When you frequently find yourself on the top of lists detailing the most expensive cities in the world, you know you’re no bargain. From its watches to its banks, Zurich is a city famous for opulence and luxury. Set on a glassy lake with a well preserved Old Town, Zurich may fall in the land of luxury but it doesn’t have to close its doors to budget travelers. If you are looking to visit this expensive Swiss city, it’s possible to do so for $150 or less a day.
Not all accommodation options in Zurich have to break the bank. Rather than staying at mainstream hotels, budget travelers should instead seek out hostels, guesthouses, and bed and breakfasts that cater to those on a tight budget. At the same time, these budget accommodations still run at a premium. A shared room at most hostels will run around $50 per person. Guesthouses and budget hostels cost $60 to $80 per night. The farther out you stay, the more money you can save. For a truly budget and out-there experience, you can even camp while in town. From May to October, visitors can camp in a safari tent on Lake Zurich. Proudly the only campsite situated within the city limits, it only costs about $45 per person per night. Other campsites nearby are even cheaper like that on Lützelau Island. A tent site for one adult runs around $25.
Zurich offers a wealth of public transportation options, but if you paid for each one and every trip individually, you might end up blowing your budget. If you plan on visiting Zurich for 3 days, the ZurichCARD might be your best bet for affordable transportation. The card lends 72 hours of unlimited public transportation, including the train to and from the airport. The 72-hour pass runs around $50 and you can also purchase a 24-hour pass at half the cost. In addition to providing all the transportation you will need, the card also includes entrance to many of Zurich’s major attractions at a free or reduced rate. If you don’t want to spend a Swiss Franc on transportation, the city has a free public bike program. With just an I.D. and a small deposit, you can take a bike out all day. The free bikes can be picked up from a number of locations.
Food and drink in Zurich will often run a traveler’s budget, especially if they eat out for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You can save on drinks by avoiding alcohol in general. Beer, wine, and cocktails out will merely eat away at your wallet. Instead, you can take advantage of Zurich’s old stone fountains all around town. Home to 1,224 public fountains, you can fill up your water bottle for free and enjoy excellent, high-quality drinking water. In terms of food, shopping locally at a supermarket like the Swiss chain Coop is one easy way to just pick up breakfast and lunches and save some extra cash. If you want to eat out with spending a lot, try the Viaduct Market Hall. Unique in that it sets up under a railway viaduct, the indoor market features local farmers, butchers, and bakers selling their fresh products six days a week. In addition to market stalls, the market also features cafes and restaurants offering mostly budget friendly meals by Zurich’s standards.
Roam the Old Town
Filling up your itinerary in Zurich doesn’t even need to cost one Swiss franc. Travelers getting to know the city can begin roaming the streets of the Old Town without spending anything. You can even join the Downtown Zurich Tour for free which takes you on a 1.5-hour walking tour every day at 11 a.m. You’ll see the major sights like the Fraumünster along with hidden gems, all while appreciating information from a guide.
If you purchase the ZurichCARD for your transportation needs, you can gain entry to many of Zurich’s museums for free or at a discounted rate. Even if you don’t buy the card, you can also visit some of Zurich’s museums for free. Ironically the Money Museum provides free admission while highlighting the development of money and its influence. Another cool freebie museum in Zurich is the Zoological Museum of the University of Zurich, home to 1,500 animals.
Parks and Gardens
Luckily for budget travelers, Zurich is covered in parks and gardens that you can explore at no cost. You can roam Rieterpark, the largest park in Zurich or head for Belvoir Park, one of the region’s oldest landscape gardens. A Zurich favorite is easily Lindenhof. Offering compelling views of the Old Town, you’ll also find plenty of Linden trees to picnic under and even giant chess sets. For a more zoological experience, you can visit the Langenberg Wildlife Park Zurich at no cost and explore the animals of Switzerland.
If you visit Zurich in the summer, you can cool off with Alpine and city views in one of its many river pools. The city features several pools built right into the river Limmat. While some come with a cost, a number are free to the public including the Lower Letten River Pool, the Upper Letten River Pool, and the Schanzengraben River Pool.
Visiting one of the most expensive cities in the world, one known for its big banks and jazzy watches, doesn’t have to involve spending copious amounts of Swiss Francs. With a bit of careful planning, it’s possible to experience the joys of Zurich at $150 a day or less.
Ready to head to Zurich and experience the expensive city without blowing your budget? Check out fares to get your trip planning started!