Lifestyle and Culture of Zurich, Switzerland

Zurich is Switzerland’s centre of economic life and education. Zurich has for years ranked among the world’s top cities in terms of quality of life. Zürich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zürich. Zurich has a unique position in Switzerland. It is the country’s largest city and home to an internationally reputed financial centre as well as being the focus of an economic region which acts as the motor of Switzerland, and along with Geneva is the most important gateway to the country.

It is located in north-central Switzerland, at the northwestern tip of Lake Zürich. Zurich is the capital of the canton of the same name and the centre of a number of regions which together have some 1.9 million inhabitants. It is famous for its lakeside location and green, densely wooded chain of hills which run through the city from north to south. Both Zurich Airport and Zürich’s main railway station are the largest and busiest in the country.

Located in the heart of Europe, the city offers all the modern amenities of a cosmopolitan metropolis. The wide variety of cultural activities and educational institutions define Zurich’s character as a diverse, open city with a passion for life. Zurich combines the advantages of a green and modern city at the foot of the Alps with excellent infrastructure and a strong network of business, education and ambitious start-ups. Zürich is a hub for railways, roads, and air traffic.

Zurich’s place on the world stage does not come down to its size but to its strong international networks. Zurich was already a prosperous centre of commerce in the Early Middle Ages. The 1519 Reformation gave the economy such a boost that the city rapidly became Switzerland’s financial centre. Zürich is home to many financial institutions and banking companies. The world-famous Bahnhofstrasse, which the Swiss National Bank located, is one of the most luxurious shopping strips around.

Not only as an economic hub, university city and boutique metropole by the water offering a high quality of life, Zurich is a great place to live. The cosmopolitan city by the water combines creative urban life with nature in all its glory. The high standards of living, working and accommodation are regularly confirmed in surveys of the local residents, and Zurich consistently finds itself at the top of international rankings of cities in terms of quality of life.

Zurich has one of the highest numbers of Michelin-starred restaurants per inhabitant in Europe. The city’s rustic pubs, street food festivals and pop-up restaurants in empty factories are also enjoying a great degree of popularity. Over 1,700 restaurants and bars serve both traditional Zurich and Swiss dishes as well as exotic specialties. Zurich is abuzz with activity day and night with its countless events, diverse museums, own food festival and Switzerland’s most vibrant nightlife.

Zurich is a boutique city that offers everything that albeit in small and exquisite format. Many museums and art galleries can be found in the city, including the Swiss National Museum and Kunsthaus. Schauspielhaus Zürich is considered to be one of the most important theatres in the German-speaking world. Zurich is avant-garde: it was not only home to Dada, but also the place where the Freitag bag and world-renowned Helvetica typeface originated.

The city is a centre of research, development, business formation and innovation. Researchers at the revered Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) and companies such as Google and Disney Research produce one innovation after the next. Zurich University of the Arts and other cultural establishments such as the Kunsthaus Zürich, Haus Konstruktiv and Museum für Gestaltung make sure creativity is also in abundance.

The Zurich lake is the landmark of the city and region of Zurich. It connects Zurich with Rapperswil and offers many activities on and in the water. Popular places to visit around Lake Zurich include the numerous swimming areas, the Alpamare in Pfäffikon – the largest covered water park in Europe – the sunny islands of Ufenau and Lützelau near Rapperswil, the wooden footbridge across the lake between Rapperswil and Hurden, the Baroque church in Lachen, the famous Lindt & Sprüngli chocolate factory in Kilchberg and, of course, the dynamic metropolis of Zurich, with all its many sights, the famous shopping mile of the Bahnhofsstrasse and its vast range of cultural amenities.

The Greater Zürich Area is Switzerland’s economic centre and home to many international companies. Zürich is one of Europe’s most important financial centres. Located in Zürich, the Swiss Stock Exchange was established in 1877 and is nowadays the fourth most prominent stock exchange in the world. In addition, Zürich is the world’s largest gold trading centre. The finance sector generates around a third of the wealth and a quarter of the jobs in the city.

