For as far back as you care to go, Zurich and its surrounding area have always been inhabited. The earliest record of the city’s name is found in the Lindenhof quarter of the city on a tombstone dating back to the second century. Colonised by the Romans at that time, Thuricum was considered a point of strategic defence on the border between the Empire and the Germanic world. It was also a custom station for trade across the Limmat.
From the fifth to the twelfth century, Zurich, under Germanic domination, was ruled first by the Alamans, then the Franks and finally the Carolingians. The Carolingians, present for nearly seven centuries, left a lasting impression on the region. The Alamans, however, introduced the Germanic language, which over time evolved into today’s Swiss German and its numerous dialects.
The city only gained independence in 1218. In 1351 it became the fifth member of the Swiss Confederacy before being expelled in 1440 due to a war with the other cantons. It was not until ten years later that Zurich was readmitted into the Confederacy and then it quickly began to expand its territory. Before the end of the fifteenth century, Zurich had gained Thurgau, Winterthur, Stein am Rhein and Eglisau.
In 1519, Ulrich Zwingli started the Swiss Reformation in Zurich. At the same time he became pastor of the city. Zwingli was the main proponent behind all of the Reformed churches in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. It was a rich Protestant bourgeoisie that held the reins of the city until the progressive revolution of 1830. This revolution advanced the progressive influence over the country and encouraged Zurich to democratise during the nineteenth century.
Under the impetus of the Industrial Revolution, the city experienced strong economic, territorial and demographic growth. It was Alfred Escher, a Swiss politician, who modernised the railways and co-founded the institutions and companies that pioneered the industrialisation and economic growth that have characterised Zurich ever since.
Known as the financial and economic heart of Switzerland, Zurich also ranked as the number two city in 2012 for quality of life. Its privileged position at the centre of Europe makes it attractive not only to bankers and scientists but also to art-loving tourists. Between the University quarter, the Old Town and the trendy new Zürich-West quarter, the city offers its visitors a combination of history and modernity.