With this list of the ten best Swiss cities to live in for expats, you can decide where to begin your new life in the alpine nation.
Despite its small size, Switzerland is a nation full of unexpected contrasts. From the palm-lined coastlines of the southern lakes to the picturesque villages and cities of the Swiss plateau, there is truly something for everyone. When relocating to Switzerland, however, determining which city is best for you to live in might be difficult.
It will primarily depend on your lifestyle and how you would want to live your Swiss life whether you choose metropolitan Geneva, laid-back Lugano, or hectic Zurich. However, with a high standard of living and excellent public transportation throughout the alpine nation, you might not believe it mattered. Finding the proper home for you and your family, though, can make or break your new life overseas. So, to get you started, here’s a list of the top ten expat-friendly cities in Switzerland.
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10 Best Swiss Cities to Live in
This cosmopolitan treasure, which stretches along the scenic Lake Geneva, has long been one of Switzerland’s most popular expat destinations. The French-speaking city is home to several of the world’s most recognizable institutions, including the United Nations (UN), the Red Cross, and the World Health Organization (WHO). This attracts diplomats and officials, who make up a sizable portion of the city’s expat community.
While Geneva has a reputation for being stuffy and lifeless in the past, the country’s second-largest city today has a more laid-back air. When the summer approaches, there are few better spots to enjoy an evening drink and promenade than the old town. Geneva also has good transportation links, and several of Europe’s greatest ski destinations are within a short drive.
Many expats ignore Winterthur while seeking for new locations to call home in Switzerland, but don’t make that mistake. This quaint small German-speaking city is the sixth-largest in the country and has a surprisingly significant expat community. This makes it an excellent area to settle into your new Swiss home, and with Zurich only a twenty-minute train trip away, you won’t be far from the hustle and bustle of the major city, too.
Winterthur is also a cultural powerhouse for a city of its size. Throughout the year, you’ll discover museums, art galleries, and a variety of events. The city is also quite small, making it easy to travel around, especially in the city center, which is very walkable. In general, rental expenses and housing prices in Winterthur are significantly lower than in Zurich, allowing you to get a lot more for a few francs.
Expats going to Switzerland may be startled to learn that the country’s capital, rather than Geneva or Zurich, is the comparatively small city of Bern. The Swiss parliament is located at the linguistic boundary between French and German Switzerland. It also features a UNESCO World Heritage-listed city center with some of the greatest shopping in the nation, as well as the famed bearpit, which is home to the city’s lasting icon — bears.
Bern, while being a capital city in the center of Europe, manages to preserve a decidedly small-town character. Along with the postcard-perfect roads and laid-back demeanor, this is one of the most tempting features for the numerous expats who call the city home. While Bern is well linked to the rest of the nation, people choose to float along the blue waters of the Aare River as it bends through the city throughout the summer.
Lugano is one of the world’s most beautiful cities and the best Swiss cities to live in. The city is considered the center of Italian-speaking Switzerland and is located on the northern banks of the magnificent Lake Lugano. In fact, it is frequently remarked that Lugano is more culturally similar to Milan – just an hour’s drive across the border – than to other cities in Switzerland. From its gorgeous architecture to its thriving café culture and even the lovely Mediterranean wind, it’s a Swiss bit of la dolce vita.
Many expats flock to this part of Switzerland due to the milder temperature and relaxed lifestyle. However, due to its hilly position, snowfall will be plentiful in the winter. It’s perfect for expats who like to try new things. If Lugano is too busy for you, there are a few other cities in Ticino’s Italian-speaking canton to consider. Locarno, on the shores of Lake Como, and Chiasso, on the other hand, are both border towns.
Although nominally a town, tiny little Zug is another favourite Swiss city for expats. German-speaking Zug, located between Lucerne and Zurich, is a welcome option for those seeking a calmer Swiss life. In addition, many foreigners have chosen to relocate to Zug, making it remarkably multicultural for a town of about 30,000 inhabitants. Having said that, it’s easy to understand why, with easy access to major cities and the Swiss countryside.
