The ZürichCARD

I trust Rick Steves, so when he suggested in his “Switzerland 2005” guide that travelers should pick up a ZürichCARD, I listened. In November ’05 I purchased a 72-hour card, and I am very glad I did.

The card is an inexpensive way to see the city’s sights. The 72-hour card costs CHF30 (about $22) for three days’ use. To truly get your money’s worth, all you would have to do is ride the train twice and visit two museums in one day and you will have broken even.

To be perfectly honest, some of the sights in Switzerland’s leading city are less than amazing, and to pay the individual entrance fees would be steep. However, with the visitor card any stop along the way is worthwhile.

For example, I am a professor of literature, so I decided to visit Strauhof Zürich with its special exhibits on literary themes; the entrance fee without the card is CHF10. There was not much for me to see once I was in, since the displays were in German and on unfamiliar Swiss authors. Because this museum’s fee was included under the ZürichCARD, I felt no remorse at leaving after just 15 minutes.

Briefly, here is a quick review of the ZürichCARD’s overall usefulness to visitors:

• Free second-class travel on the entire city’s trams, airport train, rails, buses, funiculars and boats. This is really handy, as there seems to always be a train coming along Zürich’s streets. If you’re tired from walking up and down the city’s hilly terrain, you can simply hop on.

• Free entrance to over 40 attractions, including Kunsthaus Zürich with its impressive art collection firom the Middle Ages up to today. This museum is worth every penny of its CHF10 entrance fee, and when you combine it with a smaller museum, say, the Zinnfiguren Museum Zürich (Pewter Figure Museum), you’ll have a pretty full afternoon.

• A free and very helpful pocket guide to the city and all the attractions, transportation, restaurants and services utilizing the ZürichCARD. Inside are the addresses, contact information and opening times of listed establishments. The “ZurichCARD Guide 2005” also includes useful maps — all designed to fit into a pocket.

• A discount on the city’s Old Town walking tour (save CHF10); the only drawback is that the tours operate only twice a week in the off-season. There’s also a CHF10 discount for the zoo.

• Free welcome drinks at selected restaurants. Be wary: the welcome drink at the (very nice) Restaurant Zeughauskeller was an orange juice. At another restaurant (it shall remain nameless), the drink was a vodka cocktail of lethal proportions.

All in all, the ZürichCARD is a great deal for any visitor in Switzerland’s “leading city,” and Rick Steves was right when he said, “For a whirlwind visit, consider the ZürichCARD!”

The 24-hour ZürichCARD costs CHF15 adult or CHF10 child under 16. Contact Zürich Tourismus (Im Hauptbahnhof, CH-8023 Zürich, Switzerland; phone + 41 [0] 44 215 40 00 or visit It also can be purchased at the Zürich Airport, train stations and many hotels.

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