Overview of Zurich

Geography of Zurich

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Switzerland brings forth images of majestic peaks with brown cows dotting the hillside, but the country is so much more. It is a country that offers refined delicacies like Swiss cheese and chocolate, the austere Alps and the unquestionable security of it's banks. It has some of the most picturesque countryside in the world with a cosmopolitan attitude. One of it's greatest assets is something intangible - it's neutrality.

However, the landlocked country is indelibly tied to it's many close neighbors. The northeast is characterized as a hearty beer drinking area where German is the language of choice. The south-west offers wine drinking and chic shop leading into France. The south-east is closest to it's Italians neighbors with more sun and plazas.

Zurich is continuously ranked as one of the cities with the highest standard of living in the world. Clean, efficient, and with a burgeoning cultural scene - it is a global city.

A distinct country with a variety of interests, there is nowhere quite like Switzerland.


Switzerland has four names in it's four official languages:
German: Schweiz
French: Suisse
Italian: Svizzera
Romansch: Svizra.

Switzerland is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It has borders of 1,858 km with France to the west, Italy to the south, Austria and Liechtenstein to the east and Germany to the north. The total area is 41,285 km2 or 15,940 square miles. Known for its pristine mountain ranges, the Alps and Jura, it also has lush rolling hills and large lakes. The rivers the Rhein, the Aare, the Rhone, the Ticino, the Inn, and the Thur interlace the country. There are also more than 3000 km2 of glaciers that are unfortunately disappearing. The highest point is Dufourspitze at 4,634 meters and it's lowest point is Lake Maggiore at 195 meters above sea level.

The major cities are Zurich, Basel and Bern and travelers can move between cities by train at a commute of less than an hour. There is a population of approximately 7.9 million, mostly on the Plateau around these major cities.

Time Zone

Switzerland is located in the Central European Time zone (CET), also known as Middle European Time zone (MET). It is one hour ahead of Greenwich Time (GMT+1).

Daylight saving time starts in early spring and ends in late fall. Begin and end are synchronized with the countries of the European Union (EU).


Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland. It is spelled Zürich in German or Züri in Swiss German. It is Zurich in French, Zurigo in Italian, and Turitg in Romansh.

Located in central Switzerland, the city is situated at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich. The municipality has an area of 91.88 square kilometers (35.48 sq mi), of which 4.1 km2 (1.6 sq mi) is composed by Lake Zurich. It is 408 meters (1,339 ft) above sea level and about 30 kilometers (19 miles) north of the Alps. The Limmat River is oriented in the southeast-northwest direction and meets the river Sihl.

The city has 380,500 inhabitants. The greater Zurich metropolitan area is composed of a population of nearly 2 million inhabitants. The city is a hub for railways, roads, and air traffic.


The Old Town stretches on both sides of the Limmat river which flows from the lake. The areas surrounding the river are heavily built up with residential, industrial and commercial buildings. Major parks and gardens are also located along the lakeshore. The Lindenhof makes up the geographic and historic center of the city.

There are few tall buildings in Zurich. The municipal building regulations limit the construction of high-rise buildings to areas in the west and north of the city. In the industrial districts of Altstetten and Oerlikon, buildings can be built up to 80 meters (260 ft). The Prime Tower as the tallest skyscraper in Switzerland.


Switzerland is located in a transition zone with three distinct personalities. In the west, there is a strong influence of the Atlantic ocean. Winds bring in moisture causing rainfall. In the east, there is an almost continental climate, with lower temperatures and less precipitation. The alps (which run from east to west) act as a climatic divide. South of the alps there is a more Mediterranean climate, with significantly higher temperatures and precipitation.

Zurich has an oceanic or humid continental climate with four distinct seasons. The annual mean temperature at the measuring station of the Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology in Zurich is 8.5 degrees C (47.3 degrees F). The coldest month mean temperatures are measured in January with -0.5 degrees C (31.1 degrees F) and the warmest are measured in July with 17.6 degrees C (63.7 degrees F). On average there are 88 days in which the minimum temperature is below 0 degrees C (32 degrees F), and 26 days in which the maximum temperature is below 0 degrees C (32 degrees F). During the summer months, levels of rainfall are higher than those measured in winter. Snow is common in the winter, especially in the higher elevations among the Aps.

For up-to-date weather information, consult MeteoSwiss.


Zurich is composed of 12 distinct districts (known as Kreis in German).

  • District 1 - known as Altstadt (old town) is on the east and west of the start of the Limmat river.
  • District 2 - Along the west side of Lake Zurich, and contains the neighborhoods of Enge, Wollishofen and Leimbach.
  • District 3 - Known as Wiedikon, this area is between the Sihl river and the Uetliberg, and contains the neighborhoods of Alt-Wiedikon, Sihlfeld and Friesenberg.
  • District 4 - Known as Aussersihl, lies between the Sihl and the train tracks leaving Zurich Hauptbahnhof. This neighborhood is more affordable than upper crust Oberstrass and Unterstrass, it is a haven for foreign residents living in Zurich.
  • District 5 - Known as Industriequartier, it is between the Limmat and the train tracks leaving Zurich Hauptbahnhof. Contains the former industrial area of Zurich which has gone under a large scale re-zoning to create upscale modern housing, retail and commercial real estate.
  • District 6 - On the edge of the Zurichberg. Contains the elite neighborhoods of Oberstrass and Unterstrass.
  • District 7 - On the edge of the Adlisberg hill on the eastern side of the city. District 7 contains the neighborhoods of Hottingen and Hirslanden.
  • District 8 - Known as Riesbach, lies on the eastern side of Lake Zurich.
  • District 9 - Between the Limmat to the north and Uetliberg to the south. It contains the neighborhoods Altstetten and Albisrieden.
  • District 10 - Is to the east of the Limmat and to the south of the Honggerberg and Kaferberg hills. District 10 contains the neighborhoods of Hongg and Wipkingen.
  • District 11 - North of the Honggerberg and Kaferberg and between the Glatt valley and the Katzensee. It contains the neighborhoods of Affoltern, Oerlikon and Seebach.
  • District 12 - Known as Schwamendingen, is located in the Glattal on the northern side of the Zurichberg.

Update 18/08/2011

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