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It’s the city with the highest quality of life in the world, say many people – and one look at pictures of the area will tell you why.
Famed alongside several other Swiss cities as the home of international banking, Zürich has much to commend it, including work, housing, leisure, education and safety.
There is beauty all around, with nature reserves brimming with wildlife, the Alps just a few miles away and lovely architecture that lets you see clearly for miles – there are very few high-rise buildings around here. The 88-metre Sunrise Tower, built in 2005, was the first approved high-rise building in 20 years.
Zürich is the third most expensive city in the world. Its half a million city residents – 1.3 million if you count the suburbs – are mainly German-speaking.
There’s a great reliance on public transport here – Zürich is a hub for railways, roads and air traffic, with Zürich Airport and railway station the largest and busiest in Switzerland.
The city is bursting at the seams with culture, with many museums and art galleries including the Swiss National Museum, the Kunsthaus, Schauspielhaus Zürich and Theater 11.
As you might expect, Zürich is home to scores of financial institutions. Many of Switzerland’s research and development centres are concentrated in the Greater Zürich area and the low taxes and subsidies attract many overseas companies.
Zürich is high above sea level at 408 m at the end of Lake Zürich between wooded hills. Zürich’s Old Town stretches on both sides of the Limmat. The boundaries of the older city are edged by the Schanzengraben canal, an artificial watercourse. Zürich has a humid continental climate with warm summers and four seasons. There is often a lot of rain.
Nearly half of all journeys in Zürich are on public transport, including trams, trains and diesel and electric buses. There are also boats on the lake and river and a cable car between Adliswil and Felsenegg. Thanks to some seriously impressive joined-up organisation, Zürichsee-Schifffahrtsgesellschaft (ZSG) tickets are valid on all means of public transport. ZSG also operates passenger boats on the Limmat and Lake Zürich, connecting surrounding towns.
Zürich is Switzerland’s largest city, and truly multicultural. Nearly a third of residents do not have Swiss citizenship. Germans are the largest group at eight per cent of the population. Italians make up 3.5%. All this adds up to a warm welcome for incomers and provides a rich cultural life for all who live here. There has been a settlement here for thousands of years and there are historic remains and buildings to admire. However it is possibly the more modern architecture that causes you to suck your breath in, and marvel at the achievements of their creators.
Still, if you love history there is a real feast to get your teeth into. It could take you years to look around all the museums here.
Starting with Zürich Museum of Art – (Kunsthaus Zürich), you can wander round one of the largest collections in classic modern art in the world, featuring such artists as Munch, Picasso, Braque and Giacometti. There is also a huge collection of photographs here. The national museum is here, featuring ancient artefacts, including stained glass, costumes, painted furniture and weapons.
Speaking of that wonderful architecture, there’s a museum dedicated to one of Switzerland’s most celebrated architects, Le Corbusier. And Rietberg Museum not only includes Swiss art and culture but artefacts from all over the world. The Museum of Design focuses on industrial design, architecture and craft and is linked to the Zürich University of the Arts.
Anyone interested in architecture and design would be in seventh heaven here. Another museum, the Haus Konstruktiv is renowned for its focus on construction, concrete and conceptual art and design.
A visit to Zürich would not be complete without a nod to clocks, and the Uhrenmuseum tells the story of timekeeping and timekeepers. A huge collection of clocks and watches can be seen alongside early devices such as water clocks, sundials and hourglasses.
Nothing to see here at the No Show Museum. The unusually-named attraction has about 500 works and documents from over 150 international artists of the last 120 years – who have all created works to do with… nothing.
Masses of other museums are on offer here, giving you the chance to learn about the history of such things as porcelain, trams, and even North America.
Other attractions are numerous, including an amazing zoo, with over 2,000 creatures to marvel at, such as leopards and pandas. Culture is high on the priority list here, with many arts venues – one of the most notable being the Zürich Opera House – the first permanent theatre in Zürich and the main venue used by Richard Wagner.
The city’s Botanical Garden has more than 15,000 species of plants and trees, including many rare species. The gardens are linked to the University of Zürich. If this weren’t enough green-fingered goodness you can also see the Chinese Garden – originally a gift from twin town Kunming, given in thanks for Zürich’s help in developing its drinking water supply and drainage.
Just outside the city you have the stunning Alps and surrounding them the Unesco World Heritage Site including prehistoric settlements at Enge Alpenquai, Grosser Hafner and Kleiner Hafner. It’s no wonder people are prepared to pay a small fortune to live here. Of course, money is no object if you’re in global banking.
