|Identical with international banking, Zurich (Zürich or, more familiarly, Züri) has a financial and cultural significance that belies its modest size. Although the largest city in Switzerland, Zurich aptly promotes itself as the ‘little big city’ and has a historic centre that is compact enough to be explored on foot.
Zurich is located at the centre of Zurich canton, on Switzerland’s central plain, with the elevation rising towards the south and the Alps. Located at the northern tip of the Zürichsee (Lake Zurich), lakeside promenades and pricey houses are prominent and can be spotted along both the shores. The city’s most familiar sites, without a doubt, are the Fraumünster and Grossmünster churches, which solemnly face each other across the River Limmat.
The Old Town spans this river, and some of the most appealing lanes and buildings are clustered along its banks. Lindenhof, which is in close proximity, was once the site of a Roman customs post and is a good vantage point. Surrounding the Old Town, the Kreis (districts) of Zurich are arranged clockwise around the city centre, with numbers corresponding to the last digit in the postcode. In summer, the view of the city is stunning, with the lake reflecting the mountains and clear blue sky. The winter snowfall brings a magic of its own.
Zurich dates its origins from 15BC, when Roman customs post of Turicum was founded. Zurich had obtained the status of a city by the 10th century. It was at the centre of Swiss religious Reformation in the 16th century, under the leadership of Huldrych Zwingli. His motto ‘pray and work’ was to have a profound effect on this hard working city, which, by the 19th century, had grown into the financial and commercial centre of Switzerland.
Modern Zurich is a city of bankers in a country of banks. This concentration of wealth can most readily be seen along the Bahnhofstrasse, edged by lime trees. All the main banks have a presence here, particularly at the Paradeplatz, where elegant shops and designer boutiques line the street, interspersed with stylish bars and attractive cafés, stretching from the Hauptbahnhof right down to Lake Zurich.
Other riches lie in the city’s outstanding universities – Zurich is a powerhouse for research, with public-private partnerships leading to innovations both in design and the high-tech sector. The remarkable infrastructure and delightful atmosphere have ensured Zurich’s role as a major conference and incentive destination. The city also has a strong cultural presence – over 30 museums, auction houses, art galleries, the opera, orchestras and the Schauspielhaus theatre, as well as a number of performance spaces that encourage contemporary artists in all media.
The citizens enjoy a high standard of living, and this is evident in the countless fashionable and enjoyable bars, cafés and restaurants that fill the Old Town. The ambience is heightened by the large swathes on either side of River Limmat that are pedestrian-only areas. For those who find the comfortable burgher lifestyle a little too docile, there are always alternative places to seek out. After all, this is the city that saw the birth of the artistic movement of Dadaism – the antithesis of conformity.