Switzerland is expensive. And as the financial capital of the country, Zurich is really expensive. That does not mean a stay here has to break the bank; it just means you have to get a little creative. The heart of the city surrounds the Bahnhofstrasse, the main drag that connects the city’s train station (Hauptbahnhof) and the Zurichsee (Lake Zurich). This ¾ mile stretch is filled with restaurants, shopping, chocolate shops and cafes. Anyone not looking to break the bank should do more window shopping here than actual shopping. And for the chocolate lovers out there looking to bring home some genuine Swiss chocolate (how thoughtful of you) for your friends, family, coworkers and pet sitters, many of the same kinds of chocolate for sale on the high street are available at the local grocery store for a fraction of the price.
Accommodations in this area tend to be on the pricey side as well, but a quick walk across the Limmat River from the train station and the Swiss National Museum will get you away from the throngs of people and pricier hotels. Our favorite, the Ema House Hotel, is just 10 minutes by foot from the train station. This is a business hotel that also has extended stay rates. That means the suites are more like apartments and come with a shower, bath, separate bedroom, living room, kitchen and a balcony with a great view. With all of these in-house amenities, there is less incentive to go out to pricey restaurants. Instead, hit up the grocery store (there is one near the train station) and make your own meal.
If you don’t feel like cooking, no worries. Just grab some picnic supplies (a loaf of bread and good-sized wedge of gruyere cheese) and walk down to the lake for a picnic. Lake Zurich is beautiful and in the summer months, the park at the edge of the lake is filled with people picnicking, sunbathing and otherwise relaxing. The lake is clear and clean, so if you brought your swimsuit, go for a dip.
Zurich is expensive, but you can minimize some of the cost by eating in, doing free things like going to the park and lake and choosing a hotel that doesn’t cater to tourists.