Four great Swiss cities to live in apart from Geneva and Zurich

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Four great Swiss cities to live in apart from Geneva and Zurich
Lugano is a great city for international community. Photo by AFP

Switzerland’s two largest cities are the traditional expatriate hubs, and they are also the most expensive ones. But there are also other Swiss towns with lots to offer the international community.


The information for all four cities will be relevant to foreign nationals. Keep in mind though that some statistics date back to 2018 or 2019, but are the latest published. This is especially important regarding the employment figures, as joblessness has increased during the Covid-19 pandemic.


One of the advantages of this historic city in the northwest of Switzerland is its geographical position at the border of both Germany and France. This means that the town is ‘opened’ to the world in the literal sense of the word — because of its location on the river Rhine, Basel boasts Switzerland’s only merchant port.

As the centre of Switzerland’s pharma industry with companies such as Novartis and Roche headquartered here, the city has long attracted foreign nationals to its shores.

On the arts and culture front, Basel has 40 world-class museums, which is a lot for a city of just over 200,000 people.


Photo by AFP

Last but certainly not least, there is Basel’s Old Town. With its winding cobblestone streets and historic architecture, it is one of the best preserved and prettiest in Europe.

Useful information:

Foreign nationals: 36.4 percent.

Unemployment rate: 3 percent

Average net monthly salary: 5,280 francs

Average rent (based on size), 3 bedrooms: 2,520 francs / month

Public transportation: bus, tram

Nearest international airport: Basel EuroAIrport for short and medium-haul international flights; Zurich airport for intercontinental flights, about 100 km by train or motorway.




Located near the linguistic border between French and German-speaking Switzerland, the capital city has a very picturesque medieval city centre recognised by UNESCO as a Cultural World Heritage Site.

Despite its relatively small size (144,000 residents), Bern also possesses one of the longest shopping promenades in Europe.

Photo by AFP

Why is this city great for expats? One of the reasons is that its central location and political status means  residents can take advantage of the frequent and reliable public transportation to other major Swiss cities.

Useful information:

Foreign nationals: 16.3 percent

Unemployment rate: 1.8 percent 

Average net monthly salary: 5,490 francs

Average rent (based on size), 3 bedrooms: 2,485 francs

Public transportation: bus, tram

Nearest international airport: Zurich, about 130 km by train or motorway




The picturesque Vaud capital offers a lot to the international resident.

In 2019, it was been named the ‘best small city in the world’ in Monocle magazine’s Small Cities Index, which ranked the best 25 small towns with a population under 200,000. 

Lausanne topped the chart for its public transport network, global outlook, diverse population, natural setting, and other factors.

It also has one of the world’s top universities, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL), as well as the world-famous Swiss Hospitality Management School.

It is a very cosmopolitan city and several multinational companies are based either in Lausanne itself or its surrounding areas.

Among them are Philip Morris International, Tetra, Owens-Illinois, Huawei Technologies, and — just 20 km away in Vevey — Nestlé.

From the health prospective, Lausanne is the location of Switzerland’s largest university hospital, CHUV. 

Lausanne’s location at the shore of Lake Geneva also offers an easy and convenient access to France — the city of Evian can be reached by ferry in half an hour.

Useful information:

Foreign nationals: 43.2 percent

Unemployment rate: no figure available for Lausanne; 3 percent in Vaud.

Average net monthly salary: 5,375 francs

Average rent (based on size), 3 bedrooms: 2,930 francs a month

Public transportation: bus

Nearest international airport: Geneva, about 50 km by train or motorway


Switzerland’s most southern town, Lugano in canton Ticino, is great not only for its laid-back lifestyle and Mediterranean climate, but also for its access to northern Italy — an hour’s train ride to Milan, for instance, or a quick 45-minute boat ride to Lake Como.

Photo by Cristian Musolino on Unsplash

According to the relocation site InterNations, Lugano “is not only an excellent testament to the very high standard of life enjoyed by most of the population across Switzerland; it is also the home of the largest Italian-speaking community outside of Italy. As a result, life in Lugano means getting to experience a mix of two different cultures.

Useful information:

Foreign nationals: 38.5 percent

Unemployment rate: no figure available for Lugano, but 3.4 percent in Ticino

Average net monthly salary: 4,596 francs

Average rent (based on size), 3 bedrooms: 2,187 francs a month

Public transportation: bus

Nearest international airport: Milan, about 75 km by train or motorway

As a comparison, the average monthly salary in Geneva is 5,870 francs net, and a rent for a 3-bedroom flat is 3,505 a month.

In Zurich, the average month wage is 6,535 francs after taxes, and a monthly rent for a 3-bedroom flat is 3,540.

For all the cities, we have listed the rent for a 3-bedroom flat in the centre; smaller apartments away from the city centre will be significantly cheaper. 




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