Zurich (locally spelt Zürich) is set on a beautiful lake and surrounded by mountains. But Switzerland is a notoriously expensive travel destination. A recent report named Zurich as the most expensive city in the world to visit. As part of our #Take12Trips challenge the toddler and I went on a last minute trip to Zurich. Was it really that expensive? Here are my tips for making the most of Zurich on a budget with a toddler.
The Zurich Card
Before you arrive, use the Zurich Card website to work out if it is worth you purchasing a card (24 CHF for 24 hours / 48 CHF for 72 hours). This gives you unlimited travel on public transport in Zurich and the immediate area. It also gives you free or discounted admission to museums, along with discounts at shops, restaurants and tours. I had a travel fail here – I didn’t realise Kindercity would be free anyway for my toddler, so we would have been better off paying for everything separately. Oh well!
If a Zurich Card does not work out as cost effective for you, it might be worth buying a day pass for public transport. Certainly in winter we hopped on and off the tram a lot due to the inclement weather. But in summer you may find that you walk more.
I found it difficult to find a toddler-friendly budget hotel in Zurich. In the end I went for Pension für Dich on the grounds that the café was recommended for kids. It wasn’t exactly what I would normally regard as ‘budget’ at 90 CHF a night. But the other slightly cheaper options I found were all chains such as easyHotel and Swiss Star, which are not my preference. The youth hostel would also have been a budget option, but the private rooms were sold out. The website appeared to let me book a dorm bed for a toddler, but I didn’t think that would be appropriate!
Zoological Museum at the University of Zurich
This was a fabulous place for a toddler and completely free! It contains more than 1,500 species to look at. But more importantly for a toddler, it has a nice staircase, place to eat your own snacks, books, giant jigsaw and a sensory woodland area with animal noises.
Eating out in Zurich is expensive – around 40 CHF per meal per person. As a toddler isn’t the best dinner companion anyway, we stocked up on food at a supermarket. We had a picnic dinner and breakfast at the hotel. And ate our lunch on a boat tour (see below). If you do want to indulge in eating out, lunch specials can be a more budget-friendly way to experience cafés and restaurants.
Free Walking Tours
A free walking tour can be a great way to get a feel for a city and to learn about its history. The company to look out for in Zurich is Free Walk Zurich who offer a range of tours.
Take a Boat Tour
The short boat tour on Lake Zurich is actually pretty reasonable (8.60 CHF). There are longer tours available, but we were there on a grey and rainy day so 90 minutes was plenty long enough. It did however give us a nice spot out of the rain to eat our lunch.
Zurich On A Budget With A Toddler: Our Expenditure Breakdown
In summary, yes Zurich is an expensive place to visit. But in my opinion no more so than other major cities such as London and New York. There might be less budget options than in these other cities, but with a bit of creativity your trip need not break the bank. (Prices quoted as at March 2017 for 1 adult and 1 one year old)
24 Hour Zurich Card: 24 CHF (£19.50)
Kindercity entrance: 22.50 CHF (£18)
Kindercity snack in café: 7 CHF (£5.50)
Coop supermarket – food for 1x picnic dinner, breakfast and lunch, plus snacks: 25.75 CHF (£21)
Pension für Dich 1 night: 90 CHF (£73)
Tourist tax 1 night: 2.50 CHF (£2)
Latte at Café für Dich: 5.70 CHF (£4)
Cruise (supplement): 5 CHF (£4)
Total: 182.45 CHF (£148)