The 14 best free things to do in Zurich (2023)

Regularly named as one of the most expensive cities in the world,Zurichit's not the first place you'd think of for a cheap city break. With its elegant designer shops, exclusive restaurants and breathtaking entry prices, Zurich can easily empty your wallet.

Fortunately, the financial powerhouse also has a lot to do for Zilch. From stuffed sloths and succulent collections to river pools and Rembrandt, here's a frugal guide.

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1. Enjoy a complimentary drink with a stunning view at Lindenhof

The winding, narrow streets of Zurich's old town wind upwardsLindenhof, an ancient Roman fortress overlooking the Limmat. Take a break on a bench overlooking the view and quench your thirstnothingfilling your water bottle at the pretty stone fountain - it's just one of many throughout the city that provide fresh drinking water on tap.

If you're lucky, you might even get some entertainment for free - chess and petanque enthusiasts often come here to play.

2. See the city sprawl from the Friday Tower

You'll find something less fairytale-like in Zurich West's industrial districtFreitag(a local brand that makes stylish bags out of recycled seat belts, old tarps and used bike tubes) has a flagship store made entirely out of shipping containers. Its colorful tower, made up of nine containers stacked on top of each other, is a landmark of the modern city and is free to visit.

It's quite a climb up the many stairs to the top, and the rugged, slightly bumpy nature of the tower is a little unnerving, but your reward is the fascinating view - an extensive network of roads, railways, warehouses and office buildings interspersed with each other. the others. with occasional surprises like the wave pool at the Urban Surf surf center.

3. Stroll through the tropics in the city's botanical gardens

One of the best free city experiences is visiting one or both of the University of Zurichbotanical gardens. The original garden, dating from 1837, sits atop a hill in the center of town and contains numerous exotic trees, as well as a palm house and a medieval herb garden, named after a 16th-century Zurich doctor who knew medicinal plants .

If it looks like it's going to rain - or not - head to the "new" (built in the 1970s) in Seefeld, whose vaulted greenhouses are the star attraction. Home to some 7,000 plant species, including ferns, orchids, cacti, tulips and bromeliads, these humid tropical greenhouses can belie the weather outside.

4. Take a look behind the scenes at FC Zurich

If you prefer sports to science, check it outFCZ Museum, entirely dedicated to FC Zurich. Seven themed areas trace the club's history from its founding in 1896, explore the ups and downs of the team and the development of football in Switzerland.

It is illustrated with photographs, films, trophies and finds. The much larger and more visibleFIFA World Football Museumis also in Zurich and children under six are admitted free but must be accompanied by a paying adult.

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5. Get additional training at the University of Zurich museums

Dinosaur skeletons, giant mammoths, stuffed sloths and countless insects - you can touch themZoological Museum of the University of Zurichit is home to 1,500 animals with interactive exhibits that allow visitors to hear whales sing or get up close to insects with a magnifying glass. The indoor cinema shows free nature films twice a day. those from the universityArchaeological collection,Paleontological Museum(with fossils from the UNESCO World Heritage site Monte San Giorgio in southern Switzerland) and the Geoscience Museum,FocusErde, are also all free.

6. See the best of Zurich's art without paying a dime

Appreciating Zurich's great art for free is difficult, but not impossible. Two of the city's most important art galleries offer free admission on certain days. Visitors can marvel at works by Rembrandt, Manet, Warhol, Van Gogh and the Swiss Giacomettiart housefree on Wednesdays (and kids 16 and under stay free every day), while contemporary (and often controversial) art onMuseum of Migroscan be viewed free of charge on Thursday evenings from 5pm to 8pm.

7. Do bird watching downtown

Thanks toZurich Aviary, Ornithologists don't need to venture out into the wild to enjoy world-class birding; Instead, they can stay in the city and see a variety of exotic breeds for free. Since its inception in 1898, this bird sanctuary and aviary in Mythenquai has taken in injured birds and helped save parakeets, toucans and everything in between.

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8. Visit James Joyce's Tomb

The famous Irish author James Joyce wroteUlyssesin Zurich before dying in the city in 1941James Joyce Foundationpromotes free and regular meetings and workshops dedicated to the best-known works of the author, includingFinnegans Wake. Joyce is buried in the town's Fluntern Churchyard, where a statue of the writer sits and contemplates with a pencil in one hand and a book in the other.

9. Into the Wilderness at the Langenberg Wildlife Park

For a break from the city, head toLangenberg Wilderness Park, west of Lake Zurich, where wolves, brown bears, lynxes, deer and moose roam among large areas of forest. A 2km forest adventure trail takes visitors through the forest itself through 12 interactive stations and is accessible year-round, even when the visitor center is closed.

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10. Climb the Uetliberg, Zurich's miniature mountain

By high Swiss standards, Zurich's local mountain, the Uetliberg, sits closer to the shins than the shoulders of its contemporaries, but at 871 m above sea level, its forest-clad undulations are a pine-covered playground for hikers. and cyclists. It is particularly popular in autumn, as its peak rises above the fog that sometimes shrouds the city. go up theobservation towerfor a very special panorama.

11. Ride around town on a free bike

Zurich is easily covered on foot, but if you want to get around faster and avoid the expense of public transport, grab a free bike from theZurich rolls. A deposit is required but is fully refundable when the bike is returned at the end of the day. Meanwhile, explore the banks of the Limmat, the industrial labyrinth of Züri West and – if your legs can handle it – the hilly streets of the old town on two wheels.

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12. Crazy about cactus in the succulent collection

Sounds like the answer to a quiz question, but with over 4,400 species from over 78 different plant families, Zurich is home to one of the largest collections of succulents in the world. With seven greenhouses, an outdoor rock garden and cacti, agaves, aloes and pennyworts of all shapes and sizes, thecollection of succulentsit's free and full of surprises.

14. Take a dip in a river pool

Swimming in Lake Zurich is free, but the real action takes place in the city's river pools. Catering to the adventurous swimmer whoLower Latvian Basinmakes the most of a fast flow while theUpper Latvian Basinit's a little more relaxed with a 400m long swimming channel and a trampoline. The historicSchanzengraben river pool, opened in 1864, sits on a secluded bend in the river but is open to men only. it is open to everyoneWerdisnel, a small island in the Limmat that is popular in summer for its swimming pools, barbecue facilities and sunbathing areas. Lockers are free, but bring your own padlock.

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