Zurich, Switzerland is the perfect place for a family traveling with small children or an au pair who is seeking a host family to work for. With the Alps a train ride away and 150+ dynamic and lively playgrounds to choose from, boredom and dawdling is hardly an option here in one of Europe’s most popular and accessible travel destinations.
As for getting around, the majority of trains and trams are accessible by stroller and children under the age of six travel free of charge. Download the SBB app on your mobile phone for an easy way to manage train and tram schedules. For a more unique transportation option, you can rent an electric bucket bike which holds two small children and can be found at numerous host stations around the city. You can register for free on the Carvelo app or website. For a CHF 5 booking fee and a 2 CHF hourly rate, you can rent the bike and pick up the key at the designated host station.
The lake and ample kid-friendly public badis (swimming areas) make cooling off in the 30-degree Celsius heat waves an absolute must. After cooling off, you can head to any of the hundreds of coffee shops for a latte or tea. If your young one feels left out, go ahead and order them a babycchino. Most cafes in Zurich will serve steamed milk in an espresso cup. You’ll have to take your camera out for this one.
Top Five Kid-Friendly Summer Activities in Zurich:
1. Mythenquai and Paddle Boards
Summer in Zurich is all about the swimming. Some of the most popular places to enjoy the lake are the badis that freckle Zurich’s lakeside. Badis are enclosed resorts that often offer spacious greens, kid-friendly pools, food and drink, and rentals such as paddle boarding. Mythenquai is one of my favorites in the Zurich area because of its delicious onsite vegetarian restaurant, the various kid pools and playground options, the small beach area if you’d like to be closer to the lake, and the rental options. Get your kids suited up for the paddle board and take them for a spin. It’s an activity you’ll enjoy just as much as them.
2. Pedal Boats on Zurich Lake
For CHF 30, you can ride in a four-person pedal boat around Zurich Lake for one hour. It’s such a unique way to experience the lake and offers a fresh perspective on the charming lakeside views. There are multiple rental stations along the sparkling lake promenade near China Garden. When I took the twin three-year-olds I take care of, they jumped wildly off the back of the boat over and over again for the entire hour! They were able to swim over to the rear-side ladder and climb out of the water all by themselves. There are different styles of boats that vary in prices, including boats with deck chairs and a kid-friendly slide.
3. Bucket Bike to Wildlife Park
The bucket bike might look intimidating at first, but if you give it a chance, it can pleasantly surprise you. Through the Carvelo app or website, you can rent a bucket bike through multiple different hosts. Simply reserve your bike for an allotted time, pick up the key at your designated host station, and you’ll be on your way. If you’ve never used a bucket bike before, allow the host to give you an overview of how it works. It doesn’t hurt to practice riding around a few times without the kids inside. It’s electric, too!
Once you’ve gotten comfortable, take the bike path 32 to 94 toward the Wildlife Park, west of Lake Zurich. It’s about an hour one-way from Bahnhof Wiedikon. On looped walks throughout the forest, you can observe a variety of animals like wolves, brown bears, and moose in their natural environment. Admission is free.
4. Uetliberg Train and Playground
Taking the train in Switzerland can be a wondrous experience all its own, so I love to take the kids on the trains whenever I can. The S10 train will bring you all the way up to the beloved Uetliberg mountain and stop next to a charismatic playground with a micro carnival swing ride, a play train, and an intricate jungle gym. You can take a short five-minute walk up the well-marked path to the top of Uetliberg for coffee, lunch and some gorgeous views of Lake Zurich and the smaller villages.
5. Fountain Swimming and Playground Hopping
There are over 1200 freshwater fountains in Zurich. Many of these fountains are ideal kid-size pools. It’s less overhead than taking children to the lake or to a full-size pool, and often times they are shallow enough that your child won’t need their floats. On a typical summer day, you’ll find families gravitate towards the refreshing fountains in generous green areas and set up a picnic lunch or small BBQ. It’s a great way to meet other families and children who live in the area. As for the 150+ playgrounds to choose from, I wasn’t making that number up. Check out this article by Zurich resident Rebecca who made a comprehensive list of over one hundred of these city playgrounds. A great way to explore the city with your kids is to hop from one playground to the next.
It’s sort of like bar hopping! Except not.
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