Living in Zurich?

Connect with fellow expats in Zurich
Join exciting events and groups
Get information in our Zurich guides
Exchange tips about expat life in Zurich

Living in Zurich

Are you planning to spend a few years as an expat living in Zurich? Lucky you! You’re going to benefit from one of the most popular destinations worldwide. Our guide to Zurich briefly introduces you to leisure, transportation, healthcare, and education in the city by the River Limmat.

The Good Life! 

Expatriates moving to Switzerland’s most populous city can look forward to the excellent quality of living in Zurich. In the Mercer Quality of Life Survey, the city ranked second out of 200 expat hotspots for the last couple of years. Before 2009, Zurich even used to be the destination with the best quality of life worldwide.

The high rankings for expat living in Zurich are due to several factors. We have already mentioned some in our guide on moving to Zurich: picturesque scenery, an overall lack of pollution (despite a great degree of urbanization), and personal safety. In addition to these benefits, the residents of both city and canton profit from other advantages. Life in Zurich provides countless leisure activities, good transport infrastructure, top-notch medical facilities, and schools for expat kids.

What to Do in Your Leisure Time?

When it comes to making the most out of your spare time, Zurich has something in store for everyone. Local events such as the Sächsilüüte (a spring festival), the Knabenschiessen (a shooting competition and fun fair), and the tri-annual Züri Fäscht combine the touristy and the traditional. Once you’ve dealt with the practical issues of living in Zurich, take some time for sight-seeing: stroll along the lake promenade, sip a cup of hot chocolate at the Confiserie Sprüngli, or admire the panoramic view from the nearby Uetliberg.

Living in Zurich suits culture vultures, party animals, fashionistas, and hobby athletes alike. The city features around 50 museums and 100 galleries, from exhibitions on Swiss national history to cutting-edge design. With various concerts, movie nights, and theater performances, the summer open-air season is a highlight of living in Zurich. Of course, venues like the Zurich Opera House or the Zurich Playhouse offer high-brow entertainment all year long. If you have some energy left after power-shopping in Bahnhofsstrasse or exploring Zurich’s club scene, the Alps are only a stone’s throw away: hiking trails and ski resorts provide fun for outdoor enthusiasts.

The Zurich Tourist Service at the central station or the City of Zurich (cultural office and office for sports and education) can advise you with further details on living in Zurich.

You can find out more about Switzerland’s events, art, and culture in our various in-depth articles on Culture, Shopping & Recreation in Switzerland.

An International Transport Hub

Organizing your daily schedule for living in Zurich is made easier by Zurich’s well-developed transport infrastructure. Expats from overseas arrive via the International Aiport Zürich. The headquarters of the flag carrier Swiss Air over 80 national and international airlines. From here, you can easily reach Zurich by train, or take one of the 15 regional bus lines to the countryside. There are also taxi ranks outside Terminal 1 and 2, but a ride to the city center is rather expensive (ca. 70 CHF).

Expatriates from continental Europe often start their life in Zurich by arriving in the center of town, at the central station. Zurich has various international train connections to Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Southeast Europe, and some other destinations. Moreover, the central station is an important stop for local commuter trains.

Using Local Transport to Discover Zurich

Zurich’s public transport network (the ZVV) includes suburban trains (S-Bahn), buses, especially in rural areas, and trams in Zurich City. If you intend to frequently use public transportation while living in Zurich, purchase a personalized monthly ticket. For daily passengers, this is the cheapest option and the easiest way of navigating various fare zones. Also, if you possess such a personalized ticket, you don’t have to worry about forgetting to validate your ticket. Otherwise, you may have to pay a fine of at least 100 CHF on the spot!

Taxis, however, are the costliest way of getting around in Zurich. There are various taxi companies, all equally expensive. But if it’s late at night or you’re in a hurry, you might remember how to contact Taxi 444 (0 444 444 444).

You can find out more about public transportation in Switzerland in our in-depth article on Switzerland’s extensive public transportation system.

Want to Drive on Your Own? Exchange Your Driving License

If you prefer to drive your own car when living in Zurich, you need to exchange your foreign driver’s license for a Swiss permit within one year.

  • Fill out an application form and attach a passport photo.
  • Do a vision test.
  • Bring along the form, the test results, your foreign license, your alien ID and residence certificate to the Strassenverkehrsamt Zürich.
  • If your foreign license was issued in one of these countries, you’ll simply get the Swiss permit via mail: Andorra, Australia, Canada, Croatia, EU/EFTA member states, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Morocco, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino, Singapore, Taiwan, Tunisia, and the US.
  • Residents from other countries need to pass a practical road test within three months.

Expats living in Zurich can read more about cars and driving in our guide on driving in Switzerland.

For more information on traffic rules and importing your car to Switzerland, please refer to our respective in-depth articles.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Andrey Vasilyev

"I was able to connect with other expats in Zurich who enjoy cycling as much as I do and organize weekly rides."

Elin Gustavson

"At the first InterNations event that I attended, I met my wonderful partner. We now live together in a flat next to the Limmat."

Global Expat Guide

Top Articles Expat Guide