The Swiss city of Zürich may be synonymous with banking, but with its unique combination of fresh mountain air, a quaint medieval old town, and world-class art and cafe culture means it offers the perfect sense of exploration, without ever feeling overwhelming. Zürich’s firmly on the boutique-break scene now, helped by a renaissance in once-industrial Zürich-West (think Switzerland’s answer to London’s Shoreditch). So clubbers and alternative culture lovers have every reason to hit the city for a weekend of decadence.
And while Switzerland can be an expensive destination, Zürich is full of delights which don’t cost a single Franc.
Here are 5 ways to enjoy the Swiss banking capital without reaching for your wallet:
Enjoy the Wasser
There’s something special about a metropolis being set not just on a river (the Limmat), but on a lake too (Zürichsee). Walk to your destination alongside uber-clean waterways complete with swimming fish, and wading swans.
Stunning Alpine scenery
This is what you’re really here for and it doesn’t cost a single Franc; drink it all in from one of Zürich many vantage points – try taking the Polybahn tram up to the university for perfect city views.
Bürkliplatz Flea Market
Every Saturday from May ‘til October the pretty lakeside area is given over to a large and eclectic flea market where you can browse for free, and pick up some authentic low cost vintage souvenirs.
Cost: free to cheap – depending on what you decide to buy!
The Swiss love to get back to nature and Zürich’s local mountain, a short train ride outside the city centre (take the S10 from the Hauptbahnhof), is the ultimate vantage point to take in the spectacular snow-capped alpine range, or go walking and mountain biking.
Cost: 16 CHF (€13)
Free city bikes
You can hire any of over 200 city bikes completely free of charge, seven days a week. Bring along some ID and a deposit of CHF 20 and get free all day bike rental, or pay CHF 10 to keep the bike overnight. Pick-up locations include the Globus department store, Bürkliplatz and the Swiss National Museum, although most locations operate only from May to October.
Cost: free, with a refundable deposit payable
For more information visit www.zuerich.com.
HB: Zurich has some great youth hostels including Youth Hostel Zurich, at €27.71pppn in a dorm and €44.34pppn in a private room. They have snacks and hot food and drink available on site from the bar and restaurant. There’s also a lounge hall with flat screen TV, billiards, table football, pinball and a courtyard to enjoy the sun too.
Three more cities famous for finance…
Frankfurt – Sometimes referred to as Bankfurt, (or Mainhatten, as it sits on the River Mein), there’s more to Frankfurt than high finance. The compact city’s art and culture are underrated and it plays host to one of Europe’s most atmospheric Christmas Markets in the picturesque Römerberg square, originally the heart of the city’s Medieval Altstadt.
Book hostels in Frankfurt now.
Luxembourg City – Pint-sized Luxembourg may be a financial legend, but its quaint capital perched on high ground with stunning views across valleys and countryside, is straight out of a fairy tale. The town charms you with cobbled streets, towers and turrets, while offering an incredible variety of twentieth century pastimes to rival far bigger cities.
Book hostels in Luxembourg City now.
Monte Carlo – Monaco is surprisingly accessible even to those on a modest budget; stay in nearby Nice or elsewhere on the Riviera and take the fast efficient train into Monaco itself. Ambling round the pretty pink hilly streets, eyeing the super yachts in the glitzy harbour and enjoying the exotic gardens won’t put a strain on your bank balance.
Book hostels in Monte Carlo now.
Thanks to Jaillan Yehia for the excellent images.