11 fascinating facts about Zürich, Switzerland

Zürich Postcard Holder

Since Zürich is Switzerland's biggest town, many assume that it is also the country's capital. (They happen to be wrong.)

On the other hand, Zürich does hold several noteworthy records. And due to its high quality of life, Zürich has been the preferred place for interesting individuals who pulled off interesting feats. To help you expand your Zürich knowledge base, we have dug deep into our archives in order to uncover some fascinating facts about Zürich - from architecture to culture.

There are more than 1200 public water fountains in Zürich.

Anyone who has been to Switzerland knows that buying bottled water is a waste of money. Switzerland has some of the cleanest drinking water, whether from the tap or from public fountains. Zürich exemplifies this fact, having no less than 1224 public water fountains. The reason is that back in the day, each stone mason apprentice had to sculpt a statue in order to pass the master exam, resulting in numerous decorated fountains.

We have previously written about a photography project documenting the 1224 fountains of Zürich. Have a look at how the photographer is discovering Zürich, "one fountain at a time."

Water Fountain in Zürich
 

The Dada movement was born at Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich.

During World War I, it is no coincidence that a number of artists, poets, philosophers and revolutionaries found refuge in neutral Switzerland. And so, a theater of the absurd was inaugurated at Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich's old town in February 1916.

Until its demise in 1922, Lenin used to be a regular at this venue that performed songs, dances and poetry - Dada style. Today, Cabaret Voltaire is a center for contemporary art with a souvenir shop and a café.

Cabaret Voltaire in Zürich(Photograph copyright Александр Вепрёв/Wikimedia Commons)
 

Zürich is a hot spot for research and development.

Thanks to the superb quality of life and the proximity to ETH Zürich, many international corporations have branches in Zürich. The Google presence has grown from two employees in 2004 to more than 4000 in 2019. Google has decided to build their largest European office in downtown Zürich.

Google Zurich

Disney Research is located just minutes from Zürich's Central. It is the Walt Disney Company's only R&D lab outside of the United States. Among other innovations, the Zürich lab is responsible for giving the Stormtroopers in Star Wars individual characters.

Coupled 3D Reconstruction of Sparse Facial Hair and Skin(Copyright Copyright by Disney Research)
 

In 1997, a major heist went down in downtown Zürich.

The centrally located post office at Fraumünster was once the scene of a Hollywood worthy heist. On the morning of September 1, 1997, a day after the tragic car accident of Lady Diana, five robbers breached the security of the post office.

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In a white utility van, they entered the loading area of the post office. They proceeded to point guns at the employees who were in the process of loading cash boxes into an armored vehicle.

Fraumünster Postraub 1997(Photograph copyright Kantonspolizei Zürich)

A few moments later, the five criminals had loaded five cash boxes containing 53 million Swiss francs into their utility van. (Two additional boxes containing 17 million Swiss francs were left behind as they ran out of space.) Despite an immediate manhunt, the criminals, the getaway car and the cash were gone. Some of the robbers were later captured and 20 million Swiss francs were recovered, but two thieves are still on the loose to this date.

 

The Bahnhof Enge train station in Zürich was entirely built from granite extracted out of the Gotthard massif. The "Tessinerplatz" plaza out front pays tribute to this fact.

Bahnhof Enge Zürich(Photograph copyright Wikimedia Commons/Roland zh)
 

The highest point in Zürich is Üetliberg at 871 m a.s.l. And the lowest point is the River Limmat at 392 m a.s.l.

Since we are talking heights, did you know that the 126-meter Prime Tower used to be Switzerland's tallest building until it was surpassed by Basel's 178-meter Roche Tower in 2015?

View from Uetliberg in Zürich, Switzerland
 

Cooperativo was the first Italian restaurant in Zürich in 1905. Another first was Sala of Tokyo: in 1981, it was the first Japanese restaurant in Zürich.

Founded by Italian immigrants in 1905, the Cooperativo at Stauffacher turned into a hot spot for resistance against fascism during World War II. Cooperativo has since relocated and Certo has moved into the original location.

Person Making Tagliatelle Pasta

A few decades later in 1981, the Ruch family introduced Zürich to Japanese food by opening Sala of Tokyo. While ownership of the "Sala" has changed in the meantime, Japanese restaurants in Zürich are now commonplace.

You might be eating a bowl of Zürich for breakfast every day!

Back in 1904, one Max Bircher-Benner founded a clinic focused on raw nutrition. This doctor was convinced that the sun would infuse healing powers into plants, hence making them therapeutical for his patients. Bircher-Benner prescribed twice daily meals made of apples, oats, nuts, lemon and condensed milk. "Bircher Müesli", or simply "Muesli", was born!

Due to the industrialization at the time, many Zürich residents craved a more natural lifestyle. This was also the time when today's Hiltl restaurant first appeared. At first, the "home for vegetarians" (Vegetarierheim) was the subject of ridicule, but its patrons were quite the trendsetters...

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Bircher Muesli Cereal
 

Zürich has two sister cities: San Francisco, USA, as well as Kunming, China.

In 2005, an SFO streetcar was painted to look like an iconic Zürich tram. It was running on the city's F line between Castro and Fisherman's Wharf as part of the World Environment Day. And the idyllic Chinese Garden in Zürich was a gift by Kunming in response to engineering help in constructing their water and sewage system.

Chinese Garden in Zürich(Photograph copyright Cloudia Chen)
 

Zürich is the final resting place for many a famous person.

For one, there are the authors. Johanna Spyri who crafted the world-renowned "Heidi" is resting at the Sihlfeld cemetery, and so are Swiss writers, Gottfried Keller and Max Frisch. The grave of Irish writer, James Jocye, who has called Zürich his home, is located at Fluntern Cemetery. And Thomas Mann, the Nobel Prize winning German author, is resting at Kilchberg Cemetery.

Sihlfeld Cemetery Zurich(Photograph copyright Wikimedia Commons/Roland zh)

Switzerland's first female doctor, Marie Heim-Vögtlin, is resting in peace at the Sihlfeld Crematorium. Henry Dunant, the visionary behind the Red Cross, is resting at Sihlfeld Cemetery. And the grave of Alfred Escher, the Swiss businessman and railway pioneer, is located at Manegg Cemetery in Zürich.

The annual burning of the Sechseläuten Böögg has been canceled only twice in its history: in 1923 because of bad weather and in 2020 because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Sechseläuten Böögg (2014)
 

How to experience Zürich history firsthand

Once the Swiss National Museum opens up again, check out their permanent free exhibit called "Einfach Zürich!" Simply ask for a free admission ticket at the welcome desk. The three-room exhibit contains a collection of 60 artifacts that are typical for Zürich. After the lockdown is over, check their program for some really interesting tours.

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Dimitri Burkhard

Founder, Editor-in-Chief at Newly Swissed GmbH
As the founder, editor and community manager of Newly Swissed, Dimitri owns the strategic vision. He is passionate about storytelling and is a member of the Swiss Travelwriters Club.

Dimitri loves discovering new trends and covers architecture, design, start-ups and tourism.
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