Portrait no. 2: Zurich

Welcome to Zurich

Enjoying the unique lakeside scenery, lying on the grass, strolling along the banks of the Limmat in the middle of the city, and having the conveniences of a prestigious international economic and cultural metropolis within walking distance - Zurich has all the qualities
of a highly attractive and liveable city. Accordingly, the "Global Liveable Cities Index" city ranking lists Zurich at place 2 of the most liveable cities in the world.

Cosmopolitan city in miniature 

1.7 million inhabitants live in the greater Limmat city area.  The city of Zurich itself accounts for about 400,000 people from over 170 countries. The diversity of mentalities and lifestyles has earned the capital of the canton, of the same name, and the largest city in Switzerland the reputation as a "small" cosmopolitan metropolis with flair. With its vibrant urban culture, its free spirit and the sustainable actions in the fields of urban development, environment and energy, Zurich today is one of Switzerland's important economic, cultural and social centres and has made a name for itself in Europe as a leading economic and educational centre as well as major financial centre. 

Photo 1: Zurich – unique lake-front location.
Photo 2: The inviting green spaces around Lake Zurich offer a place to relax and for sports activities – as well as an attractive panorama within the city.
Photo 3: Zurich's historical old town with charming shops and restaurants invites you to stroll, linger and stop for something to eat or drink.
Photo 4: Today, "Sihlcity" – a shopper's paradise with boutiques, a multiplex cinema, hotel and restaurants is located at the former site of a paper mill.
Photo 5: With its distinctive twin towers, the evangelical reformed church "Großmünster" is the landmark of the city.
Photo 6: The Zurich Opera House ranks among the most important opera houses in the world.
Photo 7: Currently, modern apartments, retail and commercial space as well as generous open spaces are being developed on the 47,000 square-foot "Hardturmareal" in the new Zurich West district.
Photo 8: "Frau Gerolds Garten" is the hip and trendy meeting place in Zurich West: The 2500 square-meter premises are home to a city garden, restaurants, bars as well as art and design shops. "Frau Gerolds Garten" attracts numerous visitors and guests every day.
Photos: Fotolia/Gina Sanders, Celeste Clochard, Sabine Klein; Zürich Tourism/Elisabeth Real, Gaetan Bally; City of Zurich.

Strengthening the quality of urban life for the future

Sustainable development at all levels 

With sustainability-oriented urban development, the city of Zurich laid the foundation years ago for urban diversity, high environmental quality, an excellent infrastructure and the resource-efficient use of energy. To also ensure this development in the future, the city conducts its business in accordance with overall strategies. They should strengthen the location qualities further and offer citizens an attractive living environment.
"Zurich Strategies 2035"
In 2014, the city council redefined significant development prospects under the heading "Zurich Strategies 2035". They include recommendations for action, such as forward-looking urban as well as environmental traffic planning.

Densification of existing urban quarters

Zurich acts as a magnet: Since 1997, the population has continued to grow. In 2014, it exceeded the threshold of 400,000 persons for the first time. By 2040, the city expects a population increase of about 80,000 people. At the cantonal level, the forecasts amount to an increase of 280,000 inhabitants.
With limited spatial capacities, high quality densification of residential districts, taking into account their evolved identity, is a key measure in the urban planning.

From former industrial areas to new living spaces 

At the same time, large former industrial sites in Zurich West are being converted step by step into an attractive district with a promising mix of uses. When designing architecture and public spaces, urban landmarks should be set that are based on the principle of sustainability.
A colourful mix of uses, including residential, commercial, service, dining and shopping as well as trendy meeting places, a new multi-functional large stadium as well as school and sports facilities are planned.

Increasing quality and access to open spaces

Although Zurich already has good access to its lake and rivers and a well-developed green structure throughout the city, the city is striving to improve the connection to local recreation areas. According to the Environmental Report 2015, each person should be able to find 8 square meters of publicly accessible open space within 15 minutes.
The partially already implemented changes include the enhancement and better use of existing recreational areas in the settlement areas and in the city centre. Thus, squares and streets with shade trees, fountains and seating are being redesigned for a more pleasant stay. Tree-lined avenues and courtyard gardens also make an important contribution to a good urban climate.

Holistic mobility strategy

Zurich has an excellent, modern and extensive public transport network: Trams, buses, commuter railway systems and cable cars offer an efficient transportation offer. 340 km of cycle paths and good connecting footpaths in the city centre complete the infrastructure.
As a result of population growth, the city expects an increase in annual passengers from the current 325 million to 420 million people by the year 2030. For public transport, this results in an increasing volume of traffic, which Zurich wants to compensate for with a holistic mobility strategy: The transport modes are promoted, in consideration of public space design, specifically where their strengths lie. In practice, this means a better networking of existing connections, reliable and punctual transport operation, easily accessible stops and a modern passenger information system. As a result of these improvements, the city hopes for a slowdown in private motor vehicle traffic in the long run.
The offer and the attractiveness of public transport as well as walking and cycling are therefore consistently promoted. This includes the expansion of pavements and squares to make public space perceived as a place to meet and linger. Gaps in cycling networks are being closed and existing routes are being improved.

On the way to a "2000-Watt Society" – A generation project

More economical and efficient use of energy

The city's progressive energy, environmental and climate protection policy is closely linked to the urban development strategies that emphasize environmental compatibility and aim to do without new nuclear power stations.
In keeping with its slogan the "2000-Watt Society", the city wants to make a long term contribution to climate protection in that it
  • aims to reduce the energy consumption of 5000 watts today to 2000 watts per person in the long-term,
  • wants to reduce CO2 emissions to one ton per person and per year by 2050,
  • promotes renewable energy and energy efficiency and
  • by no longer authorising nuclear power plants after the expiry of the operating approval as of 2025.

Within the framework of a referendum in November 2008, 76 percent of the population were in favour of the climate change concept - since then, the idea of the "2000-Watt Society" has been firmly anchored in the municipal code. Numerous authorities, municipal enterprises and companies took part in the implementation of the objectives.

New energy standards for buildings

Existing buildings account for a lot of of the energy consumption in Zurich - due to inefficient heating systems for example. Therefore, the Seven "Mile Steps" for Environmentally Friendly and Energy Efficient Building Directive applies to new urban construction projects: Among other things, the guidelines include ecological and harmless materials such as recycled concrete or wood. Additionally, at least 40 percent of the heating requirements must be met by renewable sources.

Electricity from wind energy and hydropower

The municipal energy companies already produce part of the required electricity in hydroelectric and wind power plants. In addition, the Zurich Municipal Electric Utility (EWZ) feeds heat from waste incineration plants into the municipal district heating system.
As a result of using district heating from waste and wood, from environmental heat via heat pumps, and the high proportion of green electricity, in 2014, 25 percent of all energy produced came from renewable energy sources.

Zurich as a driving force

Zurich is the first city that has made the goal of the "2000-Watt Society" binding. To win over other cities for this strategy, Zurich is involved internationally in different networks, such as ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability, the Convent of Mayors or the Climate Alliance. If the transition is successful, the city on the river Limmat will lead by example, Europe-wide and worldwide, and benefit simultaneously, since it will be even more attractive for people and businesses than it already is.

Further information

Official City of Zurich website: www.stadt-zuerich.ch
Find out more about the "2000-Watt Society" on the City of Zurich portal: