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Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland (with a population of 1.2 million including the suburbs) and the economic, social and cultural center of the country. As the wealthiest city in Europe and with its privileged location along the Limmat river and at the idyllic Lake Zurich with view of the snow-covered mountains, Zurich belongs to the cities with the highest quality of life in the world (but also with the highest cost of living).
Zurich already was raised to the level of a city in the Early Middle Ages, in 1262 it became a free imperial city and in 1351 a member of the Swiss Confederation. The economic rise began with the textile industry in the 18th and 19th century. After the mid-19th century the financial and services sector became increasingly important through the founding of numerous banks and insurance companies. The financial sector is nowadays the main industry of Zurich, followed by other service industries such as management consultancies and computer science research centers.
Also tourism is becoming increasingly important as an economic factor. Zurich has many attractions and sights, most of them in the well-preserved old town, such as the Romanesque Grossmünster church and the Fraumünster church with the world-famous stained glass choir windows by Marc Chagall.
Throughout its history, Zurich has always been an important center of art and culture, often shaped by artists and political refugees who found their home or a place of refuge in the city, including Richard Wagner, Lenin, Bakunin, James Joyce, Thomas Mann, Bertolt Brecht, Max Frisch and Albert Einstein. At Spiegelgasse one can still find the ›Cabaret Voltaire‹, the birthplace of Dadaism. Zurich has a renowned opera and theater, and is home to more than fifty museums and more than a hundred galleries. The diverse cultural life of Zurich also includes the clubs in the trendy Langstrasse quarter in Zurich-West and the Street Parade (the world's largest technoparade) every year in August.
Annual gay highlights in Zurich are the gay & lesbian film festival Pink Apple in spring, the culture festival Warmer Mai, Zurich Gay Pride in June, the Lake Zurich crossing in summer, the White Party in May and the Black Party in November.