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Facts about Switzerland

Switzerland or Confoederatio Helvetica (Swiss Confederation) is situated in Central Europe and shares a border with Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Italy, and France. The country has a surface of 41,285 square kilometres.

Bern (approx. 123,000 inhabitants, 2011) is the capital. Other main cities are Zurich ( approx. 1,319,901 inhabitants), Geneva (approx. 460,670 inhabitants), Basel (approx. 169,516 inhabitants), and Lausanne (approx. 133,491).

The Alps take up the central and southern regions of the country and the Jura Mountains straddle the border with France in the Northeast.

Over 60 percent of the Swiss territory is mountainous and a quarter of it is covered with forest. The Dufour summit (4634 metres) of Monte Rosa is the highest peak; the Matterhorn (4478 metres), however, is better known.

In 1848, a new federal constitution was agreed upon and is still largely in place today. Bern was established as the capital and the federal assembly was set up to take care of national issues. Switzerland developed industries predominantly dependent on highly skilled labour. Networks of railways and roads were built, opening up previously inaccessible alpine regions and helping the development of tourism. In 1963, the international Red Cross was founded in Geneva.

The federal republic maintained its neutrality throughout the 20th century. Zurich grew to become an international banking and insurance centre and many international bodies, such as the World Health Organisation, based their headquarters in Geneva. Afraid that its neutrality would be compromised, Switzerland declined to become a member of the United Nations (though it currently has 'observer' status) or NATO. It did, however, join EFTA (the European Free Trade Association).

Facing other EFTA nations applying for EU (European Union) membership, Switzerland finally made its application in 1992. As a prelude to full EU membership, Switzerland was to join the EEA (European Economic Area), but the citizens rejected the EEA in a referendum in December 1992.

At the end of the 20th century, growing doubts about Switzerland's past and future emerged. Many Swiss questioned the country's traditional 'bunker mentality' in a Europe at peace, with open borders.

Particularly troubling for Switzerland was an international debate during the 1990s about "dormant accounts" (assets left by foreign Jews in Swiss banks during the Nazi era but never returned), a controversy that challenged Switzerland's self-image. Furthermore, with many United Nations (UN) and international organisations headquartered in Switzerland, there was a growing debate about whether Swiss neutrality was secured or enhanced by its refusal to join the UN. Finally, after nearly 60 years of non-membership, Swiss voters, taking the lead of the major political parties, endorsed entry into the UN in 2002.

Switzerland reached an agreement with the European Union related to the free movement of persons; on 1 January 2001, this agreement came into force. From that day onward, there was an equal treatment for EU workers and Swiss nationals. Furthermore, long-term (five years) and short-term (up to one year) residence permits were introduced. In 2003, the preference for Swiss employees and all disadvantages regarding wages and other working conditions favouring Swiss employees were abolished. In 2006, the Swiss government eradicated the quotas for EU workers and border areas for frontier workers. Since December 2008, Switzerland has been part of the Schengen passport-free zone. Nevertheless, people originating from a Schengen nation had their passports checked until March 2009, upon arrival to Switzerland.

By Nannette Ripmeester and Lina Zedelius This information is provided by Expertise in Labour Mobility.

Background Swiss facts

Switzerland has 26 cantons, which are the federal states of the Swiss confederation.

They vary greatly in size, population and character: the canton of Geneva comprises just one city; the canton of Uri is entirely mountains and valleys; the population of the Zurich canton is over one million while the people of Appenzell Inner-Rhodes would fit into a football stadium.


Switzerland's economy is based on highly skilled workers, in specialist areas such as microtechnology, hi-tech, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, as well as banking and insurance. Switzerland is widely recognised as an international research centre, with the private and public sector strongly promoting science and technology.

Switzerland has a population of 8.3 million; about 5 million of them live in the Swiss Plateau in between the Jura Mountains and the Swiss Alps. All the larger Swiss cities lie on the plateau, including the city of Zurich, which is Switzerland's largest with a population of 376,990. The canton (federal state) of Zurich is the most densely populated canton in Switzerland, with 1,242,000 inhabitants in total. Regarding family life, on average women in Switzerland have 1.54 children.

Most people in Switzerland are Christian, including 42 percent Roman Catholic and 35 percent Protestant, with 11 percent stating no religious affiliation at all.

Switzerland's climate is not considered as being excessively hot, cold nor humid, although it varies according to region. In the north, the climate is moderate, with cold winters and warm summers; temperatures drop in the mountainous east; the west has a mild climate; while in the south it's so warm that palm trees line the shore of Lake Lugano. As a guide, expect daytime temperatures from 18–28°C (65–85°F) during July and August, in January and February -2–7°C (28-45°F) and in spring and autumn/fall 8–15°C (46–59°F).

