Country Index: Switzerland

Country Index: Switzerland

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Country Index: Switzerland


Wars and Treaties


Arbedo, battle of, 30 June 1422 (Italy)
Bicocca, La, Battle of, 27 April 1522
Granson, battle of, 2 March 1476 (Switzerland)
La Bicocca, Battle of, 27 April 1522
Laupen, battle of, 21 June 1339 (Switzerland)
Marignano/ Melegnano, battle of, 13-14 September 1515
Morat, battle of, 22 June 1476 (Switzerland)
Morgarten, battle of, November 1314 (Switzerland)
Novara, battle of, 6 June 1513
Novara, siege of, 3-6 June 1513
St. Jacob, battle of, 26 May 1444 (Switzerland)
Sempach, battle of, 9 July 1386 (Switzerland)


Weapons, Armies & Units



Switzerland (German: Schweiz French: Suisse Italian: Svizzera Romansh: Svizra Swiss German: Schwiz) is a comparatively small country in Western Europe. The official name of Switzerland is Confoederatio Helvetica. This is Latin and is not often used except for state documents. Switzerland is a confederation of even smaller states, which are the 26 cantons.

  • Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft (German)
  • Confédération suisse (French)
  • Confederazione Svizzera (Italian)
  • Confederaziun svizra (Romansh)
  • Confoederatio Helvetica (Latin)

on the European continent ( green and dark grey )

Switzerland is known for its neutrality. A country is neutral when it does not take sides among the countries who are at war. [8] Switzerland has been neutral since 1815. Many international organizations are in Switzerland. The United Nations has a main office (but not its headquarters) in Geneva. Its predecessor organization, the League of Nations, was headquartered in Geneva.

There are four official languages in Switzerland: German, French, Italian, and Romansh. Some cantons and even towns have two languages spoken in them, and the largest canton by area, Graubünden, has three. About 2/3 of the population speak German French is spoken in the west of the country, while Italian is spoken in the canton of Ticino and Romansh in parts of Graubünden. Romansh language is spoken less than by 1% of the population.

The capital of Switzerland is Bern. The largest city of Switzerland is Zürich.

To the north of Switzerland is Germany. East of Switzerland are Austria and Liechtenstein. To the south of Switzerland is Italy. To the west of Switzerland is France.

Switzerland in brief

Destination Switzerland, a Nations Online country profile of the Swiss Confederation. Helvetia, how the country was called in ancient times, but even today, the name is still in use. The country's official Latin name is Confoederatio Helvetica (CH).

Switzerland is a landlocked mountainous country in South-Central Europe, bordered by Austria, France, Germany, Italy, and Liechtenstein.

With an area of 41,285 km², the country is just slightly smaller than the Netherlands or almost twice the size of the US state of New Jersey.

Switzerland has a population of 8.6 million people (in 2019), capital city is Bern the largest city is Zürich. Spoken languages are German, French, Italian and Rumantsch, traditionally spoken in the different regions (cantons) of the country. According to the World Happiness Report 2021, the Swiss Confederation is officially the third-happiest nation on Earth, after Finland and Denmark.

Geographically the country is divided into three major regions there are the Swiss Alps in the south. The Alps fade out into the Swiss Plateau with a landscape of rolling hills, plains and large lakes and average elevations between 400 m and 700 m. To the northwest along the French/Swiss border is the Jura, a sub-alpine mountain range.

What is Switzerland famous for?
The short answer is cash, cows, cheese, chocolate, and clocks, followed by mountains, meadows, Edelweiss and Heidi.

What is Switzerland known for?

A Glacier Express train of the Rhaetian Railway on the Landwasser Viaduct in the direction of Thusis. The Rhaetian Railway in the Albula / Bernina Landscapes is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Image: Luca Gerber

Practically the whole country is a single vacation spot. Switzerland has idyllic landscapes with a variety of snow-capped mountains and ice-cold mountain lakes, melting glaciers and mountain pastures well suited as downhill ski slopes in winter.
The weather offers four seasons that effectively change the landscape.
The country has several cosmopolitan cities and many cozy villages like out of a Heimatfilm. Switzerland is home to 12 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The coffee is drinkable, and the food is mostly tasty. Switzerland has been ranked as the "world's best country" by the American media company U.S. News for several consecutive years.
The relatively small country has four national languages and the oldest policy of military neutrality in the world.

