Less than half an hour’s drive from Zurich, Winterthur is a medium-sized city in northern Switzerland. Winterthur is traditionally an industrial center. Not many tourists come here, and the city is mainly known for its high-tech manufacturing. But if you don’t spend a day or two, you’re going to miss out, especially if you’re an art junkie.
There are 17 museums, most in the huge pedestrian area in the center. You can thank 20th century art collector Oskar Reinhart for providing Winterthur with a wealth of invaluable Romantic and Impressionist art. Kids won’t be left out, as Technorama is an unrivaled interactive science museum, while Kyburg Castle is packed with gruesome medieval fun like a torture chamber and an armory.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Winterthur:
1. Technology Scenario
Technorama, Switzerland’s unrivaled science museum, is the ultimate hands-on learning experience.
There are over 500 experiments both inside and out to watch and participate in.
These show how natural phenomena and technology work with ingenious simplicity.
Children are constantly encouraged to get involved, create their own whirlwinds, magnetically levitate paper clips, solve fun math puzzles, and even use laser games to solve more advanced topics like calculus.
Kids and adults alike will be mesmerized by the maze of fairways made only of wood with an insane system of ramps and pulleys.
2. Oskar Reinhart Collection – Am Römerholz
When he died in 1965, art patron and collector Oskar Reinhart bequeathed his extensive art collection to the city.
A large part of it is located in a luxurious house in the woodlands north of Winterthur, up the hill with panoramic views.
Reinhardt had an eye for 19th-century French art, and his extensive collection was almost unbelievable.
In the gallery you will find paintings by Monet, Van Gogh, Degas, Delacroix, Sisley, Courbet, Camille Corot, Renoir, Manet and Cezanne, among others.
As if that wasn’t enough, there are also old paintings by masters like Goya, Rubens, Bruegel and Hans Holbein.
3. Oskar Reinhardt Museum
Reinhardt’s collection was so large that it couldn’t fit all in one museum, so there was another building under the same umbrella.
You’ll find it in a former grammar school on the edge of the Stadtgarten, including various donations he made to the city during his lifetime.
The collection is collected by artists from the Low Countries, Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Some names you may be familiar with are Ferdinand Hodler, Carl Spitzweg and Caspar David Friedrich.
The most important work is Friedrich’s Kreidefelsen auf Rügen (Chalk cliffs on the island of Rügen), one of the seminal paintings of the Romantic period.
4. Winterthur Museum of Photography
This famous museum and next door Fotostiftung Schweiz is a former factory equivalent to a Swiss center of excellence for photography.
Temporary exhibitions are often held, many organized by foundations, featuring world-renowned photographers such as Robert Frank and Nan Golding.
The museum’s permanent collection is fascinating because it treats photography as an art form, and includes works by Vanessa Beecroft, Larry Clark, Hans Danuser, Nobuyoshi Araki, and Paul Graham.
But it also deals with photography as a functional medium, and has an extensive archive of images used in fields such as architecture, fashion, engineering, forensics and medicine.
5. Winterthur Art Museum
The cultural feast continues at the city’s art museum, a 100-year-old building that also houses a natural museum and research library.
Even if you’ve been to both Oscar Reinhardt locations, you’ll have to make room for this museum in your plans.
Impressionist artworks by famous painters such as Van Gogh, Monet, Cezanne and Sisley await you.
The modern wing was unveiled in 1995 and features artwork by Ellsworth Kelly, Pia Fries and Mark Tobey.
Early 20th century movements such as Picasso, Fernand Léger, Kandinsky, Le Corbusier and Mondrian were also well represented by Cubism and Expressionism.
Finally, Giacometti and Delacroix dominated the museum’s sculpture gallery.
6. Kiborg Castle
A Swiss heritage site, Kyburg Castle sits above the Töss River.
The construction of the castle was built between the 14th and 16th centuries, when it was first the seat of the Counts of Giborg and then the property of the Habsburgs.
From about the 15th century until the end of the 1700s, it was the residence of the magistrate, and the updated museum provides insight into his life and role.
You can visit the original dungeon, medieval kitchen, armory and beautiful chapel with 15th century frescoes.
Kids will be able to get in on the action, testing out a medieval bed, smelling time-honored spices in the kitchen, and even donning a suit of armor.
While it doesn’t have the well-known attractions of other Swiss cities, Winterthur city center is definitely worth a self-guided tour.
Almost all of the old town is pedestrianized, with cafes and restaurants lining the streets in summer, and there are some interesting allies to investigate.
This all makes up the largest pedestrian area in Switzerland, the heart of which is the busy Marktgasse, where you can experience the atmosphere of the city.
If you want to go on a shopping adventure, this is the place to go, as all the Swiss and international chains are on this vibrant boulevard.
8. Wildpark Bruderhaus
A forested hill on the southern edge of the city, this Essenburg zoo is a top choice for family outings in Winterthur.
The park is home to mainly European species such as wild boars, fawns, red deer, muflons, bison, wolves, and lynxes that live in large habitats.
There is also a herd of sika deer, a species most common in Japan.
Between March and November, there is a bus service to and from the park on Line 12.
The good news for parents is that the park is completely free.
Pack something for a picnic or BBQ, or grab a bite at the park’s cafe/restaurant.
9. Natural History Museum
Co-located with the Art Museum, Winterthur’s Natural History Museum documents the native flora and fauna of northern Switzerland.
A treasure trove of old taxidermy and taxidermy dating back more than a century, a decade ago these were dusted off and reconfigured in new, more attractive galleries.
Kids now have even more opportunities to get involved: kids can even use a tablet to try and earn “learning points” at different locations around the museum with the help of cartoon characters.
If they complete the trip, they will receive a “Fossil Hunter Diploma”.
10. Rose Garden
Winterthur’s rose garden is a fragrant haven just a short walk from the old center.
Located in a towering Heiligberg in the south of the old town, the garden was planted in 1964 when the city celebrated its 700th anniversary.
The garden has 2,900 rose bushes from nearly 300 varieties, many of which are historic.
The rose garden is naturally a seasonal delight and is best visited in June and July.
But no matter the time of year, Winterthur and its hilly backdrop are always a delight to watch.
11. Municipal Church
The Stadkirche in Winterthur has been home to a church since the 700s.
The buildings here are now a mixture of buildings from different periods.
The oldest part is the 12th century Romanesque Gothic choir, while the two towers were completed in the 14th century (north) and the 15th century (south). The simple facade gives way to the colourful interior, as the walls were painted in an expressionist style by artist Paul Zehnder in the 1920s.
During the Reformation in the 16th century, many of the church’s decorations were removed.
But Elsbeth von Bach is the patron saint of the 15th-century city, and the 17th-century Baroque baptistery is worth checking out.
12. Gewerbe Museum
Translated as “Museum of Applied Art and Design”, the museum explores the commonalities between industrial production, art, craftsmanship and design.
The attraction is known for its innovative temporary exhibitions that cover the full spectrum of design and fabrication, documenting ingenious everyday objects or whimsical artistic concepts.
Recent exhibitions deal with industrial design in the sex industry, and the technological marvels behind everyday objects.
The grounds are a grand former girls’ school, built in the mid-19th century.
The building also contains the extraordinary Kellenberger Collection, which contains clocks from the 16th and 17th centuries.
When Winterthur residents want to relax and reflect, they head to the city’s most popular viewing platform, Fort Gordon.
From this tree-lined belvedere surrounded by vineyards, you can pick out landmarks on Winterthur’s skyline and watch the sunset behind the city.
You can get there on foot via a rugged trail on Rychenbergstrasse.
After reaching the summit, treat yourself to a meal at the Goldenberg Restaurant.
In summer, people dine al fresco on the terrace, while in winter, the warm view from the interior is unobstructed.
14. Münzkabinett und Antikensammlung
On weekends and Monday and Thursday afternoons, you can see the remarkable collection of coins and antiques that the city has.
The origins of the Münzkabinett (coin collecting) date back to the 17th century, and there are now more than 55,000 pieces.
The core of the collection is coins from the Roman and Byzantine Empires, but there are also Swiss medallions and coins from the Middle Ages to the 20th century.
Among the museum’s 1,600 ancient artifacts, you can admire vases and glassware from ancient Greece and Rome.
It’s all found in Villa Bühler, an exquisite 19th-century mansion on the edge of the old town.
15. Rhine Falls
Europe’s largest waterfall is about a 20-minute drive from Winterthur, right on the Swiss-German border.
The attraction is not the height of the waterfall. It’s all about the power of the Rhine as it roars over this 23-meter-high, 150-meter-wide waterfall.
Summer is the wildest time for the river, with 600 cubic meters of water per second pouring down the waterfall.
The noise it makes is great, there are several vantage points on the shore, accessible via trails, and a lift to get down one side of the waterfall.
JMW chose one of them. Turner painted this scene in the 19th century.
Neuhausen am Rheinfall is a boarding point for a series of boat excursions that take you to the bottom of the waterfall, where the current pushes the boat back downstream.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Winterthur, Switzerland
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