Zurich (German: Zürich, Swiss German: Züri) is the largest city in Switzerland, with a population of some 400,000 in the city proper and 1.3 million in the metro area. Zurich is on Lake Zurich, where the lake meets the Limmat River, in the north of Switzerland. While Zurich is the country’s financial centre and has the busiest airport, Berne is the Swiss capital.
Situated in the north central area and seated upon the river Limmat, Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and is also the capital of the Canton of Zurich. The city itself has just under 400,000 inhabitants and often features in most desirable cities to live in polls due to the high quality of life. Zurich is often believed to be the capital of Switzerland, but this is not the case; the capital of Switzerland is actually Berne.
Founded by the Romans almost 2000 years ago, it was named Turicum and this is the origin of the name Zurich. Within the Middle Ages Zurich emerged as a center for religion and economics and earned the status of imperial immediacy. While remaining part of the German Empire, the 13th Century saw Zurich move towards their self-governance and they joined the Swiss Confederation in 1351.
Innovative and always up to date with new developments, Zurich was a strong part of the Swiss Industrial Revolution in the 19th Century. Many creative people were attracted to the city within the 19th and 20th centuries and the Cabinet Voltaire in the early 20th Century brought forth the Dada art movement as well as many artists, writers and composers flocking to the popular city.
Zurich is a cultural hub with many stunning art galleries, theatres and museums. A city of rich history and one of the biggest financial centers in the world, Zurich is home to many of the great banking companies and a center for research and development. The official language of Zurich is German.
Zurich is Switzerland’s largest city and a cultural center of German-speaking Switzerland. Despite it not being the administrative capital of any more than its Kanton, Zürich punches well above its weight in terms of major media and business headquarters and due to to it being at the heart of Switzerland’s excessively punctual and meticulously maintained train network and being home to Switzerland’s most important airport, it is often the first part of Switzerland that visitors get to see. Zürich is close to some excellent skiing resorts and many people headed for the Swiss Alps don’t spend much time in Zurich itself, but you’d be missing a lot if you don’t stay in Zurich for a couple of days at least.
While Zurich can be expensive, it is also clean, efficient and blessed with a high standard of living, which together with the high wages, explains why people bear with the high prices. Zurich has drawn people from the rest of Switzerland for centuries, but in the 20th and 21st century it has also begun to draw both people and companies from outside Switzerland and in some cases even outside Europe. This means that you will hear a lot more languages than just Swiss German and the overall atmosphere is a lot more cosmopolitan than you might think.
Zurich is home to ETH Zurich, one of the world’s leading technical universities, which has produced a number of Nobel laureates and numerous innovations and due to Switzerland’s long history of neutrality it also houses headquarters of the likes of FIFA or the International Ice Hockey Federation. Zurich is also home to a number of large banking and insurance conglomerates that grew on the fabled Swiss banking secret and still enjoy good reputations in the financial sector.
Best Time to Go
Deciding on when to go to Zurich really depends on the activities planned and the expected weather. April is the perfect time to see Zurich slowly waking from the winter months and some of the surrounding higher peaks will still be topped with snow so it can be very picturesque. The winter months are particularly good for winter sports holidays.
For warmer weather in Zurich, the best time to visit would be between June and August as the summer temperatures are pleasant but this means that there will be more people visiting and potentially higher prices (and it’s not cheap to start with). The Theaterspektakel takes place in July and August and this performing arts and theatre festival can be a spectacular show making these months more popular for visitors.
For a less crowded break in Zurich but with potentially inclement weather, visiting in September or October is advised and the prices for accommodation may be lower.
Zurich has a four-season climate typical to central Europe. Temperature in winter is usually around zero degrees, which means that snow can linger or melt away. Summers are warm with temperature in the 20s and occasionally in the 30s. The nearby mountains are significantly colder than in the valley, with snow remaining well into spring.
History of Zurich
The city’s Latin name, Turicum, was used for a Roman customs station at the Limmat, which has some remnants today. The Alemanni, a Germanic tribe, settled in the 5th century.
While the Church used to rule early Medieval Zurich, the Guilds (Zünfte) took power in 1336, establishing Zurich as an autonomous republic. The Guilds have survived until today, though their role today is mostly ceremonial. Zurich became the fifth canton of the Swiss Confederacy in 1351, and has been its capital at times. However, Switzerland’s famous neutrality and stability is a modern thing, as many battles have been fought in and around Zurich. The canton lost the Old Zürich War between 1440 and 1446 against the confederacy, and was re-admitted in 1450.
Ulrich Zwingli led the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland during the early 16th century. As the Thirty Years’ War ended in 1648, the Holy Roman Empire lost its grip on Switzerland, which has mostly been independent since then.
The 1830s and 40s saw a series of revolts and war, including the Züriputsch, a revolt of conservative landowners of the canton, against the city of Zurich, and the 1847 Sonderbund War. In 1848 Switzerland adopted a constitution, which established the country as a federal republic. While the government settled in Bern, many federal institutions, including the new Polytechnic University (ETH) have their seat in Zurich.
The Zurich Stock Exchange was founded in 1877, and the city rose as a financial centre in the 20th century, as Switzerland remained neutral in the World Wars, and could maintain lower taxes on capital than the European great powers. Even though Switzerland has opted out of NATO and the European Union, Zurich is today one of central Europe’s most cosmopolitan cities.