Zürich is ranked the 11th most competitive financial centre in the world, and second in Europe after London. However, the main source of employment in the city is the service industry, which employs nearly 80 per cent of workers.
The Swiss Stock Exchange is here. Established in 1877, it is now the fourth most prominent stock exchange in the world. Zürich is also the world’s largest gold trading centre. Most Swiss banks have their HQ in Zürich and there are numerous foreign banks here. Employees are said to be highly motivated here, and don’t take much time off sick.
After work, there are several top spots for nightlife. One is the Niederdorf in the old town with bars, restaurants, lounges, hotels and clubs, alongside many fashion shops. All life is here – there are punk clubs, hip hop stages, Caribbean restaurants, arthouse cinemas, Turkish kebabs and Italian espresso-bars, but also the infamous red-light district…
Zürich is well known for being the home of FIFA, however several other international sport federations are here too.
Two major Swiss football teams are based here – Grasshopper Club Zürich and FC Zürich.
Ice hockey is represented by the ZSC Lions, and the HQ of the International Ice Hockey Federation is here.
In common with many European cities keen on public transport, there’s a great infrastructure for cyclists in Zürich. Cycling is also a popular sport. Cycle routes are marked with red and white signs and yellow lanes. Hiking trails are marked with yellow signs, giving people the time it will take them to get to other places. Handy, eh?
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Neolithic and Bronze Age settlements have been found around Lake Zürich, and traces of pre-Roman settlements were discovered near the Lindenhof. The Romans built a castle here, which remained standing until the 7th century.
The Germans arrived in the 5th century and built a castle on the site of the Roman castle.
During the 1230s a city wall was built around 38 hectares.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, the Council of Zürich built a second ring of fortifications in response to the Thirty Years’ War across Europe.
However, most of those ramparts were torn down during the Helvetic Revolution of 1798, without ever having been besieged.
Zürich really began to grow in the 19th century, gaining the first railway in Switzerland, connecting Zürich with Baden. Zürich’s Bahnhofstrasse was built in 1867, and the Zürich Stock Exchange was created in 1877. Industrialisation saw people pour into the cities and there was a huge – and fast – population growth.
Soon after, quays were built on the Zürichsee shore, transforming the waterfront.
In 1893, the 12 surrounding districts were incorporated into Zürich and in 1934 eight extra districts were absorbed.
Zürich – despite being in a neutral country – was accidentally bombed in the Second World War.
All of life is here in Zürich, from culture and sport to great scenery and architecture. The quality of life is very high and if you are considering moving there you will be made very welcome as the city has a super-high proportion of incomers. You’ll need a fair old budget to live here however – even apartments are around the million mark.
Zürich is the portal to the Alps, and often the first place visitors arrive. Here is the biggest and busiest international airport in Switzerland, and Zürich is a hub for railways, roads and air traffic. Zürich HB served around 470,000 passengers and nearly 3,000 trains every day earlier this year. There are 16 railway stations (and 10 other train stops) within Zürich’s borders. Zürich is also served by major EuroCity trains from the neighbouring countries including France and Germany.
Zürich Airport, within five miles of the centre, also has its own railway station.
Three motorways pass close to Zürich.
In 2012, the city council launched a programme for cyclists called Masterplan Velo.
The programme is focusing on increasing cycle traffic and cyclists’ safety. It also aims to encourage children and young people in particular to cycle.
Work on the programme is ongoing.
The one-day Olympics Weltklasse Zürich is held each August at the Letzigrund Stadium, and sees world and national records broken.
Zürich Marathon is a popular event, with numerous athletes arriving from all around the world. The course starts in Zürich and passes through Bahnhofstrasse, Bellevueplatz, Mythenquai, Quaibrücke, Talstrasse and Utoquai, and along Lake Zürich. The city also holds a New Year’s Eve run starting at midnight.
Zürich was one of six venues for the 1954 FIFA World Cup and one of eight venues of the UEFA Euro 2008.
Zürich also hosted the UCI Track Cycling World Championships six times at the Oerlikon Velodrome.
The international Openair Literatur Festival Zürich is held in Zürich.
About 60,000 people study at the 20 universities, colleges and institutions of higher education in Zürich. Two of Switzerland’s most celebrated universities are here – the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zürich) and the University of Zürich. Both were listed in the top 50 world universities in 2007.
ETH is highly regarded in chemistry, maths and physics and there are 21 Nobel Laureates associated with it.
The University of Zürich is the largest in Switzerland and offers the widest range of subjects and courses in the country.
The Pedagogical College, the Zürich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) and the Zürich University of the Arts (ZHdK) are another three top-class technical colleges.