Quality of life: Which Swiss cities are the best to live in and why?

What are the advantages of living in Geneva compared to Zurich or even Lugano rather than Bern? A new study sheds some light on which Swiss cities are the best to live in based on different criteria.

Quality of life: Which Swiss cities are the best to live in and why?
Lugano has lots to offer its residents. Photo by AFP

A new study has measured and compared the well-being of residents of nine Swiss cities. 

“Quality of life” is a broad concept, and the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) used 10 different criteria to assess how well Basel, Bern, Geneva, Lausanne, Lucerne, Lugano, St. Gallen, Winterthur and Zurich rate in the most important aspects of daily life. 

It compared and rated the nine cities on such categories as income and jobs, housing conditions, health, education, environmental quality, personal security, civic engagement, work-life balance, mobility, culture and leisure, as well as infrastructure and services. 

In general, Swiss-German cities performed better than their French-speaking counterparts. But overall, Lugano ranked highest in most categories. 

Bern is the winner in the ‘income and jobs” category

Switzerland’s capital ranked in the first place in terms of enabling residents to “cover their basic needs, provide opportunities, allow people to accumulate wealth, and help them to be more resistant in times of economic crisis”. 

Lucerne and Zurich also did well in this area.

READ MORE: Cost of living in Switzerland: How to save money if you live in Zurich

Lugano has the best housing conditions

In terms of square metres of living space per dwelling, Ticino’s largest city topped the chart with 45 m; dwellings in Lucerne, St. Gallen and Winterthur exceed 40 square metres.

However, the Swiss-French cities of Geneva and Lausanne ranked last, with housing space of about 35 square metres.

Health-wise, Bern rules

In this category, which includes the number of doctors per 1,000 people, the Swiss capital wins by far. On the other hand, Lugano and Winterthur are at the bottom.

Zurich, Lausanne and Geneva are ‘most educated’

When it comes to the number of residents between 25 and 64 years of age with the highest completed education or training, the Swiss-French cities prevail.

Lugano is best for environmental quality

The city scores highest on its air quality, as well as the prevalence of green, wooded and recreational areas.

Basel is in the last place.

Geneva has the highest number of car accidents

In terms of people who were seriously injured in traffic accidents per 10,000 inhabitants, Geneva is in the first place.

But Zurich, Bern and Winterthur have the highest number of fatalities.

Civic engagement is highest in Zurich

Switzerland’s largest city has the highest number of voters participating in federal referendums and elections to the parliament.

Lausanne has the lowest.

Lugano ranks in the first place for work-life balance

The study measured the length of the commute from home to the workplace and found that, with just over 30 minutes on average, Lugano’s rating is highest, while Zurich’s (over 40 minutes) is lowest.

Lugano is also best in the mobility category

The price of the monthly public transport ticket — about 65 francs — is lowest in this Ticino city. The highest is in Zurich and Winterthur (85 francs).

Another ‘best’ for Lugano: culture and leisure

In terms of the number of museums, theatres and cinemas per 100,000 inhabitants, Lugano tops the chart. Geneva is in the last place.

But Geneva is on top for services and infrastructure

It is the leader in terms of accessibility to services: medical offices, grocery stores, pharmacies, schools and the post office are on average from 180 to 500 metres fron one’s place of residence.

The Bernese have to walk an average of 600 metres for the nearest grocery store and the St. Gallen residents one kilometre for the nearest pharmacy.

You can see the ranking and all the pertinent details here.


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How to dispose of unwanted furniture or whitegoods in Zurich legally

Got an unwanted mattress, fridge or sofa? Here’s how you can legally get it off your hands in Zurich.

How to dispose of unwanted furniture or whitegoods in Zurich legally

If you’ve bought a new piece of furniture in Zurich or a mattress, you may be faced with the problem of what to do with the old one. 

This is particularly the case in cities like Zurich, where space is at a premium and you may not be able to kit out your spare room with the old furniture. 

While there are waste disposal centres, even getting there without a car can be a problem. 

One man’s trash…

First things first, think about whether you really need to get rid of the thing in question. 

While you may not want it, there may be someone out there willing to take it off your hands – particularly if you aren’t going to charge them. 

The first point of call is to ask your friends and colleagues if they’re interested, with social media the perfect place to ask around. 

