Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and it’s located in the north-eastern part of the country. It’s surrounded by quite a scenic view with plenty of lakes and rivers. But it’s not just the outdoorsy kind of people that have a reason to move to Zurich. The city is one of wealthiest and the economically strongest in Europe. This, coupled with a friendly taxation system, exceptionally low crime rates, world-class establishments, and unparalleled healthcare, makes it one of the top expat destinations in the world. But all these nice things come at a price, which is our main focus for today.
What is the cost of living in Zurich? The cost of living in this city is very high, even by the standards of an already expensive country. For example, a single person requires about 2,668.96 Euros per month, while a family of four will need 7,427.76 Euros/month to live comfortably. Housing, food, and transportation are the biggest expenses for most households. Expatriates will also have to budget for various taxes, mandatory insurance premiums, and license fees.
The good news is these high costs can be managed by the high salary rates offered in the country. Note that most jobs will require a good knowledge of German, and additional languages like French and English are welcome. You can also rest assured of the best quality of life in the city. There are several ways you can save in Zurich, including using public transport, taking advantage of special offers and discounts, buying at seasonal sales, and living in the outskirts of the city such as Dietikon, Winterthur, and Schlieren. It’s important to anticipate what your living costs in Zurich will be so you can plan your relocation, negotiate a good salary, and ultimately enjoy what the city has to offer. In that case, let’s check some data for different living costs in Zurich:
NOTE: These costs are in Euros. Since Swiss franc is the currency in Switzerland, the conversion rate at the time of writing is 1 Euro (€) equals 1.09 Swiss Franc (CHF).
Monthly Cost of Living in Zurich for a Family
Zurich is a city where most would love to raise their families due to its good quality of education as well as general standards of living. If you’re planning to work and live in Zurich with your family, the ability to afford the high cost of living is definitely one of the questions lingering your mind. In general, a couple with two kids need about 7,500 EUR to get by in Zurich. I’ve outlined some common expenses in the monthly cost of living in Zurich for a family, to paint a picture of what your family might incur:
|Item||Monthly cost for 2 (€)||Monthly cost for 2+ 2 kids (€)|
Other expenses families need to budget for include:
There are several ways to get around the city of Zurich. The most affordable option for families is public transportation. The average cost of a monthly travel pass is 77.67 per person. Families can also consider owning a car for easy mobility within and outside the city. If that’s the case, a liter of gasoline is about €1.53. You’ll also need to budget for parking, which costs €2.74/hour. Last but not least, the city offers the option to rent a car at a cost of about €22 per day.
When moving to a new city with kids, education is often an important factor that needs keen attention. Zurich offers one of the best education systems and quality just like the US and EU. Public schools have high standards and are free, but Swiss German is the language of education. This is a good option for those who plan on settling down in Zurich long-term. There are also bilingual schools that teach the Swiss curriculum in a local language and English. Their annual fees go up to €22, 857. Another alternative is an international or private school, which teaches kids their country’s curriculum in their home language. Tuition fees are very expensive at an average of €28,602.50/year.
There are several crèches where parents can have their young ones watched and cared for while they’re at work. These services don’t come cheap though. Parents will pay anywhere from 50-155 EUR per day. A cheaper option would be to seek the services of a childminder or a baby sitter. An au pair is the most cost-effective option for long-term care. Au pairs are paid a minimum of €456 net per month and work 30 hours/week.
Clothing & Shoes
Shoes and clothes are also important items to consider in a family monthly expenditure. A good leather business shoe for men would cost about €169, a summer dress in a chain store costs €44, while a pair of jeans goes for about €104.
Monthly Cost of Living in Zurich for Single Person
Moving to a new city alone can be as exciting as it is nerve-wracking since you don’t know what awaits you on the other side of the world. There’s the excitement to experience new people, culture, food, environment, and language. On the other hand, there’s fear of fitting into a new culture and learning a new language altogether. However, this shouldn’t be a cause for alarm as you’ll settle and adapt to the environment sooner than you can imagine.
