Is Zurich Good For Solo Travel?
I’m rewinding it back to another stop I took on my inter-railing trip in Spring 2019.
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the financial capital of the country. Located in the heart of Europe, it’s a diverse city with old, cobbled streets, modern urbanised districts and a beautiful natural landscape.
I caught the train there from Milan and stayed for three nights before heading to Frankfurt. Of all eight countries I inter-railed through during this trip, Switzerland definitely had the most picturesque train window views!
Is Zurich good for solo travel? In my opinion, yes. It felt safe, was easy to get around and was a relaxing place to be by yourself. Everyone I spoke to was really friendly and welcoming. Although it’s expensive, you can see lots of attractions for free. You can also cut the cost down by avoiding takeaway coffees, cooking your own meals and minimising your use of transport.
The hostel I stayed in unfortunately closed down due to the coronavirus pandemic, otherwise, I would’ve recommended it. If you’re interested in visiting Zurich yourself then you should be able to find some other budget-friendly options on Hostelworld or Booking.com. I paid £95.69 or 119.34 Swiss Franc (CHF) for three nights. For such a notoriously expensive city, I thought this was reasonable enough.
The city is easy to get around and I barely had to rely on Google Maps! Once arriving, I walked from the train station to my hostel and it was easy to find my way. Zurich is very walkable and I didn’t use public transport the whole time I was there.
So, what is there to do in Zurich as a solo traveller?
Well, let’s start with seeing its gorgeous natural sights. In the middle of the city runs the Limmat River which leads to Lake Zurich. It’s quite a magical transition when you walk through the built-up city, past the historic buildings, and then find yourself upon the vast lake with the Swiss Alps in the distance. The views are breathtaking. You’ll see people jogging, sitting and hanging out here, a mixture of tourists and locals.
There’s also the option to go hiking in the mountains. I didn’t do this on my visit, mostly due to lack of time, but if I was to visit again then this is what I’d prioritise having seen most of the centre already. Here are some recommended walks if you’re interested.
Then you have Zurich Old Town. I decided to book myself onto a free walking tour to see the historic attractions, that way I could mix with other travellers. It’s also nice to hear from a local and gain a better insight into the history of the city.
Some of Zurich’s historic buildings include Grossmünster, often referred to as the ‘salt and pepper church’, because well… the towers look a little bit like two salt and pepper jars! You’ve also got the Church of St Peter standing on the other side of the Limmat River which has the largest church clock face in Europe. It measures an impressive 8.7m in diameter. There’s a fun fact for you!
As for some modern attractions, there’s Prime Tower, a large business building. It’s also home to Zurich’s highest bar. This was once the tallest skyscraper in Switzerland until 2015 when Roche Tower in Basel stole the crown. Along the way, you might come across some street art and independent shops. It ended up being a bit of a trek to get to the tower from Zurich Old Town but I enjoyed seeing another side of the city to and from the tower.
Zurich has multiple museums, over 50 actually, and one I visited was the Swiss National Museum. This should be on your list if you’d like to discover some of Switzerland’s history. An adult ticket costs 10 CHF (correct of Nov 2021) which is just over £8. You can find out about some more of Zurich’s museums here. From art museums to the FIFA World Football Museum, there’s something for everyone.
Some final places I’d recommend for solo travellers are the Old Botanical garden and China Garden. The Old Botanical garden is located in downtown Zurich and is free to enter. Dating back to 1837, it has a medieval herb garden known as the ‘Gessner Garden’ and a palm house that hosts many events throughout the year. After a long day of walking around Zurich, it’s a lovely place to sit and recharge.
As for the China Garden, this is one of the highest-ranking gardens outside of China. It was a few pounds to enter and was one of just two attractions I paid for during my visit. Located near Lake Zurich, it’s a charming place with features including a pond, oriental temples and a little bridge. I felt like I’d stepped into a new world and could’ve watched the colourful fish swimming and eating algae all day!
In terms of nightlife, I didn’t actually manage to experience this during this trip. At one point I discussed going for drinks with someone from my hostel room and her friend but they eventually decided they didn’t want to go out again because it was too expensive. Although I was slightly disappointed, my bank account wasn’t!
However, Zurich is known for its buzzing nightlife so if you have a higher budget and like to party then it might be worth booking onto the Zurich Pub Crawl. This is also a great way of meeting other travellers.
When the drinks plan fell through, I instead walked up to Lindenhof to watch the sunset over the city. I felt really safe being there at night. Although I was still cautious, I felt a lot calmer than I would’ve done in another new city on my own. As a solo traveller, this was a big plus for me. I’d recommend Lindenhof as a place to see the sunrise/sunset and it’s an ideal photography spot.
Now onto some tips for budget eating and drinking. After the walking tour, I found a LIDL which was an absolute lifesaver (not to be dramatic!). Although it wasn’t as cheap as the ones in the UK, it was significantly cheaper than the other food stores I’d been in. So if you’re looking for some cheap scran, I’d recommend searching for the nearest LIDL (and I imagine an Aldi would be similar). The one I went to was the one located on Fraumünsterstrasse.
Remember to pack a reusable water bottle because Switzerland has some of the world’s cleanest drinking water! So when you see water fountains dotted all around the city, don’t fear, it’s more than drinkable. Not only will this save you money but it’ll reduce plastic waste too.
Facts about Zurich
- It’s Europe’s wealthiest city.
- The world’s largest techno party is held there every year, the Street Parade.
- It’s been named one of the world’s happiest cities.
- There are over 1,200 drinking fountains in the city.
- Google’s largest European office is there.
- Romans founded it and named it Turicum.
- Zurich’s main station is used by almost 500,000 passengers every day.
Overall, solo travelling in Zurich was a positive experience for me. And this is coming from somebody that has mixed emotions about travelling solo in general! It might not be at the top of your list if you’re a budget traveller, however, if you’re just visiting for a couple of nights or so then it’s manageable. Just be savvy, cook your own meals and travel by foot if you can.
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