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Zurich vs Zug: Which Swiss city is the best to live in?

Sandra Sparrowhawk
Sandra Sparrowhawk - [email protected]
Zurich vs Zug: Which Swiss city is the best to live in?
A view of Zug, Switzerland. Photo by Florian Wehde on Unsplash

Moving to Switzerland and can't decide between Zurich and Zug? We look at some factors to consider in these two cities, from the population to wages, rents and international connections.


Despite being only a 40-minute car ride apart, many would argue that Zurich and Zug couldn’t be more different. In Zurich professionalism is considered a make-or-break attribute and people can appear more distanced. On the other hand, Zug is a small town where people make an effort to know their neighbours.

Residents of Zug praise the city’s mountain views and short walks to the city centre, while less flattering terms, such as pretentious and arrogant, are not unheard of when describing “Zürchers”. Conversely, the latter find life in the quaint Zug to be lacking excitement.

But despite their differences, the two cities have a lot more in common than they might care to admit. For instance, both are German-speaking, have a high proportion of foreign residents, lie along lakes (Lake Zurich and Lake Zug), and are facing housing shortages due to demand.


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


Population: As Switzerland’s largest city, Zurich’s population boasts 436,332 inhabitants. In comparison, the canton of Zurich has around 1.6 million inhabitants.

About 32.2 percent of Zurich City’s permanent population are foreign nationals, with 47.8 percent born abroad.

Wages: Zurich’s salaries are the highest in the country: the median net wage is 7,832 francs.

People wait for an apartment

Zurich's problem: More people, fewer apartments. Photo: Pixabay

Rents: Rents in Zurich are among the highest in Switzerland the city is currently facing an affordable housing shortage as demand surges. 

READ ALSO: Zurich hit by affordable housing shortage amid record high inflation

As of April 2022, the median price, for apartments in Zurich City was 1,336 francs per month for two rooms across the city, 1,470 francs for three rooms and 1,787 francs for four rooms.

International connections: The city of Zurich is home to one of Switzerland’s three airports, Zurich Aiport, which has topped the leaderboard in the "Best European airport" category of the World Travel Awards every year since first winning in 2004.

It also has a number of train links to destinations across the border via Zurich Hauptbahnhof, taking travellers to six cities in Germany, five each in Austria and Italy, as well as Paris, Dijon and Budapest.

International companies: As Switzerland’s industrial, financial, and cultural centre of the country, it is not surprising that the city is home to many international companies. Among the Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Zurich are Zurich Insurance Group, UBS, ABB group, Swiss Re and food giant Migros.


Population: The capital of the canton of Zug is home to around 31,345 inhabitants, while the canton itself has a population of 129,787. About 35.7 percent of Zug city’s permanent population are foreign nationals.

Wages: The median salary for those working in the canton of Zug is 6,805 francs, with most people working in the city of Zug finance, pharmaceuticals, high tech, commodity trading and blockchain. The city employs some 40,000 people.

And one thing to note is that Zug is known for having low taxes, although it varies across the canton.  

READ ALSO: Where in Switzerland is tax lowest and highest?


Rents: Just like Zurich, Zug, too, is facing an affordable housing shortage with rent costs soaring in recent years. For instance, in 2019, there were a total of 2,168 affordable apartments in the city of Zug, representing just 14.08 percent of all apartments.

Zug in Switzerland. Photo by Peter Wormstetter on Unsplash

A quick look at Homegate shows just four available 2 to 3-room apartments in the city, ranging from 1,600 to 4,800 francs per month.

International connections: Zero. In fact, some of the city of Zug residents have been known to joke that the very benefit of living in Zug is its proximity to Zurich. Ouch!

International companies: Though it is rather small, the city of Zug is surprisingly cosmopolitan. Wholesale pharmaceuticals firm Alliance Booth and mining company Xstrata, both Fortune 500 companies, have their headquarters in the city, while Swiss multinational commodity trading and mining company Glencore is based in the municipality of Baar (canton of Zug).

In short, if you want a quiet but luxury lifestyle, consider Zug. If you prefer it a bit more lively and busy, Zurich is for you. Or why not choose the best of both worlds and try somewhere in the middle?


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