The best places for expats to live when working in Basel

The best places for expats to live when working in Basel

Basel is one of the best places for expats to live in Switzerland, thanks in large part to its strong links with neighbouring Germany and France. The city is home to a well-connected airport, a number of large multinational companies offering English-speaking jobs and a range of international schools to suit every expat family’s needs. Here are some of the best neighbourhoods for expats seeking a new life in Basel.

Great links between Basel and neighbouring France and Germany

Given its proximity to both France and Germany, it is unsurprising that the region has established strong connections between the two countries and Switzerland, meaning that there are a large number of both French-speaking and German-speaking people in the area. 

What's more, Basel has embedded these links into society, with many Baslers frequently crossing the border to purchase cheaper groceries and foreign products, as well as visiting tourist hotspots in neighbouring nations.

As of 2021, 36,9 percent of Basel’s population are residence permit holders and the main language used in the region is Swiss German. In terms of employment, there are many jobs for English speakers, especially in the pharmaceutical industry for which Basel is well-known. Thanks to this, the area is equipped with high-quality healthcare and plenty of green spaces to relax in after work.

Most popular towns to live in while working in Basel

Like all places in Switzerland, Basel can be expensive. There are naturally some more affordable places to live that are still close to amenities and can offer as great a quality of life as the more expensive spots. 

Basel offers great public transport to help support your commute, so drivers needn’t worry about finding a fast route to work or a parking spot and can instead rely on the train, bus or S-Bahn to get to and from work. 

The same goes for the school run - if your local school is not an international school, or a school that teaches in your child’s native language, public transport can be a reliable way to travel to campuses that are further afield. Here are five hidden gem neighbourhoods in and around the city of Basel that could be your next home!

Pratteln - for those who love the city

Located just a nine-minute tram ride from the city centre, the municipality of Pratteln is a great option for those looking for some peace and quiet just outside of the city. While Pratteln doesn’t have much to offer in terms of amenities, its location is so close to Basel proper that you can get all you need in the city and then hop on a short tram home.

The town is home to a castle, and there are several activities for families to enjoy together at the weekend. For drivers, it is also possible to drive into the city in just 10 minutes - helpful to know if you want to order a taxi home after an evening of events and partying.

Therwil - a quick commute

If you’re looking for somewhere even further out of town, the small village of Therwil is a green, quiet and peaceful spot to spend your time away from work, just a 23-minute commute into the city by tram. The village has a population of around 9.000 and offers many hiking trails, bike routes and stunning green spaces for everyone to enjoy. 

The town’s small, quiet atmosphere may not be to everybody’s taste, and it is unlikely that you would meet many fellow expats living there. However, it gives you the opportunity to truly experience Swiss life in a small town, while having quick access to the nearby international city of Basel. 

Aarau - the cultural hotspot

While the city of Aarau is much further away than our other picks, it’s certainly worth keeping an open mind. The town on the River Aare is still less than an hour by train from Basel’s city centre and has a lot to offer, especially for those who love cultural attractions such as historical sites, museums and art galleries. 

The German-speaking town has a fairytale feel, thanks to its classic Swiss architecture and stunning old town. For football-lovers, the town is also home to FC Aarau - a second-tier Swiss football team who are constantly attempting to battle their way back into the first tier Swiss Super League. 

Mulhouse, France - French city living

As is the case with many Swiss cities, hopping over the border to a neighbouring country is a viable option and can make things more affordable. Just a 22-minute commute to Basel by train, the French city of Mulhouse gives the benefits of cheaper living while still keeping Basel within easy reach. Naturally, this option is not great for those who do not speak French, but the city does offer language schools to help get you up to scratch if you need a boost. 

Naturally, the requirements for visas and residence permits are different from those in Switzerland, so be sure to check them out thoroughly before committing to a move.

Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany - for the travellers

Fancy an adventure? Then Freiburg im Breisgau could be for you! Located 41 minutes by train away from the city of Basel, in neighbouring Germany, this small city boasts its own university, a grand Gothic cathedral and nearby mountains

Freiburg offers a great range of outdoor activities for you to enjoy during the weekend or on Swiss national holidays, such as hiking, mountain biking and even nearby ski resorts. The cost of living is likely to be cheaper in Germany, which is especially beneficial if you are earning a higher salary from your job in Switzerland.

Of course, the German residence requirements and cross-border laws have to be considered, so be sure to check out the rules before you secure the lease on an apartment. Alternatively, if you want to benefit from living in Germany while being close to Basel itself, the German town of Weil am Rhein is only 20 minutes from the city centre by train.

The area around Basel has a lot to offer

Obviously, it is impossible to cover every Swiss, French, and German town within commuting distance of Basel in just one article, so there are plenty more out there yet to be discovered! Some of the best questions to ask if you find a spot you like are questions about the cost of living, commuting distance, healthcare facilities, local amenities and schooling options (if you are moving with children or plan to have them soon). From this, you can find if a place outside the city of Basel suits your specific needs. Happy hunting!

Emily Proctor


Emily Proctor

Emily grew up in the UK before moving abroad to study International Relations and Chinese. She then obtained a Master's degree in International Security and gained an interest in journalism....

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