Zurich cantonZurich is the largest city in Switzerland, and it is almost certainly one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. It is sometimes called the cultural capital of Switzerland, and even now Zurich has a generous helping of 19th century charm
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland, and it is almost certainly one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. It is sometimes called the cultural capital of Switzerland, and even now Zurich has a generous helping of 19th century charm. Zurich is located on the northern side of Lake Zurich in the heart of Switzerland. It is big enough to offer every amenity anyone could want, but it's small enough that you won't be overwhelmed exploring it. The city is the sixth most expensive city in the world (behind Hong Kong, ahead of Copenhagen), but it has also been ranked as the city with the best quality of life in the world.
As the capital of the Canton of Zurich, the city and surrounding areas joined the Swiss Confederation in 1351. Most of the people who live in Zurich speak a German dialect called Schwyzerdutsch. The city was a seat of the Protestant Reformation and is still considered a decidedly Protestant, if not Puritan city.
While Zurich used to be an industrial hub, today it leans more toward a service economy and less toward heavy industry. High tech is a big industry in Zurich, as are insurance, diplomacy, and banking. The headquarters of five major banks are located on the Bahnhofstrasse in the heart of Zurich. Sometimes (at least before the worldwide financial crisis of 2008) bankers were called "gnomes" because of the huge stores of gold in underground valuts. The city has long been considered the number one worldwide trading center for gold.
Zurich is a heavy contributor to Switzerland's general prosperity, but it's also an exciting place with much more to offer. Long a bastion of liberal thought, Zurich has been home to scholars like Mann, Joyce, Jung, and Lenin. The early 20th century forerunner of Surrealism, the Dadaist school, was founded in Zurich in 1916. A burgeoning tourist industry has caused Zurich to add some more exciting entertainment and night life to its repertoire.
Zurich was built between the slopes of the Zurichberg and the Uetliberg, and is divided by the Limmat River. Walking along the quays that line the banks of the Limmat and Lake Zurich is a wonderful way to experience the city. You can cross Lake Zurich by sailboat or motorboat if you so desire. The Old Town, or Altstadt is one of the most interesting in Switzerland. It contains two great cathedrals, and countless streets that are perfect for exploration. Zurich is also full of gardens and public parks, and it is home to a very highly regarded botanical garden. If you visit Switzerland and use Zurich as your "home base" it is easy to take side trips that will give you some of the most stunning panoramic views of the country, including the Uetliberg, the greatest picnic spot in Zurich.
There is much to see and experience in Zurich, but here is a list of 10 favorites, in alphabetical order:
1. Bahnhofstrasse (the banking and business district and a great place to shop)
2. Botanical Garden
3. Church of Our Lady
4. Grossmunster (Great Church)
5. Museum of Art
6. Opera House
7. Rhine Falls
8. Sprungli (a bakery with several locations, famous for its dunkel truffes du jour)
9. Swiss National Museum
10. Zoological Garden
Zurich started out as a Roman customs post in 15 B.C. on the site of what is now called Lindenhof. In the year 1218 it was made a free city. the government fell in 1336, and in 1351 Zurich became part of the Everlasting League of the Confederates. It steadily grew in importance, and by 1519 Zurich was feeling the changes of the Protestant Reformation under a leader named Ulrich Zwingli. It was during the 19th century that Zurich became a center for trade and business, with textile industries, machine industries, insurance companies, and banks. The Zurich Stock Exchange opened in 1877, and the city has maintained its reputation as a center for finance ever since.
If you're ready for some serious shopping, the main district for that is near the main train station, or Hauptbahnhof. You can walk along the Bahnhofstrasse, which is one of the most beautiful shopping streets in Europe, toward the lake. All along the way you'll find department stores, boutiques, and specialty shops. But be warned: Zurich is an expensive city, and you may have to concentrate on "window shopping" and choose carefully when it comes to purchasing. Another great thing to do in this district is to take a river tour. It will give you an excellent view of Zurich's city skyline.
On the other side of the Limmat River, you can be a little freer with your credit cards. The Niederdorf has much less expensive places to shop and dine than the Bahnhofstrasse. The Niederdorf is definitely more touristy, but if you go a little off the beaten path on the narrow lanes, you'll find some very interesting and beautiful places, many of which date back to the 14th century.
Zurich is the perfect place to go on holiday in Switzerland. It is filled with historical sites, beautiful views, ancient streets, and enough to explore for an extended stay.
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