Moving to Zurich guide with information you need to know beforehand.

Moving to Zurich, Switzerland? 10 Things You Need to Know

Moving to Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city, can be an exciting and life-changing experience. With its stunning scenery, rich cultural landscape, and flourishing job market, it’s no wonder that many people are drawn to Switzerland’s biggest city!

moving to zurich

However, relocating to a new city can also present its share of challenges, so it’s essential to be well-prepared and informed to ensure a smooth transition.

Before packing your bags and embarking on your Swiss adventure, it’s crucial to be aware of the key aspects that will help make your move a success. From understanding the basics of the Swiss Government (can be tough) to getting your residence permit (can be tougher), to housing (can be expensive), and transportation (definitely on -time!), getting acquainted with these critical things will set you on the right track.

In this article, we’ve compiled a list of 10 essential things you need to know before making the big move to Zurich to make things easier.

Let’s get into it.

zurich bridges and church

1.Visa and Residence Permits

If you have your Visa sorted and you are all organized in this area, you can scroll down to the next section, if not, read on; it’s important.

Moving to Zurich, Switzerland, involves various visa and residency requirements depending on your nationality and intended length of stay. Coming from the US makes it more challenging than coming from Europe, but where there is a will, there is a way!

Before making the move, it’s important to be aware of the different types of visas available and the application process.

There are multiple visa options for relocating to Switzerland, it really comes down to where exactly you are relocating, your employment, your marriage situation, and your nationality.

In regards to Zurich, let’s clarify things, you are not going on holiday; you want to live there, I get it.

Look, I don’t know who you are or your circumstances, but I will clearly lay things out so that you can make an informed decision on how to move forward.

Very simply, anyone looking to spend longer than 90 days in Switzerland will need to apply for a residence permit.

These are issues by the local Canton (state) Migrational Officesand each state of Switzerland deals with residence permits individually.

Note: You must get in touch with this office and register your arrival within 14 days of your arrival. You can find details of the Zurich Residence Permit/Migration office here.

But, and this is a big but, as a U.S citizen looking to move to Zurich, without an employment contract, you need to contact the Migration office BEFORE leaving the US.

Residence permits are notoriously tricky in Zurich and Switzerland as a whole.

The safest bet, get in contact with the Swiss Embassy in Washington for the most up-to-date details for US citizens.

Zurich old town

2. Housing in Zurich

Ok, so you have an Authorized Visa or a Working Permit Visa sorted; now it is time to find a place to live.
Starting fresh or moving a whole container of furniture, clothes e and relics you will never use, but still keep, either way, the same process applies.

I know it can be daunting moving to Zurich, especially considering the dominant language spoken is Swiss German, but don’t worry, there is a solid ex-pat community about.

Now, let’s find you a home.

Finding a House or Apartment in Zurich

Finding a suitable place to live in Zurich can sometimes be challenging due to the high demand for housing.

However, by starting your search early, you will have a better chance of finding the perfect home for you. Researching online platforms is a great place to begin your search.

In addition, you can also enlist the help of a local real estate agent to find available options.

If you are looking yourself, some sites worth checking out are:

  • Homegate – Renting/Buying options for the whole of Zurich & Switzerland.

  • Immobilier – Another site offering both rental and buying options

  • The Blueground – Some great furnished options, offering month-to-month leases for you to settle and get a feel of things. Although this can be more expensive, this can be a great option to get you settled and also give you a feel for Zurich before committing.

Now let’s check out some average prices so you can get a feel for the cost of living.

Rental Prices

Zurich has a reputation for being an expensive city, and that includes rental costs as well. Expect to pay more for properties closer to the city center, while more affordable options are usually found in the suburbs.

But remember, Switzerland has an incredibly efficient, safe, and clean transport system, so living in a surrounding suburb is a great lifestyle option. Not to mention, you could get a view of the Swiss Alps on the way to work!


To give you an idea of the rental market in Zurich:

  • 1-bedroom apartment in the city center: approx. 2,000 CHF (2,240USD) – 2,500(2,800USD) per month

  • 1-bedroom apartment outside the city center: approx. 1,500CHF(1,680USD) – 1,800CHF (2,016USD) per month

  • 3-bedroom apartment in the city center: approx 3,500CHF (3,920USD – 4,500CHF (5,040USD) per month

  • 3-bedroom apartment outside the city center: approx. CHF 2,500 – CHF 3,500 per month

Note that these prices may vary depending on the property’s location condition and available amenities.

