Zurich is one of Europe’s most amazing cities but it usually comes with a pretty mighty price tag. Zurich is a charming mix of modern and historic attractions and really is a city that should’t be missed while en route elsewhere. On a budget? Here’s our guide to discovering this city for free.
As a hub city, Zurich can be a very expensive city to visit, just like any of Europe’s other hub cities. Budget travellers thinking to book flights to Zurich shouldn’t be put off by the prospect of paying for everything in Swiss Francs. There is plenty to see and do in Zurich that is completely free and we’ve collected them all for you in one place. Let’s go!
Wander the Old Town – If you’re looking for stereotypical Switzerland, you’ll find it in the Old Town. The atmosphere will take you back a couple hundred of years to another time. You don’t have to spend a penny wandering around the historic streets, although you may be tempted to duck into a cafe for a little treat or chocolate while you’re there.
Fraumunster Church – You’ll no doubt notice Fraumunster Church as soon as you start exploring the city centre. The church has a huge clock face and spire that towers over all the other surrounding buildings. The interior of the church is particularly impressive, mostly due to the intricate stained-glass windows and a history that dates back more than 1,000 years.
- Other churches in Zurich are also free, including the 13th century St Peter’s Church with Europe’s largest clock face and the Romanesque Grossmunster.
Lake Zurich – Also called Zurichsee, Lake Zurich is the perfect place for an afternoon stroll. On weekends the parkland around the lake is crowded with locals soaking up the sun, at least in the summertime. July and August also welcome free concerts and performances in the evenings and a free swimming area which is perfect if you have the kids in tow.
Zurich Toy Museum – Free museums are few and far between in Zurich but this small Toy Museum is one that does not charge entry and is a charming little spot to explore on the upper floors of a city building. The museum houses a fine collection of dolls and wooden toys from a bygone era.
Botanischer Garten – You’ll find the city’s botanical gardens opposite the Neumunster Kirche. It’s a 53,000 square metre place that houses more than nine thousand species of plants and flowers in a number of glasshouses. Entry is free.
Swimming in Zurichsee – We’ve already mentioned that it’s possible to go swimming in Lake Zurich. It’s a great activity on a hot summer’s day. Why not also pack a picnic to enjoy under the shade of a tree?
Play chess on Lindenhof Hill – Lindenhof Hill is the site of a historic Roman castle and is the highest point in the old town with some spectacular views over the city. Pass by Hedwig Fountain and find a mate to challenge at a game of chess.
Ice skating – On the other side of the spectrum, Zurich is also a great city to visit in the dead of winter when there aren’t too many tourists around and if you don’t mind lower temperatures. Public ice rinks open all over the city but at least two of them are free on the first Wednesdays of the month, the Heuried and Oerlikon rinks.
Cemetery scavenger hunt – Putting a cemetery on the top of your “sights to see” list may be a bit odd but Flutern Cemetery in Zurich is an exception. Not only is it a beautiful park with monuments and statues but it’s also the final resting place for a few famous figures like James Joyce and Johanna Spiri, the author of the children’s story Heidi.
Attend a Joyce reading – Speaking of James Joyce, the James Joyce Foundation celebrated the author’s works by giving two weekly (free) readings from his most famous works, Ulysses (which he wrote the majority of here in Zurich) and Finnegan’s Wake. Readings are Tuesdays (5:30-7pm) and Thursdays (7:00-8:30pm).
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