Swiss landscape
The country is a popular tourist destination, known for its picturesque landscapes. Switzerland has about 1,500 lakes and nearly 50 mountain peaks that are 4,000 meters high or higher. The Dufourspitze (4,634 m (15,203 ft)), a peak of the Monte Rosa massif, is the highest mountain peak of both Switzerland and the Pennine Alps.
The waters of Swiss-born rivers end up in the Black Sea (Inn via the Danube), the Adriatic Sea (Ticino via Po) and the North Sea (Rhine).
The Rhine Falls at Schaffhausen is Europe's most powerful waterfall.

Alpine culture and other Swiss traditions

Greetings from the Matterhorn.
Image: James Kennedy

Yodeling , the art of communication among Alpine hill tribes. The Alphorns , very long Alpine instruments played by herdsmen and villagers.
Dirndl and other folk costumes originated in German-speaking areas of the Alps.
The Swiss St. Bernard dogs were originally bred for rescue work by the hospice of the Great St Bernard Pass on the Italian-Swiss border.
The Swiss Guard Swiss mercenaries, usually equipped with halberds, were employed as a security force, formerly by sovereigns of France and Spain, now only at the Vatican.
Wilhelm Tell , the legendary hero of the liberation of Switzerland from Austrian oppression. The expert marksman with the crossbow and a master of arrows, allegedly killed Albrecht Gessler, a vasall of Habsburg (Austria), in the Hohle Gasse (hollow way) between Immensee and Küssnacht.
Heidi , Geissenpeter , and the Almöhi , world-famous characters from the Heidi children books by Johanna Spyri.

Rappen and Franken
Switzerland is an expensive country by European standards. In global comparison, Geneva, Zurich and Bern frequently appear among the costliest cities.
A Swiss bank account has become a must for people who want to avoid the local tax collector Swiss banks offer accounts in all major currencies. The Swiss banking industry, together with tourism, is one of the main pillars of the country's economy.
Swiss boarding schools elite care facilities for the children of the rich and famous.

Due to the presence of mountains and the proper climate, skiing and mountaineering are important leisure activities in the country. Switzerland is traditionally one of the strongest nations in alpine winter sports and competes above all with its archrival Austria.

Background :
In the 13th century, the Gotthard Pass region in the heart of the Alps became negotiable and rapidly developed into an economically important north-south crossing point. As a result, the valleys of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden at the north foot of the Gotthard massif suddenly became a focal point of European power politics, and this led their inhabitants to found the core of what was to become Switzerland with a pact of mutual assistance.

Switzerland's independence and neutrality have long been honored by the major European powers. Switzerland was not involved in either of the two World Wars. However, the country's political and economic integration within Europe over the past half century and Switzerland's role in the UN and other international organizations and as the headquarters of multinational banks and corporations, cast some doubt on its independence and neutrality.

Official Names:
Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft (German)
Confederation Suisse (French)
Confederazione Svizzera (Italian)
Confoederatio Helvetica (CH - Latin)

short form: Suisse, Schweiz, Svizzera
int'l long form: Swiss Confederation
int'l short form: Switzerland

Time Zone: Central European Time
Local Time = UTC +1h
Actual Time: Fri-June-18 18:04
Daylight Saving Time (DST) March - October (UTC +2)

Capital City: Bern (Berne)
Berne (pop. 144,000)
The Municipality of Berne.

Major Cities:
Basel, Genève (Genf, Genève, Geneva), Luzern, Lausanne, Lugano, Zürich.

Type: Federal republic.
Independence: The first Swiss Confederation was founded in August 1291 as a defensive alliance among three cantons (Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden, known as the Waldstätte or Urschweiz). The Swiss Confederation established independence from the Holy Roman Empire in 1499.
Constitution: 1848 extensively amended in 1874 fully revised in 2000.
Federal Charter of 1291
Document of the Federal Charter.
National Day (Bundesfeier/fête nationale/festa nazionale): 1. August (Celebrates the Oath of 1291, which is considered the start of the Swiss Confederation).

