Basel, Bern, Geneva, Zurich

Swiss special edition of the PwC study “Cities of Opportunity”

Four Swiss cities in an international comparison 

In this special edition of the PwC study “Cities of Opportunity” we examine a total of 34 cities worldwide, adding Basel, Bern, Geneva and Zurich to the 30 cities of the 2017 edition. These 34 global cities embody the energy, opportunities and hopes that inspire new people for city life and make urbanisation one of the strongest megatrends of our time.

Like all major cities, Basel, Bern, Geneva and Zurich are influenced by global trends and must adapt to changing circumstances, such as global migration or the decentralisation of public services. Although Switzerland is relatively small, there are major differences between the four cities. Besides other numerous differences, one important distinguishing factor is the language: Geneva is French-speaking, while the language spoken in Basel, Bern and Zurich is German.

Urbanisation is a megatrend of our time. Economics, Quality of life and Tools for a changing world are the cornerstones of a sophisticated city.

Focus on:


Basel scores a top five spot across four indicators and even achieves second place on a global level and first place among all European cities. As in the case of Zurich, the low ranking in the City gateway indicator is due to the fact that it depends on absolute values. However, the border location and the enormous number of commuters crossing the border almost unnoticed in public transport every day paint a completely different picture in terms of City gateway.

Thanks to continuous improvements and expansions, the city achieves a very good position in the Transportation and infrastructure indicator. Not only the availability, but also the relatively low price of public transport contributes to this. Commuting to work in Basel is considered particularly pleasant compared to other cities worldwide. One reason for this is that there are fewer traffic jams in Basel than in other cities thanks to the short distances travelled.

As the smallest city in the overall ranking, Bern falls behind the larger cities in some indicators. This is understandable, as some rankings are quantity-dependent; accordingly, Bern is at the bottom of the list. Nevertheless, the Swiss capital surprises in several respects: In Health, safety and security, the city takes the number one spot globally and is the only Swiss city to lead an international ranking. Bern scores a top five position in two other indicators: In Cost as well as in Sustainability and natural environment, the Swiss capital scores excellent results. 

These are the solid foundations the city and region of Bern can build on. In addition, Bern should try to make further progress in Technology readiness and Ease of doing business.

Geneva is among the top ten in five indicators, and within Switzerland, the city of Calvin is in a top position when it comes to Ease of doing business. The main difference to its Swiss peers lies as expected mainly in the good ranking in the Number of embassies and consulates. 

Geneva is also Switzerland’s top city in terms of Demographics and livability. What underlies the advantage over Zurich as vice Swiss champion is the City Brand variable, which is based on the parameters Attractions and Buzz (voices in social media and press). Here Geneva benefits from its international flair. In this variable Geneva ranks fourth globally, just above Paris and right behind Los Angeles, New York and Amsterdam.

Similar to other leading cities, Zurich strikes a good balance across the ten indicator groupings. The city performs particularly well in the areas of Intellectual capital and innovation, Health, safety and security, Cost, Sustainability and natural environment as well as Transportation and infrastructure.

Zurich achieves an excellent result in Intellectual capital and innovation, where it ranks second just behind London. This comes as no surprise and only confirms the self-image of the city and region, as can also be read on the website of the “Greater Zurich Area”.

Would you like to know more?

Moritz Oberli

Public Industry Leader, Bern, PwC Switzerland

+41 58 792 75 27