Have you ever wanted to go to Zurich but hesitated because you thought you can’t afford it? I hear you!
The beautiful Swiss city is constantly in the Top 3 of the most expensive cities in the world. This doesn’t mean you can’t travel Zurich on a budget though. In fact, I found 17 Free Things To Do in Zurich.
I promise you will find an activity you love – whether you’re traveling solo, with friends or as a family with kids.
There are also a lot of great hikes around Zurich if you’re an outdoor lover.
For this post, I instead added 40 more activities and excursions in Zurich after the free ones.
In the end, you will also find 4 Extra Tips that will help you travel Zurich on a budget and make the most out of your visit.
Keep reading, this is the most extensive list of things to do in Zurich that you’ll find!
Here you can download a short pdf-version of this guide for free as well – for your phone or to print and take on your trip!
1. Rent a Bike For Free!
Yes, bicycles really are for free in Zurich, thanks to the initiative “Züri rollt”.
You can pick up a “Gratis Velo” at two different stations (“Swiss National Museum” and “Postbrücke”) all year round and from even more stations in summer.
Just download the free app to check live availability and rental locations. Reservations are not possible. All you need to do to rent a bicycle in Zurich is to leave a deposit of 20 CHF.
This is definitely one of my favorite free things to do in Zurich!
2. The view from Polyterasse
Polyterasse is a platform in front of Zurich university from where you will have stunning views over Zurich’s old town.
It’s the perfect spot for relaxing and people watching on a sunny afternoon since it’s visited by over 30,000 workers and students daily.
The Polybahn, a cute old tram, takes you up from the city center (next to the main station) to the panorama terrace in only three minutes for free. No need to spend any money!
Update: You will need a public transportation ticket now for CHF 1.20, so it’s actually not free, but very cheap.
From Zurich’s most central mountain you have incredible panoramic views over the city, Lake Zurich, Limmat Valley and on a clear day even the Alps.
It is especially popular in November, as the summit of this mountain (2,850 feet above sea level) is above the cloud of fog that covers the city of Zurich on many winter days.
In summer, you can hike or mountain-bike well-marked routes. In winter, these turn into sledding runs. Even more fascinating is the Planet Trail that takes you on a two-hour tour through a model of the solar system.
Everything on Uetliberg is for free and you can reach it via public transport. More info here.
4. Zoological Museum Zurich
Go on a free journey into the Animal Kingdom! The museum is home to 1,500 animals, so you can imagine how much there is to explore.
Examining insects under magnifying glasses, hearing singing whales and touching the fur of some wild animal species.
This museum is open every day of the week and often features special exhibitions, you’ll find more information here.
An awesome thing to do for free in Zurich, especially with kids!
5. MyClimate Audio Adventure Zurich
Go on an interactive listening tour around Zurich for free and learn about climate change in an entertaining way.
You can choose between three different stories in English and German, depending on your age (starting from age 5 up to adult listeners).
It takes about 2-2 ½ hours and you can choose to walk or do parts of the tour by public transport or Zurich’s free bikes.
Just go to the Tourist Information at Zurich main train station and leave a valid ID to get the audio equipment or download the audio data to your smartphone.
6. River Pools
One thing very typical and unique to Zurich is the river pools. In summer, you don’t just go to an outdoor pool or a lake to enjoy a refreshing jump in the water.
Nope! In Zurich, pools are built into the river Limmat. The water is very clear, unlike in most other rivers.
Depending on the weather, Zurich’s river pools are usually open between May and September.
There are many “Badis”, but if you’re on a budget you have the choice between a few different free outdoor pools in Zurich center:
- Lower Letten River Pool – This one is for adventurous swimmers, as you can jump into the fast current, get carried away and then walk back to do it all over again.
- Upper Letten River Pool – This pool is famous for its 400m long swimming canal and a 2m high diving board. You can play volleyball, boule or read a book from the book boxes provided by the Bühl foundation.
- Schanzengraben River Pool – This pool in the middle of Zurich is only for men. It’s been open since 1864 and secluded by remains of the old Zurich city wall. In the evening, Riminibar opens for both men and women.
7. Langenberg Wildlife Park Zurich
Enjoy an afternoon in nature, surrounded by wild animals. You will see many animals from Switzerland in their natural environment, like deer, brown bears, wolves and elks.
