Zürich, one of Switzerland's 26 cantons, is located in the northern part of the country. The region borders the cantons of Schaffhausen to the north, Aargau to the west, Zug and Schwyz to the south, and Thurgau and St. Gallen to the east. Zürich also shares an international border with Germany in the north. Approximately 80% of the local territory is productive. Lakes cover a considerable part of the canton. Among the most predominant lakes are Greifen, Pfäffikon, and part of Lake Zürich. The land is generally composed of shallow river valleys drained by the Rhine in the north. Zürich is located between two major mountain complexes, the Jura mountains and the Alps. Thus, there's an abundance of hiking trails within the region's borders. The local climate is mild and temperate, with four seasons alternating throughout the year. During winters, temperatures occasionally drop below 0, while summers are warmer, with temperatures as high as 30°C. The capital city, also named Zürich, is the largest city in Switzerland. Other prominent settlements include Winterthur, Uster, Thalwil, Horgen, and Wädenswil, all of which are primarily industrial towns.
Zürich, the cantonal capital city, is found in the center of the canton, on the northern shore of Lake Zürich. The city is considered to be Switzerland's center of economics and education. Beyond this, Zürich is the largest city in Switzerland. The local lands have been settled since ancient times. Thus, the city consists of a well-preserved medieval town with numerous historical sights that attract several tourists. Presumably, the most prominent landmark in the city is the twin towers of Grossmünster. Visitors are welcome to climb the Karlsturm and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding city. Another historical destination in the city is Fraumünster, a church known for its windows. However, the origins of Zürich's history reportedly lie in the park Lindenhof, which has been around since 80 BC. Zürich's Old Town, which is separated into two halves by the Limmat river, generally consists of numerous narrow streets, historical houses, guild houses, and small squares. For nature lovers, the city lies on the shores of Lake Zürich, a destination that provides opportunities for tourists to go swimming, sailing, and boating, as well as offers access to bathing facilities. Reportedly, a visit to the lake's islands is also popular among tourists.
Another prominent city within the Zürich canton borders is Winterthur. The medieval Old Town is the largest pedestrian zone in Switzerland, as it contains shops, restaurants, markets, and festivals. Winterthur has a long tradition of fostering culture. There are 17 museums to be found in the city of Winterthur, among them the Oskar Reinhart collection "Am Römerholz," showcasing pieces of European art from the 14th to the 20th century. Other notable museums include the Centre for Photography, the Casino Theater, and the Swiss Science Center Technorama, to name a few.
Situated between two major mountain complexes—the Alps and the Jura mountains—the canton of Zürich can offer a considerable number of hiking and walking trails. Rigi Panorama Trail is a high-elevation trail featuring views of Lake Lucerne, Lake Zug, and the Alps. Another trail is the Stoos Ridge Walk, providing views of over ten lakes. A walk to Stoos takes tourists to the chairlift, which lifts hikers to the summit of Klingenstock. The walk continues atop the Klingenstock along a scenic ridge with panoramic views. In order to view Lake Zürich, it is recommended to take the Pfannenstiel Trail, which winds past boulders and eventually reaches the ruins of Friedberg Castle. Beyond hiking, five ski resorts are located within Zürich canton's borders. The largest ski resort in the canton is Skilift Steg.
The canton of Zürich is found in the central northern part of Switzerland. Zürich's territory can roughly be divided into the Unterland in the northwest, the Oberland in the southeast, the Weinland and Winterthur in the northeast, and the Knonaueramt southwest of the Albis. From a geographical standpoint, Zürich is located in the eastern part of the Swiss plateau, lying entirely within the drainage basin of the High Rhine. The local landscape is of glacial character, with numerous rivers and lakes located in the area. Some of the prominent lakes include Lake Zürich, Greifensee, and Pfäffikersee. Most of Zürich's territory is formed by shallow river valleys. However, towards the northwest and southeast borders of the territory, the landscape rises into the Jura and Alp mountains. The highest elevated peak within the region's borders is Schnebelhorn, with an altitude of 1,292 m above sea level.
Zürich canton consists of several landforms of ecological and cultural significance, many of which are either under local protection or they are part of the nature reserves. One such protected area is the Sihlwald Nature Reserve, consisting of beech forests that once covered about 80 percent of Central Europe. Sihlwald is a rare example of an original forest in the Swiss midlands. Another protected area can be found along the shores of Lake Pfäffikon. The lake itself, together with its surrounding lands, form a nature reserve. Today, the lake is considered to be one of "Switzerland's most valuable lake and moor landscapes." Other protected landscapes in the region include Katzenseen and Uetliberg, home to several wildlife species, such as roe deer, wild boar, red deer, fox, badger, stone marten, brown hare, and marmot, to name a few.
Zürich is found in the temperate climate zone, with four seasons alternating throughout the year. During the winter, temperatures may drop below zero, while the summer months typically experience warmer temperatures, occasionally reaching over 30°C. Regarding the average temperatures in the canton's capital, Zürich, the warmest month is July, with an average daily temperature of 25°C. January is the coldest month, with 4°C as the average temperature. February tends to be the driest month in Zürich due to having 60 mm of rainfall on average. The most precipitation falls during June, receiving, on average, about 130 mm.
Zürich territory has been inhabited since ancient times. Today, 11 out of 56 prehistoric pile dwellings are located in the Zürich region, which UNESCO protects as a World Heritage Site. The 11 pile dwellings are around four to seven meters under the water of the Zürich Lake, as the lake's water has increased since the pile dwellings were built. During the Late Bronze Age, the Urnfield culture lived in the Zürich area. However, the tribes were eventually driven out of the local territory by the Celts. Several of the older, larger villages of Alemannic Switzerland (German-speaking Switzerland) bear names that derive from the Celtic language. Celtic tribes called Helvetii settled along the lakes and rivers of Zürich and established many villages and fortified towns. Helvetii tribes were eventually forced out of the Zürich area by Romans. Former Helvetii territories became part of the Roman Empire in 15 BCE. Roman rule of the Zürich lands lasted until 400 CE when Germanic Burgundians and Alemanni overtook the region.
Later, the city of Zürich was reportedly the first to join the Swiss Confederation in 1351. Over the following years, surrounding territories were gradually acquired by the town. The lower part of Lake Zürich was added in 1362. By 1467, after the purchase of Winterthur from the Habsburgs, Zürich reached the Rhine. In today's time, the cantonal borders extend from its enclave in the German state of Baden-Württemberg to approximately 13 km south of the Pfäffikon See.
Zürich's modern history has been marked by discords between the radical liberals and conservatives, which led to the dissolution of the cantonal government during the 19th century. The conflict continued until 1869 when the new canton constitution was adopted, carrying additional direct democratic elements and enacting the popular election of cantonal government. This constitution was in use until January 2006.
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