Zurich on a budget

Cheese, chocolates and mountains – when you want the best in the world, Switzerland is the place to get it, and if you want the best blend of urban culture, Zurich should be your first port of call. The city is famously Switzerland’s financial engine – it’s a hub of businesses, banks, and wealthy residents and so of course is known for being an expensive city reserved for travellers with the biggest chequebooks.

But fear not; Zurich is a thriving hub of food, art, culture and natural beauty, and today is totally feasible for travellers who want to see the sights even on a modest budget.

We’ll share our list of top tips about where to go, what to eat and where to stay to help you make the most out of your Swiss holiday and stretch that budget as far as it will go.

Where to stay

Budget accommodation doesn’t mean you have to rough it out – you can find plenty of comfortable rooms as you travel through Switzerland on your adventure. Plan ahead to avoid disappointment and keep an eye out for room sales or other special deals that can help you stretch your budget even further. In more rural areas, look for small B&Bs or consider renting your own cabin for a few days and cooking your own food instead of eating out.

Rather than staying in the city centre when you visit destinations like Zurich, why not save some cash by staying just outside of the pricier city centre in a well-priced Zurich airport hotel? Our comfortable rooms at the Park Inn by Radisson Zurich Airport Hotel for example offer a base close to the action in central Zurich but without the city centre prices, and great public transport links from the airport make it easy to explore Zurich’s best sights at your own pace.

What to eat

Next to accommodation, eating can be one of the most expensive parts of holiday travel, but don’t worry, there are plenty of great budget options! Instead of spending money each day on a big breakfast, why not pick up some fruit, yogurt, croissants or granola from a local supermarket and snack on those instead? Pack snack bars and other items like nuts and chocolate with you so you can nibble on the go rather than shell out for expensive treats when sightseeing. Buying great, cheap food from street vendors will save you cash during the day – enabling you to have a slap-up meal in the evening at place like:

  • Odeon – Enjoy a hot coffee or a hearty lunch on Zurich’s right bank at the Odeon café. Since it first opened its doors in 1911 it has been a buzzing meeting point for intellectuals and other famous historical figures like Albert Einstein, Vladimir Lenin, Franz Lehar and Hans Arp.
  • Rheinfelder Bierhaus – Located on Zurich’s right bank in Niederdorf, this restaurant has been an institution in the city for more than eight decades. Here you can find reasonably priced meals, local Swiss favourites and even a few famous dishes from the owners – the restaurant’s paella is so popular it needs to be ordered ahead.
  • Sternen Grill – Right around the corner from Zurich’s Opera House, Schauspielhaus Theatre and Tonhalle (Concert Hall), Sternen Grill offers a central resting point with great food at a fair price. This relaxed dining room on the heart of town is famous for its sausages and has the awards to back it up – if you’re after a hearty meal, look no further than here.

Where to go and what to see

Zurich is a city with lots of great indoor and outdoor attractions to keep you busy, and even with a small amount of spending money you can still see the very best of the area. Instead of relying on taxis, why not explore on your own two wheels; From May to October bike rental in Zurich is completely free of charge for visitors. You can pick up a rental bike from the city’s central station, as well as other locations around the city, and then take off towards Üetliberg, Zürich’s local mountain, or the sparkling Lake Zürich for an afternoon spent in the great outdoors.

You can also save money on the most popular attractions with a ZürichCARD – for a flat rate you’ll get access to free public transport on the city’s trams, buses, rail, boat and cable car services, along with free entrance to sites like the Botanical Gardens, City Hall, Central Library, Kulturama Museum of Mankind, Kunsthaus Zürich (Museum of Fine Art) and more than a dozen other attractions. The card also entitles holders to discounts at selected stores and restaurants, so it’s a great way to stretch your budget when you’re visiting Zurich for the first time and want to experience a little bit of everything.

What tips do you have for staying on budget while travelling?