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Five small Swiss towns that attract lots of foreign nationals

When we think of the most international cities in Switzerland, Zurich, Geneva, and Basel jump to mind. But there are also smaller towns which many foreigners call home.

Five small Swiss towns that attract lots of foreign nationals
Leysin is small but nevertheless very international. Photo by Nathanaël Desmeules on Unsplash

Many foreigners choose to settle in Switzerland’s large urban centres where most job opportunities are.

That is why Zurich, Geneva, Basel, and Lausanne all have a high proportion of foreign residents — a number of large multinational companies are located in, or around, these major cities.

READ MORE: Where do Switzerland’s foreigners all live?

However, that doesn’t mean foreigners don’t also settle in smaller towns in Switzerland.

These five small communities (with a total population of less than 40,000 people) are popular among the international community as well.

Nyon (Vaud)

Some 40 percent of the just over 22,000 residents of this quaint township located along the shores of Lake Geneva are foreigners.

Among the perks of living in this historic town is its easy access to Geneva (by train or motorway), as well as stunning views over the rooftops all the way to the Alps from its 500-year fortress.

A view of Nyon. Photo by Armand Khoury on Unsplash

Zug (Zug)

The town of just over 30,000 people counts many foreigners among its residents — nearly 35 percent.

The same is also true of even smaller communities in the canton: in Baar, nearly 25 percent of residents are foreign nationals out of the total population of about 25,000.

In yet another tiny town, Cham, (just over 16,000), foreigners make up about 26 percent of inhabitants. 

The attraction of Zug’s municipalities is not only their scenic, almost rural setting, but also many employment opportunities, as well as very low taxes.

READ MORE: Why does the canton of Zug have Switzerland’s lowest taxes?

Schaffhausen (Schaffhausen)

Just over a quarter — 26 percent — of the city’s population of 37,000 people are foreigners.

The main attraction of this city in the very north of Switzerland, which is not normally considered ‘international’, may be lower average rents than in its far more expensive neighbour, Zurich, as well as its proximity to Germany, where common consumer goods are much cheaper.

A view over Schaffhausen. Photo by Anthony Gomez on Unsplash

Vevey (Vaud)

Located toward the eastern end of Lake Geneva, this town of almost 20,000 inhabitants counts quite a few foreigners among its residents:  over 42 percent.

The main reason (other than its quaintness) why this town has attracted so many internationals is that Swiss food giant, Nestlé, is headquartered there, so many people not only live in this area, but also work there.

But not all foreigners choose it for this reason: the community’s most famous resident, Charlie Chaplin, moved to Vevey in 1952 and remained there until his death in 1977.

Leysin (Vaud)

This Alpine resort is probably a surprising choice as an international hub.

Nevertheless, well over half (55.4 percent) of its 4,000 residents are foreign

Great skiing is just part of Leysin’s appeal.

The mountain village is also home to American boarding school attended by about 340 students, which may explain why English is almost the second-language in this French-speaking community.

Have we missed any Swiss communities where a large number of foreigners live? Please let us know and we will add them to the list.

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For members


Everything you need to know about Switzerland’s outdoor pool culture

With temperatures in Switzerland forecast to climb closer to 30C this week, many Swiss residents are looking forward to kick off pool season with a visit to their local "badi" or "bain" this weekend.

Everything you need to know about Switzerland's outdoor pool culture

Swimming pools, or Badis, as they are affectionately called in Swiss-German (bains or piscines in French), are deeply embedded in Swiss culture, with children enjoying weekly trips to their local pools as part of their school curriculum from a young age.

Switzerland’s outdoor bathing culture dates to the 19th century when the Swiss still swam in gender-segregated pools. Back then, outdoor swimming pools featured mostly classic box baths made of wood with flat roofs and were a lot less sophisticated.

Though the majority of outdoor swimming pools welcome both genders today, there are still some examples – like the Utoquai in Zurich – where men and women bathe separately to this day.

Yet, new – and expensive to build – swimming pool facilities do not often see the light of day as swimmers are increasingly turning to lakes and rivers to cool off.

Today, Switzerland has around 600 public open-air, lake and river pools and a further 260 indoor swimming pools across its 26 cantons.

But with so much choice, where can you find Switzerland’s ‘best’ outdoor pools?

