Saunders 1865 | Moving to Zürich

Moving to Zürich

Are you moving to Zürich? Zürich is Switzerland’s largest city, with German as its first language. The 2015 Mercer report found that Zürich is the 2nd best place to live out of a total of 230 countries studied, due to its high standards of health, education, safety, housing, recreation and transport, surpassed only by Vienna. It is home to the world’s fourth largest stock exchange, and is Switzerland’s financial capital. Mercer rates it the costliest city for expats to live in. The airport and the railway station are the busiest in the country, linking the city to the whole of Europe.

The home of FIFA, the nearby Alps and green, open spaces, make Zürich a major sporting city.

Our free, in-depth Moving to Zürich report includes info on:

• The best areas to live
• The good schools
• The average monthly rental prices
• The excellent public transport system in the city

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Putting Zürich on the Map

Situated in north-central Switzerland at the north-western tip of Lake Zürich, the old part of the city borders the River Limmat, which flows out of the lake.  The historic city centre is the Lindenhof, a small hill on the river’s west bank, with the boundaries of the old town easily recognisable by the artificial watercourse, the Schanzengraben canal.  This canal was used during the construction of the third fortress in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Zürich has excellent transport links, with the S-Bahn (local trains), trams and buses.    Other options include boats across the lake and the river, funicular railways and the LAF, and a cable car between Felsenegg and Adliswil.  All tickets purchased can be used on boats, buses, trams and trains.  The ZSG is the operator for passenger boats on the lake and river, and connects a series of towns between Rapperswil and Zürich.

Zürich HB is the busiest and largest railway station in the country, and is an important European hub.  With between 350 000 and 500 000 commuters making use of the trains on a daily basis, this is a significant portion of the population. It is also the most serviced station in the world, with 2915 trains per day.  This, along with the 16 other train stations and an additional 10 train stops, are all within the city borders.

Zürich’s airport is less than 6.2 miles northeast of the city, in Kloten.  It has its own underground railway station, connecting to Zürich and most other major Swiss cities.  There is a second airfield in Dubendorf.

The city suffers from high levels of traffic congestion, but cycle lanes facilitate those who wish to commute by bicycle.  This is vigorously encouraged, not only because of the traffic, but also Zürich is a world-leader in climate control, making a conscious effort to protect the environment.

The Areas

As always, the closer to the city centre, the more expensive.  Areas surrounding the Limmat are almost completely developed with commercial, industrial and residential zones.  The central Altstadt, or the Old Town, with its picturesque lanes, echo its pre-medieval history, with gorgeous waterfront walks following the river toward the 17th Century town hall, or Rathaus.

Further out in the suburbs the properties are cheaper and more spacious, with great train links for commuters.  The most pressing concern is the location of the school for your children.

The apartments are boxy and modern, so you won’t be living in a Swiss chalet.  Single-family homes are rare, and only found in the suburbs.


Although expensive, the city is the answer for singles or couples with older children.  Kreis 5 is one of the trendier areas, close to the university, along with Oerlikon and Affoltern, both of which were industrial areas converted to loft living, and are close to the vibrant night life, pubs and restaurants.

Poplular with the banking sector and attorneys, Seefled and Enge are quieter areas, with all the restaurants closing on Sundays.

Zürichberg and Fluntern are more suited to the older, more affluent expats, and are in close proximity to the zoo.

There are lovely parks and tree-lined streets, so one is always in reach of a break from the hustle and bustle of the nearby busy street life.

Rental properties are well maintained, with modern features and under-floor heating, although not much in the way of character features will be found.


Extremely popular with expat families, the views of the lake are quite spectacular.  The Gold Coast is the area to the right, and was named due to the sun’s reflection on the water, the opposite side is called the Silver Coast.  The Silver Coast features popular villages such as Thalwil, Horgen, Kilchberg and Rüschlikon.  Meilen, Küsnacht, Erlanbach and Zollikon lay on the Gold Coast.  With international schools on both sides, and shops and amenities catering to English-speaking residents, the area is expensive but the homes are not really spacious.


Both of the villages are on the ridges with Pfannenstiel on the Gold Coast ridge, and the Silver Coast’s ridge called the Albiskette.  Popular for the nearby international schools and proximity to the city, properties don’t necessarily have views of the lake, but are more affordable than Lake Zürich.  While the areas are not English-speaking, and this includes shops and after-school activities, they are still within easy reach of the Lake suburbs.


This area is north of the city and close to the airport.  More and more foreigners, who don’t have the high financial expat packages, are moving to areas around Dielsdorf and Bülach.  The more reasonable property prices, and the growth of the English-speaking community and amenities attract young families, and although residents are subjected to the noise of the planes, it is not intolerable.


Greifensee is the other lake within the canton of Zurich.  A lovely green area, the nature reserve offers open spaces for jogging, cycling and pleasant walks.  Offering better value for money, a number of expats choose to reside here, with their children commuting to the nearby international and local schools.  Two of the larger towns, Volketswil and Uster have a good infrastructure, while the smaller villages surrounding the lake do not.  The rolling hills and picturesque farmlands and views of the Alps, with a more than decent public transport system, makes the city not too far away, offering peace and quiet and is more conducive to raising a family.

There are various other areas in the canton of Zurich, but they can be more challenging for non-German speaking expats.  However, should the families wish to integrate fully, and enjoy a more Swiss way of life, Weinland and Zürcher Oberland are beautiful.  In many of the smaller villages the shops will close for lunch, and will shut up shop earlier in the evening than in the larger towns.

