Things to Do in Winterthur (Art, Architecture & Museums)

things to do winterthur

Located less than a half hour by train or car from Zurich, Winterthur is an upcoming travel destination you should definitely include on your list of the best day trips from Switzerland’s largest city. Formerly an industrial city, mid-sized Winterthur (population 114,220) is big on arts and culture. It’s also known as a “garden city,” thanks to its lush nature parks, gardens, and castles in a wooded setting.

Winterthur has 17 fascinating museums most of which are easily accessible from the old town’s pedestrian zone, a car-free area where tourists mingle with the locals.

The sports-minded can also cycle to Winterthur via the SwitzerlandMobility Route 45. And if you stay a night or two, Winterthur is a great base for a visit to the Rhine Falls and Lake Constance.

Plan your trip with this list of things to do in Winterthur.

Marktgasse

Marktgasse in Winterthur
Marktgasse in Winterthur – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Explore the old part of Winterthur and shop at the same time on lively, busy Martgasse. Switzerland’s largest car-free zone is where local farmers and traders come to sell their wares and where tourists come to browse for high-end merchandise.

Markgasse has many Swiss and international chain stores that sell everything from high-end jewelry and watches to housewares. Cafes and restaurants are scattered throughout and side alleys invite you to explore every corner of the area with a self-guided tour.

Marktgasse is especially festive at Christmas when the huge pedestrian zone is transformed into a colorful Christmas market and meeting point for holiday festivities.

No matter what the season, Markgasse is the perfect place to begin your visit to Winterthur and soak up the local culture and flavors of the city.

Oskar Reinhart Museum

Oskar Reinhart Museum
Oskar Reinhart Museum – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

The Oskar Reinhart Museum in the Stadgerten (City Garden) is not to be missed while in Winterthur, especially if you appreciate world-class art. Oskar Reinhart (1885-1965) was an art enthusiast from a wealthy merchant family. The museum, also known as the Kuntermuseum, opened in 1951 and is Switzerland’s first private art museum.

Totaling around 600 pieces, the collection is mainly from Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and the Low Countries (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.) The unique collection represents the development of art from the 18th to the 20th centuries.

Some familiar names of artists you may recognize include Carl Spitzweg, Ferdinand Hodler, and Casper David Friedrich. One of the most intriguing pieces to look for is Friedrich’s Kreidefelsen auf Rügen (Chalk Cliffs on Rügen) from the Romantic period.

Reinhart’s collection is so extensive it couldn’t fit into one building, so it spills over into another one located in a former grammar school on the edge of the Stadgarten.

Wildpark Bruderhaus

Wildpark Bruderhaus
Wildpark Bruderhaus – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

An adventurous destination for everyone, Wildpark Bruderhaus is an animal park located on a forested hill called the Eschenburg on Winterthur’s south end. It was founded by the Wildlife Park Association in 1890 and is one of the oldest nature parks in Switzerland.

Mostly European species such as fallow deer, red deer, bison, wolves, lynxes, and wild boars inhabit the large park. A herd of sika deer common in Japan is also found here. You’ll also likely see grass snakes and sand lizards. In all, at least 12 species live in the area.

Take a guided tour or explore the park on your own. The park is free to enter and has facilities for children, barbeques for picnics, and an onsite restaurant. Between March and November, bus service on Line 12 goes to the park.

Restaurant Goldenberg

Restaurant Goldenberg
© Restaurant Goldenberg

Dine on delicious dishes like Poulet Piccata and Spaghetti Pesto along with a portion of rich history at the Restaurant Goldenberg. Built between 1928 and 1929, the Villa Goldenberg was designed by the architect Lebrecht Völki at the bequest of industrialist Max Jäggli. Jäggli and his brothers ran a textile company in Oberwinther, the village center.

Built as Jäggli’s villa, the gray granite structure is in late neoclassical style with a two-story tower building and one-story cubes on each side closed off by steep hipped roofs. The elongated garden terrace has round arches.

