Zurich may be credited with the best chocolate in the world, the highest quality of living (surely the two go hand in hand?) and precision efficiency to rival even the speediest of Germans - but the largest city in Switzerland is also heartbreakingly expensive.
This is the city where a train fare costs 25 CHF and a Big Mac costs 6.50€ (it is right at the top of The Economist's Big Mac Index). I was half expecting them to charge me a CHF or two for the privilege of breathing their air.
However, Zurich is very cute (the pastel-coloured buildings that resemble Liquorice All Sorts, the over-abundance of clocks to serve as a constant reminder that you will never be as punctual as the Swiss, the adorable boutique stores selling everything from shoes, to second-hand books to 18th Century human skulls.. more on that later!)
Yes, Zurich is cute, and it would be a shame to miss out on it just because it’s so expensive. So, from one tight-ass to another, here are some ideas I have put together that will allow you to sample the best of Zurich, without sending you flat broke.
1. Climb to the top of the Grossmünster - 4 CHF
For the best panoramic views of Zurich, you can’t go past the Grossmünster. And it only costs 4 CHF per person to climb the Karlsturm.
Be prepared to get dizzy as you ascend a narrow spiral staircase several storeys high. But once you reach the top expect to be rewarded with a 360 degree photo op, encompassing the Zurich Altstadt, the Limmat river and Lake Zurich.
2. Go window shopping in the Old Town - 0 CHF
Admittedly, if you wanted to shop in Zurich with the intention of actually buying something, then this activity would have no rightful place in a list called “five cheap things to do in Zurich” (that shit is expensive!). If, on the other hand, you are content with browsing wares, wallet tucked safely away in your pocket, then you should be in the clear.
The best place to window shop is in the Altstadt (Old Town) where there are all sorts of interesting gems to be found. My personal favourite was an antique store boasting the unique offering of an 18th Century human skull.
3. Check out the museums and art galleries - 15 CHF
This kind of activity is a particularly good idea if the weather is a little on the rainy side, as it was on my second day in the city. There is the stock-standard National Museum Zurich, or there is the more intriguing sounding Sewing Machine Museum. However, I chose to check out the Kunsthaus Zurich.
On Wednesdays, entry to the gallery is free. As it was a Sunday I paid 15 CHF (I was spewing, coz in Munich galleries are free on Sundays) which really wasn’t so bad either.
The gallery looked quite austere from the outside, but once inside I was greeted by resplendent turn-of-the-century decor, and some quite outstanding works of art. Here are some of my favourites. (Yes, I took pictures on my iPhone inside an Art Gallery. I am officially the worst.)
4. Sample some of the best chocolate in the world - from 3.20 CHF
Yes, I am “mostly vegan” and yes, I eat chocolate very rarely. But when you find yourself in a country often credited with some of the best chocolate in the world, it’s a good time for your veganism to be thrown out the window. Like, thrown out the window so hard it might actually kill someone walking in the street below.
For the best chocolate in Zurich you can’t go past Teuscher. Not only is the range of chocolate literally to-die-for (and if I lived in Zurich I probably would die as a result of the diabetes I would almost certainly contract) the store has some of the cutest decor I have ever seen.
As I found myself here on Valentines Day, I did the only sane thing anyone could do in such a situation. I bought myself a heart-shaped chocolate truffle and ate the whole thing in one delicious bite right there outside the store. And I took a selfie ;)
The cheapest thing I could find was a chocolate bar for 3.20 CHF, but you could easily leave the store with a much more expensive swag. I guess it all depends on your self control.
5. Go for a run around Lake Zurich - 0 CHF
If you go to Zurich and end up consuming your own body weight in chocolate (and I defy you not to!) then let’s hope you packed your running shoes. Lake Zurich is the scenic centrepiece of the city, and a popular location for an afternoon jog.
After months of carting my runners around in my suitcase, and rueing the extra space they were taking up, I recently had a brainwave and decided to purchase a pair of street shoes I could also go running in.
They are admittedly not as good for my knees as my Asics Gel Kayanos, but they have the bonus of not being fluoro pink and orange, and therefore go with slightly more outfits. I will be packing these again for weekend trips in the future, so I can continue (read: begin) to train for this half marathon in June.
Where is the most expensive city you have ever been to? What did you do to save $'s?