Living in Zurich
Zurich is a city where the quality of life is among the best in the world. As Switzerland's largest city it is rich in culture, and it is regarded as safe. Its central location makes it the ideal starting point for excursions. Bern, Lucerne, Basel and Schaffhausen can all be reached in less than an hour by train. Famous places in the Alps like Pilatus, Säntis, the Rigi and even the Jungfraujoch are only a little further away.
As the home of international companies and prestigious universities, Zurich is characterised by its many lively communities of people from other countries. About 30% of the people living in Zurich are not of Swiss nationality. The inhabitants are regarded as very cosmopolitan, and most of them speak English or French.
Some of the international societies and clubs:
Children speaking a different language normally settle in very quickly and easily in Zurich. As well as the excellent state schools there are numerous international and bilingual schools – from kindergartens to high schools. Children are already taught English and French at state primary schools, and at some ordinary high schools you can take the International Baccalaureate.
Find out more about Childcare here.
Part of the attraction of Zurich lies in its lakeside position and its proximity to the Alps. There are numerous restaurants, cafés and bars to suit every culinary taste. In summer, the surrounding area with its many lakes and hilly countryside is a lovely place for hiking, climbing (German) and cycling.
When the weather gets colder, opera, theatre, cinemas, museums (German), clubs and bars offer attractive alternatives. Skiers and snowboarders will find beautiful snow-capped mountains just a short distance away.
The Swiss Railways (SBB) offer package deals on excursions that include rail travel, accommodation and sports passes.
Find out more about leisure activities here:
- Zurich Tourist Office
- Free Walk Zurich
- Swiss Tourist Office
- Schweiz Mobil
- Boat rides on Lake Zurich
- Going out in Zurich (German)
- Züritipp - Culture (German)
- Sports Office of the City of Zurich
For people living in the city of Zurich...
The city of Zurich invites new arrivals to a welcome event, which includes a city tour. Participants will be offered practical advice about everyday life in the city of Zurich. For the dates of the next events and information on how to register, click here.
The “Daily Life in Zurich” integration course for women, which is run by the city of Zurich, is offered in various different languages and helps women who do not speak German to find their way around Zurich and settle in.
Zurich benefits from excellent air, rail and road connections. Eurocity and Intercity trains from all points of the compass stop at the centrally located Main Station. Zurich Airport is just a few minutes away from the university.
There is an excellent public transport network in the city, combining urban railways, trams, buses and boats. The Science City Link connects the two ETH campuses, Central and Hönggerberg, in about 15 minutes.
- Zürcher Verkehrsverbund (Zurich Transport Association): Timetable for trams, buses, boats and trains (German)
- Zürichsee Schifffahrt (Shipping Company of Lake Zurich)
- Schweizerische Bundesbahnen ("SBB", Swiss Railways)
Out and about ...
Foreign driving licences are also valid in Switzerland. However, they must be converted into a Swiss driving licence within a year of the date on which you arrive in Switzerland. The procedure for conversion depends on the country that issued your driving licence.
You hold a driving licence from an EU or EFTA country or from one of the following countries: Andorra, Australia, Canada, Croatia, Israel, Japan, Korea (Republic), Monaco, Morocco, New Zealand, San Marino, Singapore, Taiwan, Tunisia or USA
You must hand in your existing driving licence at the Strassenverkehrsamt (Road Traffic Office) or at the Residents’ Registration Office in person, together with an application form. To complete the application form you also need a (recent) passport-sized colour photograph and evidence of an eyesight test conducted by an optician or ophthalmologist. You must present the original of your identity document for foreign nationals. If this is in credit card format, you must also provide confirmation of residence and your date of arrival in Switzerland. Your Swiss driving licence will then be sent to you by post. The Road Traffic Office will return your foreign driving licence to the country of issue.
You hold a driving licence from a different country
You must hand in your existing driving licence at the Strassenverkehrsamt (Road Traffic Office) or at the Residents’ Registration Office in person, together with an application form. To complete the application form you also need a (recent) passport-sized colour photograph and evidence of an eyesight test conducted by an optician or ophthalmologist. You must present the original of your identity document for foreign nationals. If this is in credit card format, you must also provide confirmation of residence and your date of arrival in Switzerland. You must take a driving test within three months. Once you have passed the driving test, you will be sent your Swiss driving licence by post.
You can find more information and the application form here (German).
Zurich is in a temperate climate zone. Summers are warm and sunny, winters cool and damp with occasional snow. The temperature in summer is about 23 - 25 degrees but may climb to over 30 degrees. In winter, temperatures below zero are not unusual.
