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Everything you need to know about Olten: Switzerland’s commuter city

Everything you need to know about Olten: Switzerland's commuter city
Downtown Olten. Photo: Wikicommons
The Swiss town of Olten is located within half an hour of Zurich, Bern, Basel and Luzern. As a central rail hub and with rents far lower than each of those cities, it has cemented itself as Switzerland’s true commuter town.

Located 30 minutes away from Zurich in the canton of Solothurn, Olten is perhaps Switzerland’s truest incarnation of a commuter town. 

The town’s official Twitter biography boasts of “friendly and uncomplicated residents” living in a city which is “often undervalued” as a place to live and work. 

Starting out as a sleepy village – and still embodying many of those qualities – Olten has grown in popularity over time due to its fortunate location. 

Under the banner “Clever commuters live in Olten” the city’s reputation as a commuter city has grown in recent years

A sign which says “clever commuters live in Olten”. Image: Olten City

Olten is placed where the Basel-Chiasso (north to south) and Geneva-St.Gallen (west to east) lines meet, meaning that it is quick and relatively easy to get anywhere from Olten. 

Olten is one of Switzerland’s most important rail hubs. More than ten times times as many passengers – 300,000 – travel through Olten as the amount that live there daily. 

Not only is Olten 30 minutes from Zurich, it’s also 30 minutes from Bern, Basel and Luzern via train, meaning it is perfectly situated to access Switzerland’s economically strong towns. 

If you need to go further afield, there are plenty of other cities and towns within an hour of Olten, including most of German-speaking Switzerland. 

For those who would prefer to drive rather than take the train, Olten is also situated close to an important autobahn junction. 

The town brags that 80 percent of Switzerland is less than an hour away. 

Due to this proximity, it also serves as a popular location for meetings and seminars, given that people can commute from several cities and quite literally meet in the middle. 

Exact figures on the amount of people who commute to work in Olten are a little difficult to determine, at least in part because some people work at least part of the time from home. 

Although the figures are a decade old, around one third of the workers who live in the canton commute to work.

What about renting in Olten?

As we covered in our summary of commuter cities around Zurich, this is not only much cheaper than Switzerland’s most populous city – but many of the country’s larger metropolises. 

MAPS: The best commuter towns when working in Zurich

Rents in Olten are roughly the same as the Swiss average, or around CHF1,330 for a two-to-three bedroom apartment, much cheaper than in Zurich. 

The vacancy rate is also double that of the Swiss average, which means you’re in with a better chance of finding something you like – or of finding something at all. 

What is there to do in Olten itself? 

While many of those who move to Olten do so due to its proximity to other cities, there is plenty keeping people in the town. 

Olten’s old town is remarkably well preserved, meaning that it has retained its true village feel. 

There is plenty to do and see, with several museums and one of Switzerland’s best cabaret scenes. 

The town has retained a sleepy feel, particularly during the day when up to a third of its residents are somewhere else. 

There are several car-free pedestrian areas, which make it popular on the weekend with shoppers as well as with families. 

Olten finds itself at the foot of the Jura mountains, meaning it’s the perfect place for fans of hiking and biking, as well as skiing in the winter months. 

Olden’s old wooden bridge is one of the symbols of the city. The bridge in its various incarnations is over 700 years old, although the current version was built in 1803. 

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