My time in Zurich was going to be short, so I wanted to make the most of it!
What I want to show you here, is that you can have a really nice day exploring new places while, at the same time, keeping it cheap and simple! Often, the most interesting adventures we experience while we are travelling are unplanned, and the ordinary day life we encounter can be extraordinarily beautiful.
Being honest, it wasn’t in my plans to go to Switzerland right now. But, my flight to Brazil last Summer had a layover in Zurich. So, I thought, why not? Instead of waiting hours at the airport, I decided to check this city out. Zurich is a small city (Despite being the biggest in Switzerland!). In one day, I could cover the city centre.
We all know Switzerland is a very expensive country, and Zurich is considered to be one of the most expensive cities in the world. But, if there is something I am proud of myself for, it’s that I’m pretty good in the business of cheap travel and I needed to make this layover as cheap as possible. Spoiler alert: I made it!
So, if you want to go to Zurich for a short time, have a layover and you’re short of money, stick with me! This post might help you make this trip within a tight budget. I didn’t spend much and I had so much fun on my own.
//Storing your bags – My big luggage was kept with the airline. If you have a layover less than 24h, then they keep it, which is great. I still had my hand luggage with me, including my laptop and a number of family gifts. Of course I didn’t want to walk around with all that stuff. Thankfully, at Zurich’s airport there are lockers available; you insert coins to open it, and if you don’t have coins they can change notes for you. I didn’t have Swiss francs with me, only euro, but I was able to change it anyway. I paid around 6 euros for 12 hours to use a small locker.
(I didn’t change my money there, I only used my credit card and the conversion rates were very good)
Belongings safely stored, it was time to get out and see the city!
//From the airport to the city centre – it is so easy! If you’ve already experienced long journeys from an airport to a city, you won’t believe yourself how easy this journey is. Inside the airport (ZRH) there is a train station that goes to Hauptbahnhof (HB, the central station). It only takes 10 minutes! It was for sure, the shortest airport-to-city journey I have made. I paid around 13 euro for a return day ticket. Just pay attention on which platform you have to go. Just in case, you can ask for any of the staff at the airport.
It was my first time taking a Double-Decker train! I have to say I was impressed by the Swiss punctuality. The trains goes at the exact time informed, not a minute more or less.
Zurich welcomed me with a sunny, warm day. The temperature was around 25 degrees Celsius, and for someone living in Ireland this was already too much. I was melting!
I got a map at the Central Station and, in a ”old school’ way, went to explore the city. I love paper maps, and usually prefer using them instead of my phone. Ancient, right?
Honestly, I didn’t make big plans for Zurich (I was short of money). I checked it quick online, had an idea what the city map looked like, and all that I knew was that I wanted to walk around the old town and also see the city from above. It sounded like a perfect plan for me. And, in fact, the main attraction of the city is the old town.
It is very easy to walk around Zurich, the old town is not that big and it forms a quadrilateral shape, with a church in each corner.
I love that feeling of getting lost in a new town for the first time! To wander, be surprised; to get the essence of the place.
From the Central Station I walked until I found the church I wanted to ascend. On my way, I could see everybody enjoying the sunny day. Even though it was a week day, people were having drinks and eating outside – such a nice atmosphere!
// Grossmünster – is one of the churches within the the old town. It’s lovely, but nothing breathtaking; a Protestant church, it’s interior was simple compared to the typical art and decor you find in Catholic churches. I gave a quick look inside and headed towards the stair entrance.
I only had my card with me and, to go to the top, you had to pay. And, of course, they didn’t accepted credit cards. I panicked, I really wanted to go to the top. So, I gave another quick look into my purse and I found 2 coins in Swiss francs from the locker change I used at the airport.
They accepted student cards and the price for students was exact the amount I had in coins: 2 francs. What a relief! For these and other reasons, I always recommend people to bring their Student Cards when travelling.
The climb was very quick, nothing hard like the one I faced in Kölner Dom (Germany). It was worth it. The view of the city was beautiful. So nice to see all that architecture from above.
I stayed a while up there trying to enjoy that refreshing wind, gathering some energy to continue walking in the sun. Next step was to cross the river, and go for a stroll between those narrow and charming streets. Wandering like this, you get to see more of the city. Don’t forget, it’s for free, guys – you must enjoy it!
After all that walking my tummy was telling me it was time to stop and grab something to eat. I didn’t want to go to a restaurant. My plan was to do one of my favourite things while travelling – go to a supermarket.
I went to a supermarket called Coop and I bought a croassaint, water, soft drink, a crunch Müesli from Coop’s brand, and Hofladen chips. I spent 8 euros and it was more than enough for me. Because of the heat, I can’t really eat a lot, I mostly drink. My day was fine and I only felt hungry again on the plane when they were serving dinner, perfect!
With my grocery shopping done, my mission was to find a place where I could sit and eat. Wandering around, I found Lindenhofplatz. It was exactly the kind of place I had in mind; a public square on the top of the river with shade where I could sit and enjoy the view.
And the view:
(can you see these two towers there? That place is Grossmünster, the church where I climbed to the top)
My time there was just so nice watching people and the city with it’s mix of tourists and locals. I always try to imagine the story behind each person who sits in a public space like this; often wondering if other people do the same and, if they do, what kind of stories they have made up for me!
I didn’t arrive in Zurich in time to take one of those free walking tours. Which was fine, because sometimes, all I want to do is go alone and find the hidden gems of a city and try to imagine how is to live in that place.
With my tummy full, I walked until I found another public space in front of a church. There, I saw some musicians preparing to play and some people were sitting on the stairs of the church to watch whatever they were going to do. I noticed that most of them were locals. I didn’t think twice, I joined them.
While waiting, some elders started to gather there. All locals, they decided to engage in conversation with me, in German. However, I don’t speak German and they didn’t speak English – what a problem! A pity, as I was excited to talk to them, they must have had stories about the city to tell me, and they knew the band that was about to play. I just wish I could speak all the languages!
The band was like an orchestra; so beautiful. I love walking and finding street bands (buskers), this is one of my favourite things about Dublin. I was just so happy that I got to experience that moment in Zurich.
European Summers nights are very bright, so I forgot completely about the time and nearly forgot I had to go back to the airport. My flight to São Paulo was at 22:30 but thanks to that short journey from the city to the airport I made it just on time.
Calculating it looking back, I guess I spent around 30 euros? I had an amazing day, I really enjoyed myself and I got to do so many of the simple things I like. I survived Zurich on a budget and I think my time was spent very well, given the short hours I had.
On my way back from Brazil to Ireland, I had another stopover in Zurich, which required a night’s stay. This second time was equally enjoyable, and I will share it here soon.
>>> Have you been to Zurich before? Did you like the city? Are you also able to spend little money and have fun in an expensive place? Share on the comments!