Ten of the country’s 50 largest companies have their head offices in Zürich, among them ABB, UBS, Credit Suisse, Swiss Re and Zürich Financial Services. Most Swiss banks have their headquarters in Zürich and there are numerous foreign banks in the Greater Zürich Area. The city is able to attract business and employees from around the world thanks to its high quality of life and its attractive educational and employment opportunities. 330,000 people have found work here, notably 90% of them in the service sector.

Various innovative businesses and industries, both small and large, form an important basis of the Zürich economy. By far the most important sector in the economy of Zürich is the service industry, which employs nearly four-fifths of workers. Other important industries include light industry, machine and textile industries and tourism.

Biotechnology and life sciences are currently enriching the medical tech sector. The combination of old and new know-how is creating excellent results in the life sciences sector, while niche markets such as the automotive supplier industry and aerospace as well as the rapidly expanding creative economy are enjoying similar success. Zürich is being expanded as a congress and tourism venue as a complement to the knowledge-based sectors. Production costs in Switzerland are lower than in competing economic areas thanks to high productivity levels and low non-wage labour costs in comparison with other countries around the world.

The high quality of life has been cited as a reason for economic growth in Zürich. Local planning authorities ensure clear separation between urban and recreational areas and there are many protected nature reserves. Zürich benefits from the high level of investment in education which is typical of Switzerland in general and provides skilled labour at all levels. The city is home to two major universities, thus enabling access to graduates and high technology research.

The current variety and quality of the cultural offer in Zürich is most impressive. The city’s cultural spectrum was marked in the 1970s by the opera house, theatre, art gallery, concert hall and various cinemas, but over the past 25 years it has taken on an almost unbelievable life of its own. Zürich has centres and niches for the avant-garde and the unconventional from every sector of culture.

The city’s old town along the lake and the Langstrasse area are characterised by the wide variety of bars and restaurants. In the Zürich-West former industrial area, where steel-workers once manufactured turbines and machinery, there are now any number of clubs and discos, as well as galleries (the Löwenbräu art zone) and modern theatre productions (the city theatre’s Schiffbau-Halle) in what has become a thriving district.

Zürich has been the home to several art movements. The Dada movement was founded in 1916 at the Cabaret Voltaire. Artists like Max Bill, Marcel Breuer, Camille Graeser or Richard Paul Lohse had their ateliers in Zürich. In addition to high-quality museums and galleries, Zürich has high-calibre chamber and symphony orchestras and several important theatres.

Most of Zürich’s sites are located within the area on either side of the Limmat, between the Main railway station and Lake Zürich. The churches and houses of the old town are clustered here, as are the most expensive shops along the famous Bahnhofstrasse. The Lindenhof in the old town is the historical site of the Roman castle, and the later Carolingian Imperial Palace.

Compared to other cities, there are few tall buildings in Zürich. High-rise buildings including the Prime Tower as the tallest skyscraper in Switzerland at the time of its construction. There are numerous examples of brutalist buildings throughout the city, including the Swissmill Tower which, at 118m, is the world’s tallest grain silo.

The Zürich Opera House, built in 1834, was the first permanent theatre in the heart of Zürich and was at the time, the main seat of Richard Wagner’s activities. Later in 1890, the theatre was re-built as an ornate building with a neo-classical architecture. The portico is made of white and grey stone ornamented with the busts of Wagner, Weber and Mozart. Later, busts of Schiller, Shakespeare and Goethe were also added. The auditorium is designed in the rococo style. Once a year, it hosts the Zürcher Opernball with the President of the Swiss Confederation and the economic and cultural élite of Switzerland. The Ballet Zürich performs at the opera house. The Zürich Opera Ball, a major social event, is held annually at the Opera House as a fundraiser for the opera and ballet companies.

The Schauspielhaus Zürich is the main theatre complex of the city. It has two dépendances: Pfauen in the Central City District and Schiffbauhalle, an old industrial hall, in Zürich West. The Schauspielhaus was home to emigrants such as Bertolt Brecht or Thomas Mann, and saw premieres of works of Max Frisch, Friedrich Dürrenmatt, Botho Strauss or Elfriede Jelinek. The Schauspielhaus is one of the most prominent and important theatres in Switzerland.

