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IN NUMBERS: Just how rich are the Swiss cities of Geneva and Zurich?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
IN NUMBERS: Just how rich are the Swiss cities of Geneva and Zurich?
This is just peanuts to Switzerland's wealthiest people. Photo: Pixabay

There is no doubt that Switzerland’s two largest cities are havens for wealthy people. But how rich are they, exactly?


When people think of Zurich and Geneva, many associate the two cities with money, and rightly so — not only are they among the most expensive cities in the world, as international rankings show, but they are also wealth hubs.

READ ALSO: Why are Zurich and Geneva among the world's most expensive cities?

It is enough to walk down Zurich’s famed, bank-lined Bahnhofstrasse or Geneva’s rue du Rhône, where luxurious watch and clothing boutiques are located, to realise that a lot of money is parked in these cities.

It's therefore not surprising that the two are among the 20 wealthiest cities in the world, according to a recent ranking by Henley & Partners migration consultants.

The two cities were also ranked highly in the Mercer Cost of Living City Ranking survey released in June 2023. Zurich ranked as the third most expensive city in the world, and Geneva took the fourth spot. Meanwhile, the Swiss city of Basel was in the fifth position, and Bern in the seventh. 

In terms of millionaire and billionaire residents, German-speaking Zurich is in 14th place (out of 97), and French-speaking Geneva in the 19th spot.

Zurich is home to 99,300 millionaires (who own assets worth more than 100 million francs) and 12 billionaires, and Geneva to 85,800 millionaires and 15 billionaires, the survey shows. 

That is a lot of really rich people living in relatively small (on the global scale) cities.

And, by the way, it’s not necessarily ‘Swiss’ who are so wealthy, but people of various nationalities who choose to live in Switzerland; according to Moneyland platform, only around a third of Switzerland's 50 richest people do not have a recent migration history. The remaining two-thirds hail primarily from Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom.

In fact, Switzerland’s wealthiest resident, Klaus-Michael Kühne, who is worth  6 billion francs, is German, but has been living in the country since 1975.


So how rich are these two cities?

Let’s start with Zurich.

With just over 443,000 residents, Switzerland’s largest city boasts the country’s highest per-capita GDP of 103,000 francs — higher than the national average of 91,246 francs.

It is not known how much exactly the wealthiest residents contribute to the local economy — in taxes and general spending— but let it suffice to say that, unlike many cities around the world, Zurich is doing well financially: Its officials boast of the city's “economic stability and healthy public finances".

Because Zurich is a major financial centre on a global scale (which means a lot of money either lives in or transits through the city), there are plenty of well-paying job opportunities here and, consequently, many high-income individuals as well.

The Banking / Financial institutions sector pays good wages, though other jobs pay well too, with the median annual salary of over 120,000 francs. 

It is true that Zurich is among the most expensive towns globally, but (and this may come as a surprise to you), the purchasing power in the city is nevertheless the highest in the world. 

In terms of disposable income, that is, money left for spending after all the fixed charges have been paid, Zurich has 59,692 francs per household.
It is not Switzerland’s highest (Zug’s is), but it is still above the national average of 51,449 francs per household per year.

READ ALSO: Where in Switzerland do people have most money to spend?

Zurich's posh Bahnhofstrasse. Photo by Tomek Baginski on Unsplash


Now on to Geneva.

The per-capita GDP of Switzerland’s second-largest Swiss city (population of just below 200,00) is 110,000 francs — a bit lower than Zurich’s but still higher than the national average.

Geneva doesn’t fare as well as Zurich in the index in terms of wealth (which is why it is in the 19th place versus Zurich, in the 14th position), but make no mistake — the city is synonymous with money.

Not only are a number of private banks headquartered in the city, but also luxurious brands like Rolex and Patek Philippe.

Also, Geneva’s swanky commune of Cologny has the highest property prices in Switzerland – homes there come with a price tag of more than 35,000 Swiss francs per square metre.

A view of the Swiss city of Geneva

A view of the Swiss city of Geneva. Photo by Xavier von Erlach on Unsplash

So it is fair to say that a good chunk of Geneva’s wealth is not just in its private banks, but also in its real estate.

And, as is the case in Zurich, Geneva’s public coffers are also doing well: Last year was an exceptional year for Geneva finances, with the city closing its 2022 accounts with a surplus of around 150 million francs. 

Like Zurich, Geneva is also an expensive city to live in; however, high median salaries of 118,131 francs a year mean that there is plenty of money to go around. 


And in terms of purchasing power, Geneva is second in the world, just below Zurich.

As far as per-household disposable income, Geneva’s families have 53,884 to spend.
READ ALSO: Zurich versus Geneva: Six big differences between Switzerland's two biggest cities

Keep in mind though…

While Switzerland’s largest cities (along with well-heeled cantons like Zug) have a number of multi-millionaires, billionaires, and other wealthy people in their midst, they are also — like other rich urban areas around the world — home to the middle-class, as well as people living below the poverty threshhold. 


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