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The Top 7 Cities in Switzerland for Expats

From the snowy alps to the lush green countryside, Switzerland is a beautiful country for expats to move to. The country is full of surprising contrasts, and there is really something for everyone.

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If you are planning to move to Switzerland, then you are for sure in for the greatest experience of your life. The country has something to offer everyone, and you will be pleased to know that the expat community here is ever-growing.

But do you know where in Switzerland you are going to live? Because from palm tree-lined shores of the southern lakes to the picturesque towns of the Swiss plateau, you have one-too-many options to choose from. Here are some of the best cities for expats in Switzerland in 2023.

Geneva

Geneva is a safe city for expats

The second largest city in Switzerland is Geneva, located along Lake Geneva and known to be one of the most modern and cosmopolitan cities globally. If you’re looking for a city that offers a high quality of life, Geneva should definitely be on your radar.

Geneva is also home to the world’s well-known international organizations, such as the United Nations (UN), World Health Organization (WHO), and Red Cross. The city is also home to diplomats and officials.

Here’s why expats should move to Geneva:

Safe City:

First and foremost, Geneva is one of the safest cities in the world. The crime rate is low, and the city has a strong sense of community that makes you feel at home from the moment you arrive.

Vibrant Culture:

Beyond safety, Geneva also boasts a rich cultural scene. The city is home to numerous museums and art galleries such as MAMCO Geneve, Natural History and Art and History Museum Geneva, as well as a thriving music and theater scene. There are always events and exhibitions happening, so you’ll never be bored.

Beautiful Views:

Situated on the shores of Lake Geneva and surrounded by the Alps, the city offers stunning views no matter where you go. You can take a stroll along the lakefront, go hiking in the mountains, or simply enjoy a picnic in one of the many parks.

Zurich

This German-speaking city is Switzerland’s biggest, with over 434,335 residents

This German-speaking city is Switzerland’s biggest, with over 434,335 residents. Zurich is popular for its location, as it’s linked to the most significant cities of Europe, and for housing the largest communities of expats in the country.

One of the things that makes Zurich truly special is its natural beauty. Located on the banks of Lake Zurich, the city is surrounded by stunning mountains and forests, offering plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation.

If you’re an expat looking for a welcoming city, Zurich should definitely be on your radar.

Here’s Why Expats Should Move to Zurich:

Low Crime Rate:

With a low crime rate, excellent public transportation, and a high standard of living, you can feel safe and comfortable while exploring all that the city has to offer.

The Economic Capital: 

Zurich is also a hub of innovation and creativity. As the economic capital of Switzerland, it has a thriving business community, and tech industry. This means there are plenty of opportunities for expats and entrepreneurs.

Vibrant Culture:

The city is also home to a vibrant arts and culture scene. From world-class museums and galleries to trendy music venues and theaters, namely, National Museum Zurich, Zurich Thater Spektakel, and more, there’s always something new and exciting to discover. And with a diverse population, you’ll always run into someone that shares the same interests as you.

Winterthur

 Winterthur has a large expat community

Another German-speaking city in Switzerland, Winterthur has a large expat community, making it attractive for foreigners from all over the world. From art galleries to museums, Winterthur is packed with history and culture.

Most expats chose to live in Winterthur because of its convenient location to Zurich, and the rents are cheaper compared to Zurich.

Large Expat Community:

You will be pleasantly surprised to know that the cozy town of Winterthur has a large expat community, making it great for you and your family to settle in. And if you are worried about missing the bustle of a big city, remember, Zurich is only 20 minutes away.

Vibrant Culture:

Winterthur has a thriving art scene with art galleries, museums, and festivals lined up throughout the year. Additionally, you should also visit the Swiss Science Center Technorama, Sammlung Oskar Reinhart, and Schloss Kyburg while you are in the area. That being said, if you are someone that loves to indulge in arts, then Witerthur must be on your list.

Easy to Get Around: 

We’ve established that Witherthur is a relatively small city, making it easy to get around, and the city center is within walking distance. So, you could walk or get a bike and go around the city without having to stress about means of transportation.

Bern

As an expat, Bern is an ideal location for you

The capital of Switzerland, Bern, is located between the linguistic border of French and German Switzerland and is home to the Swiss Parliament. As an expat, Bern is an ideal location for you, as it is well connected with the rest of the country, making it easy for you to travel around.

Even though it is the capital city of Switzerland, Bern manages to maintain a small-town vibe that attracts expats from all over the world. Here’s why you should move to Bern as an expat:

Perfect Summers: 

Summer is not just another season in Bern, it’s a feeling. You will be surprised to know that even though Bern is well connected to the rest of the country, people spend summers in Bern exploring the majestic turquoise water of the River Aare.

Unique Culture:

Bern offers various unique cultural experiences, such as the famous bearpit. The bearpit is a well-known attraction that features the city’s symbol – bears. Yes, the bear pit is home to a few bear families. So, even if you are passing by Bern, stop by the bear pit.

Friendly Community:

Bern has 144,000 residents, with 17% of expats. Bern’s beauty and very popular among tourists for its shopping and cultural experience, making the locals friendly and welcoming. So, as an expat you can find a social circle here in no time.

