1. Visit James Joyce’s graveTo start us off on a tour of wonderful free things to do in Zurich, I’ve got something with a bit of sophistication. James Joyce – yes, the James Joyce, the famous Irish author – lived and died in Zurich. His grave is in the Kirche Fluntern graveyard. The grave is a nice memorial to Joyce and is certainly a must see for any student of Literature who studies in Zurich. (Just imagine a horrified Irish person saying “You studied English Lit in Zurich and you didn’t visit James Joyce’s grave?!”) You can get there by taking tram 6 and getting off at the last stop (Zoo). The cemetery is right next to the tram station. While you’re up there why not ….
2. Look at Zurich’s ruined fortifications against a Russian invasion
If you walk up towards the woods above the cemetery with James Joyce’s grave and follow the sign posts to the “Schlachtdenkmal” you will find a large stone commemorating two battles, in which the French (who were more or less occupying Switzerland) fought with a coalition of European nations with mainly Russian and Austrian troops. The Swiss didn’t really get involved (staying neutral as always). The ditches and walls in the woods near the “Schlachtendenkmal” on top of the Zurichberg were used in those battles by the French to defend Zurich. They were successful in the end after the first battle ended in a stalemate. For those of you who like mountain biking, there’s a mountain bike course there too.
3. Relax in the Grossmünster Kreuzgang
This quiet spot in the heart of Zurich is quite something special. It is the historic cloister of Zurich’s Chorherrenstift (a kind of monastery), which is now the Theological seminar of Zurich University. It is attached to the Grossmünster church. There are some steps and a big wooden door right next to the main entrance of the church leading into the old monastery’s inner sanctum, the cloister with a cross-shaped garden. It’s open to the public and nice and quiet even on weekdays. As the heavy doors close behind you, all the noise and bustle of Zurich will fade into the background, while the gentle sound of water and hushed footsteps softly fill the cool air. Built in the style of the Roman atrium with its over 2000 year old cooling technology, it’s especially pleasant in those hot summer months.
4. Play garden chess at the Lindenhof
Besides inventing the atrium, the Romans are also responsible for the Lindenhof, an ancient Roman fortification above the river Limmat and on the opposite side to Grossmüster. Now it’s a peaceful park with beautiful, old trees, commanding a lovely view of the eastern side of Zurich. There are a few garden chess sets in regular use at the Lindenhof, at lunch time it can be hard to get a place to play. Next to the chess ‘board’ there are biggish boxes with the wooden chess pieces. The boxes are never locked, so if you fancy a midnight game of garden chess, head up to the Lindenhof. The amazing thing is, that there none of the pieces are ever missing!
5. Go to the bazaar at Helvetiaplatz
Every Saturday, come rain come shine, there is a bazaar (officially a flea-market, but bazaar sounds better) in the park opposite Helvetiaplatz. You can get there with tram 8 or bus 32. Kreis 4 is a wonderfully colourful and vibrant district in Zurich, and so is the bazaar held there. You’ll find books, clothes, toys, musical instruments, old records, decor stuff and all you ever wanted to buy at a bazaar, but it isn’t just the diversity of wares to be looked at (I said this list would be of free things) that attract people, but the atmosphere, the friendly banter and the interesting people to be met.
6. Visit the University’s free museums/cinema
The Zoological Museum in the main building has an excellent permanent exhibition, perfect for a rainy day or if you’ve got time to kill at Uni. And even if you’re not a huge animal lover, who can resist dinosaurs, mammoths and giant sloths?! The attractively presented and interactive exhibits are worth seeing and also ideal if you’ve got kids to occupy. Besides being a good museum, it’s also got a cinema showing nature films twice a day for free (Mon-Sat 11.00 and 15.00, Sun 11.00 and 16.00). You can find the schedule by clicking on the link below.
There are other museums too that are worth visiting. You can find out more about them by clicking on this link
Originally I wanted to get 10 things to do, unfortunately I ran out of ideas, which doesn’t mean that the possibilities of free things to do in Zurich are exhausted. If you think you know more interesting or just more free things to do, why not write your own list up and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org?