The Theater am Neumarkt is one of the oldest theatres of the city. Established by the old guilds in the Old City District, it is located in a baroque palace near Niederdorf Street. It has two stages staging mostly avantgarde works by European directors.

Zürich is a significant knowledge and research centre, the basis of which is provided by the public elementary school system and the internationally renowned technical colleges. Switzerland is one of the countries with the highest investment in research in percentage of GDP and the most patents per inhabitant. Zürich is kept at the forefront thanks to active support from its universities and also from several technical colleges and research institutes. About 70,000 people study at the 20 universities, colleges and institutions of higher education in Zürich in 2019.

Two of Switzerland’s most distinguished universities are located in the city: the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), which is controlled by the federal government, and the University of Zurich, under direction of the canton of Zürich. The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) is the flagship of Swiss colleges and is in the top five European universities. It has some 13,000 students spread over 16 departments, while Zürich University – the largest in Switzerland – has 24,000 registered students.

ETH was founded in 1854 by the Swiss Confederation and opened its doors in 1855 as a polytechnic institute. ETH achieved its reputation particularly in the fields of chemistry, mathematics and physics and there are 21 Nobel Laureates who are associated with the institution. ETH is usually ranked the top university in continental Europe. The institution consists of two campuses, the main building in the heart of the city and the new campus on the outskirts of the city.

The University of Zurich was founded in 1833, although its beginnings date back to 1525 when the Swiss reformer Ulrich Zwingli founded a college of theology. Nowadays with its 24,000 students and 1,900 graduations each year, the University of Zürich is the largest in Switzerland and offers the widest range of subjects and courses at any Swiss higher education institution.

The Pedagogical College, the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) and the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) are another three top-class technical colleges which contribute to Zürich’s reputation as a knowledge and research pole by providing applied research and development. Zürich is also one of the co-location centres of the Knowledge and Innovation Community (Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation) of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology.

In addition to the university libraries, the city is also served by the Zentralbibliothek Zürich, a research and public library, and the Pestalozzi-Bibliothek Zürich, a public library with 14 locations.

Zurich’s cuisine knows no limits when it comes to food, this is reflected in the outstanding quality and readiness to experiment in the food mecca, Zurich. The traditional cuisine of Zürich reflects the centuries of rule by patrician burghers as well as the lasting imprint of Huldrych Zwingli’s puritanism. Traditional dishes include Zürcher Geschnetzeltes and Tirggel.

Besides regional specialties, food lovers can find international trends, new interpretations, and culinary rarities. The widely-traveled Zurich chefs love to combine their inspirations from far-off lands with local produce. Many Zurich chefs buy the fresh produce for their dishes directly from the market or team up with local producers. When it comes to wine, cheese, vegetables, or fish.

Taste local specialties when traveling to different places. Among Zurich’s culinary classics are “Luxemburgerli”, “Birchermüesli”, and “Züri Gschnätzlets”. The most iconic restaurants, including some with a tradition stretching back 100 years and more. The locals love a hearty breakfast. Like-minded visitors will find a huge selection of restaurants and cafés in Zurich that serve breakfast. Those who want to discover Zurich in a particularly indulgent way can take part in a culinary city tour.

Comfort Food focus is much more on healing the soul ­­with comfort food. In Summer, Zurich brings a real Mediterranean feel. At this time of year, many people spend much of their time outdoors. Countless restaurants and bars entice guests outside into the open air: onto the shores of Lake Zurich, into secluded gardens, or to the popular “Badi-Bars”.

Fondue (melted cheese in a central pot, dip bread into it) and Raclette (cheese melted in small portions, served with potatoes and pickles) are commonly available at restaurants. Grilled bratwurst from street stands, served with a large crusty roll of sourdough bread and mustard, or sandwiches made with fresh baked bretzeln.

