On the hill, overlooking the entire city, the historical landmarks of Swiss Higher Education stand in their full glory. The two main buildings, of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich, built in 1864) and of the University of Zürich (built in 1914), are open for visitors. To reach them, take the stairs on Schienhutgasse or take a ride in a historical, but now fully automated, funicular Polybahn. Explore the architecture and the majestic inner decor by simply walking in on a working day.
Both universities can offer a lot to experience. Check their websites for a current list of exhibitions and various tours offered. My personal highlight is a modern geological exhibition Focus Terra, with a stunning design by Holzer Kobler Architekturen (Sonneggstrasse 5) as well as The Library of a Law School (Rämistrasse 74), renovated according to Santiago Calatrava’s project. For a true student experience, head to any of the local cafeterias (referred to as mensas) or to the legendary student bar – Polyterasse. The views of the Alps are included in the price of budget-friendly drinks. If you fancy a cup of coffee and more stunning views, head to the upper level of the ETH Main Building to the Alumni Quattro Lounge.
Pro Tip: ETH Zürich (or Federal polytechnic school as it was called then) was the alma mater of Albert Einstein. You can still find his locker (now a tiny exhibition) in one of the corridors of the ETH Main Building. Ask at the info point for the directions.