If you live in an apartment complex, you might try placing the item in a common area with a note saying “zu verschenken” (to give away) or ‘gratis’ (free). 

After that, there are several online options like eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Free Your Stuff Zurich, Ricardo, Anibis, Craig’s List and Tutti. 

Some of these sites will charge a fee – even if you’re giving something away – so be sure to read the fine print first. 

Another option is to donate the goods to a charity organisation. They will usually charge you money to pick it up and prices can vary dramatically. 

Caritas charge CHF35 per 100kg plus transport costs, while Sozialwerk Pfarrer Sieber will pick up small items of furniture for a flat fee, although you’ll need to send them pictures first before they give you a quote. 

Can I put old furniture on the street in Zurich? 

Although less common than many other European cities, occasionally you will see furniture out on the street in front of homes and apartment blocks in Zurich. 

While it might clutter up the sidewalk, it is technically not illegal – provided you only do so for a maximum of 24 hours. 

You also need to make sure it doesn’t block cars, bikes or pedestrians. If it does – or if you leave it out for longer – you risk a fine.

Entsorgungstram: Zurich’s recycling and waste disposal tram

One option is the Entsorgungstram, a mobile recycling centre on rails for all Zurich residents. 

This tram weaves its way through several parts of Zurich, picking up old bulky waste including electrical devices and furniture. 

If you are lucky to live near an Entsorgungstram line, just check the timetable and bring your waste items along to meet the tram. 

There are some rules, as laid out by the Zurich council. 

“The delivered items must not be longer than 2.5 meters (exception: sofa/upholstered furniture can be no longer than 2 meters) and no heavier than 40 kilograms per item. Separate the material beforehand according to its composition: flammable, large metal and landfill”. 

Unfortunately, only pedestrians and cyclists can use this service, i.e. you cannot drive from elsewhere and deposit the stuff. 

More information including route details can be found at the following link. 

Regular waste disposal

Your next option is to see whether you can get rid of it in your usual waste disposal. 

This being Switzerland, there are a lot of rules about what the waste management company will take and will not. 

If you’re throwing away a mirror, for instance, you cannot put that with your other glass waste and will need to dispose of it elsewhere. 

On the other hand, they may take things like carpets and mattresses – although you’ll need to pay a bit extra. 

The exact rules will depend on your municipality, but generally speaking you will need to buy additional waste stickers – which cost money. 

In Zurich itself, every household receives four coupons for disposal of waste (up to 100kg) each. 

When you run out of coupons, you’ll need to pay by the kilo. 

You’ll still need to bring it to the waste disposal facility, or pay a pick up fee of around CHF80. 

This may sound steep, but they do come to your home and pick it up – which will likely be cheaper than a rental car or van. 

In Winterthur, you will need to buy stickers for CHF1.80 from the council, with each sticker letting you dispose of 10kg of waste. 

Check with the retailer where you bought the new item

One option offered by furniture sellers is to buy your old furniture or whitegoods or accept them as a trade in. 

While this is likely to be more common with second hand retailers who might see potential in your unwanted item, it is also a service offered by retailers who only sell new goods. 

One example is Ikea, who will take your old mattress, furniture or electronic device and recycle it. 

This service is available at Ikea outlets for a cost of CHF10 each. 

It is also available when you get something new delivered, although you must pre-book so the driver can be sure to set aside enough space. 

This will cost you CHF80 for furniture, or CHF50 for electronic devices and mattresses. Keep in mind that (at least with Ikea) this service is only available when you buy something new. 

Several other furniture companies offer a similar service, including Schubiger Möbel, Möbel Pfister and Conforama.  

Electrical item retails will often take your old electrical goods for recycling, whether these are small like iPhones or large like fridges and washing machines. 

More information about which goods can be recycled and how in Switzerland is available at the following link. 

Moving companies

Removalist companies are another option – whether you are moving house or not. 

If you are moving house then a disposal service may be included in the overall fees. 

If not, you can still contact the company and get the item taken off your hands. 

While different companies will charge different amounts, you’ll usually pay per 100kg rather than per item, which can be a better (or worse) option than contacting the local council. 

Swiss comparison site Comparis has detailed info about how to find a moving company here