St. Gallen

With just over 80,000 people, it's the perfect size for those looking to balance urban and rural living

The university town, St. Gallen, is located near the German border, and the University of St. Gallen has the best business school in Europe. Nestled in the heart of Eastern Switzerland, St. Gallen is a picturesque city with a rich history and culture.

With just over 80,000 people, it’s the perfect size for those looking to balance urban and rural living. One of the best things about St. Gallen is its location. It’s situated at the foot of the Appenzell Alps, which means you’ll have easy access to some of the most breathtaking scenery in Switzerland.

Why is St.Gallen good for expats? Here’s why:

Historic City:

St. Gallen is also home to a UNESCO World Heritage Site – the Abbey of St. Gall. This complex dates back to the 8th century and is a must-see for history buffs and architecture enthusiasts.

Quality of Life:

Switzerland is consistently ranked as one of the best places to live in the world, and St. Gallen is no exception. The city is clean, safe, and efficient. Public transportation is reliable and easy to navigate, and the healthcare system is expat-friendly and top-notch.

Welcoming Locals:

Swiss culture may seem a bit reserved at first, but once you get to know the locals, you’ll find that they’re warm, friendly, and welcoming. St. Gallen is also a university town, which means there are plenty of opportunities to meet people from all over the world.

Basel

Located in the Northwest of Switzerland, Basel is another great city for expats

Located in the Northwest of Switzerland, Basel is another great city for expats. With its large expat community and breathtaking views, Basel has expats from over 150 countries living in the city. So, as an expat, you can make friends in no time.

Basel’s location is one of the biggest advantages; situated at the intersection of the Rhine River and the Swiss, German, and French borders, it’s the perfect jumping-off point for exploring Europe. Imagine spending your weekends hopping on a train and exploring Paris, Berlin, or Milan.

Here are some of the reasons why you should move to Basel as an expat:

Vibrant Culture:

The city is known for its impressive art scene, with world-renowned museums such as the Kunstmuseum Basel and the Fondation Beyeler. The annual Art Basel event draws collectors and artists from around the world, making Basel a hub for the international art community.

Delicious Food Scene:

Basel is also a great city for foodies. Swiss cuisine is a delicious blend of French, German, and Italian influences, and you’ll find plenty of great restaurants and cafes in the city. And if you’re feeling adventurous, hop on a train to nearby France or Germany and indulge in some of the best cuisines.

High Quality of Life:

The healthcare system is excellent, and public transportation is efficient and easy to navigate. Plus, Swiss culture places a strong emphasis on work-life balance, so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy all that Basel has to offer.

Lausanne

Lausanne is a bustling city with a rich history and culture

Lausanne is a bustling city with a rich history and culture. It’s perfect for those who want to experience city life and the great outdoors. With just over 140,000 people, it’s the fifth-largest city in Switzerland, making it the right size for those looking to balance urban and rural living.

The city is located on the shores of Lake Geneva, giving you easy access to some of the most breathtaking scenery in Switzerland. Imagine spending your weekends picnicking on the beach, hiking in the mountains, or exploring the nearby vineyards.

Lausanne is good for expats because:

Active City:

Lausanne is also home to the International Olympic Committee, and the Olympic Museum is a must-see for sports enthusiasts. Moreover, the city is packed with theaters, museums, and galleries for you to explore.

Good for Opportunities:

Lausanne is a hub for multi-national companies such as Salesforce, Logitech, Philip Morris International, and Nestle has its headquarters 15 minutes outside the city. So, as an expat, you can find great career opportunities here.

Diverse City:

Lausanne is also a university town, which means there are plenty of opportunities to meet people from all over the world. Lausanne has a big expat community, with 40% of the population being foreigners.

Conclusion

Switzerland offers a great quality of life for expats, and you can choose from a wide range of quaint swiss towns to settle in. From university towns to towns with multinational companies and a large expat community, undoubtedly, this country is ideal for English-speaking expats.

However, if you are still unsure about Switzerland, check out our comprehensive guide for best places for expats in Europe.

On another important note, we would like to remind you that as an expat it is extremely important to have health insurance coverage in Europe. While the healthcare is excellent, without health insurance, you may end up paying expensive hospital bills.

Pacific Prime also has healthcare plans exclusively for expats living in Hungary. Feel free to contact us to learn more about the health insurance landscape for expats in Europe.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can citizens of the USA move to Switzerland?

If you are an American planning to move to Switzerland for a long period of time, then you will need to apply for a Switzerland long-stay visa. You can apply for this at the Swiss embassy/consulate responsible for your stay.

Is it hard for Americans to find a job in Switzerland?

As an expat, you may find it challenging to get a job in Switzerland, as the company has strict quotas on jobs for foreigners. For instance, a prospective employer may have to prove that a local, permits can’t do the job are limited to higher-level positions, etc.

Is healthcare free in Switzerland?

Unfortunately, there is no free healthcare in the country. And both locals and foreigners are required to pay for their own private health insurance. So, secure a comprehensive health insurance plan before your move.