Among its many appealing attractions, Zurich, Switzerland, is home to a number of diverse and interesting museums. Institutions large and small explore seemingly every aspect of history and culture in Zurich, from the earliest origins of Switzerland to life in the digital age to the story of the city's ubiquitous trams.
Read on for a list of the top museums in Zurich for visitors of all ages and interests. Note that admission to most Zurich museums is covered by the Zurich Card, the city tourism and transportation pass—we've indicated when it's included. Most museums are closed on Monday.
Art lovers should head straight to Kunsthaus Zürich to witness its significant collection of works from the 20th and 21st centuries. In addition to important works from Swiss artists like Alberto Giacometti, the collections include pieces by Picasso, Chagall, Monet, and Munch. A new extension, set to open in 2021, is designed architect David Chipperfield and features a bold geometric design. The museum offers discounted admission to Zurich Card holders.
Swiss National Museum (Landesmuseum Zürich)
It's one-half medieval castle and one-half ultra-modern building, but the Swiss National Museum is all about cultural history. The museum's extensive collections and temporary exhibits examine the history of Switzerland from its earliest human evidence to the present-day. There are displays devoted to handicrafts, household objects, and ancient artifacts. The museum shop is also a great place to find a souvenir of Zurich. Admission is free for Zurich Card holders.
Pavillon Le Corbusier
One of the greatest architects and designers of the 20th century, Le Corbusier left his distinctive, boxy mark on urban housing and modern life. His last work, from 1967, is set on the east side of Lake Zurich, just a short distance from the Altstadt. Now a museum called Pavillon Le Corbusier, the "total work of art" as he called it, is a bright, daringly modern building made out of glass and colored steel panels. Permanent and temporary exhibits help explain the genius of Le Corbusier and his influence on modern design and architecture. Admission is free for Zurich Card holders. (Open May to November only.)
As Switzerland's only museum dedicated to non-European art, the Museum Rietberg showcases art from the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Oceania. Collections are a mix of ethnographic materials from past cultures, as well as contemporary art from around the world. And the setting couldn't be lovelier—the museum occupies three 19th-century villas and a 21st-century glass pavilion set in the Rieterpark, a large public park on the west side of Lake Zurich. The museum offers discounted admission to Zurich Card holders.
Beyer Clock and Watch Museum
This private museum on ritzy Bahnhofstrasse packs a lot into a small space. Its collections chronicle the history of timekeeping, clock-, and watchmaking and include artifacts dating back to the 15th century B.C. If, after admiring more than 300 rare and priceless timepieces you have the urge to buy one of your own, fear not—the museum is located inside the prestigious Beyer and Patek Phillippe watch boutique. Admission is free for Zurich Card holders. (Open Monday to Friday, 2 p.m to 6 p.m.)
Zurich Tram Museum
Kids and adults alike delight in this museum dedicated to Zurich's ubiquitous form of public transportation. With historic trams dating to the late 1800s and plenty of hands-on, climb-aboard options, a few hours spent here is good fun for the whole family. The museum is a few kilometers southeast of the city center at the Burgweis stop—the 11 tram makes the trip about every 8 minutes. Admission is free for Zurich Card holders. (Open Monday, Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.)
FIFA World Football Museum
This temple to all things soccer, the FIFA World Football Museum is a must-see for sports fans. The museum opened in 2016 in a purpose-built, cube-shaped building in the Enge neighborhood of Zurich. About half the space is dedicated to exhibits that celebrate the game, including jerseys of famous players, historic memorabilia and the FIFA World Cup. The other half is completely interactive, with games, simulators, and hands-on activities that let visitors test their skills on the pitch—it's good fun for young and old. The museum offers discounted admission to Zurich Card holders.
Museum für Gestaltung (Design Museum)
The 1930 building is itself a draw for lovers of modern architecture, and the collections and temporary exhibits of the Museum für Gestaltung (Design Museum) celebrate four fields of design: product design and packaging, decorative arts, graphic arts, and poster art. If you've never considered a vegetable peeler as an iconic piece of cultural history, you may see it differently after visiting this museum. There's also a second location at the Toni-Areal, the campus of the Zurich University of the Arts. Admission is free for Zurich Card holders.
An especially good choice for kids, focusTerra is the geological museum of the Department of Earth Sciences of ETH Zurich, the prestigious university of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—Albert Einstein is an alum. Exhibits focus on geological phenomena around the world, from plate tectonics to volcanoes to rocks and minerals. Don't miss the earthquake simulator! (Free admission. Open daily.)
Museum of Digital Art in Zurich
The Museum of Digital Art (MuDA) is a computer-age departure from typical museums. Its collections and temporary installations examine the intersection of art, science, and technology. Works of art and installations formed from sets of data, codes, algorithms provoke visitors to examine the modern world from a different perspective. Themed shows and visiting artists keep the exhibits fresh and surprisingly engaging. The museum offers discounted admission to Zurich Card holders.