Judging by the tourist images of Zurich, you’d think it was limited to a beautiful ancient town center, and bustling gentrified industrial areas. But look closer and you’ll find a host of botanical gardens in Zurich.
Of course, there are the wonderful forested hills that flank the town center, and a plethora of city parks. But Zurich also has a series of more curated botanical experiences that would delight anyone with a green thumb. Needless to say, Zurich's botanical gardens and natural hideaways provide residents with plenty of ways to while away the hours.
Listen up, plant lovers! Here are my favorite botanical gardens in Zurich with free admission:
University of Zurich
Sitting majestically atop a hill overlooking the Zurisee, the Botanical Garden is home to a beautiful array of botanical collections. Rock gardens, grasses, trees, spring flowers, and water plants are all in abundance.
There is a wonderful lawn and amphitheater to while away the hours on a summer day. The dome-shaped hothouses are spectacular, too: one is home to a cloud forest, and the other features rainforest species. The gardens are part of Zurich University’s biology department.
Opening hours: check the website and note that due to the Coronavirus, the greenhouses and cafeteria are currently closed.
Insider tip: while the canteen is primarily for students and researchers, anyone is welcome to pop in for an inexpensive weekday lunch.
Old Botanical Garden
Alter Botanischer Garten
Nestled in Zurich’s financial district on a little knoll of its own, the Old Botanic Garden truly is a quiet spot in the city. Dating back to 1837, here you will find a small medieval herb garden and a palm house with comfortable 19 degrees Celsius temperatures.
Locate a bench for a peaceful lunchtime moment, peer down into the Rimini Bar, or admire some of the temporary sculptures. This place attracts all kinds of people looking to escape the bustle of Zurich's city center.
Opening hours: daily from 7 AM - 7 PM (Mar - Sep), 8 AM - 6 PM (Oct - Feb)
Zurich City Gardens
Open 365 days a year, the Zurich City Gardens are a real place for city dwellers, away from any tourist hot spots. The tropical palm house is worth a visit, and there is also a "sand garden" featuring botany from the desert.
Most importantly, this is the city’s official plant nursery. It houses all the seedlings that will eventually be planted in parks around Zurich. The Stadtgärtnerei is also in charge of flower bouquets for the city’s official buildings. The spring tomato seedling market has a cult following, and keep an eye out for other talks, exhibitions, and sales throughout the year.
Opening hours: daily from 9 AM - 5:30 PM.
Insider tip: subscribe to Zurich's green newsletter for all the inside knowledge on the city’s amazing green spaces.
Consisting of a Japanese bonsai studio, this little gem is tucked away down an atmospheric side street near the Rietberg Museum in Zurich Enge. Enter the Bonsai-Atelier Rieterpark with its gardens and you will slip into another world of tiny trees and landscaped gardens.
Opening hours: Wed 2 - 6:30 PM, Fri noon - 6:30 PM, Sat 10 AM - 4 PM.
Insider tip: get in touch with the studio to arrange a visit anytime, and consider joining a bonsai workshop.
Zurich Succulent Plant Collection
A stone’s throw from lakeside attractions like Seebad Enge and Mythenquai Badi (and close to the bonsai studio) is the unassuming Zurich Succulent Plant Collection. Enter these hothouses and you will find yourself surrounded by one of the world’s best collections of cactuses. Divided into seven greenhouses, some 4400 cacti of all shapes and sizes drape from every surface.
Preview the collection of cacti thanks to this virtual tour. To get the most out of your visit, chat with some of the staff and download this flyer. Upon availability, you might be able to buy some small samples for your home.
Opening hours: daily from 9 AM to 4:30 PM (incl. Sundays and holidays).
China Garden Zurich
A fascinating mediation of the Chinese proverb "Three Friends in Winter," the China Garden Zurich hosts three trees that withstand the winter: pine, bamboo, and winter plum. This is one of the finest temple gardens outside of China. And it offers an amazing contrast to the lakeside views just outside the walls.
Inside this oasis of peace, there are water features, pavilions, little bridges, and rock formations. As you would expect, it's a really peaceful spot with nature that changes depending on the time of day.
Opening hours: daily from 11 AM - 7 PM.
Oranger Garten and Park im Grüene by Migros
In keeping with their altruistic heritage, Migros has created a conurbation of activities for nature lovers. The site starts with a large, modern Migros (and Denner) store, next to which is the Oranger Garten.
The Migros Oranger Garten is a little pocket of wonder that tells the history of Switzerland's grocer. A carefully landscaped place, the more you investigate, the more you discover. The most intriguing thing about the garden is the digitally connected elements inside the Pavilion; little interactive spaces, and screens, that bring the garden into the 21st century. It’s a vision of how gardens can co-exist with technology in the future.
Cross the road from the Oranger Garten and you will enter the magnificent Park im Grüene. A haven for families, this space offers lake views, playgrounds, a pond, a café, and a little train (on certain days). In the summer, you can relax on the free deck chairs and enjoy a picnic - gathered from the aisles at Migros, of course.
Opening hours Oranger Garten: daily from 8 AM to 8 PM.
Opening hours Park im Grüene: check the website.
Insider tip: pick up a flyer about Oranger Garten inside the pavilion.