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Why Zurich is the world's most expensive city to live in

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Why Zurich is the world's most expensive city to live in
Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich, world's most expensive city. Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Anyone who lives in Zurich will know just how expensive it is to live in but what are the reasons it has been ranked as the most expensive in the world?


Year after year, Zurich has topped (or nearly topped) international rankings of world’s most expensive cities.

This year is no different.

A new ranking by The Economist magazine places Zurich in the top spot, along with Singapore which, coincidentally or not, is nicknamed “the Switzerland of Asia.”

The reason for the high cost of living in the city, “partly reflects the strength of the Swiss franc, as well as high prices for groceries, household goods and recreation,” according to the report.

High prices also reflect the high salaries (read more about this below).

Just how expensive is it to live in Zurich?

Based on the cost of living database Numbeo, it is more expensive than Switzerland’s other pricey cities, Geneva and Basel:

Consumer prices, including rent, are 7.7% higher in Zurich than in Geneva.

Grocery prices in Zurich are 14.7% higher than in Geneva.

READ ALSO: 10 ways to save money if you live in Zurich?

Consumer prices, including rent in Zurich, are 11 percent higher than in Basel.

Local purchasing power in Zurich is 0.6 percent lower than in Basel.

Individual prices for various products and services are listed here.

Of course, those are just general indications; how expensive Zurich really is to its residents (rather than tourists) depends on how much income an individual or a household has.


Which brings us to the next point:

How much do Zurich residents earn?

Of course, we can only talk of averages.

Based on data from the Federal Statistical Office, a median monthly wage in the city is 8,000 francs — about 1,300 francs more than a median Swiss salary.

The higher-than-average salaries have been attracting scores of foreign nationals — undeterred by the city’s cost of living — to move to the city.

In 2022 alone, for instance, nearly 30,000 people came to the Zurich area from other countries.

In all, more than 30 percent of all Zurich residents are foreigners.


Why do so many people move to Zurich, despite its high prices?

The aforementioned salaries are among the top factors.

You may argue that even the high wages don’t compensate for costs of living in the world’s most expensive city.

This is true if your salary is lower than the median wage.

However, many of the foreign nationals who settle in Zurich earn at least the average — and oftentimes more than the average — pay.

In fact, a study showed that Zurich is among the cantons with the highest purchasing power.

READ ALSO: Do wages in Switzerland make up for the high cost of living?

What about Geneva?

Not surprisingly, Switzerland’s second-largest city is also world's second most-expensive in The Economist ranking.

It shares this spot with another notoriously high-priced metropolis — New York.

READ ALSO: The Swiss cantons with the highest (and lowest) incomes



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