Living in Zurich: a guide to Switzerland's biggest city | Expatica
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Last update on January 25, 2021

Do you plan to live in Zurich city center or one of the surrounding areas such as Zurich West? Or perhaps you’d rather settle on the shores of Lake Zurich. Here’s a guide on where to live in the Swiss city and its sister settlements.

Zurich is often featured as one of the best places to visit in Switzerland. Where do expats live in this Swiss city and what’s it like living in Zurich? The city offers a great range of accommodation for expats. However, the cost of living in Switzerland, particularly within a city center, comes with a high price tag. Choose where to live in Zurich carefully with our guide.

With excellent Swiss schools, high quality of life, easy integration, and low crime rates, Zurich is one of the most highly rated areas of Europe for expats to move to. Expats rank the city highly; in 2016, it was voted the second-best place in the world for expats to enjoy a good quality of life in a survey by Mercer.

While this is good news for people looking for jobs in Zurich, it’s bad news for those entering the property market. Property in Zurich is already expensive, but finding properties for families in the most desirable areas is difficult. With this in mind, this guide covers the city center and lake, neighborhoods around the city, and commuter towns.

Where to live in Zurich city center

While living in the heart of Zurich might sound like an attractive proposition for most expats, it’s best for single people or couples without children. This is because space comes at a premium in many areas, from the trendy loft apartments of Kreis 5 to the university areas of Oberstrass and Unterstrass and former industrial areas of Oerlikon and Affoltern. The cost of living in Zurich can be high. For city bankers and lawyers, Enge and Seefeld are popular options, while older locals prefer the likes of Fluntern and Zurichberg.

The city center of Zurich

The city of Zurich has 12 districts (known as Stadtkreise), with the main areas briefly summarised as follows:

  • Niederdorf – Part of the old town, located to the eastern side of the Limmat river
  • City/Lindenhof – The other part of the old town, to the western side of the river
  • Seefeld – Located on the eastern shore of the lake – increasingly popular and very expensive
  • Langstrasse – Translates literally to ‘Long Street’, this area connects districts 4 and 5 and is one of Zurich’s most cosmopolitan neighborhoods
  • Zurich West – Formerly an industrial area, now one of the city’s best entertainment areas
  • Enge & Wollishofen – On the western shore of the lake – more relaxing than Seefeld
  • Zurich Nord – To the north of Zurich and close to the airport.

Where to live in Zurich’s surrounding towns and cities

As with any city, some areas are more popular with expats than others, depending on what you’re looking for. Here, we take a look at some of the most well-known and popular areas, whether you’re looking to be at the heart of everything or for a quieter pace and better cost of living. Swiss cities have plenty to offer.

Lake Zurich real estate and amenities

Expats looking for a high standard of life within easy reach of the most popular international schools should look around Lake Zurich. While property prices are expensive and living spaces are small, the Gold Coast and Silver Coast offer stunning views of the lake. Elsewhere, popular small villages include Kilchberg, Thalwil, Rüschlikon, and Horgen (Silver Coast) and Zollikon, Kuesnacht, Erlenbach, and Meilin (Gold Coast).

Greifensee (18km from city center)

To the east, the Greifensee district offers value for expats in search of family homes, as well as proximity to Swiss international schools. Greifensee is named after Zurich’s lesser-known lake, and is popular with runners and cyclists. There’s plenty of choice, too, with the larger towns of Uster and Volketswil and a series of smaller villages.

Zurcher Unterland (18km north of the city center)

If you’re looking for more property for your money, the Zurcher Unterland could be the best area to search for a property in Zurich. The villages around Bulach and Dielsdorf are popular with expats with smaller budgets, with affordable homes and English-speaking services. Due to the proximity of the airport, some villages suffer from some noise pollution.

Pfannenstiel and Albis regions (20km southeast of the city center)

On the ridges of the Gold Coast (Pfannenstiel) and Silver Coast (Albiskette), you’ll find a series of small villages that also offer excellent proximity to the local international schools. While prices are also high here, they can be more affordable than those with a view of the lake.

Zurcher Oberland and Weinland (each 25km from city center)

If you speak German, or want to integrate fully into a Swiss lifestyle, areas such as the Zurcher Oberland and Weinland boast beautiful architecture and good-value properties. These neighborhoods require English-speaking expats to step out of their comfort zones a little.

In addition to these popular areas, expats could also consider the following towns:

  • Thalwil (12km from the city center)
  • Herrliberg (15km from the city center)
  • Horgen (15km from the city center)
  • Mannedorf (20km from the city center)
  • Baden (25km from the city center)

Where to live in Zurich’s surrounding areas

Outside of the immediate city boundaries, there are various options for expats who are either looking for a bit more for their money or simply don’t fancy the hustle and bustle of city life. The following three areas all boast public transport routes into Zurich that take half an hour or less.


Aarau isn’t a big city, but it’s very popular with commuters, with Zurich, Basel, and Bern all easily accessible. Boasting garden neighborhoods to the south of the center and modern high rise apartments closer to the train station, Aarau retains its identity despite its popularity for commuters. The old town here offers a pleasant change of pace, with restored cobbles and pedestrianized areas.


Zug made headlines nearly a decade ago for having more companies than people, as bankers registered offshore accounts for their clients there to take advantage of tax rates. While Zug isn’t as exceptionally beautiful as some of its neighbors, it has its own lake and ski hills.


Winterthur is one of Zurich’s more beautiful commuter towns, with rolling hills, lively markets, and stunning views over the city and the Alps from the popular Baumli vantage point. It’s also located only 25 minutes from Zurich by train. This area of Switzerland is also known for its natural beauty.