Limmat river going through Zurich city.

Tips for Property Hunting in Zurich Switzerland

  • Act Quick: The vacancy rate is low, and there is a large ex-pat and local community always on the lookout for a great property.
  • Rooms Are Not Bedrooms: When you see an apartment advertised as 3.5 rooms, it is not 3.5 bedrooms. It is literally 3.5 rooms, which means it could be a 1-bedroom apartment with a loungeroom, bathroom, and kitchen 🙂 Be sure to clarify with a quick phone call before heading to see a property.

Now, let’s compare some general living costs; we know Switzerland is expensive compared to many other countries, but by how much?

3. Cost of Living

Zurich is known for its high cost of living, standing out as one of the most expensive cities in the world.

However, it also offers a great quality of life, the stunning Lake Zurich, clean air, breathtaking scenery, convenience, and safety. Costs will vary depending on individual lifestyles, but here is an overview of the expenses you will encounter when moving to Zurich.

Groceries

While grocery prices in Zurich are higher than in many other cities, you can still find ways to cut costs by shopping at discount supermarkets or local farmers’ markets. On average, here’s what you can expect to pay for certain grocery items:

  • Milk (1 liter): CHF 1.60 (1.79 USD)

  • Bread (500g): CHF 2.50 (2.80 USD)

  • Rice (1kg): CHF 3.00 (3.36 USD)

  • Dozen eggs: CHF 4.50 (5.00 USD)

  • Chicken breasts (1kg): CHF 22.00 (24.64 USD)

What about the price of chocolate? Does it really matter, if you are like me, chocolate is one thing you won’t ever worry about spending too much money on 🙂

Zurich main street bahnhoffstrasse.

Public Transportation

Trains, buses, and ferries Zurich has it all. It is all on time, it is all clean, and it is safe, unlike New York City(sorry NYC). Think NYC, but the total opposite

Zurich is broken into zones or areas as opposed to specific “to and from” trips. To get around the city, you can purchase a 24 hr day pass at 8.60SFR or 9.63USD. Alternatively, a single trip in the main city area will be 4.30CHF or 4.82USD.

Public transportation Tips

  • Buy your ticket before you get on public transport. Ticket machines are available and clearly marked. They have an English Menu and accept all major credit cards too.
  • Looking to travel longer and further, look into getting a Half Fare Travlecard, it will save you a lot in the long run

  • Riding a bicycle can be a more cost-effective and eco-friendly option in the city. Zurich is flat, and there are many bikes riding in a civilized fashion, think the opposite of an Italian city.

Entertainment

Entertainment expenses in Zurich can range widely depending on personal preferences. But, generally, Zurich is “expensive”. Dining out at mid-range restaurants can cost around 45-75 CHF or 50.40USD – 111.75 USD per person, while a cinema ticket may set you back about 20 CHF or 22.40 USD.

Sports enthusiasts can expect to pay around 50-500CHF or 56.000-560USD per month for gym memberships. Zurich has a great range of gyms, from budget to very high-end with wellness.

Cultural activities such as museum visits or theater performances can cost anywhere from CHF 10-50, depending on the event.

Generally, entertainment options in Zurich can be expensive, but the city has so many beautiful free options too, from fairs to walks. Check out Zuerich.com to keep on-top of what’s happening in the city.

You may be landing in Zurich with a job; if not, you are in luck.

4. Job Market

Zurich is home to a thriving job market, making it an attractive destination for ex-pats seeking new opportunities. You will find many Europeans, especially Germans and French, come to Switzerland for a higher quality of life and better salaries.

Let’s dive into the job opportunities and salary expectations you can expect when moving to Zurich.

Job Opportunities

Zurich is a hotspot for various industries, including finance, IT, and pharmaceuticals, offering a range of job opportunities for skilled professionals.

The city houses several international and multinational corporations, such as Novartis, Glencore, UBS ( I won’t mention Credit Suisse now), which are always looking to hire skilled international talent.

The days the best way to find jobs in Zurich is from:

  • LinkedIn Jobs – Professional, higher-level positions

  • Jobscout24.ch– English-speaking jobs in all industries

  • IamExpat.ch – Expat English-speaking jobs in Zurich and Switzerland as a whole.

Ok, so how much can you expect to get paid?