On average, a single person will spend €2,364 on monthly expenses. Below is an overview of the monthly cost of living in Zurich for a single person. This is to be used only as a guide as the actual living costs will depend on your lifestyle.
|Monthly expenses||Average cost /month (€)|
|Personal grooming items||45|
|Basic health cover||275|
In addition to these constant costs, a single person may also need to budge for some variable costs such as entertainment. The most popular leisure and sporting activities in Zurich include watching movies in cinemas, city and nature tours, as well as watching live sports. If you are a sports fanatic, you can rent a court to play for an hour at a cost of €31. A ticket to the cinema, on the other hand, costs €6.5.
Having a clear picture of your monthly expenditure will allow you to negotiate for a favorable salary package and other employee benefits. There are so many tips online to help you live comfortably in a new city. You may want to read up on a few of them to ensure you’re not too frugal or too extravagant. For starters, take advantage of ‘big sale’ discounts to save some money, go jogging or running as opposed to getting a gym membership, and most importantly, make your meals as much as possible to save on food costs.
Monthly Cost of Living in Zurich for Students
Zurich is one of the best study destinations in the world, and there are many facts to support this statement. For starters, the city has world-class universities with some being internationally ranked. This means you can easily find employment in Zurich and beyond since the degrees are recognized worldwide. Being the biggest city in the country also has its perks. It means there’s more to be experienced in terms of social life, which is a huge part of university life.
That being said, the cost of living for students is relatively high by international standards. While the overall costs will depend on an individual’s needs and activities, it’s safe to say that students need between €1,300 and €1,850 for monthly expenses (tuition fees included). To help cover these costs, international students are allowed to take up part-time work so long as it doesn’t affect the progress of their studies. They also have to have been living in the country for over six months. With that said, here’s an overview of the cost of living in Zurich for students:
Universities in Zurich have substantially lower tuition fees compared to other leading higher learning institutions. Tuition fees come to around €1,642.75 annually, though some disciplines like medicine are more expensive. Private universities usually have higher tuition fees that range from 1,500-16,000 EUR annually. Also, some universities charge additional fees for foreign students. In addition to tuition fees, students should budget for teaching materials, which cost between €45 and €137/month, depending on the field of study.
A huge part of a student’s budget goes into accommodation. Very few universities offer the opportunity to live directly on campus. In that case, most students are left with private housing to choose from, which is also quite limited and costly. A room will cost between €350 and €600/month, depending on the location and the level of comfort you’re looking to have. Many students choose to share accommodation to minimize this high expense.
This is the second-most expensive item for a student. You need about 410/month to be able to stock the fridge or eat at the university canteen.
Zurich has an efficient public transportation network, which we’ll discuss in-depth under public transportation. A monthly season ticket costs €60, but discounts are available for students under 25 years. Cycling is a cheaper alternative; that way, you can save some money and keep fit in the process. I don’t recommend buying a car due to the many expenses that come with it.
Basic health cover
Having a health cover is mandatory for all residents. Minimum costs vary depending on the provider but expect a monthly bill ranging from 90-320 Euros. International students who are insured from their home country are exempted, but only if it meets Swiss requirements.
With all these unavoidable expenses to factor in, students may begin to wonder if there’s any money left for leisure activities. It’s best to consider cheaper or even free options like on-campus entertainment, which is cheaper or even taking a dip in one of the many public swimming pools for free.
Average Monthly Costs of Living in Zurich, Switzerland
Monthly Rent for an Apartment
Housing is extremely costly in Zurich, which is why expats and locals alike prefer to rent. You’ll be lucky to get anything below €900 per month, and even if you do, those apartments are way outside the city and mostly unfurnished. Apartments in a convenient location range from €1,800-2,750 per month and a studio in the city with the standard utilities cost about €2,287/month. Here’s an in-depth look at what you should expect to pay for rent in Zurich
|Nr of bedrooms||City center (€)||Outskirts (€)|
While renting is a cost-effective option for expatriates, especially those planning to stay in Zurich for a short while, buying is still an option. However, it will cost you more as the Swiss government often imposes restrictions, which make it difficult for non-nationals to buy a property. Although the cost of buying a property varies from area to area, you should budget for €11,413 per square meter for an apartment in the city center or €7,545/square meter for one outside. Most aspects of getting a mortgage in Zurich are quite similar to other EU countries. As if that’s not enough, their mortgage rates go as little as 1%.