The park is just outside of Zurich and open all year round, no entrance fee required. For more info, click here.
8. Botanical Garden of the University of Zurich
Spend a day surrounded by nature. Naturally, the best time to visit a botanical garden is in spring, as all flowers come to life and blossom during this time of year.
Around 9,000 different plant species welcome you, spread over an area of 53,000 m².
Even during winter or on a bad weather day though you can easily spend half a day at the Botanical Garden in Zurich – the tropical greenhouses are always worth a visit, especially because they are completely free.
This Botanical Garden of the University of Zurich is open all year round, every day of the week. For the exact opening hours, check their website.
9. FCZ – Zurich’s Football Club Museum
For the male share of my readers, this will probably be more interesting than gardens and flowers 😉
You will learn everything about Zurich’s Football Club since its beginnings in 1896 and about soccer in general – another one of the great free things to do in Zurich!
There are seven themed zones that will keep you entertained for a few hours while your wives or girlfriends check out Botanical Gardens and Succulent Collections 😉
It is closed on Sundays. Sorry guys, bad luck for you!
10. focusTerra Museum of Earth Sciences
Go on an ecological exhibition from the center of the earth all the way to the tops of the Alps.
Many scientific explanations about the earth are being provided in an entertaining way. Recent topics and environmental issues are addressed as well.
The most fun part though is the earthquake simulator. Except for Saturdays, you can enjoy the mix of science and entertainment every day as a completely free thing to do in Zurich.
11. Archaeological Collection
Discover original work of arts from ancient populations all over the world. The collection was founded 150 years ago and it’s one of Switzerland’s most important art collections.
It is open every day except on Mondays and you don’t have to pay a single $ to get in. Now that’s what I call awesomeness!
For more info, visit the website.
12. Zurich Succulent Collection
Visit one of the largest collections of succulents worldwide for free. Founded 1931, the area is now home to 6,500 species from more than 70 different families.
You will find seven greenhouses and cold frames as well as an outside area, so if you’re a plant lover on a budget, this is your go-to spot.
13. Paleontological Museum
See 230-240 million-year-old fossils with your own eyes at this worldwide unique collection in Zurich for free.
Virtual exhibitions, models and color illustrations make sure you’ll have an entertaining day if you are interested in these things.
Open daily, except for Mondays. More info here.
14. Belvoir Park
Enjoy a long stroll through this historic and peaceful park without spending a $.
Surely you will be able to shake off your everyday stress in this amazingly beautiful environment – large meadows, benches, big pools, and a pergola guarantee that.
And if that’s not enough, you will have terrific views of Lake Zurich, the city and even the surrounding mountains.
15. Rieter Park
Beam yourself into the glamor of the 19th century in Zurich’s biggest park. With over 72,000m², this impressive landscape garden offers endless views on the Glarus Alps on a clear day.
There’s also a villa in Rieter Park, built in 1855, for which the entrance is free with the Zurich Card.
For all budget travelers, the park will be an amazing destination even without going inside, one of my favorite free things to do in Zurich.
16. Zurich Aviary and Bird Sanctuary
Admire a wide range of exotic and local birds that have been rescued at this sanctuary since 1898.
Up to now, this initiative has helped 2,600 injured birds and even provides a “guesthouse” for birds, whose owners go on vacation.
The outdoor aviary is for free and open all year, the indoor enclosure closes on Mondays.
Brockenstuben are Thrift Stores where you can get all kinds of weird, old and funny curiosities, trinkets etc.
These traditional stores go all the way back to the 19th century. You should visit at least one of them and bring home a souvenir that will always remind you of your time in Zurich.
Did you find this guide helpful? Here you can download a short pdf-version for your next trip, so you can save it on your phone or print it.
40 More Things To Do in Zurich
Enveloped by the breathtaking Alpine mountains and set alongside the shore of a gorgeous lake, Zurich is one of the most beautiful places in Switzerland.
Whether you’re traveling alone, with family or friends, this list of 40 things to do in Zurich has something for everyone.
The city embraces a vast historical culture and boasts beautiful streets that are adorned with medieval and ancient architectural structures.
Get lost in the cobblestone alleys of the Old Town that speak of the tales of its rich culture and heritage and learn more in the 50+ intricate museums.