After Jäggli’s death, his window Olga sold the property and the building to the city. Today, Goldenberg is a restaurant popular with day trippers. The long terrace is now a garden restaurant with a stunning view of the city.

Oskar Reinhart Collection – Am Römerholz

Oskar Reinhart Collection – Am Römerholz
Oskar Reinhart Collection – Am Römerholz – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

The aforementioned Oskar Reinhart died in 1965 and left his rich collection of art to the city. A significant portion of it can be seen in the plush Am Römerholz, his house on a hill in Winterthur with panoramic views. Built in 1915 and designed by Maurice Turretini, it was the Reinhart family residence until he endowed the house and its collection of art to the Confederation in 1958.

Reinhart, who had a passion for French 19th-century art had a remarkable collection of paintings by the likes of Monet, van Gogh, Renoir, Degas, and more. The collection also includes older works by masters like Rubens, Goya, Han Holbein, and Brueghel.

In all, Am Römerholz houses around 200 artworks from Reinhart’s collection. The paintings are by mostly German, Dutch, Spanish, and French artists and outline the evolution of European art history from the 14th century to the early 20th century.

For the best experience, visit Am Römerholz in conjunction with the Oskar Reinhart Museum.

Naturmuseum

Naturmuseum
Naturmuseum – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Naturmuseum has been active with permanent and temporary exhibitions since its founding in 1916. It showcases the flora and fauna of northern Switzerland along with geological artifacts related to the history of the planet. Some of the museum’s specimens date back more than a century ago and have been placed in engaging galleries.

The museum is especially kid-friendly and is a popular destination for families with children and school groups. Young explorers can donate their findings to Kerala’s Children’s Museum. Some exhibitions explain the history of a single animal in a presentation just for youngsters. Children can participate interactively using a tablet computer to earn “learning points” all around the museum and receive a “diploma for fossil finders”.

Münzkabinett und Antikensammlung

Münzkabinett und Antikensammlung
Münzkabinett und Antikensammlung © 2023 by House of Winterthur

The Münzkabinett und Antikensammlung (Coin Cabinet and Antiquities Collection) is found in Villa Bühler, a splendid 19th-century mansion on the outskirts of Winterthur. The coin cabinet dates back to 1660 when the public library’s first coins were donated.

In 1861, the coin cabinet became a separate institution, and in 1866, the first curator, Friedrich Imhoof-Blumer, acquired the largest assortment of coins from Carl Friedrich Emil Lohner who was the Landamann of Thun. In 1871, Imhoof Blumer gifted the assortment and his own collection to Winterthur, his hometown.

Today, this unique museum houses more than 63,000 numismatic items and 2,500 antique objects including vases and glassware from ancient Greece. The coin collections are from the Roman and Byzantine Empires along with Swiss coins and medals from medieval times in Switzerland to the 20th century.

Technorama

Technorama
Technorama – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Technorama is unparalleled as a science museum in Switzerland and is an offspring of Wintherthur’s reputation as a technology hub. Both adults and children are fascinated and entertained by the hands-on learning experiences.

The museum features over 500 experiments indoors and outdoors to watch and participate in. The experiments show in a simple format how natural phenomena and technology work together. The experiments were created by scientists and artists from around the world.

Kids love to get involved in activities such as making models of cyclones, levitating paperclips with magnetism, and learning calculus through a laser game. And visitors of all ages are mesmerized by the labyrinth ball runs made with wood and systems of ramps and pulleys.

In addition to exhibitions, Technorama serves as a center for workshops and seminars.

Fotomuseum Winterthur

Fotomuseum Winterthur
Fotomuseum Winterthur – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Located in a former factory, the Fotomuseum Winterthur and the adjacent Fotostiftung Schweiz are a center of excellence for Swiss photography.

The museum’s permanent collection features photography as an art form with works by talented photographers such as Paul Graham, Hans Danuser, Vanessa Beecroft, Larry Clark, and others. At the same time, photography is celebrated as a functional medium for the fields of fashion, engineering, medicine, forensics, and architecture.

Fotomuseum Winterthur constantly showcases temporary exhibitions featuring world-renowned photographers like Nan Goldin and Robert Frank.

