Swiss National Museum (Schweizerisches Landesmuseum) - The stone building that looks like castle, across the street from the Zurich Bahnhof, is the Swiss National Museum. It's a biggie, so allow plenty of time.
First thing, head up to the "Tower of Arms" - the stairs go round and round through small rooms in the tower (which is fun for kids). At the top are two big choice - the arms and armor collection, or costumes and clothing. The arms and armor collection is chock full of crossbows, chain link suits of armor, swords, helmets, rifles, daggers, pistols. The costume galleries recreate an 18th century drawing room with elegantly dressed men and women, family home with homey furnishings, and local market, as well an exhibit of 19th century Swiss ladies clothing with lots of bustles, bows and flounces.
On the first floor, check out the battle diorama with 6,000 tin soldiers, and an exquisite exhibit of coins (antique gold and silver coins, with magnifying glasses, so you can see details). Don't miss the "Historic Rooms," actual rooms from castles, great homes, convents, decorated with carved wood paneling, colorful ceramic tiled stoves, painted glass windows.
Other galleries chronicle the history of Switzerland from the Bronze Age (lovely jewelry), to the Romans, Germanic tribes, Swiss Confederation, and modern day. In one room, dedicated to Swiss finance, you'll find a row of numbered safety deposit boxes - open the doors and take out the cardboard boxes to see what's inside.
Behind the museum is a large grassy area ( "Platzspitz
") with lots of grass and trees, a small playground
with swings and climbing structures. Bring a picnic and have your lunch outdoors. On the east side of the Platspitz is the stop for the Limmat boat.
Kunsthaus (Museum of Fine Arts) Zurich - Not a huge museum, it's a fun place to spend a rainy afternoon. One room has sculptures by the Swiss artist Giacometti, there's something about those long squiggly figures with big feet that appeals to kids. In the Giacometti galley are self portraits by the artist, and no, he doesn't look at all like his sculptures. Also in the museum are excellent Van Goghs, Monets, and works by Miro, Picasso, and Paul Klee.