Zurich is built on both banks of the Limmat as it issues from the lake of Ziirich, and also of its tributary, the Sihl. That portion of the town which lies on the right bank of the Limmat is called the "Grosse Stadt" and that on the left bank the "Kleine Stadt." Till 1893 the central portion of the town on either bank of the Limmat formed the "city" and ruled the outlying communes or townships that had sprung up around it. But at that time the eleven outer districts (including Aussersihl, the workmen's quar ter on the left bank of the Sall) were incorporated with the town. Much land has been rescued from the lake, and is the site of fine quays, stately public buildings, such as the Civic Theatre and the Concert Hall, and splendid private villas. The older quarters are still crowded; but the newer quarters which stretch up the slope of the airichberg (above the right bank of the Limmat) have broad streets and fine buildings.
There were numerous pile dwellings on the sides of the lake and Zurich was a pre-Roman settlement, probably an "oppidum." About the middle of the first century A.D. a Roman "castellum" and customs station existed on the Lindenhof.
Of the old buildings the finest and most important is the Gross Munster (or Propstei), on the right bank of the Limmat. This was originally the church of the king's tenants, and in one of the chapels the bodies of Felix, Regula and Exuperantius, the patron saints of the city, were buried. The present building was erected at two periods (c. 1090-1150 and c. 1225-1300), the high altar having been consecrated in 1278. The towers were first raised above the roof at the end of the 15th century and took their present form in 1779. The chapter consisted of twenty-four secular canons; it was reorganized at the Reformation (1526), and suppressed in 1832. On the site of the canons' houses stands a girls' school (opened 1853), but the fine Romanesque cloisters (12th and 13th centuries) still remain. There is a curious figure of Charlemagne in a niche on one of the towers ; to him is at tributed the founding or reform of the chapter. On the left bank of the Limmat stands the other great church of Ziirich, the Frau Miinster (or Abtei), founded for nuns in 853, by Louis the German. The high altar was consecrated in 1170; but the greater part of the buildings are of the 13th and 14th centuries.
Of the other old churches may be mentioned St. Peter's, the oldest parish church, though the present buildings date in part from the 13th century only (much altered in the early 18th century), and formerly the meeting-place of the citizens; the Dominican church or Predigerkirche (13th century), in the choir of which the cantonal library was stored after 1873; the church of the Austin friars (14th century), now used by the Old Catholics, and the Wasserkirche. The last-named church is
on the site of a pagan holy place, where the patron saints of the city were martyred; after 1631 it housed the Town Library. In 1916 the various libraries were united into a central library of some 700,000 books, 12,000 mss. including letters of Zwingli, of Bullinger and his friend Lady Jane Grey, of Schiller, etc. This is near the Predigerkirche which is now the repository of the ar chives of Ziirich. The building itself was erected from 1479 to 1484, and near it is a statue of Zwingli, erected in 1885. The existing town hall dates from 1698, while the gild houses were mostly rebuilt in the 18th century. One of the most magnificent of the newer buildings is the Swiss National Museum, which was opened in 1898, and contains a wonderful collection of Swiss antiquities of all periods and art treasures of all kinds.
The town is noted for its numerous clubs and societies, and is the intellectual capital of German-speaking Switzerland. The University of Ziirich (see below) has students of many nations and has recently been housed in new buildings with several outlying institutes. It was opened in 1833, no doubt as a suc cessor to the ancient chapter school at the Gross MOnster, said to date back to Charlemagne's time, and hence called the Carolinum, which was reorganized at the Reformation, and sup pressed in 1832. The Federal Polytechnic School, opened in 1855, is one of the best known institutions of its type and has over 1,500 students. Near it is the observatory (1,542 ft.). There are excellent prima. ,rand secondary schoc,!s, and many institutions for special branche.. of education, e.g., music, silk-weaving, etc. The Pestalozzium, which contains educational exhibits and Pes talozzi's study, occupies a new building near the Urania bridge.
The position of ZUrich as a meeting-point of international trade gives it a cosmopolitan character. Cotton spinning, furni ture-making, the manufacture of machinery, the electrical indus try and the silk industry are leading activities. The silk-weaving industry flourished in Ziirich in the 12th and 13th centuries, but disappeared about 1420; it was revived by the Protestant exiles from Locarno (1555) and by the Huguenot refugees from France (1682 and 1685). ZUrich is the banking centre of Switzerland.