Zurich on a Budget: Tips for Affordable Travel

If you’ve been eyeing Zurich for your next adventure but have been put off by its expensive reputation, don’t worry. Exploring Zurich on a budget is possible, and I’m here to show you how.

From budget accommodation to cheap eats and free things to do, we’re about to make Zurich affordable.

How expensive is Zurich?

First things first, let’s address the elephant in the room: How much should you expect to spend in Zurich?

Well, “Zurich travel budget” is a search term that’s as diverse as it gets because, frankly, your spending can vary quite a bit.

Zurich isn’t shy about its high costs, but here’s what you should generally expect:

  • Accommodation: Budget hostels can cost between 50 to 70 CHF per night for a bed in a dormitory. For budget hotels, expect to pay anything from 100 to 200 CHF for a double room.
  • Food: A meal in a budget restaurant can cost you around 10-30 CHF. For a meal in a mid-range restaurant, expect to pay 40-60 CHF.
  • Transportation: A one-way ticket to Zurich’s efficient public transport system costs about 2.6 CHF.
  • Entertainment: Museums and attractions range from 10 to 25 CHF.
  • Drinks: A pint of beer in Zurich will set you back about 5-8 CHF.

So, for a budget trip, plan for about 70-100 CHF per day, 100-200 CHF for a mid-range trip, and upwards of 200 CHF for a more luxurious experience.

*1 CHF = 1.09 USD.

Lake Zurich is one of the best things to do in Zurich travel guide Switzerland.

Tips to Save Money in Zurich

You can get a Zurich Card for unlimited public transportation and free or discounted entry to most museums and attractions.

If you plan to shop, make sure to claim VAT refunds on your purchases when you leave Switzerland.

Cheapest time to visit Zurich

Planning your visit to Zurich strategically can be a real money-saver. So, when is the best time to visit Zurich on a budget?

The answer lies in the shoulder season – that’s April, May, September, and October for Zurich. The weather is great, tourist crowds are smaller, and prices are down – win-win-win!

Just remember to book your accommodations and flights well in advance to snag the best deals.

Walking around the lake is one of the best things to do in Zurich on a budget.

Getting Around Zurich on the Cheap

Now, let’s tackle the cheap public transport Zurich dilemma.

Zurich has an impressive network of trams, buses, trains, and even boats that make getting around a breeze.

However, these can add up, especially if you’re planning to move around a lot.

My advice is to go for the Zurich Card – it offers unlimited travel on the city’s public transportation network, including airport transfer, and also grants free or discounted admission to a number of attractions.

If you decide to take day trips from Zurich, renting a car is the best choice. Check your car rental options here.

Walking or biking around the city is another great way to save money while enjoying the beautiful sights.

Budget Accommodation in Zurich

Despite its reputation, you can find cheap places to stay in Zurich.

Hostels like Oldtown Hostel Otter and Zurich Youth Hostel offer good value for your money. They’re quite center and the rooms are decent.

You can save even more if you opt to stay close to the city center and cut down on transportation costs. Check my Where to stay in Zurich guide for detailed tips.

I’ve found that accommodations in the Langstrasse district tend to be cheaper. This area is full of budget hotels and is conveniently located within walking distance of most of the city’s major attractions.

If you’re up for a different kind of experience, try Airbnb. There are plenty of affordable options available, and you’ll get a chance to live like a local. Plus, having a kitchen means you can save on food expenses by cooking some meals at home.

Best time to visit Zurich, Switzerland.

Cheap Eats in Zurich

If you’re a foodie like me, hunting for cheap food in Zurich will be high on your list.

Zurich’s culinary scene has a lot to offer beyond the high-end restaurants. Explore local markets and street food stalls for authentic Swiss cuisine without the hefty price tag.

The Sternen Grill near Bellevue Square is famous for its Bratwurst. Or visit Piadina Bar for authentic Italian flavors. Check out my list of budget restaurants in Zurich for more tips.

Sternen Grill is one of the best cheap eats in Zurich budget restaurants, Switzerland.

Budget Bars in Zurich

Looking for budget bars in Zurich to unwind after a long day of exploring? I’ve got you covered.

For a lively ambiance and affordable drinks, try Bierhalle Wolf. It offers a great selection of beers without the high Zurich price tag.

Another great spot is the Oliver Twist Pub, especially during their happy hour – you get to save money and socialize!

For wine lovers, head to Frau Gerolds Garten. It’s a charming urban garden and bar that serves reasonably priced wines. Not to mention the location – it’s right next to the famous Prime Tower, offering a great view to enjoy with your wine.

craft beer.

Free Things to Do in Zurich

There are loads of free things to do in Zurich.

Stroll Old Town

Taking a leisurely stroll around the Old Town (Altstadt) is one of my favorite things to do in Zurich.

The narrow, winding alleys are packed with medieval and Renaissance-era buildings, charming boutiques, art galleries, and cafes.

It’s like stepping back in time, and the best part is it’s absolutely free!

See Lake Zurich

Or soak in the stunning view of Lake Zurich!

Whether you choose to stroll along the promenade, lounge in one of the lakeside parks, or even take a refreshing dip during the summer months, you won’t have to spend a penny.

Lake Zurich is the best things to do in Zurich on a budget.

Visit Botanical Garden

Botanical Garden is another free place to visit in Zurich.

With free entry, you can explore thousands of different plant species from around the world. If you’re into photography or just love nature, it’s a must-visit spot.

Hike Uetliberg

Another fantastic free activity is taking a hike up to Uetliberg, Zurich’s local mountain.

