SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

COST OF LIVING

EXPLAINED: Everything you need to know about Switzerland’s supermarkets

Are they cheap? Are they easy to find? And do they sell booze? Here’s what you need to know about Switzerland’s famous supermarkets.

The logo of a Coop supermarket in Switzerland
Switzerland's supermarkets are everywhere, but which are the best, the cheapest and have good quality? Here's what you need to know. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

That Switzerland is an expensive country should come as no surprise to anyone who has set foot in the country – or even read about it on The Local (yep, we write about it a lot). 

EXPLAINED: Why is Switzerland so expensive?

One weapon to slay the expensive Swiss demon however is the country’s supermarkets. 

The difference between supermarket prices and those in restaurants, bars and cafes is dramatic in Switzerland. 

And while the prices might be cheaper, the quality is by and large the same (although the quality of the end product is however ultimately dependent on your cooking skills). 

But for new arrivals to Switzerland – or even a few old timers – navigating the country’s omnipotent supermarkets can be a little challenging. 

From which ones are cheap to which ones are good – and whether or not you can get booze – here’s an overview of supermarkets in Switzerland. 

What should I know about Switzerland’s supermarkets?

The main thing to know that whether you are visiting a large, out-of-town discounter or a supermarket-branded kiosk in a busy city train station, you are likely to pay much less than in bars or restaurants. 

This includes for alcoholic drinks, as well as for typically expensive products like meat, cheese and speciality items. 

The reasons for this are too extensive to go into here, but wages, import taxes and rents play a big role. 

This guide will focus largely on the differences between the major supermarkets. 

If you want to know how to save money while buying groceries, then this following link is for you. 

Cost of living: How to save on groceries in Switzerland

The list will also focus only on supermarkets in Switzerland, i.e. not those frequented by cross-border shoppers. 

One thing which may surprise newcomers to Switzerland is how loyal some Swiss can be when it comes to their choice of supermarket. 

While in some cases this might be due to cost which is understandable, in other cases people become either a Migros or a Coop person like they’re supporting their local football team. 

Another thing which can be surprising is opening hours, with Swiss supermarkets usually closed on Sundays and closing early during the week. 

This varies greatly depending on where you are in Switzerland – urban area supermarkets will stay open later – so make sure to check the opening hours before you set off with your reusable bags (oh, and bring reusable bags unless you want to pay for each bag you take from the supermarket). 

Which is the cheapest – and which is the most expensive? 

While it is a controversial topic and we are sure to get plenty of angry comments, the broad ranking from cheapest to most expensive goes as follows. 

  • Lidl
  • Aldi Suisse
  • Denner
  • Migros
  • Coop
  • Manor
  • Globus

At the expensive end are luxury supermarkets like Manor and Globus – which are high end and resemble a top-class farmers market (both in terms of quality and cost). 

In the middle are Migros, Denner and Coop (although Coop tends slightly more expensive than Migros and Denner is the cheaper of the three). 

The familiar orange lettering of Swiss supermarket chain Migros

The familiar orange lettering of Swiss supermarket chain Migros. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

At the cheaper end are Germany’s Lidl and Aldi, which is known here as Aldi Suisse. 

This list doesn’t include chains like Spar and Volg which usually have smaller stores and kiosks (often in tourist areas) with slightly higher prices than big brands like Migros and Coop. 

However, one important thing to remember is that while some supermarkets will be cheaper than others, it is not impossible to shop cheap at the more expensive supermarkets (leaving aside Manor and Globus, of course). 

Independent studies have shown that the cheap options in Migros and Coop often rival those at Lidl and Aldi Suisse – but you have to stick to supermarket brands (which is easier at Migros than Coop, as Migros has an extensive array of products under their M-Budget own brand). 

What is the major difference between Switzerland’s supermarkets and what they offer? 

The difference is cost therefore leads to a difference in quality and in clientele. 

Both Coop and Migros are owned under a cooperative structure. Lidl and Aldi are German-owned, while Denner is owned by Migros. 

Each will have everything you need (other than booze, but we go into that below). 

Some regular, basic items like laundry liquid or flour and butter will largely be the same, but its the variety and the quality which is better and far more extensive at the more expensive markets. 

The cheaper discounters like Aldi Suisse and Lidl will generally not have as many brand name or boutique items as the others, although some surprisingly good quality produce can be found – particularly if it comes from Switzerland. 

