How to Eat Cheap in Zurich

Switzerland is expensive, and so is Zurich. If you come here, prepare to spend a fortune on food, especially if you plan to eat out. Unless, of course, you have some practical tips on how to eat cheap in Zurich.

I list here the best tips that anyone can follow and save a lot of money on food in Zurich. Even more, as you will see, you can enjoy real quality meals with these tips at the fraction of the price that you would spend otherwise.

Interactive Zurich Cheap Food Map

I created this map to include every place that I talk about in this article. Use it to find your favorite place to eat cheap in Zurich.

Welchogasse 5, 8050 Zürich, Switzerland

Leonhardstrasse 34, 8092 Zürich, Switzerland

Bahnhofstrasse 9, 8001 Zürich, Switzerland

Welchogasse 5, 8050 Zürich, Switzerland

Bahnhofstrasse 57, 8001 Zürich, Switzerland

Hauptbahnhof, 8001 Zürich, Switzerland

Hofwiesenstrasse 370, 8050 Zürich, Switzerland

Einkaufszentrum Neumarkt, Hofwiesenstrasse 350, 8050 Zürich, Switzerland

University Canteen

Let me start with the most specific tip, as I find this to be also the most practical one.

You have to know that eating out in Zurich, at the time of writing this article, starts at CHF 30 per meal. Add to that drinks and other things you order, and you’ll be easily set back by 50 Francs per person in a restaurant which can still be mediocre.

But what if I showed you a place which is right in the center of the city, and where you can eat real food just for 15 Francs or less per meal?

Zurich University canteen tandoori meatballs

This is university canteen (Mensa Polyterrasse), where you can enjoy a full meal for the fraction of the regular Zurich price even if you are not a student.

Take the Polybahn funicular from just opposite the main railroad station (Hauptbahnhof) and get off at the upper station. There to your right is the large university area, where you need to go downstairs to find the canteen. They actually have 3 different prices for every food, the most expensive applied to anyone not being a student or university employee.

Even by paying full price, we still had a great Tandoori Meatball for just 15.50 and a Moussaka for 14.50. In my opinion, nowhere in Zurich can you eat a whole meal for such prices.

Zurich university canteen prices

Rent an Apartment, Cook at Home

This might sound strange as a recommendation on how to eat cheap in Zurich, but I suggest you select an apartment with kitchen facilities when searching for you accommodation. It’s actually not more expensive than staying at a hotel, and you can have a full equipped kitchen where you can cook your own food at home.

Okay, let’s stop here for a minute. I know you’re not planning on cooking during your entire Zurich vacation, and you don’t have to.

Just buy making a sandwich at home, preparing an omelette or something similar will save you a lot of money. Browse these recipes for quick dinner ideas to see what you can make in less than 30 minutes.

Authentic Swiss Fondue at Home, Cheap

We even tried how to make Swiss fondue at home in our apartment and it turned out pretty good.

If you want to read the whole story, I’ll publish it soon. But what’s important here is that you don’t need to go to an expensive restaurant and pay a fortune just to experience real Swiss fondue.

You can buy high quality authentic fondue cheese mix at a local cheese shop in Zurich, and prepare your fondue at your apartment on the stove top in just any regular pot. I included the shop where we bought our cheese in the map above, search for Chäsegge Oerlikon.

Swiss fondue in a regular pot

John Baker pékség – Bahnhofstrasse

Another great place is John Baker Bahnhofstrasse, where we actually found the cheapest good quality coffee in Zurich so far. 4.5 Swiss Francs might seem a lot for a double espresso, but believe me, this is cheap coffee here in Zurich! Also they are a bakery with great organic products, I highly recommend you to try their yummy viennoiseries or breads.

They are located on Zurich’s iconic shopping street, Bahnhofstrasse, just a few corners from the lake. You can even sit outside and enjoy the Zurich vibe while drinking your coffee and eating your croissant.

John Baker bahnhofstrasse Zurich

Supermarket sandwiches and Salads

This is the most frequent tip that you hear on how to eat cheap in Zurich, but it is indeed very useful advice.

Supermarkets in Zurich have their own prepared food that you can eat right away. Salads and sandwiches you can easily find in any larger supermarket, and you don’t need to cook or prepare anything.

Coop and Migros are the 2 largest supermarket brands in Switzerland that usually have this type of food on their shelves. You can check out some LIDL or ALDI stores also, which have great products and are cheap, but I find they are less likely to have a great variety of sandwiches and salads.

Drink Free Water From Street Fountains

Water flowing from the fountains on the streets in Zurich is actually drinkable. The city is so fortunate that it has a lot of hills and mountains around it, providing a 24/7 stream of fresh water on the street.

So just have an empty bottle with you, and fill it up whenever you feel thirsty, stay hydrated and still save on drink expenses.

Fresh water fountain in Zurich