The Swiss are an educated population; in 2015, 88 percent of adults aged 25–64 had the equivalent of a high school diploma.

The Swiss government forecasts the number of people aged 25–64 with post-secondary education will rise to almost 60 percent in 2040, although foreigners are expected to contribute some 30 percent of the increase.

Switzerland does not use the euro as its currency. Switzerland uses the Swiss franc (CHF). In June 2016, one Swiss franc was worth around EUR 0.92/USD 1.02/GBP 0.76.

Switzerland is also home to CERN (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research), the world's largest particle physics laboratory based in Geneva and straddling the Swiss/French border. Physicists won the 2013 Nobel prize in physics for their work on the theory of the Higgs boson, one of the building blocks of the universe, which was finally discovered at CERN's Large Hadron Collider in 2012.

Switzerland was the birthplace of many famous inventors and pioneers, including World Wide Web creator Tim Berners-Lee, architect Le Corbusier, Red Cross founder Jean Henri Dunant, DNA discoverer Friedrich Miescher, philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and psychologist Carl Jung.

Museums also play an integral part in Swiss culture, with Swiss museums attracting more than one million visitors per month, although more than half are received by only 49 institutions. In 2017 the Swiss statistic office released figures that there were 1,111 museums in Switzerland, the majority (367) being regional or local, followed by art (171), technical (140) and historical (126) museums.

Art museums were the most popular, attracting 3.3 million visitors. However, while the most popular museums receive more than 50,000 guests annually, almost 75 percent of Swiss museums attract fewer than 5,000 people, with every fourth village statistically having a museum. Most Swiss mueseums are located in German-speaking Switzerland, while Italian-speaking Ticino has the highest museum density.

Many Swiss museums are publically financed, with almost half predominately relying on funding. Reportedly, 72 percent of the population visited a museum, gallery or an exhibition in 2014.


Climate in Switzerland

The mountains are mainly responsible for the variety of local and regional microclimates but, in general, Switzerland has a moderate climate. There is constant snow cover at altitudes above 3000 metres.

Swiss population

Switzerland has a population of approximately 7,639,961 (2011), out of which 65 percent are Swiss German, 18 percent are French, 10 percent are of Italian origin, 1 percent are Romansch inhabitants, and the remaining 6 percent consists of other ethnic groups.

Languages in Switzerland

Switzerland is a linguistic melting pot with three official federal languages. Swiss German is spoken by 65 percent of the population, French by 18 percent and Italian by 10 percent. A fourth language, Romansh, is spoken by 1 percent of the population. Six percent of the population speak other languages.

Swiss currency

The monetary unit of Switzerland is the Swiss frank/franc/franco. One franc consists of 100 rappen/centimes/centesimi.

Swiss national holidays

New Year's Day, 1 January Good Friday, varies Easter Monday, varies Labour Day, 1 May (not a national holiday in all parts of Switzerland) Ascension Day, varies Whit Monday, varies Swiss National Day, 1 August Christmas, 25 - 26 December

Recent Swiss history

While the rest of Europe was fighting in the Thirty Years' War, the Swiss remained neutral and, at the end of the war in 1648, they were recognised in the Treaty of Westphalia as a neutral state. Nevertheless, the French Republic invaded Switzerland in 1798 and established the Helvetic Republic. The Swiss revolted against the centralised control and Napoleon was finally defeated by the British and Prussians. The ensuing Congress of Vienna guaranteed Switzerland's independence and permanent neutrality in 1815.

Facts about Switzerland

Population                         8'500'000

Capital                                Bern

Largest City                       Zurich

Calling Code                      +41 

Time Zone                          GMT + 1

Currency accepted            CHF - Swiss Franc 

Official Language              German




Places to see- Travel and Activities

  • Zurich Old Town

  • Mt. Pilatus

  • Bernese Highland

  • Lausanne

  • Grindelwald

  • Matterhorn

  • Mt. Titlis

  • Davos

  • Stanserhorn

Getting around -  All about Transportation in Switzerland and how to use it

Online Train and Tram Tickets Shop
Switzerland Guide App
app store
google play

The Zurich Card

For 24 CHF provides you with free Public transportation in the City, including Trip to Airport, for 24 Hours. Includes Access and Discounts at Museums, Restaurants and various Tourist Attraction

How to get from Zurich Airport to Zurich.

Zurich Airport is only 10 km (6 miles) away from the city center, so it is quick and easy to get there after your plane has landed. There are various ways of traveling from the airport to Zurich.

How to Travel from  Zurich to Interlaken

The best way to reach Interlaken from Zurich, and eventually Lauterbrunnen and Jungfrau Mountain, is by Train.

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