Traveling to Switzerland can be a bit intimidating if you’re on a budget but there are some great tips and tricks to save money.
It’s hard to believe but it’s actually possible to find free and cheap things even in Zurich– the fourth most expensive city in the world (depending on which source you want to believe).
I bugged some friends who live in Zurich about their money saving tricks, did some research and thought about the things that I discovered while I worked and lived in Switzerland. Some on these points are only true for Zurich whereas others can be applied in the whole of Switzerland. I hope this list can give you a few pointers on how to save money when traveling to Switzerland.
This post includes
Where to eat & grocery shop
How to rent a free bicycle
Find free water, coffee and even beer
Free Open- Air movies
Cafe Jenseits- Enjoy peace and free Internet
Where to eat and shop for groceries
If you want to prepare your own meals during your trip, I recommend to go to shops like Aldi, Lidl and Denner. Aldi and Lidl are cheaper all around whereas Denner offers cheap alcohol, too. The big Swiss supermarket chains Migros and Coop have their own brands “M-budget” and “Prix-Garantie” which are generally much cheaper than other food brands sold there. So look out for these.
Also, it’s better to stay away from smaller Migros and Coop supermarkets called Migrolino and Coop Pronto, which are usually found in the heart of cities. These shops are open for a longer time, therefore selling everything for higher prices.
I still recommend these if you’re thirsty though and just want to get a drink. Swiss shops have a huge selection of amazing Ice- and Herbal teas, than can be bought really cheaply almost everywhere.
My recommendation: Try out the Migros Ice Tea. It’s almost iconic there and was once voted to the most popular Ice-Tea in Switzerland. It’s also really cheap!
The one place I would stay away from completely when trying to save money are Kiosks. These little shops offer drinks, snacks and sometimes sandwiches to almost astronomical prices. You usually see them at the entrance to other stores or at train stations and airports.
Eating out can be “affordable” even in Switzerland, if you know where to go. Big shopping centres like Jelmoli or Manor usually have self service restaurants with good quality food on their upper floor. It’s not just affordable but the buffets let you mix and match, giving you a chance to try out different Swiss dishes at once. Since these restaurants are higher up, they often have a terrace, giving you an amazing view for free on top of that.
Some bigger Migros and Coop supermarkets have their own restaurants which also offer cheaper lunches and dinner. These restaurants are also great for a cafe and traditional swiss pastry.
Free bicycles for everyone
Zurich offers everyone the opportunity to rent a bike for free for a whole day. All you have to do is go to one of the “Zuri rollt” stalls in the city center, rent out a bicycle and go explore. A deposit of 20 CHF is required but you get your money back once you return the bike (as long as you bring it back on the same day).
Find where and when to rent a bike in Zurich here.
Not only Zurich offers free bike-rental though…
Rent a bike for free in Zug, Baar or Cham from May- October. As a deposit you have to leave your passport.
Bern offers a 4h free bicycle rental. 1 CHF for every further hour. Deposit is your passport and 20 CHF. Find out when and where here.
From the 24th April to the 22nd October, you can also rent a bike (for a 4 hours duration) in Geneva for a deposit of 20 CHF.
For a deposit of 100 CHF you can even rent out an electric bike. Find out where and when here.
If you’re visiting a different part of Switzerland, just check online if that city/area also offers free bicycle rental- chances are that they will. It’s a great way to get around for free.
Free water, coffee and even free beer- stay hydrated wherever you go
Tap water in Switzerland is one of the cleanest in Europe, so make sure to fill a water bottle with it before leaving the hotel/ apartment.
But not just tap water is extremely clean in Switzerland. If you’re on the go and want to refill your water bottle just do it at a fountain. Zurich for example, has around 1200 fountains that you can drink from without worries. Fountains usually have signs on them stating if it’s safe to drink from them or not.
Zurich isn’t the only city with this perk. You can find fountains with drinkable water everywhere in Switzerland.
Schuh-Cafe in Zurich offers free coffee while you shop- with no obligation to buy anything.
Where? Schuhcafe, Muensterhof 10, 8001 Zurich
There are quite a few shops in bigger Swiss cities that offer this perk. Next time you’re in a Swiss shop and smell coffee beans, keep an eye out for a potential free coffee for some extra energy on your shopping spree.
The pub Züricher Brauerei sBier brew their own beer called “sBier” and every Saturday morning they offer a free beer tasting– no strings attached. They also offer Guided Tours through their brewery and courses on how to brew beer.
Where? sBier Brauerei, Flühgasse 8, 8008 Zürich
Enjoy an Open-Air cinema for free
Every Thursday during July and August you can enjoy a free movie at “Film am See“, an open air cinema right at Lake Zurich. The movies that are shown vary in genre and language but the theme of the day is usually “international independent films“.
You can really find a lot of beautiful open-air cinemas with amazing atmosphere in Switzerland. Even if most of them are not for free they are significantly cheaper than a normal cinema visit. Prices usually start at around 5£ per ticket.
A living room for everyone with free Wi-Fi
No free coffee but free space offers “Cafe Jenseits”.
If you’re in Zurich and end up feeling tired from too much walking or if it’s too cold or rainy outside just hop in for a quick break and warm up. Everyone is welcome at Cafe Jenseits and you don’t even have to buy anything!
What’s even better? You can take your own food with you and heat it up in the microwave there.
Even greater? There is also free Wi-Fi which doesn’t require you to have a Swiss phone number to activate (this is worth a lot in Zurich)!