Salary Expectations

One of the reasons Zurich is so appealing to professionals is its competitive salary landscape. Salaries are typically higher than the European average, and in particular, industries like finance and IT can offer lucrative packages.

Compared to major US cities, Zurich is very competitive too. Let’s do a comparison.

  • Average salary in New York = $50, 259 USD or $44,871 CHF

  • Average salary in Los Angeles $67, 504 USD or 60,268 CHF

  • Average salary in Chicago $77,000 USD or 68,745 CHF

  • Average salary in Zurich $92,980 USD or 83.013 CHF

As you can see, the average salary in Zurich is far greater than the large US cities, but as you will see, the actual cost of living is far higher in Switzerland.

How is your Swiss German? Do you speak French? What language do they speak in Switzerland?

5. Language and Culture

Moving to Zurich means embracing a new language and culture. Sure, your job might be in English, and it might be easily understood in Zurich and the larger Swiss cities. But, learning a little Swiss German will go a long way with the locals in this vibrant city.

Language Basics

Zurich’s official language is Swiss German, which is a dialect of German. Although many locals can speak standard German, they use Swiss German in everyday conversation.

As mentioned, as a foreigner, you can get by speaking English, most Swiss locals will understand it.

But, understanding a little of the local dialect will make life abroad a little easier for you.

Sure, taking language courses or using language-learning apps can help you get started on this journey, but all you really need is the basics.

Some useful phrases to learn include Grüezi (hello), Tschüss (goodbye), and Danke (thank you); I go more into the local language in my article, “What Language Do They Speak in Zurich.”

Zurich public transport system.

Cultural Adaptation

Adapting to Swiss culture is equally essential as learning a few language basics to ensure a smooth transition into Zurich life.

Below are a few key aspects of the local culture to keep in mind:

  • Swiss people are known for their punctuality. Timeliness is highly valued, both in professional and personal environments, and arriving late to appointments can be, well most of the time, considered rude.

  • Sunday is observed as a day of rest in Switzerland. Many businesses close, and it is considered impolite to engage in noisy activities, such as loud music or drilling, which could disturb others. Zurich is a vibrant city, but not on a Sunday, be prepared for a ghost town.

  • Environmental consciousness is an essential aspect of Swiss culture. People are expected to recycle and be mindful of their energy consumption. People are just more present, and they take a great amount of pride in their beautiful country.

Are The Swiss Boring?

Absolutely not! Considered? Thoughtful? Private? They sure are, but boring they are not.

This is a story I have heard time and time again. But, drop a few Swiss German words when house hunting or walking through the trendy shopping areas, and you will connect with the locals.

6. Transportation

We covered this a little above, but I wanted to go into more detail here as it is a massive part of life in Zurich.

Considering that most people don’t initially buy a car when they move and the fact that Zurich has a very well-thought-out public transport system, you should know the following.

Trams in Zurich city.

Public Transport

With trams, buses, trains, and ferries covering the city and its suburbs extensively, you can conveniently reach any destination without owning a car.

You can easily get away without owning a car in the city, Swiss transportation is, in my opinion, the best in the world. Sure, it might be a little expensive compared to the US. But and a big but, you get what you pay for.

What about bikes?

Biking

Biking is another popular mode of transportation in Zurich. The city boasts numerous bike lanes and dedicated bicycle parking facilities, making it easy for cyclists to get around.

I’d say that Zurich is a very bike-friendly city; it is hugely popular. It’s so popular that the local government rents out bicycles for free. There are two well-positioned locations to hire them from, and all you need is a 20CHF or 22USD deposit.

Furthermore, people are considerate and obey the laws, and it is a great city to bike around in Spring, Summer, and Autumn, especially around the lake.

Don’t like bikes, grab a pair of sneakers and explore on foot.

Walking

Zurich is a walkable city with well-maintained sidewalks and pedestrian zones. Walking not only saves you money on transportation costs but also allows you to explore the city at a leisurely pace and enjoy its beautiful scenery.

I always believe in walking around a new location to get a feel for the surrounding areas. It helps you get your feel for the city. Furthermore, walking is an excellent way to stay fit and healthy!

7. Healthcare

Insurance Requirements

Health insurance is a must for anyone moving to Zurich, as you are required to obtain Swiss health insurance within three months of your arrival. Since basic coverage is a legal requirement, staying uninsured is not an option.

