If you are planning a trip to Switzerland I highly recommend a stop in Zürich. Home to beautiful streets, exciting museums, and of course, chocolate, Zürich is a must-see destination. I went with a bunch of the study abroad folks from my school and spent three days exploring the city. For my fellow travelers, here is my guide on what to see and do when visiting Zürich.
Where to Stay
We stayed at the Youthhostel Zurich, which located a bit outside of the city in a charming residential area. The hostel was clean and well-maintained and the staff was very helpful. Breakfast was included and quite tasty. Getting into the city only took about 20 minutes by train which made visiting the city a breeze. One thing to note if you do stay here – towels are not provided so make sure to pack one in your bag if you plan to shower during your visit.
We purchased the 72-hour Zürich Card which gave us unlimited travel on the buses, trains, and trams in the city itself and the surrounding area. The card was super easy to use, once you validate it at an orange machine the card is good for 72 hours. It will run you CHF 53 (or about 54 USD) and also includes discounted or free entrance to a couple of museums around the city. Although it is a bit pricey (especially to a money-strapped college student), the ease of travel more than makes up for the cost of the card.
What to Do – For the Nature Lover
Zürich is full of cool places to explore. If you like nature I recommend the Zürich Wilderness Park. The park is a great place to go hiking, full of beautiful sights and gorgeous woodlands. The site is broken into three parts – Sihlwald forest, a Visitor Center with a museum and cafe, and the Langenberg wildlife park.
What to Do – For the Sports Fan
If your idea of the perfect afternoon involves camping out in front the TV and watching your favorite team annihilate the competition, then you can’t miss the FIFA World Football Museum. My friends loved visiting the museum – it was the highlight of their entire trip! Unlike a lot of museums in Zürich, the FIFA Museum is not free. Admission for adults will cost you CHF 24, but students (with a valid ID) can get in for just CHF 18. The museum is closed on Monday so be sure to keep that in mind when planning your visit.
What to Do – For the Shopaholic
Downtown Zürich is a shopping mecca full of upscale stores to explore. Take a stroll past Chanel, Burberry, Dior and more as you walk through the Bahnhofstrasse area of the city, home to countless luxury designers. Zurich is also home to some neat consignment shops and vintage boutiques. Although they tend to run a bit more on the expensive end of the scale, it’s fun to take a peek through the racks at the different eras of designer clothing.
What to Do – for the Museum Lover
There are museums aplenty in Zürich and lucky for the budget traveler, most of them are free or relatively inexpensive, these were a few of my favorites. The Zoological Museum in Zürich is home to an impressive collection boasting over 1,500 animal specimens. Nearby is another fun place to visit, focusTerra, an earth science museum where you can experience a guided tour with an earthquake simulator (the museum does free tours on Sundays). If you like a bit of the macabre, check out the Moulage Museum. This museum boasts the largest collection of moulages (wax representations of diseases like cancer and leprosy) outside of Le Musée des Moulages in France. One thing to keep in mind, not all of the museums in Zürich have English translations or captions for their exhibits, so if you aren’t familiar with German it might be a bit tough to understand what you are seeing.
- Switzerland is a pretty pricey city, a tall coffee at Starbucks costs around six USD! A basic meal will set you back at least $20 so if you want to save a little cash, stop by COOP – a grocery store in Zürich. COOP is a great place to pick up a few basic staples for a lot less than your average meal out. My friends and I lived off their bakery during our trip.
- Another bright side to stopping at COOP? Cheap and delicious Swiss chocolate. Although I can’t eat chocolate (darn allergy!), I have been assured by my traveling companions that the chocolate from COOP is amazing – much, much better than Hershey’s.