Location: Central Europe, south of Germany, east of France and north of Italy.
Area: 41,285 km² (15,941 sq. mi.)
Terrain: 60% mountains, the remainder hills and plateau. Switzerland straddles the central ranges of the Alps.

Climate: temperate in the north to Mediterranean in the south, varying with altitude and season.

Nationality: Noun and adjective--Swiss.
Population: 8.6 million (2019)
Real GDP per capita: $68,628 (2019 est.)
Ethnic groups: Mixed European--German 65%, French 18%, Italian 10%, Romansch 1%, other.
Religions: Roman Catholic 35.9%, Protestant 23.8%, other Christian 5.9%, Muslim 5.4%, Jewish 0.3%, other 1.4%, none 26%, unspecified 1.4%.
Languages: German (Swiss German) 62.6%, French 22.9%, Italian 8.2%, and Romansh 0.5% are official languages, English 5.4%, other 9.4%.
Literacy: 100%.

Natural resources: Waterpower, timber, salt.

Agricultural Products: Dairy, livestock, grains, fruit and vegetables, potatoes, wine.

Industries: Machinery, chemicals, watchmaking, textiles, precision instruments, tourism, banking, insurance, pharmaceuticals.

Exports - commodities: machinery, chemicals, metals, watches, agricultural products. Switzerland is the top exporter of Gold, Base Metal Watches, and Precious Metal Watches.

Imports - commodities: machinery, chemicals, vehicles, metals agricultural products, textiles.

Imports partners: Germany 21%, Italy 8%, United States 6%, France 6%, United Kingdom 5%, United Arab Emirates 5% (2019)

Official Sites of Switzerland

The Federal Palace of Switzerland (German: Bundeshaus, French: Palais fédéral) is home to Switzerland's parliament. View from the Bundesplatz in Bern during full moon with a clear night sky.
Image: Axel Tschentscher

Political System

Swiss politics is played out at three levels, the Confederation, the cantons and the communes. Each has the autonomy to decide on certain matters according to the principle of subsidiarity: a decision is made at a higher level only when it is beyond the powers of the lower level to do so. [1]

The Swiss Confederation is a federal republic made up of 26 cantons (member states). Each canton has its constitution, legislature (parliament), government and courts.

The federal government of Switzerland consists of the legislative power of a bicameral Federal Assembly (parliament) with the National Council (lower house) and the Council of States (upper house).
A seven-member executive Federal Council serves as the collective head of the government and the state. The position of President of the Swiss Confederation rotates among the seven councilors every year. The judiciary power is represented by the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland.

Note: External links will open in a new browser window.

The Federal Council
The official website of the Swiss Government

The Swiss Parliament
Official website of Switzerland's parliament. will guide you to Swiss administrative services at the federal level and in the cantons and communes.

Diplomatic Missions
Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations
The website introduces Switzerland's positions on important UN-related issues.
Embassy of Switzerland
Washington D.C.
Swiss Embassies, Consulates and other Missions abroad
Address list of Swiss representations worldwide.
Foreign Representations in Switzerland
Address list of Foreign Representations in Switzerland.

Swiss Meteorological Institute.

The city of Bern is the de facto capital of Switzerland. The Old City of Bern at the river Aare, with Untertorbrücke (bridge) and the Nydeggkirche (church) to the left. The Old City of Berne is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Image: Thomas Huston

Map of Switzerland (click map to enlarge)
Image: ©

Map of Switzerland
Political Map of Switzerland.

Administrative Map of Switzerland
Map showing Switzerland and the surrounding countries with international borders,
Canton boundaries, Canton capitals, major cities and towns, expressways, main roads, and major airports.

Google Map Switzerland
Searchable map and satellite view of Switzerland.
Google Map Bern
Searchable map and satellite view of Switzerland's capital city.
Google Map Geneva
Searchable map and satellite view of Geneva.
Google Map Zurich
Searchable map and satellite view of Zurich.