With housing come utility bills. Expend to pay between 86 and 275 EUR per month.
Monthly Cost for Internet Provider
If you intend to work from home or just want to be connected, day and night, then it’s worth securing an internet connection. Internet in Zurich is extremely fast and comes with bundles that rarely bear a data limit. It, however, doesn’t come cheap. Expect to pay an average of 45.34 EUR per month for high-speed internet.
It can be a bit challenging to choose an internet provider in Zurich due to the many available options to choose from. It is worth mentioning that most internet providers in this city provide good and stable internet connections. Plus, most offer internet services as a package deal, which include mobile phone and TV. Here are some of the main internet providers in Zurich with their price ranges:
The Swisscom: This service provider uses the largest fiber-optic broadband network in the country to ensure high-speed internet for all its users. Subscribers also get a free security solution to protect against viruses. Get up to 50Mbit/s for just €59/month, 200Mbit/s for €73/month, or 1Gbit/s for €82/month.
UPC: This is the largest internet provider in the city, and the country at large. They are also among the top providers when it comes to package deals. Thanks to their powerful fibre optic cable network, users rest assured of fast internet. Connect to 600 Mbit/s for just €90/month, 300 Mbit/s for €72/month, or 60 Mbit/s for €54/month. Note that prices are subject to change.
Sunrise: This internet provider offers packages that allow users to surf unlimited with all their devices, even on the go. Mobile internet starts at around €8/month for up to 2Mbit/s. Users can also get internet for up to 200Mbit/s for just 64/month. This, however, involves an additional €54 activation fee and has 12 months minimum contract duration.
Monthly Cost for Mobile Phone Provider
You’ll obviously need a mobile phone package to stay in contact with the people around you. Lucky for you, mobile networks here are some of the most developed telecommunication networks in Europe. With so many options to choose from, those moving here permanently can easily find reasonable deals on SMS, calls, and data, with various Swiss mobile operators.
If you already have a fully functioning mobile phone, you may want to get a package from M-Budget Mobile. They have a mini-plan that costs €19 a month and comes with unlimited calling and texting within the country. The mega package, on the other hand, costs €39/month and allows for unlimited calling and texting within the country and 6 other EU countries, as well as unlimited SMS/MMS in and out of the country.
Another exciting option is CoopMobile. They have a flat offer of €27.39 a month, which allows for endless calls and messages to all Swiss networks and unlimited data usage with high-speed 4G internet. All this is with no minimum contract period.
If you want the most reliable coverage, then you might want to choose Swisscom. They are the largest telecommunications provider in the city, and the country at large, but they also have the highest prices. Their cheapest package costs about €41 per month. With that, you get unlimited calls and texts within the country. For an extra 20 EUR/month, you get unlimited calls to EU countries. Prepaid calls to countries within the EU cost 55 cents/minute.
It is good to shop around and compare contract terms before you settle on a provider. Subscriptions usually last for a period of 12 to 24 months and could be extended automatically in case you don’t place a written cancellation request.
Monthly Cost for Health Insurance
Private healthcare is compulsory for anyone living in this city. Expatriates must get a policy with 90 days of arrival. A health cover is far from being cheap, but it does provide access to one of the world’s best healthcare. Monthly premiums average at around €412, although you can still find good policies for less. Be careful though with low-cost policies; they can easily leave you with huge hospital bills given the high cost of healthcare in Zurich.
