Zürich: Switzerland’s Financial Centre

Zurich is the financial centre of Switzerland. But it is much more than that; it is a beautiful town full of vibrant life. Rich in history and rich in money, it is listed every year in the top ten cities of the world, when it comes to the title ‘most expensive city’.

Zurich’s historical city straddles the Limmat River which will later join the Aar River as it comes from Berne on its way to the Rhine River. Zurich was a Roman toll collecting post, and was equipped with a Carolingian castle under Charlemagne. His son Louis the German founded the Fraumünster abbey in 853 endowing it richly with lands. After a spate under the rule of the Dukes of Zähringen, the town was made a free imperial city after the death of the last duke. The abbess of the convent was promoted to the rank of duchess, making her the ruler of the city.

She lost her power to the gilds over the next century, and the city joined the Swiss Confederation in 1351. Zurich was one of the starting points of the Reformed Church und Ulrich Zwingli, as well as the birthplace of the Baptist Church. Zurich was a very rich city already in the 14th century, as the Manesse manuscript shows (shown in Heidelberg, Germany), a beautifully illustrated bible that was paid for by the family Manesse in Zurich. Zurich has remained the financial centre of Switzerland to this day.

The town centre is dominated by the Grossmünster, also a gift of the German emperors, the Fraumünster, and the church of St Peter with the largest tower clock in continental Europe. Zurich boasts the most expensive and exclusive shopping mile in Switzerland, the Bahnhofstrasse. It has also a nightlife that never stops concentrated in the area between the railway station and the Grossmünster, called Dörfli (little village). Numerous restaurants, bars, and clubs are to be found there side by side.

Zurich is situated directly on Lake Zurich, which is the main bathing site in summer. Yearly in August, it hosts the largest event organised in Switzerland, when over one million people come into the city centre for the Streetparade. Over 40 Lovemobiles (a name derived from the Berlin Loveparade) take to the streets hammering out techno sounds at maximum volume.

Zurich has many glorious places to see and to visit; apart from buildings mentioned there is the zoo and Lindenplatz with a breathtaking view of the city. Apart from that, there is one recommendation you wouldn’t first hand think of: The Imperial Chinese Garden. A gift of the city of Kunming in China for the help rendered by the town after an earthquake, it is the only complete Imperial Chinese Garden outside of China I know of.

The language spoken in Zurich is Alemannic. The rest of Switzerland makes fun of the inhabitants of the city because they confound nightlife with culture. Zürcher (people of Zurich) denominates anybody living in the vicinity of Zurich and is not meant friendly, Stadtzürcher (people of the city of Zurich) is only used for second generation inhabitants of the town, and Gnomes of Zurich is the name for the bankers.

Famous inhabitants in the past include Lenin and Goethe. Zurich is home to the Federal Technical University whose main buildings above the city were designed and built by Gottfried Semper who had previously built the Opera at Dresden. Being already professor for architecture at the University of Zurich, he headed the finding committee for the submitted architectural plans. When these were found lacking, he drew new plans himself and took over the building supervision at the same time.

For further information on the city of Zurich you may want to go to the official homepage of the city government zuerich.ch.

Further reading
City on The Language Divide: Fribourg
Lausanne, World Capital of Sports
United Nations World Capital Geneva