Famed as an international banking center and home to the ‘most expensive shopping street in Europe’, Zurich isn’t the place to bag a bargain, but there are still plenty of inexpensive things to do in Zurich. Here are some ideas for stretching out your travel funds in one of Europe’s most expensive destinations.
1. Visit the free sights
Zurich’s biggest selling point is its stunning architecture and wandering around the historic old town is the best way to soak up the city’s free sights. Admire the landmark cathedrals occupying opposite sides of the Limmat River – the medieval Fraumuenster with its blue-tinted spire and intricate stained glass windows, and the Gothic towers of the imposing Grossmuenster – or pay a visit to the 7th century St Peter’s Church, boasting the largest church clock face in Europe.
2. Enjoy the city’s free museums
While you’ll pay to get into the special exhibitions, many of Zurich’s museums offer free entry to their permanent collections. Pay a visit to the Kunsthaus Museum, where you’ll find works by Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh and Warhol, or marvel the eclectic modernist works at the Migros Museum of Contemporary Art, where entry is free on Thursday evenings. For some childish fun, head to the small Zurich Toy Museum where you can marvel over toys from a bygone era without paying a cent.
3. Enjoy the views
Climb to the top of Lindenhof hill, the city’s highest point, where you’ll get some spectacular views over the Limmat Quay and the Old Town. Spend some time here on a summer afternoon and you’ll get a unique glimpse into local life, as crowds gather to play street chess and boules in the hilltop Lindenhof square. Alternatively, enjoy the views across Lake Zurich with a walk along the idyllic lakeside promenade or, if your budget allows, take to the waters on a boat cruise.
4. Indulge in some window shopping
Zurich’s famous shopping street, Bahnhofstrasse, is crammed with mind-bogglingly expensive jewelry and designer boutiques, but those on a budget can still admire the glittering window displays and enjoy people-watching from one of the many coffee houses. If you can afford just one thing, pay a visit to the famous Sprüngli café and shop, operating since 1859, where you can splash out on a delicious hot chocolate coupled with some handmade Swiss chocolates. Alternatively, wander the cobblestone streets of the charming Niederdorf district, where the antique stores, bookshops and quirky clothing outlets offer a better chance of snagging a bargain.
5.Take advantage of tourist deals and freebies
To get the most out of your money, pick up a Zurich Card which will get you into many of the city’s museums and sights, as well as offering a range of discounts on transport, restaurants and nightlife. Take advantage of freebies too – Zurich offers free bike rental (with deposit) from outside the main train station and forget buying drinks – the city’s has over a thousand public water fountains offering up water so clean it’s reportedly better quality than bottled water.