Take your Swiss food shopping to the next level with our expat guide to supermarkets and grocery stores in Switzerland.
Surrounded by Italy, France, and Germany, it’s safe to say that the Swiss know a thing or two about good food. And what better way to get under the skin of the local cuisine than by exploring your local grocery store? As any expat will tell you, supermarket shopping quickly becomes an unexpected highlight of living abroad. And Swiss supermarkets are no exception to that.
If you’ve recently moved to Switzerland, it can be tough to know which supermarkets you should be hitting and how the food buying process works. So to ensure you don’t go hungry, here’s our guide to supermarkets and grocery stores in Switzerland, including information on the following:
- Grocery shopping in Switzerland
- Supermarkets in Switzerland
- Things you need to know about Swiss supermarkets
- Food delivery services in Switzerland
- Ethnic grocery stores in Switzerland
- Food shopping at Swiss markets
- Specialty stores in Switzerland
- Health food shopping in Switzerland
- Convenience stores
- Liquor stores in Switzerland
- Buying groceries from your home country
Grocery shopping in Switzerland
Whether you’ve just arrived in Basel, Bern, or elsewhere, the local supermarket is probably one of the first places you will visit in Switzerland. However, before you go wild in the aisles, you will probably realize that grocery shopping in Switzerland is a little different from what you might be used to. But don’t let that put you off because there is plenty to tantalize your taste buds when exploring those grocery store shelves.
Alternatively, if you would rather avoid those busy supermarkets, you have some other options in Switzerland. There are daily markets in some towns and cities where you can buy fresh food from local producers, such as dairy and meat. If that sounds too much like hard work, though, you can always sign up for a meal kit delivery service. These deliver fresh ingredients and recipes straight to your door. And if you don’t even feel like cooking for yourself? Well, you’ll find plenty of decent restaurants and a few delivery services operating across Switzerland.
Supermarkets in Switzerland
Swiss supermarkets come in all sorts of shapes and sizes; from the bulky, US-style out-of-town hypermarkets to the suburban superstores and the small, city center grocery stores. Therefore, you have plenty of choices when it to comes to shopping. However, it’s important to know where you should be heading to meet all your grocery needs. Essentially, all Swiss supermarkets stock a wide range of goods and as you would expect, this includes a lot of dairy products.
If you are living in the center of a big city like Zurich, Geneva, or Basel, you will find smaller supermarkets in more urban areas. These sell everything you need in terms of food and drink, but not a great deal else. In suburban areas, meanwhile, larger supermarkets stock more variety and a wider range of non-food items. At the edge of towns, you’ll find hypermarket-style stores which are easily accessed by car and, typically, some public transport connections. These can sell everything from bread and fruit to home electronics and clothes.
As you might expect, grocery shopping in Switzerland isn’t the cheapest. In fact, you can expect to pay significantly more for everyday items in Swiss supermarkets than you would in other European countries. Because of this, many people living near the borders even travel to neighboring countries to do their weekly shop. You can read our guides to French supermarkets and German grocery stores for more information on these options. However, don’t worry if you’re not near a border because supermarkets in Switzerland can be more affordable if you know where to go.
Swiss supermarket chains
There are a number of supermarket chains operating in Switzerland. While most of these are nationwide, some cantonal disparities do exist. You may not have the entire selection of supermarkets to choose from in your local area, but you should be able to meet your needs. Some of the largest Swiss supermarket chains include:
- Migros: The biggest Swiss supermarket chain has over 600 large stores across the country. Migros is a cooperative, and around 2 million Swiss residents are members. Stores sell everything but cigarettes and alcohol.
- Coop: Another cooperative, Coop has well over a thousand stores. Products are typically slightly more expensive than Migros, but unlike their major rivals, Coop stores sell cigarettes and alcohol.
- Denner: The third-largest Swiss supermarket has stores across the country. Despite being owned by Migros, Denner stores stock a range of alcohol alongside more reasonably-priced groceries.
- Spar: The Dutch retailer operates a network of smaller stores across Switzerland. Typically found in more rural areas and city centers, products can be a little more expensive.
- Volg: The fourth-largest Swiss retailer is Volg. Stores can be found in rural towns and villages throughout German- and French-speaking Switzerland.
As well as these supermarkets, you’ll also find a number of other stores. Some will be regional or local shops, while others will be independent grocery stores. Either way, don’t be afraid to head inside and see what’s on offer.