Online News from Switzerland

24 heures
Swiss regional French-language daily newspaper, published in Lausanne.

Basler Zeitung
German-language regional daily newspaper, published in Basel.

Le Matin
National and international news (in French).

Neue Zürcher Zeitung
A leading Swiss newspaper with an international reputation the Swiss newspaper of record (in German online for registered users).

Le News
Le News is an English language newspaper focused on Switzerland.

National and international news in 9 languages by swissinfo, an enterprise of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC).

Tribune de Genève
French language newspaper with national and international news.

Die Weltwoche
A well-known Swiss weekly magazine.

Arts & Culture of Switzerland

Abstract Trio.
Painting: Paul Klee

Arts & Culture

The phantasmagorical dreams of H. R. Giger, the creator of "Alien".

Art Brut
Jean Dubuffet's collection of "Art Brut" in Lausanne.
HR Giger Museum
The HR Giger Museum is located in the medieval Château St. Germain in Gruyères. it houses artworks of the Swiss painter, sculptor and designer.
Kunsthaus Zürich
The art museum in Zurich houses one of the most important art collections in Switzerland.
Kunstmuseum Basel
Museum for contemporary art.
Museum Jean Tinguely
Méta-Matics and more.

swissart network
Portal for art lovers and art professionals in Switzerland and around the world.
Zentrum Paul Klee
The Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern is a museum dedicated to the Swiss-born artist Paul Klee.

International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum
History of the world's first humanitarian organization at the museum located in Geneva.
Musée d'Horlogerie du Locle
The Watch Museum of Le Locle is located in the Château des Monts.
Museum der Kulturen Basel
The Museum der Kulturen in Basel is one of the most important ethnographic museums in Europe.
Schweizerisches Landesmuseum
The Swiss national museum.
An interactive science museum.
The Swiss Museum of Transport and Communication.

Museums of Switzerland
A guide to Swiss museums (in German, French, Italian and English).

The idyllic life of Heidi and Peter on the mountain pasture. The characters from the Heidi children's books by Johanna Spyri are world-famous.
Image: Heidiland

Friedrich Dürrenmatt
Wikipedia entry about the Swiss playwright and essayist.
Max Frisch
Wikipedia article about the Swiss playwright and novelist.
Carl Gustav Jung
Wikipedia article about the Swiss psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and author who founded analytical psychology.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Wikipedia article about the philosopher, writer, and composer.
Johanna Spyri
Wikipedia article about the author of Heidi.

Montreux Jazz Festival
International Festival of Jazz since 1967, held in early July on the shoreline of Lake Geneva (Lac Léman).
Popular Swiss music platform.
Paléo Festival
The biggest open-air music event in Switzerland includes rock, French chanson, world music, reggae, hip hop, classical music and street theater.
40 years of contemporary Swiss music.

Schauspielhaus Zürich
One of the most renowned theaters in Switzerland.
Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne
The Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne showcases contemporary stagecraft, circus acts and plays for children.
Prix de Lausanne
The Prix de Lausanne is an annual international dance competition for classical ballet held in Lausanne.
Zürich Opera House
Home of the Zürich Opera since 1891, the building also houses the Bernhard-Theater Zürich and the Zürich Ballet.

Business & Economy of Switzerland

The headquarters of Switzerland's largest banks, UBS and Credit Suisse, next to each other on Paradeplatz in Zürich.
Image: specialdj

The Economy of Switzerland
Switzerland is a prosperous and modern market economy with low unemployment, a highly skilled labor force, and its GDP per capita is among the highest in the world.
The country's economy benefits from a highly developed service sector, led by financial services, and a manufacturing industry that is specialized in high-technology and knowledge-based production. The country's labor productivity is high, and there is no federally mandated minimum wage. Switzerland has hardly any price controls, and its agricultural sector remains protected and heavily subsidized. [X]
Switzerland is home to some of the largest global companies. It has one of the highest concentrations of Fortune 500 companies in the world – nearly two for every million people. [X]
The country ranks second on Harvard's Country & Product Complexity Rankings, after Japan and ahead of South Korea.

