Discover ZürichA Zürich city break will introduce you to the city’s rich history as well as to its celebrated buildings, never-ending shopping streets and great nature.
CityZapper’s editors selected the best tips and advice on Zürich for you, and the team created this online city guide to make your visit to the city an unforgettable one. Rest assured that you’ll only get to see the city’s best and most unique sights, spots and venues.
Zürich is situated in the centre of Europe, in the very heart of Switzerland. The city is located at the north-western tip of Lake Zürich. People from all over the world travel to this beautiful city to experience its multicultural atmosphere and to enjoy its many tourist attractions and leisure facilities. Bahnhoffstrasse, one of the world’s most exclusive and most expensive shopping avenues, came into existence about 150 years ago when the city’s fortifications were demolished and when the moat in front of these walls was filled in. This street cemented Zürich’s reputation as a true shopping Walhalla. Bahnhoffstrasse is the place to be for international fashion brands, jewellery and the quality timepieces that Switzerland is famous for.
Art lovers will also enjoy Zürich to the max since Switzerland’s largest city has no less than 50 museums of which 14 are dedicated entirely to art. At the Kunsthaus Zürich, a visual arts museum, you’ll find an extensive collection of paintings, sculptures, photos and films. Another icon of culture is Museum Rietberg, a leading international centre for art from outside Europe’s borders. The city’s nightlife is also world class since Zürich has the highest ‘club density’, so to speak, in all of Switzerland. You’ll never arrive too late here, at best you’ll be fashionably late. From electro in Club Exil via the best of the 80s at Mascotte to a gay party at Labor Bar: the parties get going at 23:00 hours and they last until the early hours of the morning.
HistoryPermanently settled for about 2000 years, Zürich has a history that goes back to its founding by the Romans in 15 BC and who called it ‘Turicum’. However, early settlements have been found dating back more than 6400 years. The Romans introduced a variety of innovations to the area, including Roman Baths. Parts of this ancient settlement can still be seen around Lindenhof today. The River Limmat proved to be an important and convenient waterway by which heavy goods could be transported since the roads were often unreliable and unfit to serve this purpose.
After the Romans left, the Franks and the Alamanni (Germanic tribes) settled in and around present day Zürich. They knew little of Roman infrastructure, however, and they were unable to maintain the once prosperous city of Turicum. Eventually, this led to a sharp decline in trade which in turn led to the devaluation of Roman currency.
In 1218, the city became an Imperial Free City of the Holy Roman Empire and it received the title ‘Reichsstadt’ shortly after. Its inhabitants built a city hall and the world as they knew it got a lot bigger as the city expanded across the River Limmat. Trade flourished, which in turn increased the city’s importance in Europe. City Hall was completed by 1300 and a number of monasteries were built within the city.
According to legend, saints Felix and Regula were decapitated here since they refused to denounce their Christian faith. After being decapitated, they miraculously got on their feet again, picked up their own heads, walked forty paces uphill, and prayed before finally lying down at the spot where they wanted to be buried. The Grossmünster Church was founded by Charlemagne, whose horse allegedly fell to its knees over the tombs of Felix and Regula. Charlemagne’s grandson, Ludwig, founded the Fraumünster Church opposite the Grossmünster Church. It is owing to the legend of Felix and Regula that Zürich became an important city to pilgrims during medieval times.
Zürich’s Guild Revolution of 1336 saw the establishment of the guilds that later gained substantial political influence. The city of Zürich is still home to beautiful guild houses, an example of which is ‘Zur Waag’. In 1519, Huldrych Zwingli became pastor of the Grossmünster Church where he began to preach ideas on the reform of the Catholic Church. Zwingly was against everything not written in the Bible which, according to him, would lead to moral improvement for the people of Zürich. Huldrych Zwingli later died in battle, fighting the Catholics.
His successor, Heinrich Bullinger, was a peaceful man and a reformer. Bullinger was later honoured with a statue on Grossmünster Church’s façade. The Reformed hailing from other parts of the country, and indeed from other parts of Europe, came to Zürich as the city became known as a safe haven that accepted them for who they were. These people, in turn, brought with them knowledge on textiles which led to Zürich becoming an important city for the textile industry. This marked the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. With the construction of Zürich’s Hauptbahnhof, the city’s main railway station, the city gained access to and was connected with rest of the world by means of trains.
The city’s liberal mayor, Alfred Escher, played a paramount role as a railway pioneer. He believed that railway tracks should lead right through Switzerland and through the city of Zürich, instead of being routed around the country. The development of the Swiss railway system, for which the country would become world-famous, led to flourishing trade for both Switzerland and Zürich. Escher was also instrumental in the construction of the Gotthard Tunnel. Zürich-West, meanwhile, saw the development of shipyards, beer breweries and large soap factories.
Switzerland remained neutral during the Second World War which spared Zürich from the terrors and destruction seen elsewhere in Europe. After the war, the city developed into one of the most important financial centres of the world. During the early 1980s, Zürich’s industrial development slowed down and creative types started to settle in the city. Art galleries, trendy restaurants, clubs and theatres now dominate Zürich-West. Old factories were transformed and adapted to their new roles as centres of creativity.