There are also festivals and exciting events happening year-round that I will show you later.
And of course, always end your days with a delicious cheese fondue and Swiss chocolate!
Though the city has over 400,000 residents, there’s hardly any trash on the streets, and the remarkable city shines as good as new every single day!
The whole country is so special as you can see from these fun facts about Switzerland.
Zurich, indeed, has it all – beauty, entertainment, arts, nature, culture, and hospitality.
Here is a complete list of all the fun activities and exciting adventures you can indulge in when traveling to Zurich:
I’ve divided the list into the following categories:
- Popular Tourist Sites and Attractions
- Stunning Parks and Gardens
- Museums and Art Galleries
- Shopping Adventures and Lavish Dining Experiences
- Clubs and Bars
Popular Tourist Sites and Attractions in Zurich
1. Explore the Old Town – The Old Town is a place of history and culture, with its magnificent architectural structures and colorful buildings.
The streets are embellished with old cobblestones, and statues surround each corner of the town. Explore on your own or book a guided walking tour to learn more about Zurich’s history.
2. Visit Fraumunster – Fraumunster is one of the oldest religious buildings in Old Town. It is artistic and beautiful and serves as a reminder of Zurich’s rich history.
3. Hiking at Mt. Pilatus – The mighty Mt. Pilatus is 6,982 ft (2,128 m) above sea level and offers breathtaking views of the entire city. If you want to have a panoramic view of this spectacular city, this is an ideal spot!
Hop onto the Panorama Gondola and take the Dragon Ride cableway to move to the top of the mountain, in order to view the astonishing landscapes of this magnificent city or book an organized day trip!
4. Go up the Grossmunster (Großmünster) church – Known to be one of the most popular tourist destinations, this Romanesque church is the most prominent landmark of Zurich’s history.
Legend has it that this stunning church was built on the graves of Felix and Regula, the patrons of the city.
Enjoy the best view on Zurich from this ancient church. It costs 4 CHF, so it’s not free, but it really is worth the money.
The 187 steps lead you to 4 separate platforms in 50m height, overlooking the beautiful city of Zurich, the river Limmat and Lake Zurich.
You can take amazing photos from up there, it is right in the city center so all the beautiful old church towers and bridges are right beneath you, unlike the view from Polyterasse, which is amazing too, but much further.
The beautifully crafted bronze doors and delicately designed glass windows are a delight to the senses – and the view from the top is spectacular!
5. Lake Zurich Promenade – Lake Zurich Promenade comprises of beautiful gardens and an extensive network of promenades, hence the name.
The lake, itself, is majestically picturesque, and is a must-visit place for each and everyone coming to Zurich for the very first time.
6. Lake Zurich Boat Tours – The Lake Zurich Promenade offers Boat Tours as well, allowing you to have a unique view of the city in boats whilst experiencing nature in its purest form!
7. Explore the Colorful Streets at the Promenade – The waterfront of the Lake Promenade is enclosed by beautiful and colorful houses that serve as eye candy for everyone lucky enough to be in Zurich.
8. Soak In Some Culture at the Zurich Opera House – One of the most important cultural centers, the Opera House is Zurich’s pride.
This place is always brimming with excitement and anticipation due to the huge number of concerts, ballets, and astounding operas that take place here!
Click here to have a better look at what’s in store for you at the Zurich Opera House.
9. Explore Zurich West – Zurich West was once an industrial place consisting of only factories and warehouses, but has now transformed into the hippest neighborhood in Zurich.
The place has been revamped from head to toe, and what was once the most overlooked corner of the world is now one of the most exciting and frequently visited places.
Looking for more things to do in Zurich West? Click here to get more details!
10. Visit the Popular Underground Theatre – What’s better than an amazing cinema experience and that, too, underground?
Well, Zurich West has a modern cinema built underground to give you a movie experience that you are never going to forget!
11. Discover Niederdorf – Explore the streets of this exciting neighborhood and visit trendy boutiques at Niederdorf. Don’t forget to stop by the Conditorei Péclard, a contemporary café with ancient décor that exudes a vintage vibe!
12. Cruise the Limmat river – Sail through the beautiful city’s main river in luxurious boats that pass under all the city’s seven bridges – definitely one of the best things to do in Zurich.
