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Dating on the cheap remains a challenge in Zurich

woman and man holding hands
Going on a date in Zurich is expensive, especially if you buy a new outfit for the occasion. Keystone/Ennio Leanza

The most expensive place to have dinner? See a movie? Get a taxi home? It’s Zurich, which has captured several of the top slots in a global ranking of prices and living standards.

In its annual “Mapping the world’s prices” surveyExternal link, Deutsche Bank compared over 50 cities around the world. This year, Zurich has captured the top slot for quality of life, pushing Wellington, New Zealand, into second place.

Zurich also placed first in the survey’s “Cheap Date Index”, which calculates the price of movie tickets, soft drinks, a simple meal, a couple of beers and cab rides for two. In Zurich this costs $203, making it “by far the costliest place to go out on a date. This is followed by Oslo ($164), Copenhagen ($158), Helsinki ($151) and Tokyo ($148). At the other end of the scale, five dates in Cairo cost the same as one in Zurich.”

When it comes to the following items that might come into play on date night, Zurich is either the most expensive or within the top three.

Sport shoes (#1, as in most expensive city)


For a pair of sneakers from a popular brand like Adidas or Nike, shoppers in Zurich can expect to shell out the most cash: $151. The same pair would cost $133 in Copenhagen (#2), $102 in London (#17), $90 in Moscow (#34), and $82 in Madrid (#43).

Levi’s jeans (#1)


Again, Zurich tops the list, this time for a pair of Levi’s jeans. In comparison, 501s go for $101 in Paris (#7) and $88 in Rome (#16). In the US, the price varies wildly: $74 in San Francisco (#28), $56 in New York (#39) and $50 in Boston and Chicago (tied for #45).

Cinema ticket (#1)


Maybe this is a good deal for an English-language film, which wouldn’t need dubbing or subtitles in London (#2) or New York (#3). In those cities, a cinema ticket costs between $16 and 17.

Taxi ride, 8km/5mile (#1)


You really don’t want to miss the last train or tram after a night out in Zurich. A cab fare is far higher than in Amsterdam (#2) or Tokyo (#3), where you can travel the same distance for about $28. At $19, the ride is half the price in San Francisco or New York (tied for #16). In Lisbon (#34) it’s $11 and in Mexico City (#49) not quite $5.

Basic dinner for two at a ‘neighborhood pub’ (#1)


At this price, it may not sound basic. Runners-up Oslo (#2, $65) and Hong Kong (#3, $59) are considerably less expensive. German-speaking cities Berlin and Vienna (tied at #31) serve up a comparable meal for $33. What makes Swiss sausage so special?

Full-course dinner for two at Italian restaurant (#2, as in second most expensive)


Only New York ($118) is pricier than Zurich when it comes to a nice dinner in a classy Italian restaurant. And in Italy? Milan (#13) is closest to Zurich in terms of proximity and price: $87. In Rome (#26) the price drops to $66. By the way, BBC television once did a special on the spaghetti harvest in Italian-speaking Switzerland.

Men’s standard haircut (#3)


Only the barbers of Copenhagen (#1) and Oslo (#2) charge more for a standard cut: $48 and $45. In Boston and New York (tied for #12) men pay $28, whereas the price is $14 in Shanghai (#34). Still, men in Zurich pay far less than women looking for a trim in Zurich or Geneva.

Summer dress (#2)


Women in Zurich (and Dubai) pay the second-highest price for a summer dress from a retailer like Zara or H&M. In Riyadh (#1) they pay a dollar more: $68. The same dress would cost $50 in Moscow (#10), $38 in Stockholm (#41) and $32 in Madrid (#48). Another comparison released on Thursday echoed the finding, calculating that clothing in general costs 25% more in Switzerland than it does in France, Germany and Italy.

Weekend getaway (#3)


Milan is by far the most expensive, ($2,706), while Copenhagen ($2,120) is only a another $4 per person per day compared to Zurich for a weekend getaway, which Deutsche Bank defines as follows: Two nights in a 5-star hotel room, two pub meals for two, two restaurant dinners for two, car rental for two days, two pints of beer, four litres of soft drinks and a bit of shopping (a pair of jeans and a pair of sneakers). 

However, Zurich is no longer the leader in monthly salaries after taxes or disposable income after rent. It’s been edged out by San Francisco, where the average pay is $6,526 (CHF6,581), over Zurich’s $5,896. Disposable income in Zurich is $4,626, compared to $4,710 in San Francisco.

And what about the goods and services that people have to pay for each month? This graphic shows what typical Swiss households spend their money on:

swiss budget graphic
Kai Reusser /

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR