When to Go
The temperate climate has four distinct seasons. Spring can be a maddening mix of brilliant sun and rain, which means colorful blossoms abound. Summers are humid and have been quite hot in the last several years, rivaling some Asian nations; evening thunderstorms are frequent.
Fall becomes crisp around the end of October, and winter brings a low fog ceiling (this is when locals head for any nearby peak over 5,000 feet) or light-to-slushy snow that tends to melt after a week or so.
If you see an elephant wandering around the streets of Zürich, don't worry: it just means the circus is in town. In the winter months a series of circuses—with acrobats, fire-eaters, and lion tamers—travel throughout the country in red-and-white caravans, each stopping along the way in Zürich. In addition to the usual opera, theater, and concert seasons, the city holds a variety of events throughout the year.
One of Zürich's most important festivals is Sächsilüüte, a kind of Groundhog Day. Descendants of medieval guild members march through town, then circle a bonfire containing a snowman topped with firecrackers. They march until the snowman's head blows off, and how long this takes is indicative of the coming summer's weather: the quicker the explosion, the warmer the summer.
When spring springs, so does Jazznojazz, with jazz musicians playing at venues all over town.
Summer is the time for the Zurich Pride Festival, a huge celebration of gay pride.
Even if you don't speak German, you should still attend the Theater Spektakel, a two-week outdoor theater festival, for the excellent food. Sensuous dancing marks the nine days in July of Tangowoche, and techno music is the sound track for August's three-day lovefest called Street Parade.
Fall arrives with the Lange Nacht der Museen, when museums leave their doors open all night. Knabenschiessen, a country fair held on the outskirts of the city, lets youngsters test their aim at shooting competitions. Toward the end of the year is Expovina, a wine exhibition, held on boats moored at Bürkliplatz.