It pays to shop around and find a suitable plan for your needs. Those on any kind of long-term medication need to confirm whether it’s covered by their policy. Note that dental care is not catered for by the basic health cover. Many Swiss residents, therefore, opt to supplement it with a private supplementary cover in a bid to gain access to a broad range of services or better accommodation if they got admitted in the hospital.
Monthly Cost for Groceries
The perfect way to save on food in Zurich is to cook your food. Also, remember to carry your leftovers or sandwich instead of eating out. The main supermarkets include Aldi, Migros, and COOP. Instead of the pricey beef, concentrate more on chicken for your protein needs. If you can stick to vegetables and other pantry items, expect to spend around €67 to €100 on food/week for a single person, and around €250/week for a family. Shopping after 5 pm may help you save a few coins on perishable items.
Here is a list of some groceries that you’re likely to need and their prices in Euros:
|1 liter of milk||1.56|
|A dozen of eggs||4.92|
|1kg of local cheese||24.21|
|A loaf of bread||2.67|
|1kg of tomatoes||3.84|
|1kg of potatoes||2.56|
|1kg of white rice||2.40|
|1kg of beef round||46.65|
|1kg of chicken breasts||25.26|
Monthly Cost for Eating Out
You will easily find good restaurants and cafés in almost every district in Zurich. Though quite expensive, most of these restaurants serve good quality food. Lunch in an average restaurant will cost you around €22.84 per person, while a combo meal in fast food restaurant costs €13. Expect to pay €3.28 for water, €6.4 for domestic beer, €4.59 for a regular cappuccino, and €15 for a cocktail drink in a downtown club. Note that set menus often cost less than à la carte.
Other fun activities to do for leisure include going to the movies, which costs €16.45 for one seat. Theatre tickets are a bit more costly at €177 for two seats. Art and opera exhibitions, on the other hand, tend to be cheaper, costing around €13-18 per person.
The Monthly Cost of Public Transport
Owning and maintaining a car is very costly in Zurich and frankly quite unnecessary for most expats. Parking spaces are scarce; not to mention parking fees can quickly add up. The best way to get around the city is on foot together with the extensive and excellent public transportation network of trams, buses, boats, and trains. You can find a ZVV tram or bus stop at intervals of 300 meters. One-way tickets are around €3.84.
Daily commuters can take advantage of the numerous discount cards available to minimize costs. This includes the Swiss travel pass, the Zurich card, and the junior card for kids. Once you purchase either of these cards, you can enjoy unlimited travel with public transportation throughout the city. Expect to pay around €102 for a monthly pass. Taxis charge from €3.65 per km on a normal tariff.
Average Salary in Zurich
In keeping with the high cost of living, salaries in Zurich are also high. Research shows that the average gross salary in this city is CHF 115,661 (€105,581) per year, CHF 10,469 (€9,555)/month, and CHF 60 (€54.77)/hour.
The most popular gross salary is 85,646/year, education requirement is a Master’s degree, working experience requirement is 4-8 years, and popular industries include IT, banking, and financial services.
Salaries differ significantly among different companies. Here’s a look at some of the popular employers with their average salary in Zurich:
Credit Suisse: Average Salary is €108,214
UBS: Average Salary is €100,310
UBS AG: Average Salary is €106,450
Google, Inc.: Average Salary is €113,349
Salaries also vary depending on jobs; see below for average salaries for specific job titles.
|Career||The average gross annual salary in Zurich (€)|
|Nursery school teacher||54,350|
|Software engineer||105, 192|
Cost Of Living in Zurich vs Copenhagen
While both cities are among the best cities for quality of life, they do have varying living costs. In fact, living in Zurich costs 32% more than it does in Copenhagen, Denmark. Consumer prices are 47.9% higher in Zurich than in Copenhagen.
Food in Zurich is so expensive; it’s over 80% higher than food costs in Copenhagen. Housing is the second most expensive item in Zurich at 22.6% more than in Copenhagen. This includes both renting and buying. Utilities, however, cost less in Zurich. Public transportation is over 40% costlier in Zurich than in Copenhagen. However, those looking to buy a car can take advantage of the cheaper costs in Zurich.
