Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich. While the municipality itself has approximately 380,500 inhabitants, the Zurich metropolitan area is an urbanised area of international importance constituted by a population of nearly 2 million inhabitants. Zurich is a mixed hub for railways, roads, and air traffic. Both Zurich Airport and railway station are the largest and busiest in the country.
Permanently settled for around 7,000 years, the history of Zurich goes back to its founding by the Romans, who, in 15 BC, called it Turicum. During the Middle Ages Zurich gained the independent and privileged status of imperial immediacy and, in 1519, was the place of origin and centre of the Protestant Reformation in German-speaking Switzerland, led by Ulrich Zwingli.
Zurich is a leading global city and among the world's largest financial centres. The city is home to a large number of financial institutions and banking giants. Also, most of the research and development centres are concentrated in Zurich and the low rate of tax attracts overseas companies to set up their headquarters there. According to several surveys from 2006 to 2008, Zurich was named the city with the best quality of life in the world as well as the wealthiest city in Europe.
An impressive number of museums and art galleries can be found in the city, including the Swiss National Museum and the Kunsthaus. Zurich also hosts one of the most important theatres in the German-speaking world.
Geography:Zurich is situated at 408 meters (1,339 ft) above sea level on the lower (northern) end of Lake Zurich (Zurichsee) about 30 kilometers (19 mi) north of the Alps, nestling between the wooded hills on the west and east side. The Old Town stretches on both sides of the Limmat river, which flows from the lake, running northwards at first and then gradually turning into a curve to the west. The geographic (and historic) centre of the city is the Lindenhof, a small natural hill on the west bank of the Limmat, about 700 metres (2,300 ft) north of where the river issues from Lake Zurich. Today the incorporated city stretches somewhat beyond the natural hydrographic confines of the hills and includes some neighbourhoods to the northeast in the Glatt Valley (German: Glattal) and to the north in the Limmat Valley (German: Limmattal). The boundaries of the older city are easy to recognize by the Schanzengraben canal. This artificial watercourses has been used for the construction of the third fortress in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Climate:Zurich has, depending on the definition used, an oceanic or humid continental climate, with four distinct seasons. Decisive for the climate of Zurich are both the winds from westerly directions, which often result in precipitation and, on the other hand, the Bise (east or north-east wind), which is usually associated with high-pressure situations, but cooler weather phases with temperatures lower than the average. The Foehn wind, which plays an important role in the northern alpine valleys, has a limited impact on Zurich.
Transport:Public transport is extremely popular in Zurich, and its inhabitants use public transport in large numbers. About 70% of the visitors to the city use the tram or bus, and about half of the journeys within the municipality take place on public transport. Within Zurich and throughout the canton of Zurich, the ZVV network of public transport has traffic density ratings among the highest worldwide. When adding frequency, which in Zurich can be as often as seven minutes, it does become the densest across all dimensions. Three means of mass-transit exist: the S-Bahn (local trains), trams, and buses (both diesel and electric, also called trolley buses). In addition, the public transport network includes boats on the lake and river, funicular railways and even the Luftseilbahn Adliswil-Felsenegg (LAF), a cable car between Adliswil and Felsenegg. Tickets purchased for a trip are valid on all means of public transportation (train, tram, bus, boat). The Zurichsee-Schifffahrtsgesellschaft (commonly abbreviated to ZSG) operates passenger vessels on the Limmat river and the Lake Zurich, connecting surrounding towns between Zurich and Rapperswil.
Zurich is a mixed hub for railways, roads, and air traffic. Zurich Hauptbahnhof is the largest and busiest station in Switzerland and is an important railway hub in Europe. It has several other railway stations, including Oerlikon, Stadelhofen, Hardbrucke, Tiefenbrunnen, Enge, Selnau, Wiedikon and Altstetten. The railway network is mainly operated by the Federal Railways but Zurich is also served by the major InterCity trains from the neighbouring countries.
Zurich Airport is located less than 10 kilometers (6.2 mi) northeast of the city in Kloten. Zurich Airport has its own railway station, which is located underground. It is directly connected to Zurich and most of the major Swiss cities. There is also an airfield in Dubendorf.
The A1, A3 and A4 motorways pass close to Zurich. The A1 heads west towards Bern and Geneva and eastwards towards St. Gallen; the A4 leads northwards to Schaffhausen; and the A3 heads northwest towards Basel and southeast along Lake Zurich and Lake Walen towards Sargans.
Architecture:Compared to other cities, there are few tall buildings in Zurich. The municipal building regulations (Article 9) limit the construction of high-rise buildings to areas in the west and north of the city. In the industrial district, in Altstetten and Oerlikon, buildings up to 80 metres (260 ft) in height are allowed (high-rise area I). In the adjacent high-rise areas II and III the height is limited to 40 metres (130 ft). Around the year 2000, regulations became more flexible and high-rise buildings were again planned and built. The people's initiative "40 meters is enough," which would have reduced both the maximum height and the high-rise buildings area, was clearly rejected on 29 November 2009. At this time in Zurich about a dozen high-rises buildings were under construction or in planning, including the Prime Tower as the tallest skyscraper in Switzerland.