13. Catch a Peculiar Train to Dolder Hotel – Hop onto a single coach train and travel to a recreational area and leisure hotel. Enjoy glorious panoramic views of the city throughout your journey!
14. Day Tour to Mount Titlis – Hop onto a revolving cable car and enjoy breathtaking views of the Swiss Alps while discovering unique landscapes and glaciers. You can go by yourself or book a tour from Zurich.
15. 2-Hour Sightseeing Bus Tour from Zurichberg – Go on an exciting bus tour from Zurichberg and explore the city’s famous landmarks. Learn intriguing facts about Zurich’s history and culture during this extraordinary trip.
16. Day Trip to Rigi – Take an enchanting tour via a cable car and conquer Rigi – the Queen of the Mountains!
Enjoy the scenic views as the cable car ascends into the Swiss Alps and go on a voyage across Lake Lucerne.
17. Enjoy the picturesque Rhine Falls in Schaffhausen – Take a luxurious trip to the stunning Rhine Falls, Europe’s largest waterfall.
You can also take a ferry ride to the middle of the waterfall in summer.
18. Take a Walking Tour to Learn About the Life of Einstein – Discover the places that Albert Einstein lived and worked in and uncover interesting facts about his life.
19. Beyer Jeweller and Watch Shop – Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes of watch-making and how certain masterpieces are crafted?
Explore the history of watch-making and view various works of arts at the Beyer jeweler and watch shop.
20. Visit St. Peter – St. Peter is one of the oldest churches in Zurich that dates back to the 8th century. The tower hosts one of the largest clocks in Europe.
21. Go on a Spooky Adventure Known as the Ghost Walk of Zurich – a famous paranormal entertainer takes you through the most haunted and bizarre attractions of the city.
22. Visit Liebfrauen Church– This beautiful Catholic Church is popular for its striking stained glass windows and its unique standing clock tower.
Zurich is so close to Germany that you may as well check out some of the unique things to do in Munich as well – how about river surfing e.g.?
Stunning Nature in Zurich
23. Stroll through Lindenhof Park – A majestic piece of beauty, the Lindenhof, was once a Roman castle that has now been transformed into a serene and mesmerizing park.
24. Stroll through the Old Botanical Garden – Located at the heart of Zurich, this mesmerizing garden is home to some of the oldest generations of trees that give this place a medieval vibe!
25. Go river-pooling! All through the summer, the open-air pools the Swiss build into their rivers are one of the most fun things to do in Zurich.
Flow with the current, have an ice-cream and sunbathe in these natural outdoor pools. Here are some free river pools in Zurich.
Museums and Art Galleries in Zurich
26. Check out the Swiss National Museum – One of the most frequently visited museums, the Swiss National Museum exhibits breathtaking ancient and architectural displays. Click here to learn more about this exciting location!
27. Learn About the History of Football at the FIFA World Football Museum – A must-visit place for the diehard football fanatics, the FIFA World Football Museum features state-of-the-art multimedia exhibits and a huge variety of interactive games for kids.
Have a look at the world’s most iconic trophy and plunge into the history of this popular game!
28. Plan a visit to the Museum of Art – The perfect spot for art lovers! Dive into the intricacies of Swiss art and view the masterpieces created by top artists including Ferdinand Hodler and Henry Fuseli.
29. Visit the Rietberg Museum – Are you a fan of archaeology and ancient wonders? The Rietberg Museum features popular art and archaeological spectacles from around the world.
30. Explore Different Works of Art at Kunsthaus Zurich – This incredible art gallery houses more than 4,000 artsy wonders and is known to be an art lovers’ paradise.
31. Catch a Glimpse of Unique Monuments at Pavillon Le Corbusier – Le Corbusier, one of the most popular architects of the 20th century, has exhibited all his masterpieces in one place, at the Pavillon Le Corbusier.
View the unique and extraordinary sculptures, projects and drawings of ancient times.
Shopping Adventures, Lavish Dining Experiences, and Other Things to Do in Zurich
32. Go on a Luxurious Shopping Spree at Bahnhofstrasse – this street is one of the world’s most luxurious and lavish shopping destinations.
It houses some of the most renowned and popular brands including Gucci, Channel, and all the big names you can think of.