Places like Manor and Globus will have fancy, inner city, designer locations with boutique and craft-style offerings where you can shake the hand of the cow that produced the cheese, but prices will be challenging, particularly for families or anyone on an average income.  

Cost of living in Switzerland: How to save money if you live in Zurich

Another major advantage of the more expensive chains is a wide array of pre-made meals, which is great for anyone who finds themselves travelling, single or lazy. 

Most of them have some kind of bonus point program and all offer regular discounts and offers. 

These loyalty schemes will usually be available at all retail outlets operated by the same company, i.e. Coop’s Supercard program is available at Coop Pronto (gas stations and convenience stores) and Coop City, while Migros’ Cumulus program is also available at Migrolino and Migrol (gas stations). 

What don’t they sell (and do they sell booze and smokes)?

New arrivals, particularly from English-speaking countries, can often be surprised with what is available – and what isn’t – in Switzerland’s supermarkets. 

Basic pharmaceuticals like painkillers or cold and flu tablets cannot be sold in Swiss supermarkets, so you will need to go to your pharmacist. 

As for alcohol and cigarettes, well it’s complicated. 

In most Swiss supermarkets, you can not only buy cigarettes, beer and wine, but a wide selection of spirits will be on offer. 

In Migros on the other hand, there is at present no booze or smokes to be found – although that is set to gradually change in the future. 

Throughout its 100-year history, Switzerland’s largest supermarket has not sold alcoholic drinks. 

While this has been chalked up to uphold the health of its customers, the reality is a little more complicated – and a little more capitalist, as we outlined in the following report. 

EXPLAINED: The real reason Swiss supermarket Migros doesn’t sell alcohol

The promise is also full of loopholes, with company subsidiaries Migrolino and Denner – which is often right next to Migros – selling alcohol for some time. 

It also seems that even Switzerland’s largest supermarket is not immune to changing times – with Migros in November 2021 saying it would allow supermarkets to sell alcohol from June 2022 if they wanted to do so. 

Which ones have restaurants? 

Ahh, the Swiss supermarket restaurant. While it may not be the nicest location for a first date, Switzerland’s supermarket restaurants offer great quality food at low prices. 

Many are self serve and will let you load up your plate with as many sides and salad as you can fit – a cut-price way to feel rich in Switzerland. 

READ MORE: Ten ways to save on car insurance in Switzerland

Coop and Migros both have restaurants (although not at all locations), while Manor department stores will also have cheap(ish) ones named Manora. 

A meal will usually be around CHF15, although be careful at the ones which charge by weight, which can be more expensive. 

For anyone who hasn’t been, these resemble Ikea cafeterias in cost and demeanour. So while they may not be the most romantic, you’ll get a good, hot, hearty meal for relatively few francs. 

What about niche and speciality options? 

Lidl and Aldi Suisse tend to have the basics – whether from Switzerland or abroad – and will not have a lot else, but you can occasionally be surprised.

Migros and Coop usually have a great range of niche and speciality options, particularly the larger stores. 

Denner also has a good range and will often stock Swiss specialities from all corners of the country, meaning they’re a great way to take a cheap culinary journey through Switzerland. 

EXPLAINED: The everyday items getting more expensive in Switzerland

If you really want to impress your partner or your friends with speciality options, then visit Globus and Manor, where all of the world’s treasures wait in store. 

If you want to look fancy while saving money, you can buy the basics elsewhere – like pasta, produce and spices – but visit Globus or Manor for the centrepiece to your dish, for instance a speciality lamb fillet ordered in from Zanzibar. 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

How to dispose of unwanted furniture or whitegoods in Zurich legally

Got an unwanted mattress, fridge or sofa? Here’s how you can legally get it off your hands in Zurich.

How to dispose of unwanted furniture or whitegoods in Zurich legally

If you’ve bought a new piece of furniture in Zurich or a mattress, you may be faced with the problem of what to do with the old one. 

This is particularly the case in cities like Zurich, where space is at a premium and you may not be able to kit out your spare room with the old furniture. 

While there are waste disposal centres, even getting there without a car can be a problem. 

One man’s trash…

First things first, think about whether you really need to get rid of the thing in question. 

While you may not want it, there may be someone out there willing to take it off your hands – particularly if you aren’t going to charge them. 

