Zurich is one of the priciest cities in Europe—if not downright the most expensive. And hotel rates can rise to stratospheric heights.
But despair not, Cheapos. Where there is a will, there are affordable hotel rooms, some costing even less than CHF 100. On average, though, you should expect to spend around CHF150 per night.
Most standard double rooms will cost you between CHF150 and CHF220. The lowest rate we saw for a private room (with shared bathroom) was at the café and pension Kafischnaps for CHF79. A dorm bed at the official youth hostel, Jugendherberge Zurich was not much cheaper for a shared bed. And for those willing to forgo space for savings, hotels like the centrally located easyHotel serve up centrally located basics (with private bathroom) for as low as CHF89.
When to Visit Zurich
As is the case in many cities, summer is peak tourist (and rate) season, but since Zurich is as much a business as a tourist city, rates tend to hold pretty even year-round. There are good rates to be had in February and March, and the fall “shoulder season” (September and October) tends to be a good time as well.
On the whole, though, time of year in Zurich is less important than time of week (visit on a weekend for lower rates). Also, avoid conventions and fairs, as rates can shoot up many folds.
Check the Tourism Board’s convention calendar when planning your trip. And unless you’re in a festival kind of mood (and willing to pay through the nose to attend), steer clear of of Zurich during such events as ZuriCarneval (mid- to late- February) and the December Christmas markets.
Where to Stay
The Altstadt, Zurich’s Old Town, is the city's most expensive neighborhood. The trendy Zurich West neighborhood offers some affordable spots—as well as hip eateries and nightlife.
There are also good deals to be had in Langstrasse, the eclectic ‘hood northwest of the train station. Do note, though, that while it’s rapidly changing, Langstrasse is still a Red Light District, so you may happen upon some interesting characters there.
Budget Hotels in Zurich: What to Expect
Zurich's streets are probably cleaner than your own living room, so you can imagine its hotels. With a notable exception of one certain notorious spot (not, of course among EuroCheapo’s recommended hotels), Zurich's accommodations are famous for their efficiency and cleanliness.
Space is limited in Zurich, so many hotel rooms we saw tended to be on the smaller side, but the general tendency seems to be that Wi-Fi is an amenity as basic as running water (double check if you're staying at a business-class hotel, as it may cost extra). Furniture can vary from chic to ‘80s-chic (whoa, crazy fabrics), but you can count on noise-cancelling windows and thick walls in most places. And breakfast was included at many of the hotels we visited but not at others, so check ahead.
The cheapest rooms often share bathroom facilities, but these, as can be expected, live up to the Zurich cleanliness standards. On the whole, though, bathrooms, like many of the guestrooms, tend toward teensy.
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Updated and edited: January 2012