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Stories & Secrets

  • Writer's pictureSamantha

6 Free Places in Zurich: Museums & Culture Edition

Updated: Feb 25, 2022

An Insider's Guide

Dear Reader,

You know it, I know it, probably your friends and family do too! And it's all true! Zurich always scores high (overachiever!) on the annual list of most expensive cities¹ to live/visit worldwide, and 2020 was remarkably no exception. However, no need to panic! Just yet... You have plenty of time for that with your first frappuccino/mochaccino/spice latte grande oder. On the bright side, Zurich also comfortably sits right at the top of the most livable city list worldwide , and with a bit of research, patience, sifting around, and fantasy, you will find plenty of things to enjoy for FREE or cheaper in Zurich. But since you are here to enjoy Zurich, I did some extra digging for you. Take advantage of this handy-dandy Insider's Guide series to Zurich interesting things you can discover and explore for FREE (or cheaper). And all of this without being forced to get a 2nd mortgage, sell one of your kidneys, or impound grandma's wedding ring.

Notes ¹ according to WEF / eca / Merce M U S E U M S 1) National Museum (Landesmuseum)

The entry ticket to this innovative museum is CHF 10.00; however, the "Simply Zurich" permanent exhibition is FREE (ask for tickets at the ticket counter in the main hall).

In the third room of the Simply Zurich exhibit, witness Zurich and its surroundings as never before! In four short movies, you will experience unconventional and behind-the-scenes angles of this extraordinary city! This is my favorite museum in Zurich, and it's worth every penny. Its astounding

permanent collection gives you a thorough glimpse into Switzerland's origin as a country, in its remarkable, sometimes surprising past and innovative present. My Tip: the National Museum has, in my personal opinion, the best gift shop for quality souvenirs in all of Zurich. Curiosity: Notice (on Google Map) how the shape of the original building resembles a capital G (in a 19th-century font); the architect Gustav Gull left his initial in Zurich's landscape for eternity. 2) Kunsthaus (Art Museum) On Wednesdays, the Kunsthaus opens the doors to the permanent collection for FREE. The temporary collections tickets are also available for CHF 16.00 for adults (under 17 years, the entry is always FREE). This museum is a treasure trove for art lovers and enthusiasts alike: a remarkable and substantial collection ranging from old masters to modern impressionists, from religious art to modern profanity, and everything else in between! Curiosity: The Kunsthouse, founded in the late 18th century, started as a collection of donated works by a group of artists and art lovers. They called it a painting book. What a romantic name! 3) Museums of the University of Zurich FREE education! Yey! The University of Zurich museum collection entertains the young and scholars alike with an impressive array of cultural artifacts and knowledge. -Ethnographic Museum (situated

in the old botanical garden) - focusTerra (Museum of Earth Sciences). Its highlight is definitely the earthquake simulator!

- Zoological Museum (taxidermied animals aplenty) - Paleontological Museum (mummies, anyone?) - Paleontological Museum (fossilized 30/million/years/old marine reptiles) - Archeological Institute and Museum (bones & skulls galore) Some of these museums are conveniently located on the University and ETH premises and in the city center. Visit the University's page for a complete list of museums, hours, and locations.

With a monumental collection of 160'000 prints and drawings to its name, the collection is one of

Switzerland's biggest. A true cornucopia for the graphic design and art lovers alike. Visitors will travel as far back as the 15th century C.E. while visiting one of the yearly exhibits. For dates and opening times, visit their website.

This museum is a real hidden gem! The entrance is FREE, as is the tour around its premises. Call in advance to book a tour and inquire if they have one in English, as they usually are German. Bibliophiles will undoubtedly let out a high pitch scream when the lovely curator tells them that they can touch books that have already seen centuries pass by. Moreover, the temporary exhibitions with state-of-the-art digital galleries explore interesting philosophical and existential themes. My Tip: Combine your visit to this museum with your excursion to the Rigiblick vantage point (cable car with the same name). The MoneyMuseums is just a short three-minute walk from the Hadlaubstrasse stop. The cost of the cable car is included in your public transportation ticket. A R T G A L L E R Y

This exhibition space is located just below the Grossmünster church in the heart of Zurich's old town. The Helmhaus showcases contemporary art that ebbs and flows through all kinds of artistic media. My Tip: even if you have absolutely no inclination for contemporary art, why not sneak in anyway and take some fantastic pictures over the Limmat river and the spectacular old townscape.


Surprisingly, a historical site - and a UNESCO World Heritage Site at that! Like many things in Zurich, you have to explore the off-the-beaten-path alleys and open closed doors to discover unimaginable surprises. Standing on Sechseläutenplatz (say what? for your sanity and mine, the square is a.k.a. the Opera Square), looking directly at the Opera, descend two levels into the parking garage to your right: Tada!!!! Here you will find an archeological window on 5'000 years of history that displays the remains of the stilt houses (pile dwellings) and various artifacts from the Stone Age era. It's a perfect place to take a bit of a respite from the summer heat.

The Zurich Opera House on a stormy summer day

The site was found with the garage construction in 2009, where archeologists unearthed the second oldest wooden door worldwide! What do you think were our ancestors guarding?

My Tip Nr. 1: Whenever you fancy a break in your meanderings of the city, enjoy FREE chairs, shade, and a fountain to splash in on the square just in front of the Opera house. My Tip Nr. 2: should you find yourself in Zurich in the spring, stay for the burning of the Böögg (a giant wanna-be snowman

filled with explosives). The explosion is preceded by the guilds (Zünfte) parade during the day, and followed by a sausage fest in its ashes in the evening (bring your own to grill). A bit morbid, but so much FREE fun!

This article is part of a blog series about cheeper and free things to enjoy and explore in Zurich. Make sure to check out the other contributions as well!

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