Swiss National Bank
Central Bank of Switzerland. The Swiss National Bank conducts Switzerland’s monetary policy as an independent central bank.

Die schweizerischen Industrie- und Handelskammern
Chambers of commerce and industry of Switzerland. On their website, you will find all the relevant details and contact information of the cantonal Chambers of Commerce and Industry that are part of the network.

The Largest Swiss Banks
Credit Suisse
Credit Suisse was founded in 1856 to fund the development of Switzerland's rail system.

The financial services unit of the Swiss Post, the country's second-largest employer.

Swiss Raiffeisen
Raiffeisen Switzerland is the third-largest Swiss banking group.

A Swiss multinational investment bank.

Zürcher Kantonalbank
Zurich Cantonal Bank is the largest cantonal bank and fourth-largest bank in Switzerland.

Major Swiss Companies
Glencore plc is an Anglo-Swiss multinational commodity trading and mining company headquartered in Baar, Switzerland.
Dutch energy and commodity trading company with headquarters in Geneva and Rotterdam.
A Singaporean multinational commodity trading company (oil and metal) with headquarters in Singapore and Geneva.
Cargill International SA
Cargill, an international corporation with more than 1,600 companies, conducts its global trade in grains and oilseeds from Geneva.
Cypriot-domiciled multinational energy & commodity trading company with headquarters in Geneva.
Nestlé S.A. is a Swiss multinational food and drinks processing conglomerate headquartered in Vevey.
Hoffmann-La Roche is a Swiss multinational healthcare company based in Basel.
Gunvor is a multinational commodity trading company (crude oil) registered in Cyprus, with its main trading office in Geneva.
Novartis International AG is a Swiss multinational pharmaceutical company based in Basel.
BHP is an Anglo-Australian multinational mining, metals and petroleum company. BHP Billiton Marketing AG is located in Baar it has four employees at this location and generates $1.50 million in sales (USD). [X]
Givaudan is the world's largest company in the flavors and fragrances industry.

Coop is one of Switzerland's largest retail and wholesale companies.
Switzerland's largest retail company and supermarket chain.

List of Swiss companies by revenue
Wikipedia's list of Swiss companies by revenue.

Swiss chocolate.
Milka is a chocolate brand originally from Switzerland, now owned by Mondelez/Kraft.
Confiserie Sprüngli is a Swiss luxury confectionery manufacturer.
Well-known triangular Swiss chocolate bar the brand is now owned by US company Mondelez/Kraft.

Mövenpick is a Swiss hotel management company headquartered in Baar, now owned by French Accor Hotels.

Probably the most famous instant coffee.

Famous malt extract, also known as Ovaltine.

Who invented it? Famous cough drops and breath mints.

Escalators, moving walkways, and elevators worldwide.

Swiss Alpine Cheese
Choose your cheese from CH.

Swiss Red Cross
Henry Dunant's dream come true in 1866, the foundation of the Red Cross in Switzerland.

Variations of Swiss Army Knives, from "Cheese Master" to "Huntsman Year of the Ox 2021 Limited Edition".

Weleda is a multinational company for cosmetics and alternative medicine.

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) operates the largest and most expensive machine in the world, the Large Hadron Collider.

Swiss Watch Brands
From Audemars Piguet to Zenith
List of the best and most famous Swiss watch brands.

List of Swiss Watchmakers

Audemars Piguet
The master of watchmaking since 1875. Ultra-luxury Swiss watches made in Le Brassus.

Baume et Mercier
Swiss luxury watchmaker founded in 1830, based in Geneva.

Breguet is a luxury watch, clock and jewelry manufacturer and a subsidiary of The Swatch Group.

Breitling SA
The Swiss watchmaker is based in Grenchen.

Swiss manufacturer and retailer of luxury watches, jewelry and accessories.

F.P. Journe
Serious timepieces - Invenit et Fecit.

Frederique Constant
The watch manufacturer is based in Plan-les-Ouates, Geneva.

High-end Swiss watch manufacture based in La Chaux-de-Fonds.

IWC Schaffhausen is a Swiss luxury watch manufacturer based in Schaffhausen, Switzerland.

