The very idea that visiting Switzerland needn’t be an expensive trip can often elicit disbelief. After all, it is regularly voted one of the most expensive countries in the world. But with careful planning and cost-cutting compromises, the Alpine splendour can be experienced without breaking the bank. Here are the best things to do in Switzerland for free.
1. Youth Hostels in Switzerland are among the swankiest in the world. Far from cramped dormitories and grimy communal bathrooms, some are even housed in villas with swimming pools. Many even offer inexpensive meals.
2. In summer, camping in the countryside can often be the best option. Not only do you get to experience more Alpine beauty, campsites usually charge very little to stay, though some do charge a bit extra to pitch a tent.
3. You can also consider staying at a farm stay where you usually get a substantial breakfast. Some even let you stay in a hay barn for less. Or if you’re hiking, Switzerland has a terrific network of mountain huts.
4. Switzerland has one of the most efficient and comprehensive public transport systems in the world. Public trains and buses run to almost every town and village in the country. They often even cover the same beautiful routes as pricier special scenic trains.
5. To save money, consider purchasing a travel pass. Depending on your specific journey, you can choose from a variety of passes, such as the Swiss Half Fare Card, or the Swiss Travel Pass which either give you significant discounts or free travel to specific destinations.
6. During the summer, from May to October, many companies rent out cycles in larger cities like Geneva, Bern, Valais, and Zürich. Their hire is either free for a limited time, or at affordable hourly rates.
7. Many hotels and farm stays offer a substantial free breakfast, but if your accommodation doesn’t, skip the expensive hotel breakfast, and head out. Most cafés can give you a decent meal with coffee and a pastry or muesli for much less.
8. Many Swiss restaurants offer a menü, a fixed-price lunch deal. Generally, pizzerias or Asian restaurants are also cheaper than traditional ones.
9. Hostels sometimes have shared kitchens, so you can stock up on groceries and cook your own meals. Many grocery stores also sell salads, sandwiches, and other to-go snacks.
10. Always keep a water bottle with you as most towns have water fountains where you can fill up. It doesn’t get better than the clear water, straight from the mountains.
11. If you’re going out drinking, most pubs have Happy Hours, when drinks are at half-price, or two-for-one.
Nature for Nothing
12. Exploring nature is one of the best things to do in Switzerland as most nature parks and outdoor attractions in Switzerland are free, including the spectacular Rhine Falls, and the Swiss National Park, full of woodlands, glaciers, moors, lakes, and wildlife.
13. For the more adventurous, swimming in Switzerland’s pristine lakes is also completely free. Just keep in mind that they are often very cold!
14. Switzerland has some of the outstanding hiking trails in Europe. Many wind around the green countryside, but some go high into the Alps, and all are usually free.
Seeing the Sights
15. Like many European cities, there is much to see in Switzerland by just walking around the historical cities, from Bern’s Unesco-listed Old Town to the 14th century. However, many museums and galleries can also be seen for free, such as Kunsthaus Zürich (free on Wednesdays) or the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire in Geneva.
16. Save money on skiing trips by avoiding holidays to avail of off-season deals. Also, pre-book equipment, or try taking your own gear, which some airlines allow for free.
17. Many Swiss cities also have free walking tours run by guides who work as volunteers (though tips are appreciated!). These tours are often both educative and entertaining.
18. Staying at a Swiss hotel or resort often entitles you to a Guest Card. This offers many benefits, such as free cable car rides and museum entry.