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Geneva vs Lausanne: Which Swiss city is the best to live in?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Geneva vs Lausanne: Which Swiss city is the best to live in?
The A1 motorway which runs along Lake Geneva connects Geneva and Lausanne.Photo by Oksana Bürki on Unsplash

Thinking of moving to Switzerland? Geneva or Lausanne may be on your radar. From job opportunities and wages to the population and housing, there are several things to consider when choosing between the two.


Only about 60 km separate the two cities, but in many ways, Geneva and Lausanne are a world apart.

For instance, local residents are likely to tell you that the two towns have a totally different character and vibe: Geneva is the bigger, more cosmopolitan, and edgier of the two, while Lausanne is known as being more quaint and laid back.

People who live in Lausanne have been known to say that Geneva, due to its proximity to France and a large number of cross-border commuters employed there, is more French than Swiss (obviously, this is not meant as a compliment).

Genevans, on the other hand, claim that Lausanne, and its inhabitants, are provincial and dull.

But even though there are clearly differences between the two cities, they have something in common as well: they are both French-speaking; both lie along Lake Geneva; and both have a high proportion of foreign residents.

READ MORE: Why the Swiss city of Lausanne is so popular among foreigners


Based on the data we collected from various official sources, here’s how these two cities compare to each other:


Population: The larger of the two, Geneva’s population is just over half a million people, which makes it the second-largest Swiss city (after Zurich).

About 40 percent of Geneva’s permanent population are foreign nationals. In addition, about 100,000 border commuters from France are employed in Geneva —both city and canton.

Wages: Geneva’s salaries are among the highest in the country: the median net wage is 5,433.29 francs.

Rents: Rents are the highest in Switzerland, mostly because the demand outstrips the supply, and land for new construction is scarce.

READ MORE: Why are rents in Geneva the highest in Switzerland?

How much you pay each month depends on where you live — some neighbourhoods, especially those farther away from the centre, are cheaper than others.

In general, rents for a two-bedroom flat in the downtown area are 4,219 francs a month, and 3,016 francs away from the city centre.

International connections: Geneva has one of Switzerland’s three international airports, the other two being in Zurich and Basel.

It also has a number of TGV rail links — nine daily trains in both directions between Geneva and the Gare de Lyon in Paris.

To reach other European cities, however, commuters have to transit through Lausanne (see below).

International companies: In addition to more than 40 UN agencies, Geneva is also home to multinationals such as Caterpillar, Dupont, Cargill International, and Proctor & Gamble, to name just a few.

Day or night, Geneva shines. Image by Djamel RAMDANI from Pixabay 

And now let’s look at Lausanne.

Population: 149,000 people, about 40 percent of whom are foreign nationals.

Average net salary: 5,069 francs.

Rent: A three-bedroom accommodation in the city centre costs 3,127 francs a month.

Rent for the same sized-flat outside of downtown area goes for about 2,570 a month.

In all, rent prices in Lausanne are 22 percent lower than in Geneva, while the purchasing power is 6.2 percent higher in Geneva. 

International connections: Geneva’s airport can be reached in about 40 minutes by the A1 motorway.


In terms of trains, slightly fewer TGVs (seven) connect the city with Paris.However, Lausanne’s geography (versus Geneva, which is nestled tightly between Vaud on one side, and France and the lake on the other) allows better access to the rest of Europe.

For instance, aside from the seven Paris-bound TGVs, several trains circulate each day between Lausanne and Milan.

International companies: Lausanne is home to a number of multinationals, including Philip Morris International and The International Institute for Management Development (IMD).

It also hosts the International Olympic Committee, as well as  dozens of international sports federations for golf, gymnastics, rugby, bowling, skating, baseball, softball, and other sports.

Lausanne is also home to one of Switzerland’s foremost academic institutions, the Federal Polytechnic Institute (EPFL), a bilingual French-English university, which employs about 6,000 people from around the world. 

Lausanne's Cathedral overlooking the city. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini /AFP


The verdict: Geneva or Lausanne?

Slight differences in the salaries and rents aside, both cities have a lot of offer.

If the location of your job doesn’t enter into play, the choice of one city or another depends on personal preference.

If you prefer a big city with a distinctly international flair and a quick access to France to do your shopping, Geneva may be a better choice.

But if you are more partial to a smaller, but nevertheless a very charming town, then Lausanne is right up your (cobblestoned) alley.
READ MORE: Swiss town ranked the 'world's best small city'



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