Other items that cost more in Zurich than in Copenhagen include childcare, gasoline, clothing & shoes, as well as sports & leisure. It seems like virtually everything costs more in Zurich than in Copenhagen. Here’s a more specific comparison of cost of living in Zurich vs Copenhagen:
|Expense||Cost in Zurich (€)||Cost in Copenhagen (€)|
|Meal (cheap restaurant)||22.80||16.08|
|Fast food combo meal||12.73||10.05|
|Monthly travel pass||77.54||53.61|
|1L of gasoline,||1.53||1.50|
|1-bedroom apartment in the city center||1627||1218|
|Buying an apartment (center)||11,393.73/m2||6,401.88/m2|
Cost Of Living in Zurich vs London
Zurich and London may both be European countries’ largest cities, but there’s a significant difference when it comes to the cost of living in Zurich vs London. As for deciding which is best, the answer is subjective as it all depends on each individual’s needs and opportunities.
Generally, it costs 18% more to live in Zurich than it does living in London, United Kingdom. Consumer prices are 61.30% higher in Zurich than in London. Research shows that expatriates will need €6,670.86 to maintain the same living standards they can have with €5,142.86 in London.
Food is the most costly expense in Zurich ahead of London. This includes the cost of eating out, where restaurants cost 58% more in Zurich than in London. The cost of groceries is also 2.4 times more in Zurich.
Other things you would pay more for in Zurich instead of London include childcare, entertainment & sports, clothing, and personal care.
Housing, on the other hand, is cheaper in Zurich. For instance, renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city center costs €1,627.47 and €1,902.00 in Zurich and London respectively.
Other cheaper things in Zurich than in London include buying a house, buying a vehicle, public transport, and basic utilities.
Cost of living in Zurich VS San Francisco
The spoken languages might be different but Zurich and San Francisco, CA, United States are both home to many different cultures. Although prices are comparable, the overall cost of living is a bit more expensive in Zurich than in San Francisco at about 4% more. Plus, San Francisco has overthrown Zurich as the city with the highest salaries and most disposable income due to the growing tech industry in the bay area.
The first difference in the cost of living in Zurich VS San Francisco is seen in housing. Zurich isn’t all expensive as housing, which is the biggest expense in every household, is considerably cheaper there than in San Francisco. For instance, renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city center costs €1,627.47/month in Zurich but €3,114.38/month in San Francisco. A 3-bedroom apartment in the same area goes for 3,013.60/month and 5,633.62/month in Zurich and San Francisco respectively.
On the other hand, if you lived in Zurich instead of San Francisco, expect to pay over 50% more for restaurants, 40% more for groceries, 10% more for childcare, and 37.3% more for clothing. The cost of transportation is a bit comparable but still higher in Zurich.
Cost Of Living in Zurich vs New York
Although most prices are about the same in both cities, the overall cost of living in Zurich is still 28.8 % higher than in New York. You’d need around €6,681.46/month in Zurich to maintain the same living standards you’d have with €7,056.42/month in New York. To help break down the cost of living in Zurich VS New York, here’s a look at common expenses in both cities:
Food: Food in Zurich is pricey. A basic lunch in a cheap restaurant costs 22.80 in Zurich but 16.28 in New York. Groceries are also just as expensive in Zurich.
Housing: Despite having high living costs, housing in Zurich is quite cheaper than in New York. For instance, renting a one-bedroom apartment in the city center of Zurich is €1,627.47, which is over 70% lower than the €2,814.99/month you’d pay in New York. Furnishing the apartment and basic utilities will cost more in Zurich though.
Transport: The cost of transportation is a bit comparable. Public transportation is cheaper in Zurich with a monthly travel pass going for €77.54 as opposed to the €114.89 you’d pay in New York. On the other hand, gasoline and taxis are cheaper in New York.
Clothing and shoes: Filling your wardrobe requires a lot more money in Zurich than in New York.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.