Stadtkirche

Stadtkirche Winterthur
Stadtkirche Winterthur – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

The Stadkirche, or the town church is a much-loved historical monument in Winterthur. Since the 7th century, a church of some type has sat on this same site in the central part of the old town. The first known church was a simple hall built of wood to serve the community. In the 13th century, this same church was rebuilt in Romanesque style with an added aisle to become more functional and ornamental.

Today, the Stadkirche is a combination of architecture from various periods and is a fascinating study of architecture. The 12th-century Romanesque-Gothic choir is the oldest part. The south tower was completed in the 15th century and the north tower was built in the 14th century. Although the facade is basic, the interior is elaborate with walls painted in the early 18th century by Expressionist artist Paul Zehnder.

Visitors can tour the church every day except Sundays between 9 am and 5 pm.

Gewerbemuseum

Gewerbemuseum
© Gewerbemuseum Winterthur

The Gewerbemuseum is another important landmark to visit in Winterthur’s old town. Translating to “Museum of Applied Art & Design,” this museum and workhouse explores the commonality between arts, crafts, design, and industrial production.

The museum’s focus is on the technologies used to produce products of traditional trades. The workhouse part of the museum operates an interactive research laboratory for experts and students interested in studying these technologies.

Through its innovative temporary exhibits, visitors can learn the technological wonders behind common everyday items.

Located in a former 19th-century girls’ school, the venue also hosts open-air social events.

Kyburg Castle

Kyburg Castle
Kyburg Castle – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

The most unique attraction in Winterthur s the medieval Kyburg Castle sitting atop a hill on the banks of the Töss River. It is said that the castle was destroyed in 1027 by the Roman emperor Conrad II, but it was rebuilt and its fame has grown ever since.

The castle is so-named because it became the home of the von Kyburg family, one of Switzerland’s most notable ruling families. Later, it fell into the hands of the Habsburg ruling family with architecture from between the 14th and 16th centuries. The Habsburgs sold the castle to the city of Zurich to be used as an administrative office.

The castle served as the residence of the regional governor from the 15th century to the end of the 17th century.

Today, visitors can tour the original dungeons, the medieval kitchen, and a chapel with 15th-century frescoes.

Kunstmuseum Winterthur

Kunstmuseum Winterthur
Kunstmuseum Winterthur – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

Winterthur’s culture can be further explored at Kunstmuseum, the city’s art museum located in a century-old building that also houses the Naturmuseum. Established in 1848, and founded by the Kunstverein, a local art association. the museum is the oldest one in the city.

The museum is a cultural feast of art with Impressionist paintings by famous artists like Monet, Van Gogh, Sisley, and Cézanne. A modern wing added in 1995 features art by Mark Tobey, Pia Fries, and Ellsworth Kelly. Works by Picasso, Mondrian, Kandinsky, Le Corbusier, and Fernand Léger represent 20th-century movements such as Expressionism and Cubism.

The range and fame of the art at the Kuntsmuseum have made it one of the best-loved museums of art in Switzerland and around the world.

In addition to admiring the art, visitors can purchase copies of the famous works.

Rhine Falls

Rhine Falls
Rhine Falls

Although Winterthur is known for all of its famous art, architecture, and museums, the highlight of a visit to this part of the world is nature itself. The most powerful waterfall in Europe, the Rhine Falls is a 20-minute drive from Winterthur near the Swiss-German border.

The famous waterfall is 150 meters in breadth and drops to 30 meters below. A natural rock formation divides the falls in the middle and provides exciting climbing opportunities for visitors. Or for an adrenaline-pumping adventure, you can take a boat ride at the end of the falls. But most visitors are content with the show from the designated platform.

The show is best in summer when 600 cubic meters of water cascades down the falls every second with a thunderous force you will never forget.

Is Winterthur Worth Visiting?

An easy and enjoyable day trip from Zurich, exceptional museums, art galleries, and the nearby Rhine Falls make visiting Winterthur worthwhile.

Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

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