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Zurich History

Zurich's origins date back to 15BC, when the Roman town of Turicum was established to oversee trade passing through the Alps. Despite the settlement being continuously inhabited, it wasn't until the 9th century that the first mention of the Teutonic town of Zurich appeared.

Ruled by a grandson of Emperor Charlemagne (known as Louis the German), it swiftly expanded and gained a reputation for creating peerless ecclesiastical buildings in the process.

By the 10th century, the town had acquired the status of a city, and went on to become part of the Holy Roman Empire in 1215. While an imperial city, it was turned into a Duchy, although, unusually, it was ruled by the local Fraumünster (an abbess) who assumed similar powers to a Duchess.

But when the Swiss Protestant Reformation arrived in the 16th century, ecclesiastical rule came to an end – as did most Catholic worship. Instead, Catholicism was swapped for a new religion, trade, with the city becoming increasingly wealthy as part of the Swiss Confederacy. By the 18th century, Zurich became so devoted to trade that it was all but ruled by its guilds. They had the power to levy taxes, among other things.

With the French invasion of 1798, the power of the Burghers came to an end, and power was first taken by Napoleon and then by citizens following the French withdrawal. Burghers or no burghers, the city flourished, expanding rapidly during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Although both World Wars largely passed it by (in no small part due to Switzerland’s much vaunted neutrality), Zurich did change substantially during the first half of the 20th century.

Much of this was due to further expansion to include many of its surrounding villages but also because of a boom in the banking industry. Today, Zurich remains a financial and banking hub as well as one of Europe’s wealthiest cities.

Did you know?
• Influential German-language writer Gottfried Keller was a resident of Zurich.
• The Reformation in Zurich was inspired by the 1522 ‘Affair of the Sausages’ in which the pastor of Grossmünster argued in favour of meat consumption during Lent.
• Psychiatrist Carl Jung lived and died in Zurich.

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Featured Hotels

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Leoneck Swiss Hotel

Just a five-minute walk from the city centre, the Leoneck Swiss Hotel is an official Swiss Alpine Club SAC partner with over 80 air-conditioned rooms, a restaurant, free Wi-Fi and a free smartphone in every room. For just CHF 20, guests can have breakfast at the hotel buffet which includes a range of egg dishes, coffee and fresh croissants and fruits.

Walhalla Hotel

The Walhalla Hotel is located directly at Zürich's main railway station. All its 48 modern and comfortable rooms are equipped with a tablet and have complimentary WiFi access. The hotel features six conference rooms which can accomodate up to 50 people, business facilities in its Business Corner and a breakfast buffet.

Lady's First

Conceived in 1994 when eight women decided to create a female-exclusive hotel in what was formerly a finishing school for country girls, Lady's First is a boutique design hotel housed in an elegant 19th-century building. This Zurich hotel is no longer, however, exclusively for women - men are welcome too. A good-natured atmosphere characterises this establishment, which also offers its guests free Wi-Fi, a wellness centre and a roof terrace. There are 28 rooms.

Widder Hotel

Composed of eight adjoining medieval houses, the Widder Hotel is named after a 13th-century Augustinian monastery that used to exist here. The 35 individually decorated rooms and 14 suites (four with private roof terraces) all combine the old and new, with features including 17th-century frescoes and old wooden floors. The Widder Bar has long been an important jazz venue - its 'Library of Spirits' offers several hundred single-malt whiskies.

Central Plaza Hotel

Built in 1883 with an impressive period facade, the Central Plaza has 105 air-conditioned rooms and suites, all fully soundproofed against traffic noise; many have views of the River Limmat and all have modem points. Highlights include a piano bar-cafe and the King's Cave restaurant. A terrace garden with illuminated waterfalls is open in summer. It's also said that the piano bar of this Zurich hotel was a favourite meeting place for Cold War spies.

The Dolder Grand

The location of this luxury residence couldn't be any better: The Dolder Grand offers its guests great panoramic views over the Lake Zürich, the city and over the mountains. It features all amenities you might expect from such an award-winning 5-star-hotel with a long history: rooms and suites with selectable butler service, spas, a pool called Aqua Zone, saunas, a fitness centre, state-of-the-art business facilities, meeting rooms, several lounges, two restaurants (one of which has earned two Michelin stars), a bar and a lobby, a ballroom and a car park.