Discount supermarket chains in Switzerland
As in most European countries, you will find a number of discount supermarkets in Switzerland. These stores offer a no-frills shopping experience, with cheaper groceries but less choice. Leading discount supermarkets in Switzerland include:
- Lidl: The German discounter has around 150 stores across Switzerland. Stores sell a narrow range of food and non-food items for affordable prices.
- Aldi Suisse: The local name for the German discount supermarket, Aldi, Aldi Suisse has over 200 stores in the country, making it Switzerland’s largest discount grocery chain.
Swiss specialty and organic supermarkets
Looking for something the normal supermarkets don’t stock? Whether you’re after the latest superfood, the best local organic produce, or simply something a little more indulgent, you have several options in Switzerland. These are some of the leading Swiss specialty supermarkets:
- Manor: If you’re looking to take your grocery shopping to the highest level, then check out the food retailer of the Manor department store chain. You can expect to pay more for luxury goods and high-quality products.
- Globus: Another high-end food retailer, this is the supermarket from the Globus department store that has top-quality delicatessen foods and offers a home delivery service for all your party needs.
- Alnatura: Switzerland’s leading bio-supermarket is actually owned by Migros. You’ll find the widest range of organic produce here, although most supermarkets stock decent amounts.
Supermarket opening times in Switzerland
When compared to other European countries, Swiss supermarket opening times are fairly conservative. For instance, you won’t find any 24-hour hypermarkets here, and your options are severely limited in the evenings and at weekends. Most stores open around 08:00 or 09:00 in the morning and then close around 18:00 or 19:00. Some larger stores and city center outlets may stay open later, but only for an hour or so. In rural areas, some supermarkets may even close at lunchtime. That said, opening times can vary significantly between chains and locations, so check ahead to avoid turning up at a closed supermarket.
Swiss supermarkets are typically closed on Sundays, apart from the occasional Sunday in the run-up to Christmas. If you’re in need of some last-minute groceries, you’ll probably be able to find some smaller marts open. These are typically at fuel stations or public transit hubs. However, these stores can be significantly more expensive than the already pricey Swiss supermarkets. Therefore, you may want to plan ahead or treat yourself to a meal out or home delivery on Sunday.
Things you need to know about Swiss supermarkets
If you’re new to Switzerland, here are a few things you should be aware of before you reach for your shopping basket:
- Think about your drinks: Remember that Migros doesn’t sell alcohol or cigarettes, so you’ll need to stop by somewhere else if you need to stock up on any wine, beer, or spirits.
- Bring some coins: If you’re planning to buy a lot, you’ll probably need a shopping cart. If you do, bring some CHF 1 or CHF 2 coins as a deposit. You can get them back once you’ve finished and returned the cart.
- And some bags: As in many other European countries, the locals bring their own reusable, heavy-duty shopping bags. If you forget, you should be able to pick some up in-store, but you’ll need to pay for them.
- Watch those opening hours: Swiss supermarkets close earlier than you might expect and don’t open at all on Sunday. Therefore, plan ahead to avoid going hungry, or head to the small stores in train and fuel stations which stay open longer.
- Look out for budget ranges: Swiss grocery stores are expensive, there’s no getting around it. But the bigger chains have their own budget ranges which can save you money in the long run.
- There’s no medicine: You won’t find painkillers and other basic medicines on the shelves of Swiss supermarkets. You will need to find your nearest pharmacy, instead.
Food delivery services in Switzerland
If you’re unable to visit your local grocery store, or simply prefer the convenience of having your food shopping delivered to your home, then you’re in luck because Switzerland has a number of different food delivery options. For starters, most major chains offer delivery services, letting you shop online and have your goods delivered during your chosen timeslot. Alternatively, your local store may offer a collection service where you can pick up your groceries from a designated point.
There are other Swiss delivery options, too. These include the increasingly popular food boxes that offer seasonally fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, and more that are collected directly from local producers. There are also meal-kit recipe boxes, which contain fresh ingredients selected for recipes you choose in advance. Meal-kit providers in Switzerland include:
Fortunately, if spending the evening in the kitchen sounds too much like hard work, then you don’t have to cook in Switzerland. The alpine nation has a surprising number of restaurant options in its major cities; ranging from neighborhood snack bars to haute cuisine. And if you’re staying in, you’ve got a few delivery platforms that operate throughout the country, including the following:
On these platforms, you’ll be able to connect with your favorite takeouts and restaurants from your neighborhood. Whether feasting with family or hosting friends, all you have to do is sit back and wait for your food to arrive.
