9 Things You Probably Didn’t Know about Zürich

Avery Nelson is a student at the University of Denver and an ISA Featured Blogger. He is currently studying abroad with EuroScholars in Zürich, Switzerland.

Leaves, Zurich, Switzerland - NELSON - Photo1

1. It’s the Most Expensive City in the World

Looking at the relationship between price index and purchasing power, Zürich ranks as the most expensive city in the world. Zürich is followed closely by its Swiss neighbor, Geneva, and New York, NY takes third.

Why is Switzerland so expensive? Back in January, Swiss bankers unhinged their currency peg with the Euro, sending the Swiss Franc (the currency used here in Switzerland) soaring upwards in value.

2. It has Europe’s largest church clock face

As a part of the St. Peter Church located in downtown Zürich, the largest church clock face in Europe stands tall. 8.7 meters in diameter and built in 1534, this clock is one of the many historical gems hidden throughout the city.

Clock Face, Zurich, Switzerland - NELSON - Photo 2

3. Albert Einstein was here!

In 1905 Albert Einstein submitted his revolutionary paper “Eine neue Bestimmung der Moleküldimensionen” (A New Determination of Molecular Dimensions) as a dissertation at the University of Zürich. From 1909 to 1911 he was a Professor for Theoretical Physics at the University, leaving a significant legacy here at one of those popular and prestigious academic institutions in Europe.

4. It’s the largest city in Switzerland, even though it’s not the capital.

Zürich proper has a population of right around 400,000 with the larger metropolitan area holding close to 2 million. Bern, the capital of Switzerland situated only 2 hours southwest of Zürich, has a population of only 140,000.

5. It has the highest consumer spending of any city in the world!

According to Euromonitor International, Zürich has the highest consumer spending of any other city in the world. Those living in Zürich spend an average of USD$54,438 annually per capita. This is 20 percent above the Swiss national average of USD$45,300.

Who else likes to spend money? Closely following are three cities from the US. Boston (USD$53,015), San Fransisco (USD$50,775), and Washington (USD$48,436). The US national average is around USD$35,580.

6. There are 1424 fountains in the city and you can drink from all of them!

When you come visit Zürich and head downtown for some shopping on Bahnhofstrasse or a delicious bar of chocolate at the Lindt store, don’t fret if you have forgotten your trusted Nalgene. There is a fountain on almost every corner of the city and you can drink safely from all of them! As a fountain water drinker myself – I can vouch for the water; it’s very tasty.

Fountain, Zurich, Switzerland - NELSON - Photo 3

7 .They speak Swiss-German.

An island in the middle of Europe, Switzerland loves to be different from all of its European neighbors. There are four national languages here! German (used by 64% of the population but is usually spoken in the dialect of Swiss-German), French (normally spoken in Swiss-French), Italian (normally spoken in Swiss-Italian) and Romansh Here in Zürich, Swiss-German is the most popular language, but German (more well known as High German) is also widely spoken and understood.

Colored Houses, Zurich, Switzerland - NELSON Photo 4

8. It has fantastic public and regional transportation!

Public transportation is very important in Switzerland. The main train station here in Zürich (Zürich Hauptbahnhoff) sees around 2915 trains per day, making it one of the busiest stations in Europe (after Paris, Rome and Hamburg). Just a few weeks ago I took a train down to the southern part of the country to do some hiking in the Swiss Alps. The high-speed train got us there in less than 3 hours. The regional transportation here is amazing.

The tram and bus system here is also very extensive and timely (of course, it’s the Swiss). Though a public transportation ticket is expensive (by American standards), a bus or tram will take you within a few blocks of any destination of your choice in the greater Zürich area.

Tram, Zurich, Switzerland - NELSON - Photo 5

9. It is the Economic Center of Switzerland

We’ve all heard about “Swiss banks” and the trouble that banks like UBS (Union Bank of Switzerland) and Credit Suisse have gotten into for helping wealthy internationals with tax evasion. The 3 largest banking corporations (among many others) are headquartered here in Zürich. The total assets of all the banks here in Zurich correspond to 85.1% (woah!) of the total value of all assets held in Switzerland. This is partially due to the fact that Swiss Stock exchange is located here, the fourth largest in the world.

Stay tuned for more blogs about my time spent here in Zürich and Switzerland! Thanks for reading.

Want to learn hear more from our EuroScholars students? Check out “The Top 5 Cultural Differences Between Holland and the US”