4 of the 10 most expensive cities on Earth are in Switzerland, Mercer finds

4 of the 10 most expensive cities on Earth are in Switzerland, Mercer finds

While many will already know that Swiss cities are anything but cheap, the latest Cost of Living City Ranking for 2024 by Mercer has put that high expense into perspective: by their metrics, of the 10 most expensive places to live in the world, four are in Switzerland.

Cost of Living City Ranking by Mercer

As part of the 2024 report, 226 cities from five continents were rated and ranked by Mercer by their cost of living. To do this the prices of 200 items, from housing and public transport to food, consumer goods and entertainment, were compared - the data itself was taken in March 2024. 

To standardise the report, each city’s costs were compared against the benchmark of New York City, and currencies were measured against the US dollar. Mercer argued that the ranking mainly serves to provide employers with essential information when designing salaries and work contracts for remote workers.

Zurich named most expensive city in Europe

For 2024, Zurich rounded out the podium behind Hong Kong and Singapore as the third most expensive city to live in, and the most expensive in Europe. They were followed by Geneva, Basel and Bern, meaning four of the 10 most expensive cities in the world are in Switzerland.

In explaining the scores, Mercer noted that while inflation and rising costs for transport are part of the reason why cities in the top 10 are so expensive, the cost of renting and buying homes was the “major factor."

Switzerland’s prominence on the ranking is therefore not a surprise, given that the country is currently beset with a rental housing shortage that has Zurich as its epicentre. When it comes to buying, a report from the Iazi consultancy firm in November 2023 estimated that a couple or individual would have to earn 525.000 francs a year before being able to apply for a mortgage for a single-family home in Zurich - along with a down payment of over 600.000 francs.

Living in Switzerland: High cost of living versus quality of life

However, as is the case with most metrics relating to Switzerland, the report noted that while Zurich, Geneva, Basel and Bern’s cost of living is high, they also offer some of the highest living standards and quality of life in the world. There is also evidence to suggest that most, but not all, residents of the alpine nation can afford the higher costs - Switzerland offers some of the highest average salaries in the world.

10 most expensive cities on Earth for 2024

In all, here are the most expensive cities to live in, according to Mercer:

  1. Hong Kong
  2. Singapore
  3. Zurich, Switzerland
  4. Geneva, Switzerland
  5. Basel, Switzerland
  6. Bern, Switzerland
  7. New York City, United States
  8. London, United Kingdom
  9. Nassau, Bahamas
  10. Los Angeles, United States

For more information, check out the official study.

Thumb image credit: denese grebin /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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