If you are new to Switzerland’s pool culture, your local municipality’s outdoor pool facility is likely the best place to start. It is true that most Swiss pledge lifelong loyalty to their local outdoor pool facility, however, if you’re feeling adventurous, Switzerland has many iconic outdoor pools across its cantons that are well worth a visit.

For those who enjoy to gaze at unique architecture while splashing around, the Häädler Badi in Appenzell dates back to the 1930s and is even under national protection.

Facilities include a sport swimming pool, a diving pool with diving tower, a pool for non-swimmers and children’s paddling pool with slide and play creek. Guests can also join other players at the beach volleyball court or for a round of table tennis.

If you lack the funds to travel across the border this summer but would still like to treat yourself to a getaway, then a trip to Lausanne’s Bellerive-Plage, which opened in 1937, is sure to make you feel like you’re on a mini vacation.

Often referred to as the jewel among Lausanne’s outdoor pools, the Bellerive-Plage is situated by the lake and attracts up to 8,000 visitors to take a dip in not one, but three large pools on hot summer days.

Meanwhile, in Valais you can slide down the longest water slide (182 metres) in the canton while surrounded by fantastic views of the Valais and Bernese Alps. The water slide is only one of the many features belonging to the Brigerbad thermal baths so entry fees will vary.

Speaking of bathing with a view, you may also like to consider a ‘historic’ dip in Aarburg’s the newly renovated swimming pool. The facility, which opened in 1931 and was renovated for a cool 6 million francs, features an outdoor bar by the river Aare and overlooks the 12th century Aarburg Castle.

How much is a daily ticket?

Though it is up to the swimming pool facility to set their individual prices, adults in Switzerland usually pay less than 10 francs for a day ticket. 

According to the Aarburg swimming pool 2023 pricing, an adult ticket will set you back 6 francs, while students pay as little as 4 francs for a daily visit. 

You can also pay 5 francs to use a towel for the day. Luckily, sunbeds are free of charge.

Kids under the age of 7 can visit for free while those aged 7 and over pay 3 francs to use the facilities.

But when are kids considered old enough to visit one of Switzerland’s outdoor swimming pools on their own?

Though it is up to the parents to judge their child’s swimming ability, many swimming pools in Switzerland (though not all) have set an age limit – usually around 10 years old – for unaccompanied children.

Beware the swimming pool etiquette

Due to the high number of daily visitors in Switzerland’s outdoor pools throughout the summer, there is usually high humidity in the changing rooms of the facilities. When combined with heat, such places offer an ideal breeding ground for germs and bacteria.

Therefore, a number of rules apply to visitors to ensure appropriate hygiene is maintained when visiting outdoor pools.

Firstly, showering (preferably with shower gel) is obligatory prior to jumping into the water as well as right after your swim. It is also advisable – though not a must everywhere – to wear slides when walking around the pool area to prevent the spread of fungi.

Since public space is limited, swimmers in Switzerland should also ensure they don’t take up more room than necessary. It is therefore encouraged to always keep a distance of at least one metre between yourself and the person in front of you.

This also goes for those hoping to dive or jump off a diving tower: always ensure there are no other swimmers in your immediate vicinity so as not to endanger other guests and yourself.

Generally, beginner swimmers or those preferring to take it easy are encouraged to stick to the right side of the pool and leave the middle-end section of the pool ‘free’ so that swimmers have an easy time turning when doing laps.

Should you need to or want to take a break during a lap, always do so on the outer edge of your lane.

If you visit an outdoor pool with your children, remember to remind your child that the swimming pools should not be used as toilets (this goes for you too).

Likewise, if your children cannot swim, they may only bathe in the designated pool area for non-swimmers and must be supervised at all times.

Dress appropriately

If you’re planning to visit a Swiss swimming pool you may need to check what swimwear you are actually allowed to wear within that facility.

As with many things in Switzerland, you may be best off checking with your local pool facility directly before planning your trip as swimwear rules can differ not only from canton to canton, but from municipality to swimming pool facility.

In 2017, Geneva banned both burkinis and topless bathing in its swimming pools but has since lifted its ban on burkinis – but not on bathing half-nude.

The swimming pool facility in Basel’s Balsthal still dictates swimmers must wear a one-piece or two-piece swimsuit which comes down no lower than knee level, or you may just be denied access – and if you’re very unlucky, your money back. In 2019, cops were called to the swimming pool facility in Balsthal following an argument between a lifeguard and a woman dressed in a burkini.

READ ALSO: Everything you should know about public nudity in Switzerland.