Zurich has grown exponentially over the last fifteen years and is now a city with a lot to do. With a hopping nightlife, filled with endless bars and restaurants, and wonderful sightseeing, complete with rivers and lakes, this cosmopolitan city is bustling with activity. There’s plenty to keep you busy and drain your wallet. You need to be careful here. This city is expensive.
Hostel prices – Expect to spend an average of $50 USD per night for a bed in a dorm room. You can find a few rooms as low as $70 USD for a single, but you’re more likely to spending over $100 USD.
Budget hotel prices – Most budget hotels will charge at least $110 USD a night for a double room.
Average cost of food – Bars and cafés are the cheapest way to eat in Zurich. If you’re dining out, you’ll spend an average of 60-$80 USD per day. For self-catering with the occasional meal out, expect to spend around $50 USD.
Transportation costs – Taxis are expensive and unnecessary. Instead, take the bus, train or tram, and save yourself a ton of money. A one-day pass transit pass ranges in price from $6-$37 USD, depending on how many transit zones you want to cover. A single ticket for 1-2 zones is $5 USD. You can also save money by riding a bicycle.
Money Saving Tips
Buy a Zurich pass – The Zurich Pass can offer excellent value, with free airport transfers and local transport as well as free admission to forty Zurich museums. A 24-hour Zurich card costs $27 USD, while a 72-hour pass costs $54 USD. Tourist passes like this are always excellent value if you plan to spend a lot of time sight-seeing and will always save you money.
Self-cater – Supermarkets like the Migros and Coop chains are scattered across Zurich and offer cheap groceries. Avoid Globus supermarkets, which are by far the most expensive of the standard chains. With restaurants costing so much money in this city, you’ll want to cook most of your meals.
Couchsurfing – Using Couchsurfing or any other hospitality exchange will be critical if you are on a tight budget. With accommodation costing so much money, if you hope to stay on a budget here, you will need to avoid paying for a room. You can find a lot of hosts in Switzerland.
Top Things to See and Do
Taste Swiss chocolate – With several chocolate shops throughout the city, you should visit a Sprungli store and see for yourself what makes their chocolate so good. If you’re lucky, you can catch them passing out samples and snack for free.
Visit the National Museum – If you’re a history buff, this National Museum of Switzerland offers a detailed look into the history of the country. The exhibits are very detailed.
Walk the Old Town – Stop to eat at one of many restaurants. You can choose from cuisine of pretty much every ethnicity. Then, have a drink at a variety of pubs, and taste the city’s unique cheese and chocolates. This unique shopping district is like stepping back in time.
Explore its vibrant nightlife – Zurich may be a relaxing city during the day, but at night it comes alive with over 500 nightlife venues – pubs, restaurants, music halls. With no open-containers laws in Zurich, start your night with cheap drinks on the Limmat riverfront before moving to the bars and clubs. When you are ready to hit the town, head to Neiderdorf in the Old Town or Langstrasse just nearby.
Catch the street parade – Currently the biggest open-air techno rave in Europe. It happens on the second Saturday of August, during which time trucks which function as mobile sound systems start driving along the lake side. Every year, this event attracts nearly a million visitors who dance in the streets to music that can be heard from anywhere in the city.
Go skiing – Flumserberg is the nearest large ski-resort. It’s popular with people from Zurich, with a good range of runs for beginners and experts. Retreat to the right side of the resort if the rest gets busy.
Walk the Lake Promenade – Especially during summer, the lake is a beautiful place to spend the evening or the weekend. Starting from Bellevue, the boardwalk goes for about three kilometers along the lake towards Tiefenbrunnen. About halfway from Bellevue, there is a meadow that’s nice to relax in during a sunny day.
Celebrate Swiss National Day – Celebrated on August 1st, festivities are carried out in the evenings and fireworks are launched at night. Watch them over the lake, or if you’re experienced with safely-launching fireworks yourself, you can buy them in the days leading up to the national holiday and have fun. The display over the Rheinfall, one hour away by S-Bahn, is also extremely popular.
Go hiking – With Zurichberg to the East of town and Uetliberg to the West, the city has two mountains which offer good views and good hikes. While Zurichberg feels closer to town with its cemeteries and hotels, Uetliberg has has a more natural ambience with its hiking and mountain-biking trails.
Check out the Rietberg Museum – For a day of international art, head to the Rietberg Museum, which contains collections from non-European lands. Some of the highlights here come from Asia, Africa, and Oceania. There are a lot of beautiful sculptures here, and the building itself is quite something.
Take a boat tour – For a unique perspective of the city, take a tour on Lake Zurich. You can find tours for as little as $10 USD, and bookings can be made at the pier on Bahnhofstrasse .
Visit the zoo – Zurich has a zoo that is considered to be among the best in Europe. It has more than 2000 animals from various habitats and ecosystems. A visit here can easily take up the better part of a day.