The rumors you’ve heard are true. Zurich is one pricey city. But our tips will help you get through Zurich with francs to spare.
Zurich Budget Tips
Tourist Office Information
We always recommend making the tourist office your first stop in any city. Here you can stock up on free maps, coupons, city guides and information on discounted and cost-free events.
Zurich’s main tourism office is located at the main train station. From November through April, it’s open Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. From May though October, it’s open Monday to Saturday from 8 a.m. until 8:30 p.m. and Sunday from 8:30 a.m. until 6:30 p.m.
Visit Zurich’s tourism board site for information.
Museum Prices and Passes
Museum prices in Zurich are surprisingly low (and many free!) for such an expensive city. Here’s what you’ll pay at some of the major ones.
Popular museum prices:
Schweizerisches Landesmuseum (Swiss National Museum)
Housed in a Neo-Gothic castle, this museum preserves and celebrates Switzerland’s unique heritage, from ancient times through the present.
Prices: CHF 10 (adults); CHF 8 (reduced); free (age 16 and under)
From international stars like Picasso and Rothko to Swiss greats like Alberto Giacometti, this impressive art collection is one of Switzerland’s best.
Prices: CHF 15 (adults); CHF 10 (reduced); free (age 16 and under); free to all on Wednesdays
Hang with more than 360 animal species at Zurich’s large zoo, replete with Madagascar rainforest hall.
Prices: CHF 22; CHF 16 (ages 16-25); CHF 11 (reduced); free (children under 6)
This lush Left Bank oasis is a great place to enjoy Lake Zurich—among diving platforms, beach umbrellas and kiddie pools.
Prices: CHF 17 (adults); CHF 5 (reduced); CHF 3.50 (children under 6)
Housed in a building that is in itself a work of art, Zurich’s Design Museum celebrates photography, modern culture and graphic design.
Prices:CHF 7/CHF 9/CHF 12 (adults Galerie/Halle/Galerie & Halle); CHF 5/CHF 6/CHF 8 (reduced Galerie/Halle/Galerie & Halle)
Uetliberg (site in German)
The 2850-foot mountain (prices listed are for the S10 tram that goes up the mountain) is great for sledding in the winter, hiking in the summer and spectacular views all the time.
Prices:CHF 16 (adults); CHF 8 (reduced)
The "ZurichCARD" offers admission free admission to all Zurich museums, plus discounts on shopping, theater tickets and more. It also includes a “culinary surprise” at participating restaurants and free rides on all forms of public transportation, including airport transfer and boat rides.
A 24-hour card costs CHF 20 and CHF 14 for children under 16, and a 72-hour card costs CHF 40 for adults and CHF 28 for children under 16.
As city passes go, the Zurich pass is quite inexpensive, and probably worth it if you plan to visit several museums. The ZurichCARD can be purchased at the train station tourism office, the airport service center, in the ticket offices for railway stations and at hotels. For more information, visit the Zurich Tourism Board site.
Several of Zurich’s main attractions are free to visit. The three major churches, St. Peterskirche with its giant clock tower, the iconic Grossmünster and the Fraumünster with its stunning Chagall windows, are all free to visit (Web sites are in German). Many museums, including the Anthropology Museum and the Toy Museum, also offer free admission.
Outdoor activities are also, of course, free. A stroll through Old Town is always a treat, and there are plenty of parks for hiking, biking or swimming.
It’s also free to visit Fluntern Cemetery, where James Joyce is buried. The author’s fans may also (ahem) rejoice in exploring the extensive collection of artwork, journals and memorabilia at the James Joyce Foundation for free.
Ways to Save on Shopping and Entertainment
Just because Zurich is expensive doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. We found a few easy ways to eat, shop and play in Zurich on the fewest amount of francs.
Make it a movie Monday. Catching a flick at one of Zurich’s cool movie houses is always a fairly affordable outing, but on Mondays, cinema tickets are discounted. And if live performance is more your style, meet Theater Monday, when all tickets to the Schauspielhaus theaters—regardless of seat category—cost CHF 30 or CHF 20 with a student ID (site in German).
Be a bookworm. Hit up the Helferei (site in German), the former home of reformer Huldrych Zwingli (located next to Grossmünster Church) to browse the stacks of their “take and carry” library. If you find a title you like, you can take with you, free of charge.
Be a starving student. Follow in the footsteps of the scholars and grab an affordable bite at one of the canteens at Zurich University or the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. And never underestimate the power of the farmer’s market, food court or snack bar. See our guide to cheap Zurich restaurants for more on how to eat on the cheap.
Be a smart shopper. The swanky, fashion-label-bedecked Bahnhofstrasse may be great for window shopping, but set foot in one of its pricey shops and you already feel several francs lighter. Head to the end of the strip, though, to find flea market steals at Bürkliplatz (every Saturday between May and October).
Hit the open road. Few things in Zurich are free, but one great thing is: bike rental. Take advantage of the city’s great bike share program and explore on two wheels—for free. Check out our guide to getting around Zurich for more information.
Members of the AARP can obtain discounts on hotels, museums, airfares and car rentals. They can be reached in the United States at 1-888-687-2277 or visited online. Be sure to ask about a discount if you do not see one listed, as some discounts are not advertised.
The International Student Identity Card, ISIC, the most widely accepted form of student ID, provides discounts on sights, accommodations, food and transportation. Some places offer admission discounts of 20%-50% to ISIC members. All cardholders have access to a 24-hour emergency helpline. In the US call 1-800-223-7986 or visit the ISIC online. Applicants must be degree seekers of a secondary or post-secondary school and must be at least 12 years of age. The card costs US$22 and is valid until the end of the year issued.
For non-students 25 years or younger, the International Youth Card, IYTC, also offers many of the same benefits as the ISIC. The card costs US$22 and is valid for one year from the date issue.
Travelers with student cards, such as ISIC and IYTC qualify for big discounts from travel agencies. Most flights from budget agencies are on major airlines, though peak season deals might be on less reliable chartered aircraft.
Related posts from our blog
Most popular hotels in Zurich (by views)
Zurich blog posts
- Night Train Travel: A guide to snoozing across Europe by train
- Terminal Retreats: Railway station lounges
- Gimmelwald, Switzerland: A visit to the tiny mountain village
- European Rail Connections: Headline changes in December 2012
- Switzerland by Rail: 2-for-1 deals on the Swiss Pass
- European Rail Connections for Summer 2012: An overview of seasonal rail links
- Crossing the Alps by Train: Three rail routes from Switzerland to Italy
- Switzerland Just Got Cheapo: EuroCheapo launches guides to Geneva and Zurich
- Eurolines: International coach journeys in Europe
- European Train Schedules: New trains for 2012