The first point of call is to ask your friends and colleagues if they’re interested, with social media the perfect place to ask around. 

If you live in an apartment complex, you might try placing the item in a common area with a note saying “zu verschenken” (to give away) or ‘gratis’ (free). 

After that, there are several online options like eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Free Your Stuff Zurich, Ricardo, Anibis, Craig’s List and Tutti. 

Some of these sites will charge a fee – even if you’re giving something away – so be sure to read the fine print first. 

Another option is to donate the goods to a charity organisation. They will usually charge you money to pick it up and prices can vary dramatically. 

Caritas charge CHF35 per 100kg plus transport costs, while Sozialwerk Pfarrer Sieber will pick up small items of furniture for a flat fee, although you’ll need to send them pictures first before they give you a quote. 

Can I put old furniture on the street in Zurich? 

Although less common than many other European cities, occasionally you will see furniture out on the street in front of homes and apartment blocks in Zurich. 

While it might clutter up the sidewalk, it is technically not illegal – provided you only do so for a maximum of 24 hours. 

You also need to make sure it doesn’t block cars, bikes or pedestrians. If it does – or if you leave it out for longer – you risk a fine.

Entsorgungstram: Zurich’s recycling and waste disposal tram

One option is the Entsorgungstram, a mobile recycling centre on rails for all Zurich residents. 

This tram weaves its way through several parts of Zurich, picking up old bulky waste including electrical devices and furniture. 

If you are lucky to live near an Entsorgungstram line, just check the timetable and bring your waste items along to meet the tram. 

There are some rules, as laid out by the Zurich council. 

“The delivered items must not be longer than 2.5 meters (exception: sofa/upholstered furniture can be no longer than 2 meters) and no heavier than 40 kilograms per item. Separate the material beforehand according to its composition: flammable, large metal and landfill”. 

Unfortunately, only pedestrians and cyclists can use this service, i.e. you cannot drive from elsewhere and deposit the stuff. 

More information including route details can be found at the following link. 

Regular waste disposal

Your next option is to see whether you can get rid of it in your usual waste disposal. 

This being Switzerland, there are a lot of rules about what the waste management company will take and will not. 

If you’re throwing away a mirror, for instance, you cannot put that with your other glass waste and will need to dispose of it elsewhere. 

On the other hand, they may take things like carpets and mattresses – although you’ll need to pay a bit extra. 

The exact rules will depend on your municipality, but generally speaking you will need to buy additional waste stickers – which cost money. 

In Zurich itself, every household receives four coupons for disposal of waste (up to 100kg) each. 

When you run out of coupons, you’ll need to pay by the kilo. 

You’ll still need to bring it to the waste disposal facility, or pay a pick up fee of around CHF80. 

This may sound steep, but they do come to your home and pick it up – which will likely be cheaper than a rental car or van. 

In Winterthur, you will need to buy stickers for CHF1.80 from the council, with each sticker letting you dispose of 10kg of waste. 

Check with the retailer where you bought the new item

One option offered by furniture sellers is to buy your old furniture or whitegoods or accept them as a trade in. 

While this is likely to be more common with second hand retailers who might see potential in your unwanted item, it is also a service offered by retailers who only sell new goods. 

One example is Ikea, who will take your old mattress, furniture or electronic device and recycle it. 

This service is available at Ikea outlets for a cost of CHF10 each. 

It is also available when you get something new delivered, although you must pre-book so the driver can be sure to set aside enough space. 

This will cost you CHF80 for furniture, or CHF50 for electronic devices and mattresses. Keep in mind that (at least with Ikea) this service is only available when you buy something new. 

Several other furniture companies offer a similar service, including Schubiger Möbel, Möbel Pfister and Conforama.  

Electrical item retails will often take your old electrical goods for recycling, whether these are small like iPhones or large like fridges and washing machines. 

More information about which goods can be recycled and how in Switzerland is available at the following link. 

Moving companies

Removalist companies are another option – whether you are moving house or not. 

If you are moving house then a disposal service may be included in the overall fees. 

If not, you can still contact the company and get the item taken off your hands. 

While different companies will charge different amounts, you’ll usually pay per 100kg rather than per item, which can be a better (or worse) option than contacting the local council. 

Swiss comparison site Comparis has detailed info about how to find a moving company here

SHOW COMMENTS