Baden lies a short ride from Zurich downstream on the banks of the River Limmat. With its colourful assortment of spires and pastel houses, the town is lively, tightly-bunched and easy on the eye. The thermal springs remain a draw, but today's visitors often come for Baden's thriving arts and festival scene.

Visit the Swiss Alps

The Swiss Alps are a mere stone's throw from Zurich – easily accessible for a day-trip by road. Various full-day coach excursions are available, including Mt Titlis and Lucerne, Jungfrau and the Bernese Oberland, and Mount Pilatus. Activities include cable car rides, funicular railways, mountain hikes, chocolatier visits and cheese factory tours.