Click here to get more details on this mesmerizing location!
33. Shop and dine at Lake Zurich – Shop and eat your heart out at Zurich’s top restaurants and luxurious boutiques!
Tantalize your taste buds at some of the finest cuisines at Lake Zurich and indulge in huge shopping sprees at pretty stores and outlets.
34. Shop your heart out at ShopVille – ShopVille is an underground shopping mall that offers a unique shopping experience to all its visitors.
It has some of the most exciting shops and outlets where you will find almost all sorts of clothing, ranging from casual to formal wear.
35. Go on an Exciting Gourmet Tour – Explore the city and its forest by going on an evening tour that ends with a delectable twist!
Experience the delight of a 4-course cheese fondue and purchase freshly made Swiss chocolates from the Lindt chocolate factory!
36. Haus Hiltl for Vegetarians – Are you a vegetarian looking for the perfect spot to fulfill your food cravings?
Head over to Haus Hiltl to choose from a huge variety of cuisines and meatless delights.
37. Delight Your Tastebuds at Café Sprüngli – Looking for the best desserts in Zurich?
Café Sprüngli offers a variety of exotic cakes, ice-creams, chocolates, and coffees to delight your taste buds!
Clubs and Bars in Zurich
38. Go Clubbing – Experience the electrifying magic of electronic music at the Hive Club, located near the Frau Gerolds Garten.
39. Looking for the perfect open-air drinking spot? The Rimini Bar, built alongside the Sihl River, is the perfect outdoor drinking bar for individuals searching for a cozy spot to unwind and chill with their loved ones.
40. Indulge in the Finest of Wines at Frau Gerolds Garten – Known to be one of the most popular drinking spots in Zurich, Frau Gerolds Garten offers top quality wines and margaritas to make your day even more special!
I hope that all these things to do in Zurich, Switzerland will help you make your trip to Zurich a memorable one!
Extra Tips & Cheap Things To Do In Zurich:
1. Don’t get a Zurich travel pass.
It depends on what you want to do, but if it’s not raining and you don’t intend to visit ALL museums, you don’t really need one.
A 24-hour pass costs 24 CHF, a 72-hour pass will set you back 48 CHF. The train ride from the airport to Zurich HB, the main train station, costs about 6 CHF.
Zurich is pretty small, so on a nice day you will be able to walk to most of the places worth visiting. If walking isn’t for you, you can use the free bikes.
2. Zurich is a Free Wi-Fi zone.
Just sign up with your (international) phone number and you’ll get a code that serves as your password.
There are free Wi-Fi networks everywhere in the city centre and Old Town of Zurich.
3. Free high-quality drinking water is for free.
You will find 1,200 fountains in Zurich so there’s no way you can dehydrate. Bring an empty bottle and just refill it with clean, fresh water every time you see one of these fountains.
You can use this strategy everywhere in Europe and North America because the tap water is usually clean. I always bring a bottle to the airport, empty it before security check and refill it in a restroom before boarding.
That way you don’t have to spend 3 CHF on a small bottle of water.
4. Party like the Swiss do!
Especially in summer, there are several fun events that you could join. Here are some of the most popular ones:
- Street Parade Zurich – Ever since the Love Parade ended in 2010, this colorful techno and house parade is the most attended one in Europe. A 2.4km long route and around 100 parties spread over the weekend make sure you won’t get any sleep but tons of fun! The next date is August 10th, 2019.
- Zuri Fest– A funfair or folk festival that brings millions of people to Zurich every year and shuts down the entire city center – no more cars and buses around the river Limmat. This year it will take place from July 5th to 7th with fireworks on Friday and Saturday night, so if you’re lucky enough to be in Switzerland that weekend, you absolutely need to go!
- Zurich Pride Festival – Up to 3,000 people join this three-day program with bars and food stands, concerts, shows, parties, conferences, and a parade through Zurich city every year. Next dates: June 15th – 16th, 2019
If you’re traveling around Switzerland, these other articles of mine will be helpful for you as well:
- 20+ Photos That Will Inspire You To Travel To Switzerland
- 17 Free Things To Do In Zurich
- 11 Fun & Interesting Facts About Switzerland
- An Inspirational Guide To Hiking in Zurich