When you come to Switzerland on holiday or to work, you will likely visit a Swiss city. Swiss cities are at the heart of Swiss business and expat life. In most counties (cantons), their capital city is a main hub for entrepreneurs and tourism, with many offering large numbers of historical sites, museums, and attractions. If you are looking for a job in Switzerland, or are looking to rent a house or apartment, a Swiss city is an ideal place to start looking.
What counts as a city in Switzerland?
A "city" in Switzerland is very loosely defined. Unlike some countries where the definition of a city is set at a certain number of people living there, the Swiss government places emphasis on local councils (Gemeinde) and only nominates “towns” if they fulfil a special algorithm. Cities are usually given the title of a city (Stadt) under specific criteria:
- They hold historical significance, eg. are the capital of a canton.
- Have a large number of residents (over 20.000).
- Is self-sufficient and does not rely on any larger city for utilities.
Largest expat cities in Switzerland
Here we have put together some of the best cities for expats in Switzerland.
Zurich expat city guide
The city of Zurich needs no introduction. Many Swiss see the city as the true capital of Switzerland, being the largest and one of the richest cities for history and culture. As well as being a hub for banking and finance, many expats choose to live here due to the number of international companies in the city. See what the city has to offer with our guide to Zurich for expats.
Bern expat city guide
The de facto capital of Switzerland, Bern is a place steeped in history. Sitting atop a large hill with the river wrapping around its old fortifications, the city is a stunning example of history being immaculately preserved. Being the seat of government, the city of Bern is a must-see for every tourist or local.
Geneva expat city guide
The largest French-speaking city in Switzerland, the city of Geneva is a hub for western Switzerland and the gateway to the western alps and France. To find out the sites, story, culture, and history of Switzerland’s second-largest city, see our guide to Geneva for expats.
Lausanne expat city guide
If you are a fan of the artistic movements and romance of the 20th century, Lausanne is the city for you. The capital of the Canton of Vaud, the city has played host to conferences, organisations, and a coffee culture that lasts to this day. To see for yourself the many different things that make the city special, check out our guide to the city of Lausanne.
Basel expat city guide
Centred around the river Rhine, the city of Basel dominates the start of one of the most important arteries of European trade. As a result, the city has evolved into a hub for manufacturing and commerce. Situated on the border between France, Germany, and Switzerland, Basel is a city of stunning contrasts, adding a special element to what is already a captivating city.
Lucerne expat city guide
Many people come to Lucerne to see the lakes and the mountains that surround it. However, the city itself is itself steeped in history and architecture. From the spiritual heart of the old Swiss confederacy, the city has cemented itself as a necessary stop on any Grand Tour.
St. Gallen expat city guide
St. Gallen is known for its cathedral and convent complex, as well as being home to one of the most popular universities in Switzerland, particularly among expats. The city has gone through dramatic changes over the years, from the heart of a large bishopric to a new centre of textile production. See what the city sites and history have to offer in our guide to St. Gallen for expats.
Aarau expat city guide
Increasingly popular with expats, the city of Aarau is surrounded by imposing castles and lakes. With an interesting history and many different sites and events, Aarau is a must-see.
Zug expat city guide
A favourite among businesses everywhere, the city of Zug is an excellent place to start any type of new business. Alongside the obvious business appeal, you can find out the cities history, events, and sites by checking out our guide to the city of Zug for expats.