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14 free or cheap things to do in Zurich

14 free or cheap things to do in Zurich

As it is often voted one of the most expensive places to live on earth, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there is nothing to do in Zurich if you don’t have a sizeable budget. However, for tourists, locals and expats alike, there are loads of interesting things to do in Switzerland’s largest city that are either free or very cheap.

14 great budget-friendly activities and outings in Zurich

Despite the high prices, there are many fantastic things to do in Zurich on a budget. From free classes to biking and movie nights, here are 14 things you can do in Zurich that are free or very cheap:

1. Get a free bicycle to explore the city at Züri rollt

Buying a public transport ticket is not the only way to get around Zurich, as tourists and locals are able to get a free bicycle for the day at the hire scheme Züri rollt. From the Europaplatz bicycle station near Zurich Main Station, anyone is able to borrow a bike for free for a day.

With a 20 franc deposit and valid ID (like a passport), travellers are free to explore the city on two wheels. If you aren’t a fan of cycling up the hills or have small children in tow, e-bikes and transport bikes for children can also be rented at a reasonable price.

2. Get into the Zurich Kunsthaus for free on Wednesdays

For the art fans among us, the Zurich Kunsthaus is well worth a visit, especially on Wednesdays when admission is free! The largest art museum in Switzerland features works from famous artists like Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh.

The Kunsthaus is well-served by public transport and is only a short walk from the old town. If you have a Wednesday free, there is nothing better than visiting the stunning artworks on show.

3. Visit the Zurich Botanical Gardens free of charge

From works of art to beautiful flowers, Zurich is home to an extensive botanical garden which is completely free to enter. The garden is run by the University of Zurich and features 7.000 different plant species.

Along with the outdoor exhibits, there are also several tropical greenhouses with flora from every habitable continent - so you won't have to worry about the weather. If you aren’t a fan of plants, the grounds of the garden are great for a peaceful walk.

Visit Zurich botanical garden

4. Get a free crash course in German

Whether you live in Zurich or are just visiting Switzerland, learning German can be very beneficial. In various community centres run by local councils (Gemeinde) like Buchegg, Loogarten and Bachwiesen, you are able to take an introductory course in German for free! Check out the link to the official website.

5. Visit the free wildlife parks at Langenberg or Sihlwald

While it may not have as diverse a selection as Zurich Zoo, the Wildnispark at Zürich Langenberg or Sihlwald gives nature lovers young and old the opportunity to see some stunning animals for free. The park is home to many native Swiss species like marmots, ibexes, bears, otters and more!

Just a short train ride from the centre of Zurich, the wilderness parks make for a grand day out.

Ibex in Zurich

6. Visit the Central Library of Zurich for free 

If you want to spend your time catching up on some reading, the Central Library of Zurich, Kunsthaus Library and many others are completely free to enter. The larger libraries are full of ancient texts and many books are available in English.

7. Save Larry in the escape room in the Central Library of Zurich

What’s more, visitors with a keen knowledge of German can register for a free escape room experience at the Central Library. Taking place in the attic of the library, Schnebelhorners Legacy is an escape room designed for three to five participants and can be booked through the library’s website

The question is, can you free Larry the dog by finding the key to the safe? Only time will tell.

8. Try and beat the pensioners at chess on Lindenhof

Are your little grey cells still asking for a challenge? If so, why not join a game of chess on Lindenhof - the site of the old Roman city of Zurich. Along with stunning views at the top of the hill, the retirees at the many public chess boards will certainly give you the game of your life!

chess on Lindehof in Zurich

9. Get yourself some vintage clothes at the Kanzlei flea market

For those who want a shopping trip in Zurich but don’t want to break the bank, the Kanzlei flea market near Helvetiaplatz is a great place to get a bargain. Taking place every Saturday from 7.20am to 4pm, the stalls are sure to offer anything from fine china to knick-knacks and artwork.

10. Visit the free museums offered by the University of Zurich

If you haven’t had enough of a museum fix, the University of Zurich has several interesting exhibits that you can access for free. The anthropology, zoology and palaeontology museums are well worth a visit, and be sure to have a walk through the ETH and University of Zurich campus on top of the hill while you are there.

11. Enjoy a free cinema experience at the Ethnological Museum

On the first Thursday of every month, the lecture hall of the Ethnological Museum is transformed into a small cinema. The museum uses the evening to showcase various documentaries about everyday life in Switzerland and abroad. What’s more, admission is completely free!

12. Go for a jog in Zurich Oerlikon

If you want a bit of exercise, every Tuesday at 7pm, joggers meet in the market square of Zurich Oerlikon for a weekly run. The event gives you an opportunity to not only get in shape but have a look around a less touristy part of the city.

13. Have a walk around Zurich's forests, hills and rivers

The outskirts of Zurich are home to many beautiful walks and hikes that can be enjoyed for free. Some top recommendations for near Zurich include the walk from Uetliberg to the cable car at Felsenegg (known as the Planetenweg) and the round-trip walk along a stream starting from Zurich Burgweis (called the Werenbachtobel-Weg).

14. Get a discount on museums with the Zurich Card

While it may not be free, those who want to visit the more well-trodden historical sites and museums can check out the Zurich card. The pass provides free or discounted access to a number of top attractions and museums, along with an all-access public transport ticket for the city and surrounding area. Check out the official website for more information.

You don't need a million Swiss francs to have fun in Zurich!

While it has a reputation for being expensive, we hope that this list proves that there are plenty of things to do in Zurich on a budget. Have any other suggestions that we may have missed? Let us know in the comments below!

Jan de Boer

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Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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