Despite rising housing prices in the neighborhood, Zug remains less expensive than Zurich, which is only a twenty-minute train ride away. However, because it is a tiny town, you won’t find the same variety of entertainment alternatives as you would in some of the other places on our list. Despite this, there is still a good range of stores and restaurants, as well as a lovely lake to enjoy. Zug is an excellent choice for families that want a little more room and access to nature.
Basel, located between the French and German borders, is often regarded as one of the nicest places to live in Switzerland. With a huge student population and a booming nightlife scene, the country’s third-largest city is snug and dynamic. It is also a cultural hub with several attractions for foreigners. Having said that, several internationals who relocate to Basel divide their life across borders in order to save money. You can, for example, live in Germany, work in Switzerland, and buy groceries in France. In essence, whatever actually works for you will be available in the Basel area.
But whether you’re in Basel or just across the border, this region of the world has enough to offer. Numerous fantastic pubs, restaurants, and boutique stores can be found in the city’s charming old town. Basel expats are likewise spoiled for choice when it comes to outdoor activities. There’s never a dull moment when they visit Germany’s Black Forest, walk up the Jura Mountains, or simply relax by the Rhine River.
Lucerne is one of the most attractive lakeside cities in Switzerland, even in a nation full of them. Are you looking for enthralling medieval architecture? It is available in Lucerne. Snow-capped mountains towering in the distance? These are also available in Lucerne. Waters that appear to be clean enough to drink? Lucerne, you guessed it, has it everything. Basically, if you’re seeking for the ideal Swiss experience, this is the place to go.
Tourists and expats alike flock to this German-speaking metropolis. It’s tiny enough to keep its intimate feel, yet the constant influx of visitors gives it a distinct big-city vibe. Because most areas are relatively accessible, its size also helps to keep transportation expenses down. While home costs are normally lower than those in Zurich and Geneva, a view of the famed Kappelbrug will set you back more.
8. Sion & Valais
If none of these Swiss cities appeal to you, why not settle for higher pastures? The lovely Valais canton, which borders Italy, is home to Sion, a French-speaking town. It offers all the contemporary amenities you’ll need, too, while being surrounded by snowy peaks and overseen by two hilltop castles. The train station connects you to Bern, Zurich, and other cities, although you’ll most likely be too busy exploring up in the Alps to use it.
Outside of Sion, you’ll find a plethora of charming mountain towns and villages with which you’ll fall in love. The most well-known of these is Zermatt, which stands beneath the watchful eye of the Matterhorn. While Zermatt is crowded during the winter, there are calmer choices nearby. Grimentz, Evolène, and Brig are among these, and are ideal for anyone seeking a traditional Swiss alpine lifestyle.
Zurich would be missing from any list of the top cities in Switzerland for expats. The country’s economic powerhouse and largest metropolis also has Switzerland’s largest expat community. And it won’t take long for you to see why so many foreigners have chosen to live in this German-speaking metropolis. After all, it has fantastic pubs and restaurants, good transportation links to cities around Europe, and an unavoidably picturesque Swiss lake. What could you possibly want more than that?
Zurich is arguably your best choice if you’re afraid about missing out on that all-important big-city energy. In terms of cultural and entertainment offerings, few cities in Switzerland come close to equal it. However, all of this comes at a price, since Zurich is one of Europe’s most costly cities. As a result, if you want to get a bit more out of your francs, you’ll have to explore beyond the center. Fortunately, the city has a superb public transportation system, which makes taking in all of the magic a bit simpler.
Do you think we can’t fit another lakeside city on this list? Consider it again. Lausanne, located on the banks of Lake Geneva, is another popular choice for expats. Because of its major universities and youthful population, the country’s fourth-largest city has a surprisingly cosmopolitan vibe. It is also home to a lot of multinational firms, which contributes to the city’s ever-increasing population of expats.
Lausanne is the world’s smallest city with its own metro system, making it incredibly convenient to travel around. If you want to get away from it all, go east down the beach to Montreux. This resort town has a pleasant microclimate and a diverse cultural scene. The town’s well-known jazz festival, which takes place every summer, is an example of this. Of course, the stunning Alps are only a short trek away from wherever you stay.