The best places for expats to live when working in Zurich
For expats and locals, living in Zurich is very expensive. For those who want to find a job in Zurich or want to sample the city's culture and nightlife on a regular basis, there are many places nearby where you can live without having to break the bank.
Living in Zurich remains highly expensive
Zurich is regularly ranked as one of the most expensive cities in the world to live in, with the average rent clocking in as the second most expensive in the country at 1.550 Swiss francs a month. More desirable areas, such as in the city centre, can see average rents of between 3.000 and 6.000 Swiss francs a month.
This can make living in Zurich itself prohibitively expensive, as only the highest paid jobs in Switzerland would allow a family to afford to live comfortably. Luckily, the excellent public transport system and motorway network allow people to work and have fun in Switzerland's largest city, without actually having to live there.
Most popular towns to live in while working in Zurich
Here are some of the most popular and cheapest places to live, if you want to commute to Zurich.
The second-largest city in the canton and the sixth-largest in the country, Winterthur has cemented itself as an affordable option for commuting and taking part in Zurich life, while also providing culture and entertainment of its own. The city was once an industrial town, before modernising into a commuter hub for Zurich.
Winterthur is only 20 minutes away from Zurich by train, making it an affordable commuter town. It also benefits from being subject to cantonal taxation in Zurich, which can be much lower than in the surrounding cantons.
The city by the Greifensee, Uster is a great option if you want to keep Zurich at only an arm's length. Only 15 minutes away by train, the city has boomed in recent years as expats and locals move from the crowded Zurich valley to live in the Glattal.
As well as having its own culture and nightlife, the city is only a short walk away from one of the most popular places to swim, Lake Griefensee. Situated in the Glatt valley, Uster also has excellent access to the picturesque Zurich Oberland and motorway access to the mountains.
While it may not be the cheapest place to call home, Zug remains a top expat destination because of its competitive tax system and business rates. The city is still technically in the ZVV transport area, meaning that it benefits from cheaper public transport tickets.
The city itself, while known for its large number of international companies, is also famed for its pleasant lake, mountain and close proximity to the cities of Rapperswil and Lucerne. It also has a stunning old town for locals to savour and an international school.
North of Zurich along the German border, the city of Schaffhausen has a growing reputation as a top place for expats to live. The city itself has beautiful Renaissance architecture and a quiet old town - a far cry from the hustle and bustle of Zurich.
While taxes may be higher, the cost of renting a house or apartment is significantly lower than in other cities, averaging 1.193 Swiss francs in the canton as a whole. As it is only 40 minutes train ride from Zurich and two stops away from shops in Germany, the city is seen as one of the more affordable places in Switzerland to live.
Around 45 minutes by train is the capital of Thurgau, Frauenfeld. The city has taken advantage of its close connections to Zurich by building large housing complexes, ideal for individuals and families.
Today, a three-room apartment in the city only costs 1.500 Swiss francs a month, well below Zurich prices. The tax burden in Thurgau is also low, making it ideal for people wanting to save money.
Konstanz and living in Germany
If you choose to live across the border, housing in Germany can be far cheaper than living in Switzerland. Konstanz, although pricey compared with renting in other German cities, only costs 1.383 Swiss francs for a two to three-bedroom apartment. Food, utilities and transport costs are also lower in Germany.
However, do bear in mind that German taxes are significantly higher than Swiss ones, which can eliminate the cost-benefit of living there. Konstanz itself is a 75 to 90-minute train ride from Zurich, which can also put expats off.
Despite being the butt of a few Swiss “in-jokes,” Olten is in an ideal location for commuters as it is only 30 minutes away from both Bern and Zurich. Rents in Olten are also significantly lower than in the two better-known cities, at only 1.330 Swiss francs for a two to a three-bedroom apartment.
Not to be confused with Baden in Germany, the quaint city of Baden, Canton Aargau has plenty to offer expats and internationals. On the banks of the Limmat, the stunning old town is only a 16-minute train ride away from Zurich and is an excellent place to live to be within easy reach of Switzerland's metropolis, with Interregional fast trains to other Swiss cities and regular commuter services.
Just within the borders of Aargau, rental costs in the city are significantly lower than in Zurich, although taxes are slightly higher. If you prefer to stay even closer to Zurich and want to live in the Limmat Valley, a general rule of thumb is the further downstream you go from Zurich, the cheaper prices get.
Moving from the city of Zurich can save families a lot of money
These cities are just a selection of the many places where people can live while working in Zurich. Some other cities with close ties to Zurich include:
- Aarau, Canton Aargau
- Rapperswil, Canton St. Gallen
- Pfäffikon, Canton Schwyz
- St. Gallen