Swiss luxury watch and clock manufacturer based in Le Sentier, Vaud.

Luxury watch company based in Saint-Imier.

Swiss luxury watchmaker based in Biel/Bienne.

Swiss luxury watchmaker and jeweler.

Swiss luxury watch manufacturer founded in the UK (in 1905) and based in Geneva.

Overrated Swiss battery-operated plastic timepiece.

The Swatch Group
Swiss manufacturer of watches and jewelery. The group owns, among others, Swatch, Breguet, Glashütte Original, Omega, Longines, Tissot, Mido and Certina.

TAG Heuer
"Techniques d'Avant Garde" Swiss luxury watchmaker, founded in 1860. The company's headquarters is now in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Neuchâtel.

Universal Genève
Swiss luxury watch company based in Geneva.

Vacheron Constantin
Vacheron Constantin is one of the oldest watch manufacturers in the world, founded in 1755.

Swiss luxury watchmaker in Le Locle, Neuchâtel.

Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants
AHCI is a non-profit association with the mission to perpetuate the art of independent watch- and clock-making.

Edelweiss Air
The leisure airline serves various destinations in the Mediterranean, in the Caribbean, Brazil, Mexico, Canada, and the Maldives.
Helvetic Airways
Focuses on non-stop flights from Zurich to attractive destinations in Southern Europe.
Swiss International Air Lines
On its website, the Swiss Flag Carrier provides intercontinental flight schedules, timetables, special offers and a frequent flyer program.

Flughafen Basel Mulhouse
EuroAirport is one of the few airports in the world operated jointly by two countries, France and Switzerland.

Geneva International Airport
Official website of Geneva Cointrin International Airport.

Zurich Airport
Official website of Switzerland's principal airport.

AlpTransit Gotthard
The new Gotthard railway.
Matterhorn Gotthard Bahn
The Matterhorn Gotthard train runs from Zermatt to Göschenen. Along its way, the train overcomes a total of 3,300 m difference in altitude.
Glacier Express
Famous Swiss mountain railroad that connects the mountain resorts of St.Moritz and Zermatt and is known as the slowest express train in the world.
Gornergrat Bahn
The Gornergrat mountain rack railway takes you from Zermatt to the 3,089 m high Gornergrat.
Rhätische Bahn
Arosa Railway, Bernina Express and other railways.

Swiss Federal Railways - SBB
Swiss Federal Railways is the national railway company of Switzerland.

The Basilique de Valère (left) and Tourbillon castle (right) in Sion in the canton of Valais (Wallis). In the background are the peaks of Thyon (left) Dent de Nendaz (right).
Image: Espandero

Destination Switzerland - Travel and Tour Guides

Discover Switzerland: St. Moritz, Davos, Lausanne, Zermatt, Lugano, Geneva, the Matterhorn, the Swiss cantons.
Find hotel, accommodation, attractions, festivals, events, tourist boards, the alps, wellness, health resorts and spas, skiing, climbing, tours and much more by following the links below.

Switzerland Tourism
The official Swiss tourism portal. Information about the travel destination Switzerland.

Discover Switzerland
Comprehensive information about Switzerland in its diversity: geography, economy, science, people, culture, government and history.

Switzerland tourism by Cantons and Regions

The Engadin is a long high alpine valley formed by the river Inn. The valley is located in the Eastern Swiss Alps in the canton Grisons in Switzerland's extreme southeast.

Tourism guide to Graubünden or Grisons, the largest and easternmost canton of Switzerland.

The holiday region Heidiland in Eastern Switzerland.

Jura & Three-Lakes
Official website of the Jura and Neuchâtel cantons and the Three-Lakes region (Lake Biel, Lake Neuchâtel and Lake Murten). The spoken language in the canton is French.

Lake Geneva Region
The Lake Geneva Region in the canton of Vaud (Waadt) offers an Alpine panorama and an almost Mediterranean climate on the northern shore of Lake Geneva.

Montreux-Vevey Tourisme
The official tourist guide to the Montreux-Vevey region at Lake Geneva (or Lac Léman).

