In Switzerland different languages, religions and cultures have lived next to one another for centuries. Today over 19% of the residents come from other nations. The population remains concentrated mainly in the Mitteland and the flat regions.
Often the country is called the "safe of the world" since approximately 66% of the GDP comes from tourism and banks. In approximately 500 Swiss banks it is believed one third of the world-wide market of funds is entrusted. Among the Swiss specialties that a visitor must not miss there is of course chocolate and the fonduta, a sauce prepared with three types of cheeses, the Comtè, Appenzell and Emmenthal.


Administrative division

The country is divided into 26 states, the majority corresponding to the ancient traditional Cantons, with the exception of 6 half-cantons.
  • States of predominantly German language: Argovie (Aargau) with capital Aarau; Appenzell divided into the half-cantons Appenzell Outer Rhodes (Appenzell-Ausserrhoden) with capital Herisau and Appenzello Inner Rhodes (Appenzell-Innerrhoden) with capital Appenzell; Basel divided into the half-cantons Basel City (Basel-Stadt) with capital Basilea and Basel Country (Basel-Land) with capital Liestal; Unterwald (Unterwalden) divided into the half-cantons Nidwald (Nidwalden) with capital Stans and Obwald (Obwalden) with capital Sarnen; Glarus with capital Glarona; Lucerne (Luzern) with capital Lucerne; St. Gall (Sankt Gallen) with capital St Gall; Schaffhausen with capital Schaffhausen; Schwyz with capital Schwyz; Solothurn with capital Solothurn; Thurgovia (Thurgau) with capital Frauenfeld; Uri (Uri) with capital Altdorf; Zug with capital Zug; Zurich (Zürich) with capital Zurich;
  • States of predominantly French language: Geneva (Genf, Genève) with capital Geneve; Jura with capital Delémont; Neuchâtel (Neuenburg) with capital Neuchâtel; Vaud (Waadt) with capital Lausanne;
  • Bilingual states, German and French: Bern (Berne) with capital Bern; Fribourg (Freiburg) with capital Fribourg; Valais (Wallis) with capital Sion;
  • One state predominantly Italian language: Ticino (Tessin) with capital Bellinzona;
  • Trilingual states, German, French, Romanche: Grisons (Graubünden) with capital Coira

The Population

Switzerland (in German Schweiz, Suisse French, in romancio Svizra) is in central Europe, with no outlet on the sea, surrounded by Germany to the north, Liechtenstein and Austria to the east, Italy to the south with and France to the west with. Its official name is Helvetic Confederation with capital Bern. The country consists of three separate geographic, linguistic and cultural areas: German, French, and Italian; in Canton Grigioni there is also a smaller Romansh linguistic community. The Swiss love trains and are second only to the Japanese in their use of this transport system. This is of course also due to the quality of the service and the beauty of the landscapes. Among its many records in civilized behaviour, Switzerland is one of the first world countries in waste

In short

Area: 41,284 km² -- Population: about 7 million -- Density: 174 inhabitants per km² -- Government: Direct democray, federal Republic -- Capital: Berne -- Languages: German, French, Italian, Romanche -- Religion: the largest group is Catholics (40%) followed by Protestants; among the foreign residents there are many religious groups. -- Currency: Franco svizzero -- International phone code: +41 -- Car plate: CH -- Internet suffix: .ch -- Member of: U.N.O. since 2002; it is not a member of the European Union

The Territory

The Swiss territory can be divided into three areas: the southern alpine region with the highest summits; the central Mitteland, a hilly area; the north-west mountainous area with the Giura chain. The main mounts are the Rose, the Matterhorn, the Finsteraarhorn, the Jungfrau and the Bernina. There are not very large plains, but mostly valleys surrounded by mountains, with the main valleys being those of the Rhône River, the Rhine and the Aare rivers, and the Ticino, all rivers that rise from glaciers. Also the lakes are of glacial origin: Lake Geneva, Costance, Lake Maggiore and the Four Cantons.

The climate

The climate is alpine with rigid winters; in the north it is continental with cold winters and warm summers. Around the many lakes however the weather is milder.


In antiquity it was inhabited by celtic people, the Helvetii to the north, the Lepontii, the Insubri and the Retii to the south. In 1648 the Peace of Westfalia recognized the independence of Switzerland from the Empire. The Congress of Vienna in 1815 recognised internationally the external frontiers of Switzerland and the inner frontiers among cantons.

After the Second World War, accusations from Jewish organizations and the Americans started long disputes on the role of Switzerland in the conflict and its relationship with the German Nazi regime, since in many cases the funds deposited by Hebrew citizens in Swiss banks, before and during the conflict, were not given back to the legitimate heirs.

Cities and places of interest

Bern has been the Swiss capital since 1848 and preserves monuments of the mediaeval and renaissance age. Included in the Unesco list of Heritage Sites, Bern is a small elegant city, with a historical center characterized by covered arcades, fountains and the famous Clock Tower (Zeitglockenturm), the symbol of the city. In Bern famous physicist Albert Einstein studied and then taught at the university. The city also hosts the largest stamp collection in the world and an Art Museum with works of Swiss painter Paul Klee.

The "par excellence" art capital is Basel, which is rich in museums: the History Museum of Basel, the Museum of the Antiquities, the Museum of Architecture, the Natural History Museum; the Jean Tinguely Museum, along the banks of the Rhein, is one of most recent and collects the artist's fancy works.

Other important cities are Geneva, at the border with France, the seat of important world-wide organizations as the UN, the CERN and the World Health Organization, and Zurich, a communication center with Germany, France and Italy, and also the seat of the Swiss Stock market. Of great beauty is also Lugano, along the banks of a Lake amid the Alps, just across the border with Italy.

For lovers of nature there is the large Swiss National Park, (172 sq km) or excursions into the Canton Ticino, for example in the surroundings of Lake Cama (Val Mesolcina). In winter the many skiing facilities cater to a wide range of skiers: Crans Montana, Gstaad, Saas-Fee, St. Moritz, Verbier and Zermatt.

World Heritage Sites

Benedictine Convent of St John at Müstair * Convent of St Gall * Old City of Berne * Three Castles, Defensive Wall and Ramparts of the Market-Town of Bellinzone * Jungfrau-Aletsch-Bietschhorn * Monte San Giorgio * Lavaux, Vineyard Terraces

Where to stay