Zurich is the capital of the canton of the same name. It lies on the river Limmat where it flows out of Lake Zurich, and is the largest town in Switzerland.
The city is a cultural mecca, and in international polls frequently figures among the most desirable cities in the world to live in. In the 19th and 20th centuries in particular it attracted many notable writers, artists and composers. The Dada art movement was born in Zurich's Cabinet Voltaire in 1916. Today it boasts not only many museums, theatres and concert halls, but some 500 bars, nightclubs and discos. The Bahnhofstrasse is one of Switzerland's prime shopping streets.
The Neue Zurcher Zeitung ("New Zurich Newspaper") is Switzerland's most prestigious newspaper. It was first published in 1780, and is one of the oldest German language newspapers still in existence.
The city is home both to Zurich University and to one of Switzerland's two prestigious Federal Institutes of Technology, the ETHZ. Between 1975 and 2002 the ETHZ alone produced 7 Nobel science laureates.
Switzerland's largest airport is in Kloten near Zurich. The city is also an important rail hub. As for urban transport, Zurich claims to have the best-served urban traffic network in the world.
Turicum, from which the name Zurich comes, was originally a Roman customs post and fort on the left bank of the Limmat. The settlement later spread to both sides of the river.
During the Middle Ages it developed as an economic, cultural and religious centre. In the course of the 13th century it gradually gained more rights of self-government, although it remained part of the German empire.
In 1351 it joined the Swiss Confederation, where it quickly became one of the leading members, along with Bern and Lucerne.
It has traditionally been at the forefront of new developments: it led the Protestant forces at the Reformation in the 16th century, its liberal politicians played a key role in establishing the modern federal state in 1848, and its entrepreneurs were the backbone of the industrial revolution in Switzerland in the 19th century.