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A Free Visit to the Paleontological Museum Zurich

Last Updated on April 11, 2024 by Darla Uhl

The Paleontological Museum Zurich (Universität Zürich Paläontologisches Institut und Museum in German) houses an extensive collection of fossils, minerals, and rocks at the University of Zurich. It is located directly beside the Zoological Museum of Zurich and like that other museum, it is also free to visit.

Image of the Plesosauria, Paleontological Museum Zurich by TouringSwitzerland.com

Located in the heart of Zurich, Switzerland, the museum is a popular destination for children and tourists. And although the museum is overshadowed by its more popular neighbor, the Zoological Museum, it is still interesting to discover. Inside this museum, you will see a collection of marine reptiles and fish from the middle Triassic period.

History of the Paleontological Museum Zurich

Individual fossils have been exhibited in Zurich since 1629 but the owners have changed hands. In the beginning, the fossils belonged to the public library of Zurich, then it was sold to the University of Zurich in 18371.

The collections moved to the main building of the Swiss Federal Polytechnic (now known as ETH) in 1864. But in 1908, the collections pertaining to the animals, including the vertebrate fossils, moved to the University of Zurich. Since then, the zoological collections have been under the care of the University of Zurich. The minerals and rocks, on the other hand, are currently housed in focusTerra.

The Paleontological Museum together with the Zoological Museum and the Zoological Institute comprise the Zoological-Comparative Anatomical Institute (Zoologisch-vergleichend anatomische Institut in German).

Paleontological Museum Zurich: What to Expect

Permanent Exhibits

Image of an Ammonite and Bone, Paleontological Museum Zurich by TouringSwitzerland.com

The Paleontological Museum Zurich is home to a vast collection of exhibits that showcase dinosaurs, fossils, and endangered species. While it might honestly look underwhelming at first glance, it actually houses one of the world’s most important collections of marine reptiles and fish from the middle Triassic time. This period covers 235 to 245 million years ago.

The Paleontological Museum of Zurich houses one of the world’s most important collections of marine reptiles and fish from the middle Triassic time.

The museum has a variety of fossils on display inside various glass vitrines. Among the fossils on display here were found on Monte San Giorgio, a 1,100-meter-high mountain in Canton Ticino considered one of the most important fossil deposits in the world. The exhibits are arranged in a way that makes it easy for visitors to learn about the different periods in Earth’s history.

Fossils on display range from tiny microfossils to huge reconstructed skeletons, mostly of marine reptiles. Shown above, for example, is the Plesiosauria, a long-necked marine reptile that measures at least 14 meters in length. This animal fed on fish and was a predator in the world’s seas during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.

Among the exhibits, you will also find remarkable specimens from other countries, including a fascinating ammonite, an extinct marine mollusk, hailing from Steinhofen, Germany. Additionally, there is an upper arm bone from a relative of the elephant, originating from Sichuan, China. These intriguing artifacts from different corners of the world contribute to the museum’s diverse and captivating collection.

Paleontological Institute and Museum

Aside from the exhibits in the museum, the Paleontological Institute and Museum also work to improve taxonomic literature about these small to medium-sized marine reptiles. It is, in essence, a hub for research in the field of paleontology.

In Switzerland, the majority of paleontological finds are studied and fieldwork is conducted with the Paleontological Institute and Museum Zurich.


How to Get to the Paleontological Museum Zurich

Image of the Central Polybahn near the Paleontological Museum Zurich by TouringSwitzerland.com

The Paleontological Museum of the University of Zurich is easy to reach on foot or by tram from Zurich’s city center. It is open daily from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM for free, except on Mondays when it is closed.

AddressUniversität Zürich Paläontologisches Institut und Museum
Karl-Schmid-Strasse 4
8006 Zürich
BusZürich, ETH/Universitätsspital (2-minute walk)
FunicularCentral Polybahn
Polyterrasse ETH (3-minute walk)
TramETH/Universitätsspital (4-minute walk)
TrainZurich (11-minute walk)

Final Thoughts: Paleontological Museum Zurich

Image of the Paleontological Museum Zurich by TouringSwitzerland.com

The Paleontological Museum Zurich offers a truly captivating experience that makes it worth your time. While it may appear modest initially, this museum holds immense significance due to its extensive collection of marine reptiles and fish from the middle Triassic period, dating back 235 to 245 million years ago.

Inside the museum, visitors can explore a variety of fossils showcased within glass vitrines. Many of these remarkable specimens were discovered on Monte San Giorgio, a majestic mountain located in Canton Ticino.

By visiting the Paleontological Museum Zurich, you have the opportunity to immerse yourself in a remarkable journey through time. Whether you’re a seasoned paleontologist or simply curious, the museum will leave a lasting impression on you.

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Darla Uhl is the owner of TouringSwitzerland.com. Her home is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Having lived almost 20 years in Switzerland, she's traveled extensively all over the country.

Darla's favorite regions to visit in Switzerland include Engadin, Lake Geneva, Bernese Oberland, Ticino, and Valais. She loves spending time with her family, hiking, visiting museums, and reading books.

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