The high standard of living makes Zürich a great place in which to live.  Depending on the budget available, the need to be close to an international school, or for a family to be in a mainly English-speaking community, will determine the areas to choose from.

Who lives and works in Zürich

Widely thought of as a financial hub, insurance and banking make up a large portion of the economy.  However, it is also a leader in research and industry.  70 000 companies generate around one-fifth of Switzerland’s GDP, with a broad spectrum of internationally successful industries.  These include the high-tech sector, health and pharma, computer design, agriculture, and tourism.  Swiss international companies include Glencore, Nestle, Novartis, Zürich Insurance, Roche, Credit Suisse, ABB, Alliance Boots, Migros and Coop.

There are many SMEs, small and medium enterprises, with 250 employees or less, though many have a maximum of 4 staff.

The highly-educated workforce has a high rate of PhDs and other doctoral degrees.  Quick fact; in 2014 the Swiss had the highest number of citizens with doctoral degrees on the globe.

Switzerland consistently maintains its title as a world leading international wealth management centre.  In the period 2008 to 2014, its share on international market volume grew 7%, with domestic market volume growing by an incredible 43%.

The Best Bits

The city is safe with extremely low crime rates, good salaries, great broadband and proximity to the Alps all making this a very desirable area in which to reside.

Outdoor life is a big thing here, skiing, ice skating and snowboarding in the winter, cycling, running, organised sports and climbing in the summer.

Extremely scenic, set either side of the glistening lake and framed by the Alps, with the narrow alleyways and quirky shops, hours can be spent just strolling and browsing.    Open-air swimming pools or scenic spas offer relaxation and healthy exercise.

Window shopping in the most expensive street in the world, Bahnhofstrasse, with its many good restaurants, pubs and clubs will while away many hours.

There are many museums, including Kunsthaus, which caters to lovers of art and includes sculptures created by Alberto Giacometti, and works of Chagall, Monet and Van Goch, all displayed on the top floor.  There is free admission on Wednesdays.

Kreis 5, or the Industriequartier, has the Viadukt; bars, restaurants and shops built into the arches of the old railway viaduct, between Hardbrücke station and the Limmat.  This unique area was originally old warehouses, and is fast becoming the heart of the town.

The scenic Botanical Gardens offers bicycles on a deposit system, but with no rental to pay.

For swimmers, the Seebad Enge has swimming coaches, yoga, a sauna and a beautician, along with music recitals.  The Badi Enge is a dedicated area for mixed and woman-only swimming during daylight hours, and becomes a concert venue with a bar after 7pm.

Bringing the Kids

Zürich boasts a high standard of reputable Swiss education.  With a choice between state-funded, private or international schools, you can be sure that your children are getting educated at an extremely high standard in your time abroad.

State funded schools offer students free education between the ages of four and 15.  If you are looking to integrate your kids into proper Swiss life, then this is the answer.  They will be taught in German, with English and French lessons.  This is ideal for young children starting their school life, or older kids who already speak fluent German.  The standard is high, so it is a worthwhile option.  However, these schools finish in the early afternoon, so childcare would need to be organised for a family with both parents out at work.

Private schools, or bilingual schools, offer teaching in German, and French or English.  This top-class education offers great extra murals including sport, music, art or drama.

A number of these schools follow the Swiss curriculum, with others offering the option of the International Baccalaureate or IGCSE.  These schools offer the advantage of allowing the children to improve their German whilst studying in their home language.

Fees are charged, depending on the school.  Plus, parents will need to purchase uniforms, stationery, excursions and extramural activities.

There is a number of International Schools in Zürich, but with exceptionally high fees.  Space is limited with a lot of competition for places.  It is best to apply to a number of these schools, in order to guarantee a place.  But then your child can continue studying the curriculum of their home country, with no language barriers.  Made up mostly of expatriated children, they relate to each other really well.

Zürich is very clean and safe.  Children of six years of age are often sent to the corner shops to buy staples.  Young kids at kindergarten often walk to and from school unattended, while 10-year olds catch public transport to school and extra-curricular activities.  Reasonable care must be taken, though.

The parks and playgrounds are clean enough for the children to play barefoot.

Relocating to Zürich

Zürich is a beautiful city with historic buildings, dominated by the Alps, the lake, and the river.  The revamped areas add to the character, while the accommodation is well-maintained and modern.  The education is excellent, the crime rate very low and the workforce is highly educated.  The thriving economy, based on the world-renowned Swiss banking system, along with tourism, industry, and pharma make it an excellent city for expats to work and be educated in.

It is still a major culture shift for the expatriated family.  With complex choices to be made for your children’s education, along with suitable housing in an area with reasonable commuting available for the working parents, it is very easy to be confused and thrown off balance initially.  There is a shortage of available accommodation, so competition and prices for good quality rentals is high.

Saunders 1865 offer a complete relocation service, with an area expert helping you and your family settle in, including finding schools and homes, negotiating rentals, general information on all the area options and guiding you through some of the essential services available.


City Centre
Good Schools
Great Transport
Museums & Galleries
Young Professionals
Average Monthly Rent - Zürich
Apartment (1 bedroom) in city centre 1,792 Fr.
Apartment (1 bedroom) outside of centre 1,397 Fr.
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in city centre 3,330 Fr.
Apartment (3 bedrooms) outside of centre 2,485 Fr.
Contact us for a free initial consultation about your specific situation.
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