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A Zurich travel guide for budget travelers

Zurich travel tips uetliberg

Switzerland is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe.  However, it isn’t cheap.  In this Budget Travel Guide, use these Zurich travel tips to help you save money and experience the city like a local.

Most people only know Zurich by its banks that regularly appear in newspapers or movies (James Bond, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). But Switzerland’s largest city has more to offer – and these Zurich travel tips will help you discover the best of it!

Zurich travel tips and overview

Once you have strolled around the lively quarter of Kreis 4, have had your first afternoon beer at Xenix and have danced at one of the many great clubs and concert places, you’ll know how fun Zurich canbe.

Another plus is the beautiful nature.  There are many parks in the city to relax, walking up to the house mountain Uetliberg provides almost an alpine experience (after all the summit is at 873 meters above sea level) and for those who still aren’t convinced, there is the lake. Who needs to go on a holiday when you can jump into the lake in the middle of the city?!

Some fast facts: Zurich lies in the German speaking part of Switzerland and has about 400,000 inhabitants. Zurich is not the capital of Switzerland, it’s Bern.  However, most finance and media businesses of Switzerland are located in Zurich.

Zurich, like the rest of Switzerland, isn’t a place for a small budget.  With these Zurich travel tips, you can experience the city, save money, and even enjoy your stay in the city for free.

Zurich transportation

Zurich travel tips lakeZurich is not a large city, sights in the city centre all are in walking distance. Do your sightseeing by foot – you save on public transport and might walk into something unexpected.

Best bargain is to get a day pass for the city centre. For 5.20 Swiss Francs you’ll to use busses, trams, trains and even the ship. Buy your tickets at the vending machines at every bus and tram stop or at the ZVV office inside Zurich main station.

Traveling to the city from Zurich airport, the train is the fastest and cheapest way into the city. A cab will cost you at least 50 francs.

If you wish to explore the Canton of Zurich by train, use a “9 o’clock pass”. It costs 25 francs per day and you can use all trains within canton Zurich. Get it at SBB railway vending machines or at the ticket office of any train station.

Zurich lodging

Unfortunately, Zurich isn’t a backpackers paradise. The most central backpacker place is Hostel Langstars, only a 10 minutes’ bus drive from Zurich main station. At City Backpackers (in the old part of town called Niederdorf) and at the Youth Hostel (a bit further out) you’ll also find reasonable priced beds.

Our housing tip suggestions for Zurich are to use airbnb and couchsurfing –  good options for avoiding overpriced hotel rooms.

Food in Zurich

A good way to prevent spending a fortune on food is to shop at grocery stores such as Migros and Coop and cook your dinner yourself or have a picnic.

Eating out in Zurich often requires a fat wallet. But there are some places where you can fill your belly and get away with 20 francs straight – you might have to cut back on the first course, dessert and wine though.

Here are some Zurich eating out tips.  For hearty food, Aargauerhof is the place for you – Meatloaf with fries and a fried egg or rösti with bacon, cheese and a fried egg, both for 18.50. At Da Michelangelo you’ll get a Pizza Margarita for 14.50. It’s 18 francs for fish n’ chips and a salad at Rössli and 20 bucks for a sausage, fries and grilled veggies at Wurst & Moritz. For a variety of Asian meals under 20 francs, check out Saigon restaurant.

Zurich activities

Zurich travel tips activitiesThere are some great possibilities to spend time in Zurich without spending a franc.

Dance at the Cool Monday party at Mascotte and only pay for your drinks.
Tuesday is concert night at La Catrina and the bar of Hostel Langstars. There is no entrance fee, only a small donation for the local bands is expected.

On Wednesday afternoons you can visit the Collection of the Kunsthaus for free
Rent one of the free bikes at the stands of „Züri rollt“ and discover Zurich by bike.
  If you understand German, check the city department of cultural heritage preservation as they offer free tours.

Connect with locals in Zurich

English is compulsive at most school levels, so most Swiss speak it quite well. If you are lost or have another question, don’t hesitate to ask as people will be happy to help.

People in Switzerland are friendly, but some might them find quite reserved too.  The best way to get in touch is through common friends. Unlike other parts of the world, work and politics are not common topics for small talk. Many Swiss like to travel and backpack too, so exchanging travel experiences can be a good conversation start.

A good way to mingle with locals is at small bars or coffee places. An insider tip for Zurich travellers is the bar of the hostel Langstars. It’s frequented by locals as well as tourists.

If you enjoyed these Zurich travel tips, check out more recommendations and city insides with these Budget Travel Guides to Romania, Vilnius, Germany, and more!

About myfriendfromzurich:

www.myfriendfromzurich.com is an independent travel blog about leisure, shopping, and events in Zurich. Like a real friend, users can ask all kinds of questions and read the answer a few days later on the blog.

In 2012 myfriendfromzurich was founded by Manu and Nina, two Zurich girls who love to stroll around the city with open eyes for new exciting things. Manu and Nina also  love cotton candy, flea markets and jumping into lake Zurich.  Follow them on the blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

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  1. Marlys says:

    Some great tips here. Travel to Switzerland always proves to be expensive, particularly in the German side. I suppose they just assume everybody there are rich ;-) , so every little idea helps.
    Marlys recently posted..Themed Paris Urban Walk – The Artists of MontmartreMy Profile

    • It’s been a few years since I’ve been to Switzerland but I do remember it being very expensive. I know Europe isn’t cheap but Switzerland was probably one of the more expensive countries I visited. However, I loved eating rösti so that made up for it :)

  2. Charu says:

    I haven’t been to Switzerland in a long time but I’d love to go back, great reasons to! But yes, need to save for Europe in general.
    Charu recently posted..Off the Beaten Path: Djibouti, an Unlikely Luxury DestinationMy Profile

    • Switzerland is definitely an expensive country. However, the beauty more than makes up for it. I want to go back as well just to do a little hiking in the mountains during the summer.

  3. Kate says:

    I wonder if any of those movies actually shot in Zurich? I love doing movie themed tours of places (self-guided since I’m not a tour person). A chocolate eating tour sounds good too!
    Kate recently posted..Road Trip to Tekapo, Wanaka and Fox Glacier, South Island New Zealand Part 1My Profile

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