The bread available in Zürich is generally delicious. There are many varieties, and your best bet is to go to a bakery or a supermarket in the morning or just after work hours, when most people are doing their shopping and bread is coming out fresh. A typically Swiss bread is the zopf, a b.raided soft bread that is commonly served on Sundays. For breakfast, try a bowl of müesli, which was invented as a health food in Switzerland. The Sprüngli confectionery store tea rooms serve a deluxe version of this fiber-filled cereal with whole milk, crushed berries and cream.

There’s a huge variety of chocolates to enjoy, from the cheapest chocolate bar to individually handmade truffles. Like most European cities, Zürich abounds with cafés where you can enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee, glass of wine or other beverage.

There are many international dining options available too. The current hot trend seems to be pan-Asian noodle, rice, and sushi places. The Italian cuisine holds the highest popularity among the foreign restaurants. They can be found throughout the city and are relatively cheap. Turkish fast food restaurants are also a delicious, cheap option.

Zürich is ranked the third most expensive city in the world, and offers international names, luxury brands, Swiss products and an ever increasing number of young labels that focus on sustainable production. Each quarter of the city offers its own unique shopping experience: from the finest chocolate, watches, and jewelry on the famous Bahnhofstrasse, to trendy and traditional stores in the Old Town, through to local, urban labels in Zurich-West.

Bahnhofstrasse runs from the Zürich Train Main station “Hauptbahnhof” right down to the lake. Bahnhofsstrasse is famous for being one of the most exclusive and expensive shopping streets in the world. Here you can get anything from diamond rings to chocolate to fur coats. Globus and Jelmoli are two fiercely competitive department stores, both of which carry items from many high-end brands.

Niederdorf is the Old Part of Zurich which expands from “Bellevue” by the Lake right to “Central” which is just over the river from the train station. The Niederdorf is more for young people. Aside from a lot of fast food places you will find a lot of trendy clothes stores here.

Löwenstrasse runs west of Bahnhofstrasse from the main train station, has shops selling everyday items and a large branch of Migros, a department store chain.

In summer, the many weekly markets in Zurich and region sell flowers, vegetables, local specialties, and second-hand treasures. In winter, meanwhile, shoppers are enchanted by diverse Christmas markets.

Night owls and party-goers will find a huge selection of bars, clubs, and event locations in Zurich – ranging from a beer or cocktail bar in the multicultural Langstrasse quarter to the famous electro music clubs in the up-and-coming Zürich-West. While the open-air bars are a popular meeting place for young and old in summer, the first-class concert venues celebrate their high season in fall and winter. They inspire music lovers with excellent sound quality and a host of international stars.

The most famous districts for Nightlife are the Niederdorf in the old town with bars, restaurants, lounges, hotels, clubs, etc. and a lot of fashion shops for a young and stylish public and the Langstrasse in the districts 4 and 5 of the city. There are authentic amusements: bars, punk clubs, hip hop stages, Caribbean restaurants, arthouse cinemas, Turkish kebabs and Italian espresso-bars, but also sex shops or the famous red-light district of Zürich.

Along with various other festivals, there is the annual Zürich Theatre Spectacular every summer, which has become one of the most important European festivals for contemporary theatre. The city has also organised the Zürich Film Festival since 2005. Annual sporting highlights include the “Ironman” Triathlon, the “Weltklasse Zürich” athletics meeting and the “Mercedes-CSI” horse show. As well as the traditional local “Sechseläuten” and “Knabenschiessen” festivals, there is the “Streetparade”, the “Dörfli-Fäscht”, the “Tropical Caliente” Festival, the “Longstreet Carnival”, the “Christopher Street Day” and the “Züri-Fäscht” which all go to make up the rich tapestry of Zürich’s event calendar.

The Zurich Film Festival is an international film festival, lasting 11 days and featuring popular international productions. The Kunst Zürich is an international contemporary art fair with an annual guest city; it combines most recent arts with the works of well-established artists. Another annual public art exhibit is the city campaign, sponsored by the City Vereinigung (the local equivalent of a chamber of commerce) with the cooperation of the city government. It consists of decorated sculptures distributed over the city centre, in public places. Past themes have included lions (1986), cows (1998), benches (2003), teddy bears (2005), and huge flower pots (2009). From this originated the concept of the CowParade that has been featured in other major world cities.

