How does quality of life compare between the 9 largest Swiss cities?

How does quality of life compare between the 9 largest Swiss cities?

While Switzerland as a whole is known for having high levels of quality of life, it can be a challenge for new arrivals to choose where in the alpine nation is best to call home. To help newcomers along, the Federal Statistical Office’s (FSO) annual City Statistics report has revealed how the nine largest Swiss cities compare for quality of life.

City Statistics report 2024

To create the report, the FSO used the metrics at its disposal to rate the quality of life in the nine largest Swiss cities (Zurich, Bern, Lucerne, Basel, St. Gallen, Winterthur, Lugano, Lausanne and Geneva). This was measured through 20 different factors, including (among others):

In all the FSO noted that while Switzerland often places highly in global rankings of quality of life, scores can vary dramatically within the country itself.

Which Swiss cities offer the highest income?

In the first category, Zurich came out on top as offering the highest income of the nine cities. On average, employees in the city earn 70.393 francs a year, over 3.000 francs more than Basel in second (66.922). 

Basel was followed by Lugano (62.339), Geneva (60.988), Lucerne (59.827), Winterthur (57.253), Bern (57.063) and Lausanne (54.396). Right at the bottom stood St. Gallen, with residents in the city earning 53.350 francs on average.

Geneva rated best for proximity to services

When it came to the proximity of services, Geneva took the top spot. The FSO noted that residents of the city are usually never more than a few hundred metres away from shopping, school, medical and leisure facilities. Other densely packed regions like Basel and Zurich also performed well in this regard.

By contrast, the government noted that people in Lugano have the furthest to travel for essential services. For instance, the largest city in Ticino is the only city on the list where the nearest grocery store is more than 500 metres away on average, and the nearest museum is more than two kilometres away.

However, Lugano was praised for the sheer number of museums on offer at over 15 per 100.000 people. In the same category, Bern took the top spot for both cinemas and theatres.

St. Gallen claims gold for low-cost public transport

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Zurich and Winterthur’s good scores came unstuck in the only cost of living rating. The two cities were rated as having the most expensive public transport, with a monthly ticket for the city centres costing 85 francs each.

Most other Swiss cities priced their tickets between 74 and 80 francs a month. The cheapest two cities on the list were St. Gallen and Geneva, costing 69 and 70 francs a month respectively.

No Swiss city has enough childcare spaces

When it came to childcare places, the FSO noted that no Swiss city has enough capacity to meet demand. For instance, while Zurich took the top spot, the "Swiss metropolis" only offers 537 childcare places for every 1.000 children of childcare age. The worst on the list is St. Gallen, where there is only just over one place for every five eligible children.

Finally, the FSO rated mortality in each city for those younger than 65 years old - seen by the study as a way of comparing the quality of healthcare services in each region. In this regard, the city of Winterthur was rated worst, followed by Basel, Lucerne, St. Gallen, Lugano, Zurich, Bern and Lausanne. Geneva was rated as the best.

Swiss cities: Full of positives and negatives

So where does all this data leave us? The FSO report showed that each individual city has its strengths and weaknesses. Zurich has high salaries, but it has a high cost of living, Lugano is inexpensive and has a lot of things to do, but getting to those things is more of a hassle, and while Geneva has the lowest mortality rate and the closest services, it loses points for childcare.

Which city is best is often tied to what the individual values most and what their needs are at the time. However, if you are looking for an all-rounder, Watson noted that Bern performed above average in most categories.

For more information about the study, and to see what other indicators can be used to compare the cities, check out the official FSO website.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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