Latest weather report from
Zurich is beautiful, but expensive. These would be the approximate monthly fixed costs for a single person:
|Item of expenditure
|Accommodation (room 400-1'000, flat 800-1'600)
|Household/personal liability insurance
Personal requirements such as clothing, telephone calls, leisure activities etc. are not included in this list. You may well spend CHF 2,000 a month without living in the lap of luxury.
For a larger household, costs will be proportionately higher.
Doctoral students also have to pay semester fees and other one-off fees (registering, tuition fees, examination fees). More information on this can be found here. In special cases, doctoral students can apply for a scholarship or loan.
You can work out your personal budget plan and find more information about budgeting here (German).
There are public phones available at ETH and around the city. Most of them accept credit cards or the Swisscom Taxcard that you can buy at any kiosk or post office. It is expensive to have a landline installed at home.
Most students use a mobile phone. This is easiest with a prepaid account: you go to a provider (see the list below), buy a SIM card and put a certain amount of credit on your account. You need to show your identity card or passport. You can top up the SIM card at any time at a kiosk or supermarket. Talk to your colleagues; they will know best which offer is currently the cheapest.
Some providers in the city centre:
Migros (German) City, Löwenstr. 31 – 35, 8001 Zürich
Salt Center, Löwenstr. 69, 8001 Zürich
Sunrise Center, Bahnhofstr. 61, 8001 Zürich
Swisscom Shop, Bahnhofplatz 12, 8001 Zürich
Yallo offers special tariffs for phoning abroad.
Migros and Coop are the biggest supermarket chains in Switzerland. Migros does not sell any alcohol or tobacco products.
There are many specialist shops in Zurich. At Globus and Jelmoli you will find comprehensive food departments in the more expensive price bracket.
Weekly markets offer a different kind of shopping experience. Food and flowers are sold on the Bürkliplatz, the Helvetiaplatz (both on Tuesdays and Fridays from 6 to 11 a.m.) and in Oerlikon (Wednesdays from 6 to 11 and Saturdays from 6 until 12 noon).
There are flea markets on Saturdays, from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., on the Helvetiaplatz (all year round) and on the Bürkliplatz (in summer only).
You can find cheap second-hand furniture, household and kitchen items, clothes, electronic equipment and books at the "Brockenhaus" (second-hand shops).
- Brockenhaus in Zurich (German)
- Brockiland (German)
- Arche Zurich - Brockenhaus and Bistro (German)
- Brocki Heilsarmee (German)
The pharmacy is often the first port of call when it comes to your health. The Association of Zurich City Pharmacists (VSZA) (German) offers a search template on its website to help you find a pharmacy near you. A language or the city district can be entered as search criteria in the template. The VSZA emergency and advice helpline is also available for emergencies and for any queries about medication outside normal opening hours. It connects you directly to an out-of-hours pharmacy(German). The number is manned round the clock.
Emergency and advice helpline number for pharmacists in Canton Zurich: Tel. 0900 55 35 55, CHF 1.50/min. / for calls from a landline
The Bellevue Pharmacy at Bellevueplatz in central Zurich (Theaterstrasse 14) is open 24 hours a day, every day.
For emergency consultations with a doctor, the permanence practice at Zurich Main Station is open every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Zurich Doctors' Association
The members of the Zurich Doctors' Association (zmed) (German) are family doctors and specialists in the city of Zurich who work closely together. A search template (German) on their website enables you to search for a doctor using criteria such as location and language.
Hospitals in the city of Zurich
Private and specialist clinics in the city of Zurich
- Hirslanden Clinic
- Bethanien Clinic
- Pyramide am See Clinic
- Schulthess Clinic
- Swiss Epilepsy Centre (German)
- Balgrist University Clinic
Fire brigade 118
Rega (Air Rescue) 1414
Switzerland is a world leader in recycling. High waste disposal standards, an efficient infrastructure and clear legal requirements are all part of this.
Swiss people consume a great deal – but they also collect and recycle an above-average amount. Most households separate the following recyclable materials (German):
- Tin / aluminium
- Coffee capsules
- PET drinks bottles
- Electrical and electronic devices
- Light bulbs
- Textiles and shoes
- Paper and cardboard
- Green waste
Use the Recycling Map (German) to make it easy to find the collection points near you.
In Zurich Entsorgung + Recycling Zürich (ERZ) (German) is responsible for keeping the city clean. The waste disposal calendar (German) will tell you on which day of the week your rubbish is collected or when the next paper collection is due, and much more.
You will need to buy special rubbish bags to dispose of your non-recyclable waste. These are available from post offices and supermarkets (ask at the checkout).
Fire brigade 118
Rega (Air Rescue) 1414