The best known traditional holiday in Zürich is the Sechseläuten (Sächsilüüte), including a parade of the guilds and the burning of “winter” in effigy at the Sechseläutenplatz. During this festival the popular march known as the Sechseläutenmarsch is played.

Natural space
The City of Zürich regularly occupies the top spots in rankings of cities based on quality of life, and has attractive working and residential areas that are filled with greenery and have good access to the lake, rivers, hills and forests. Additionally noticeable progress has been made over the past two decades in terms of environmental quality.

The Lindenhof is the oldest public parkland and dates back to the ninth century. In the Zürichhorn area there is a Chinese garden, which was a gift from Zürich’s twin city of Kunming in the south-west of China in recognition of the city’s technical and scientific support in the development of Kunming’s drinking water supply and urban drainage. More park and leisure areas seem to have been springing up of late, including the spectacular modern park in New Oerlikon and the terraces along the river banks.

Native animals such as the lynx, the brown bear, the marmot and the ibex all call the Langenberg nature park at the foot of the Albis home, while the Zürich Zoo has developed innovative concepts for animal breeding using new enclosures. The Zürich Wilderness Park is a real experience for the visitor since it shows nature that is preserved yet untouched by human hands and left to develop as it would in the wild.

Zurich lake region
Lake Zurich is a lake in Switzerland, extending southeast of the city of Zürich. The Lake Zurich region lies in the cantons of Glarus, Schwyz, St. Gallen and Zurich, which includes the towns and villages around Lake Zurich. The Prehistoric pile dwellings around Lake Zurich comprises 11 of total 56 Prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps in Switzerland. Lake Zurich with beautiful scenery is not only a treat to the human eyes but also an excellent place for some recreational activities. Lakeside promenades, bars, restaurants, shops and many other facilities.

Lake Zurich, which looks like a bent almost banana-shaped on the map, is framed on the southern side by the Albis and Zimmerberg hills and on the north by the Pfannenstiel chain of hills. The lake is bordered by the cantons of Zurich, St.Gallen and Schwyz. Zürich, at the north-western end of the lake, is the largest city on Lake Zurich. The famous “golden coast” extends along the northern side of the lake, from Zollikon to Feldmeilen. This sun-soaked region is famous for its low rates of taxation and high property prices, and is therefore the stretch of coast where you can seen the magnificent houses and villas of the upper echelons of society.

On the west shore (which gradually becomes the south shore) are Rüschlikon, Thalwil, Horgen, Wädenswil, Richterswil, Pfäffikon, and Lachen. On the opposite shore are Küsnacht, Meilen, Stäfa, and Rapperswil-Jona with the medieval town of Rapperswil, whose castle is home to the Polish museum. Schmerikon is close to the east end of the lake, and a little further east is the larger town of Uznach.

Lake Zurich is a popular place for excursions, picnic. Bathe in the deep blue water, or cycle around it. With the soft splashing of the water on the shore, fresh fish on the plate and particularly romantic sunsets over the lake: the restaurants on the water have a Mediterranean attitude to life. The surrounding area also includes some well-known destinations: Ufenau Island, the Lindt Home of Chocolate, Rapperswil Castle or a winery near Stäfa.

Take a boat trip on the lake, guests spot the snow-covered Alps on the horizon. Gently rocking waves, peace and quiet, relaxation and fine food: the best way to discover the Lake Zurich area is by taking a boat trip. The two historic paddle-steamers, the “Gipfeli-Schiff” (early mornings) and the “Sonnenuntergangs-Schiff” (sunset sailings), offers all kinds of special excursions available. Musical trips and special tours on public holidays are all part of the programme offered by the Lake Zurich shipping company.

Lake Zurich’s water is very clean and reaches, during summer, temperatures well beyond 20 °C. Swimming in the public baths and beaches is very popular. The lake’s water is purified and fed into Zürich’s water system; it is potable. Lake Zurich offers plenty of bathing opportunities all around. Beaches and seaside resorts can be found in practically every seaside community.