It’s a short train ride from the city center (remember the Zurich Card?), and the hiking trails offer a breathtaking panoramic view of the city and lake below.

Cheap Things to Do in Zurich on a Budget

If you’re willing to spend just a tad, you can unlock a treasure trove of cheap activities in Zurich.

Visit Kunsthaus Zurich

For just 6 CHF, you can visit the Kunsthaus Zurich, one of the most important art museums in Switzerland.

Its impressive collection features works from the Middle Ages to contemporary art, making it a must-visit for art lovers.

Take a boat trip

Fancy a boat trip? For as little as 8.6 CHF, you can take a short round trip to Lake Zurich.

It’s a perfect way to see the city from a different perspective and take some great photos!

Taking a boat is the best things to do in summer in Zurich, Switzerland.

Budget Day Trips from Zurich

While there’s plenty to do in Zurich, its central location in Switzerland also makes it a great base for exploring other parts of the country.

Here are some budget-friendly day trips from Zurich that will let you experience more of Switzerland without breaking the bank.


Just an hour away by train, the Rheinfall is the largest waterfall in Europe, and it’s an absolute must-visit.

The entrance is free, but I recommend paying a small fee (5 CHF) to get onto the viewing platform for an up-close encounter.


An hour away by train, Lucerne is a beautiful city with a stunning lake, a charming old town, and the famous Chapel Bridge.

Chapel bridge Lucerne Switzerland.

Uetliberg to Felsenegg hike:

Take a train to Uetliberg, hike to Felsenegg, and then take a cable car down to Adliswil, followed by a train back to Zurich.

This is a budget-friendly day trip, costing just around 8-10 CHF for cable car and public transportation, and offers breathtaking panoramic views of Zurich.

Affordable Shopping in Zurich

Zurich is known for its luxury shopping, but there are plenty of places where you can shop without breaking the bank.


This street, once notorious, is now a hip and trendy place with vintage shops, boutiques, and second-hand stores that offer affordable prices.

Viadukt Market:

Built under the arches of a viaduct, this market offers a variety of local Swiss products.

It’s a great place to find unique souvenirs, food items, and clothing.


Zurich has several flea markets, such as the one at Bürkliplatz (on Saturdays) and Kanzlei (on Fridays).

Here, you can find everything from antique Swiss watches to vintage clothing and more, often at bargain prices.

Budget Activities for Families in Zurich

If you’re traveling with family, Zurich offers a host of budget-friendly activities that will keep both adults and children entertained.

Zurich Zoo:

Zurich Zoo is a fantastic place for families with many opportunities to observe and learn about animals and their habitats.

The Masoala Rainforest Hall, where you can see animals from Madagascar, is a must-visit.

The Swiss Museum of Transport in Lucerne:

Though technically not in Zurich, it’s only an hour away and offers interactive exhibitions about all forms of transport – land, sea, air, and space. Kids will love it!

Swiss Transport Museum Snow blower.

Im Viadukt:

For a unique shopping experience, take your family to Im Viadukt.

It houses numerous boutique shops, eateries, and even a market hall full of fresh produce, all under the arches of a railway viaduct.

Lindt Home of Chocolate:

In nearby Kilchberg, visit the Lindt Home of Chocolate for an educational journey through the world of chocolate, complete with a DIY chocolate-making workshop. Kids will especially love the massive chocolate fountain!

Budget Wellness in Zurich

For those looking to unwind without spending a fortune, there are several budget-friendly wellness options in Zurich.

Thermalbad & Spa Zurich:

Housed in a former brewery, this thermal bath offers a unique spa experience.

The highlight is the rooftop pool with its stunning views over Zurich.

Entrance fees start at 36 CHF, but it’s worth it!

Public Swimming Pools:

During summer, the city’s public swimming pools, or “Badi”, become a hub of activity.

For a small fee (around 7-8 CHF), you can swim, sunbathe, and even enjoy a picnic.

The Flussbad Unterer Letten and Seebad Enge are popular choices.


For a wellness activity that combines exercise and beautiful views, hike up Uetliberg.

The fresh air, green surroundings, and stunning view over Zurich are sure to rejuvenate you.

Final thoughts

Exploring Zurich on a budget doesn’t mean missing out on the best the city has to offer.

From biking around to savoring street food, strolling through the old town, or just chilling by the lake, there’re plenty of things to do in Zurich on the cheap. Happy travels!

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One Comment

  1. Thank you for sharing those tips. I live in Zurich and have family abroad and therefore always lookout for some new ideas that are affordable.

    If I may add to your list: we always tell our family & friends to visiti in the summer months (end of june-mid September) since it’s warm enough to just sit at the laker or river. There are plenty of free and open swimm places, easily reachable and you just can bring your own food/drinks. In Switzerland that’s anyway what we do mostly. We aren’t used to eat out that much but that we would prep some picnic or sandwiches and go anywhere with it. To the lake, to the mountains, you name it.

    If you still prefer to eat out, good value for many for families is also a Migros Restaurant (not fancy but often comes with a playground). Otherwise take aways, from migros, coop & co is great.

    Groceries fron lidl, aldi and denner are cheaper. Coop is the most expensive.

    You can also ride a bicycle in Zurich for free which makes it easier and cheaper to get around.

    For good wine, try 169 West (Frau Gerolds Garten, is super expensive because it’s the little Berlin in Zurich)

    San Gennaro is a great pizza spot and you get some large & filling pizzas.

    Les Halles is also great for mussels. My husband and I usually share a large portion and if you ask nicely you get extra fries for free.

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