Ethnic grocery stores in Switzerland
For a relatively small country, Switzerland has a surprisingly diverse population. This diversity means that it is easier than ever to find ethnic supermarkets and grocery stores throughout the country. These are mostly concentrated in the bigger Swiss cities, such as Zurich, Basel, and Geneva. That said, you might be surprised at what stores you come across in Switzerland. These shops stock a much wider range of foreign food products, particularly from Middle Eastern, Asian, and Eastern European cuisine.
Generally speaking, you’ll find these ethnic grocery stores are much cheaper than the standard Swiss supermarkets for certain items. These include herbs and spices, certain dried goods, and other foreign ingredients. You’ll also find some stores that stock UK and US brands in larger cities. These can be great if you’re craving something particular from home, however, be aware that these stores can be expensive.
Food shopping at Swiss markets
Feel like getting some fresh air while you stock up on your weekly groceries? Then why not check out your local food market? If you’re living in any of Switzerland’s large towns and cities, you’ll soon become acquainted with the local markets. Here, you’ll be able to pick up everything from fresh produce and meat to locally-produced jams and hand-crafted chocolates. Visiting these markets is a great way to live sustainably in Switzerland, and there is something a little magical about wandering around Swiss markets, taking in all the sights, sounds, and smells.
The biggest and best markets can be found in Switzerland’s main cities, and visiting these can be a day’s entertainment in itself. If you’re looking for some unforgettable food markets, check out Geneva’s ever-popular Carouge Market or Zurich’s Helvetiaplatz Market. These are both twice-weekly, and definitely not to be missed if you want to peruse the very best and freshest food Switzerland has to offer. For more local options, though, it’s best to check websites and forums where you live and see what you can find.
Specialty stores in Switzerland
For many expats living in Switzerland, the best thing about being at the heart of Europe is all the excellent specialty stores that quickly become a part of everyday life. You’ll find the best variety of these stores in larger towns and cities, but you’ll be surprised at your options wherever you are. The selection and names of these local stores will largely depend on where you live, but here are some to look out for:
- Bakery: Boulangerie/Bäckerei/panetteria
- Butcher: Boucherie/Metzger/macelleria
- Fishmonger: Poissonnerie/Fischhändler/pescheria
Health food shopping in Switzerland
Generally speaking, the Swiss are a health-conscious bunch when it comes to food. Therefore, you will find a decent range of fresh and organic produce at most supermarkets, while dedicated chains like Alnatura stock a much greater range of these items. There are also many markets across the country where you’ll be able to stock up on fresh, organic produce straight from the farmers themselves. However, if you’re looking for something a little more niche, then you’ll want to check out the many health food stores Switzerland has to offer.
As you might expect, you will find a greater selection of health food stores in the larger Swiss towns and cities. These stock health products, vitamins, alternative remedies, and much more. They can also be a great place to pick up organic cosmetics as well as natural and organic foods for babies and children. Swiss health food stores include:
However, when exploring your new home, you’ll soon realize that many of these health food stores are independently-owned. You can check online to find your nearest Swiss health food store.
Need to grab a quick bite? Forgotten one of the all-important ingredients for tonight’s dinner? Don’t worry. Switzerland has you covered with its network of convenience stores. These are mostly independently-owned and serve local neighborhoods or towns. Convenience stores at train stations and fuel stations are your best bet if you’re looking for groceries late at night or on Sundays.
Liquor stores in Switzerland
Buying alcohol in Switzerland is not as straight forward as you might expect because while Swiss supermarkets are allowed to sell alcohol, the country’s largest chain, Migros, does not. However, you’ll find a wide range of beers, wines, and spirits on sale at most other supermarkets. If you prefer the knowledge and selection of your local wine merchant or liquor store, though, you can simply search online to find your nearest.
Essentially, the legal age to buy alcohol in Switzerland depends on what you are buying. For instance, the law is set at 18 for spirits and 16 for most other drinks, including beer and wine. And as always in Switzerland, you can expect to pay a little more than you are used to. If you live near a border, however, you may want to consider hopping over and stocking up somewhere a little cheaper.
Buying groceries from your home country
Missing your favorite groceries from home? Well, luckily, many Swiss supermarkets offer a small selection of foreign foods. In larger stores, you may even find a world foods section with products from around Europe and beyond. Some cities also have international grocery stores. However, if these aren’t convenient, a growing number of online grocery stores can deliver your favorite foods from home directly to your door in Switzerland. You can explore our directory listings to find out more about this.