Synonymous with international banking, Zurich (Zürich or, more familiarly, Züri) has a financial and cultural importance that belies its modest size. The largest city in Switzerland, Zurich promotes itself as ‘Downtown Switzerland'. The historic centre is compact enough to be explored on foot.


Zurich is located at the centre of the Zurich canton, on Switzerland's central plain, with the elevation rising towards the south and the Alps. Positioned at the northern tip of the Zürichsee (Lake Zurich), lakeside promenades and expensive houses are prominent and can be spotted along both shores. The city's most familiar sites are, without a doubt, 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 interesting lanes and buildings are clustered along its banks. The nearby Lindenhof 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 the numbers corresponding to the last digit in the postcode. In summer, the view of the city is beautiful, with the lake reflecting the mountains and clear blue sky. The winter snowfalls bring a magic of their own.


Zurich dates its origins from 15BC, when the Roman customs post of Turicum was founded. By the 10th century, the town had acquired the status of a city. It was at the centre of the 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 diligent city, which, by the 19th century, had grown into the commercial and financial centre of Switzerland. The modern Zurich is a city of bankers in a country of banks. This concentration of wealth can most readily be seen along the Bahnhofstrasse, flanked by lime trees. All the major banks have a presence here, notably at the Paradeplatz, where elegant shops and designer boutiques line the street, interspersed with trendy bars and attractive cafés, stretching from the Hauptbahnhof right down to Lake Zurich.


Other riches lie in the city's excellent universities - Zurich is a powerhouse for research, with public-private partnerships leading to innovations both in design and the high-tech sector. The exceptional 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, art galleries, auction houses, the opera, orchestras and the Schauspielhaus theatre, as well as a number of performance spaces that encourage contemporary artists in all media.


Zurich ranks among the cities with the highest standard of living in the world. (In one particular ranking, it was top of the list every year from 2001 to 2006.) The high standard of living is evident in the many fashionable and enjoyable bars, cafés and restaurants that fill the Old Town. The ambience is heightened by the large swathes on either side of the River Limmat that are pedestrian-only areas. For those who find the comfortable burgher lifestyle a little too tame, there are always alternative places to seek out. This is, after all, the city that saw the birth of the artistic movement of Dadaism - the antithesis of conformity.

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