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Many cities have huge science and technology museums that are some of the most popular things to do. However, other smaller science museums are often overlooked. Local universities often run these museums. One example is focusTerra in Zurich, Switzerland, an Earth Sciences museum at ETH Zurich.
FocusTerra is operated by the ETH Zurich Department of Earth Sciences. It has informative displays about various topics in earth sciences, including local geology, minerals, fossils, and seismology.
The museum opened in 2009 & the permanent exhibition was refurbished in 2019 to include more detailed information and English translations.
FocusTerra (website) is free to visit, which makes it a great activity in a city that’s so expensive. It’s located on the ETH Zurich campus in the hills just across the Limmat from central Zurich. The most fun way to get there is to take the Polybahn funicular. The building entrance is clearly marked along Sonneggstrasse.
The museum is located in the atrium of the building that houses the ETH Zurich Department of Earth Sciences. Remember that although focusTerra is open to the public, this is still a working university with students and professors going about their days, so be respectful of the space.Book your hotel in Zurich now!
Upon arriving in the building’s atrium, the striking focusTerra is unmissable. The white structure rises over three levels on one side of this space, with bridges and staircases connecting it to the school’s upper floors.
The exhibition spaces are incorporated into this structure, putting them in full view while inviting visitors to come over and look closer. I even spotted a few students taking study breaks to look at the displays.
FocusTerra’s three levels each have a different theme.
On the ground floor, the focus is on the Dynamics of the Earth, including earthquakes, geomagnetism, volcanoes, the formation of mountains, and the deformation of rocks.
This level also contains a geological cross-section & relief map of the Zurich area, one of my favorite parts of the museum.
The second level features Treasures of the Earth. Here, rocks and minerals are on display, including gorgeous crystals and gemstones, such as the Indergand Crystal.
Zurich’s proximity to the Alps makes this collection impressive.
FocusTerra’s upper level is dedicated to the Archives of the Earth. This set of exhibits includes millions of years of history via plant fossils and sediment formation.
There is also an earthquake simulator at focusTerra, which can reproduce quakes up to magnitude 8.0. However, the simulator is only accessible via a free guided tour on Sundays or through scheduling a group tour on other days, so I could not see it.
In addition to the permanent exhibits, focusTerra also hosts temporary exhibitions, many of which have to do with climate change & the environment.
Watch a video of my visit to focusTerra in Zurich:
Here are some other great Zurich tours & activities.
Need a place to stay? Check out these Zurich hotel options. For a luxurious stay, I recommend the Park Hyatt Zurich. Zurich is an expensive city, but it’s easy to get around, so if you’re looking to save some money, you can stay at an airport hotel like the Hyatt Regency Zurich Airport The Circle, as I have also done.