Zurich, the largest city in Switzerland

Zurich is Switzerland’s largest city spreading across 58 km2 with a population of 429 314 as of November 2018. A beautiful place astride the Limmat River and fronting on Lake Zurich. Surrounding it are gently undulating stretches of forest, farmland and small lakes.  The fiscal and business centre of the country, it was also the political capital until 1848, when the honour was transferred to Bern.

Zurich Old Town rooftops with Uetliberg in the background.

The earliest traces of human occupation on the site of Zurich were a Neolithic settlement excavated on the Bauschänzli, the little island in the River Limmat.  The fortified Roman settlement of Turicum (Zurich) was established on the Lindenhof, where there had been a Roman military station as early as 15 BC.  According to the legendary story the town’s patron saints Felix and Regula flied to Zurich with the Theban Legion and were beheaded there.  Their remains were preserved in the Grossmünster.  The development of Zurich into a city-state was given a considerable stimulus when the guilds obtained equal rights with the nobility after an assault on the Town Hall in 1336, and in 1351, it became a member of the Confederation.  In 1523 Ulrich Zwingli established the Reformation in Switzerland and made Zurich one of the great cities of the Reformed faith.

The Zurich Opera House is one of the best in the world. It was awarded Best Opera Company of the Year at the International Opera Awards in 2014.

Zurich is the capital of a canton of the same name that joined the Swiss Confederation in 1351. It is also one the most beautiful city’s in all of Europe and even today, the city retains much of its 19th Century charm. A former seat of the Reformation, Zurich is a staunchly Protestant city.

Although Zurich is highly industrialised, its skies remain relatively unpolluted because the factories run on electricity.

Built between the wooded slopes of the Uetliberg and the Zurichberg, it is split by the River Limmat.  There is no finer pleasure to be had in Zurich than walking along its quays which line the banks of the Limmat and Lake Zurich.  The Old Town is one of the most intriguing in Switzerland, with two giant cathedrals and dozens of streets ideal for exploring at leisure.  It is also a city of parks and gardens, with a particularly outstanding botanical garden.

Discover the unique houses in Zurich’s Old Town.

Zurich is also the most important focus of communications in Switzerland.  It has the country’s largest airport and its railway station is on the great international through routes from Vienna and Munich to southern France and Spain and from Stuttgart to Milan.

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