Short story: We contacted local wine shops preparing for Expovina Zurich starting Thursday, Nov 1, 2018. Several generously offered FREE Expovina tickets — each CHF 25 value! — to this blog’s readers. You just need to visit the shop and buy a bottle as a courtesy. Jump directly to the local shop list and map or read the full story below.

(And don’t forget to check our other Expovina pro tips: the best times to avoid crowds and which boats to visit.)

The Expovina Zurich wine boats offer quite possibly the city’s best drinks deal every year.

Okay, you have to like drinking wine, there’s no getting around that.

But where else in a famously expensive city can you drink all evening long for only CHF 25?? I mean, a few steps away at the Kronenhalle Bar just one cocktail alone costs CHF 22 (though they do shake up a lovely Sidecar).

If you’re thirsty, the bargain seems more than obvious.

But wait! This is the internet age. Why pay for a phenomenal deal when you can get the same thing for free?

Your Expovina Zurich Mission: Free Passes

Expovina Zurich Free Pass

Yes, you can do it. Easily too. We’ve did the hard part already. It only requires the tiniest bit of after-work legwork early one evening. And not even that with a touch of foresight.

Presenting 3 foolproof methods to dodge the CHF 25 entry fee and drink (um, I mean taste) for free at Expovina Zurich every year.

In order of preference:

Method 1. Buy a Little Something (Last Year)

You may need a small time machine to execute this one properly. But you won’t next year.

Next year, future you will heartily thank present you (by then, past you, if you’re following this, McFly).

The absolute laziest way to enter for free is to place a small order on the boats one year.

Every exhibitor receives a mountain of free passes each year to distribute to potential attendees. But not just any old wine-drinking attendees, no sir, exhibitors want to lower entry barriers (literally) for wine-buying attendees.

It’s not rocket science. Prove yourself as a wine-buying attendee by… buying wine one year as an attendee.

Then voila!  A free pass magically appears in your postbox a week before Expovina each year (wonderful invention, that post). The reward is a bit chintzy though: only 1 free pass or 2 if you’re lucky.

If you want to score bonus points for real cleverness (you do!) further game the system by NOT going hog-wild with one mega-purchase, i.e., 18 bottles from one vendor. Instead pepper around few smaller orders, e.g, 6 bottles here, 6 more there.

Because the wines ship to you later, this means receiving more deliveries, a slight inconvenience. But each vendor will post free passes to you every year, possibly for a long time.

We still receive passes from vendors we bought from years ago. We might return to see what’s new; sometimes we buy again, sometimes not.

Pros: No effort whatsoever in years after initial investment
Cons: You only receive 1 (possibly 2) free pass per year per vendor. You might want more entries for yourself or friends.

Read on!

Expovina Zurich Wine Boats at sunset


Method 2. Visit Certain Wine Shops in Your Neighborhood

Method 2 is slightly cheekier but you’ll still sleep well at night if executed properly.

It only takes a few minutes after work one evening.

First you need to know which local wine shops are exhibiting at Expovina Zurich this year. Why? Because they have a stack of free passes just sitting on or under their checkout counter. Waiting for you. Like fortune cookies at the Chinese buffet. With Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak you’d make out like a bandit.

How do you know which ones? Because we’ve summarized them for you on an online map, of course.

Find the closest wine shop to work or home:


However the “grab and run” technique – while admittedly efficient – we don’t recommend.

Better to play the game. They are giving something for free after all! You need to make a small but reasonable purchase.

Don’t worry if you have no clue what you want. Find a nice employee and ask for a popular sparkling / white / red wine for the holidays (or “Eine gute Flasche für Weihnachten”. Say it, “[VYE-nakt-en]”). They wont steer you wrong.

They’ll probably recommend something around CHF 15-18. If that seems expensive, just take a breath. They’re not trying to upsell you. For wine people that’s the “good value” range.

How many bottles depends on how many free passes you want. Polite rule of thumb is 1-2 passes per bottle of decent-priced wine; 3 or 4 is rather pushing it – buy another bottle.

The CFOs among you will recognize an arbitrage opportunity: that’s about 300% ROI. The more you spend the more you save. Same math applies to women’s shoe sales.

To exercise really good form, remember which wine shop you visited. Then find their booth on the Expovina Zurich Boat Map and visit as a thank you.

You don’t have to buy… unless you find something you like!

Expovina Zurich Wine Boat Map
Expovina Zurich Wine Boat Map – Click for official PDF version

Over the past several years the Expovina Zurich organizers have greatly increased the online usability of their formerly printed-only catalog (from a printed-only book –> online flippable book (nooo!) –> online PDF –> alphabetical online list). You can also find your wine shop name alphabetically for more information on booth location (boat name / deck / booth number).

Pros: Secure as many free tickets as you’d like with a minor investment.
Cons: You have to walk somewhere and speak with somebody.

We stand solidly behind Methods 1 & 2 – every year – as foolproof ways to gain multiple free entries to Expovina Zurich.

Method 3 is more, well, dicey…

Method 3. Roll The Dice With a Ticket Angel

Occasionally a giving soul with extra free tickets (see methods above) will loiter about on the sidewalk before the entrance. Presumably waiting for friends before going in. We’ll call this unidentified person your “Ticket Angel”. How to recognize them?

Well admittedly, it’s difficult.

First off, don’t look for a tall, stern-looking banker. Or for that matter, small groups of bankers in suits chuckling at their good fortune together.

Not the generous type.

Look for a very normal-looking, usually a local man, usually middle- or middle-plus age, usually alone, who for some reason is hanging around, not entering and not leaving. Tickets held visibly in one hand is a great tip-off!

Challenges include timing and proximity. Your particular Ticket Angel may be running late (how dare he/she?!) or coming tomorrow instead. Or standing 10 meters away. To make the necessary connection, you’ll need to adopt a slightly-distressed-but-friendly demeanor.

I suggest taking the expression of your favorite emoji-in-need:

Sad face emojiThinking EmojiShrugging emoji

When standing with someone else, it helps to occasionally loudly mumble, “I don’t think we have enough tickets!”

Hopefully your nearby Ticket Angel hears your cries, takes pity and performs the necessary donation.

Note that the number of tickets you might receive remains highly unpredictable. Don’t count on more than 1 or 2.


Everything tastes better when free. Especially when other people are paying for it.

The rule holds especially true for wine tasting on the Expovina Zurich wine boats.

If brand new to Expovina (or not paying attention in previous years), find a participating local wine store and buy a bottle. You’ll receive freebie handouts in return (Method 2). Once aboard, purchase wine in small amounts from a few different vendors (Method 1). You’ll receive free tickets effortlessly forever after.

We guarantee your success. So much that next year, adopt a winning smile and donate your extra tickets to some lucky stranger (Method 3).

Well done, Ticket Angel!

Further thoughts on how to score Expovina Zurich tickets? Leave a comment below!

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