To find the best policy, you can compare different insurance providers and choose one that suits your needs and budget.

Please see this article for further details on organizing health insurance. Once you have Swiss health insurance, you can access the Swiss healthcare system, which is considered one of the best in the world too.

Speaking of which.

Quality of Healthcare

In Switzerland, the quality of healthcare is exceptional. The country is known for its excellent medical facilities, highly trained medical staff, and cutting-edge treatments. After becoming a Swiss resident, you are entitled to full access to the healthcare system.

When it comes to healthcare services in Zurich, you can expect a wide range of options. There are numerous hospitals, clinics, and private practices available throughout the city, ensuring that all your medical needs are taken care of.

See below for the impressive selections of hospitals in the city.

Hospitals in Zurich.

8. Education

One thing that Switzerland is known for is a high standard of education; in fact, it has a collection of the most exclusive boarding schools in the world.

International Schools

Moving to Zurich can be a good opportunity to explore international education options for your children. The city offers a collection of international schools with curricula from different countries, such as the United States, and the United Kingdom.

These schools provide an English-speaking environment and a wide range of extracurricular activities, making it easy for ex-pat children to adapt and thrive.

However, keep in mind that an international school can be expensive, very expensive.

One of the most popular in Zurich is ZIS or Zurich International School.

Bike paths in Zurich

9. Leisure and Sports

There is always something to do in Zurich, irrelevant of the time of year.

Local Attractions

The rich history and culture of Zurich can be seen in the variety of its local attractions. Explore the Old Town and its cobblestone streets, visiting historical sites like Grossmünster and Fraumünster churches.

Don’t miss the Swiss National Museum to learn more about the country’s history and enjoy art exhibitions at Kunsthaus Zurich.

For a unique shopping experience, head to Bahnhofstrasse, one of the most exclusive shopping streets in the world.

Here you’ll find luxury boutiques, department stores, and specialty shops, providing endless shopping opportunities.

Outdoor Activities

While Zurich is a bustling city, it’s also surrounded by incredible natural beauty, offering numerous opportunities for outdoor activities. Enjoy a picnic or a peaceful walk around Lake Zurich, which also provides great spots for swimming and sunbathing during summer.

The Uetliberg Mountain is a must-visit destination for hiking and panoramic views of the city and beyond. With well-marked trails and multiple viewpoints, it’s a perfect location for nature lovers and adventurers alike.

Finally, don’t forget to explore the many parks and gardens scattered throughout the city, such as the Rieterpark, the Botanical Garden, or the charming Platzspitz Park too.

But, what about skiing…. I hear what you are saying.

Skiing near Zurich

10. Best Places to Ski in Zurich

Well, you can’t. You can’t actually ski in Zurich, but there are some great ski resorts you can visit close by.

Switzerland is a small country, especially compared to America! You could easily get to most top ski resorts from Zurich in a few hours. But, if you are living in Zurich city and want to hit the slopes, let’s check out 3 great locations nearby!

3 of The Closest Ski Resorts to Zurich

  1. Sattel Hockstuckli

With 14 km or 8.7 miles of slopes and heights of 800 to 1,600m, this resort is a great place to check out. Just under 45mins from Zurich or just over an hour on the train, Sattel is super close, fun, and less pretentious than many other ski resorts.

Skiing in Switzerland close to Zurich.
Travel rout to Zurich ski resorts.
  1. Flumserberg

Higher, larger and closer. Flumserberg features 65km or 40.39 miles of slopes for beginners and intermediate skiers alike. With numerous restaurants and heaps of activities and parks Flumsberg is a must visit. Breaching 2,500m or 8,202 ft there is always good levels of snow in the winter and the best part, it is so close to Zurich

View on Swiss Alps from wooden bridge.

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Map of route to Hoch-Ybrig ski resort outside of Zurich.
  1. Hoch-ybrig

A little longer on the train, and a little shorter in the car and it’s actually in the canton of Schwyz and has around 50km or 31.07 miles of slopes.
With a collection of runs from beginners to advanced and a collection of snow parks, this is an incredible ski resort to check out.

Route map toski resort.
Snowboarding and skiing with freinds near Zurich

The Final Word

Zurich is an incredible city to live in all seasons. It is perfectly positioned for quick European travel or a quick ski getaway after work in winter. It’s clean, green, safe, and oozing in culture too.

You won’t regret moving to this beautiful city!

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