Ticino Tourismus
Official tourism guide of the Italian-speaking Ticino canton (Tessin) in the southernmost corner of Switzerland.

Tourism in the German-speaking canton bordering the Lake of Constance (Bodensee).

Famous Alpine resort towns in Switzerland
List of popular as well as some less known Swiss alpine resorts.

List of famous Swiss resorts in the Alps

The Adelboden-Lenk ski region in the west of the Bernese Oberland is one of the largest ski areas in Switzerland and the venue of the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup for men.

The village in the Ursern valley in the canton Uri is situated at an altitude of 1437 m above sea level in the center of the Saint-Gotthard massif. Andermatt is connected by three Alpine passes, the Oberalp Pass, the St Gotthard Pass and the Furka Pass. The town is a winter sports and health resort and is a well-known center of freeriding.

Arosa is an Alpine resort in the Schanfigg Valley in the Swiss canton of Grisons (Graubünden). The town is known for its lakes, ski slopes and cross-country ski trails. The highest settlement in Schanfigg (1,775 m) is a well-known former climatic health resort and, since the beginning of 2014, part of the expanded ski resort Arosa Lenzerheide. Permanent resident population: 3310. The spoken language is predominantly Swiss-German.

The vacation region of Crans-Montana is located in the French-speaking part of the Swiss canton of Valais (Wallis). Crans-Montana has become famous for numerous events in alpine skiing. In the summer, the region is a center of golf.

Since the 19th-century, Davos has been a mountain resort and, together with the nearby town of Klosters, a popular destination for winter sports. Davos is also famous as the host of the annual World Economic Forum.

Disentis is a year-round tourist resort high up in the Rhine Valley in the Surselva region of Grisons (Graubünden) and the seat of one of the oldest Benedictine monasteries in Switzerland.

The village of Einsiedeln in Central Switzerland is a popular destination and one of the most important Roman Catholic pilgrimage sites in Europe.

Grindelwald is a village in the canton of Bern, near the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains. Grindelwald has long been known as a winter tourist destination today, the town is also popular for summer activities and a starting point for Eiger and Wetterhorn trails. Spoken language is predominantly Swiss-German.

Flumserberg is a winter sport and hiking area in the southern part of the canton of St. Gallen. In summer, there is an Alpine cheese market and the Flumserberg Open Air - The Big Schlager Party.

Interlaken is a traditional resort town in the east of the Bernese Oberland region between Lake Thun in the west and Lake Brienz. Interlaken is one of the major tourist centers of the Bernese Oberland. The city offers a diverse range of outdoor and recreational activities, including adventure sports such as skydiving, paragliding, canyoning, river rafting, bungee jumping and kayaking.

Saas-Fee the largest village of the Saas Valley in the canton of Valais (Wallis). Today, the town is one of Switzerland's most popular vacation resorts, both in summer and winter. Most of the population speaks Walser German.

St. Moritz
The high-alpine luxury spa (at 1,800 m) is located in the Engadine, a long high Alpine valley in the Swiss canton of Grisons (Graubünden). The former village likes to call itself the birthplace of (British) Alpine winter tourism and has twice hosted the Winter Olympics (1928 and 1948).

Engelberg is a village resort in the canton of Obwalden. The town is the starting point to the Titlis, the highest peak of the mountain range north of the Susten Pass.

Verbier is a village in the Val de Bagnes in the Entremont district in the canton of Valais (Wallis) in the southwest of Switzerland. Verbier is known as one of the premier backcountry ski resorts. Spoken language is predominantly French.

The mountain village in the Bernese Oberland is situated at 1274 m above sea level at the foot of the Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains. The town itself has no connection to the road network and is therefore almost car-free. Since 1893, Wengen can be reached by the Wengernalpbahn (a rack railway) which runs from Lauterbrunnen to Grindelwald via Wengen and Kleine Scheidegg.

Zermatt is a famous Alpine ski resort and mountaineering center below the pyramid-shaped Matterhorn in the district of Visp. The town is located at the southern end of the Matter Valley at an altitude of about 1,600 m in the south of Switzerland.

Swiss Deluxe Hotels
List of some of the best and most famous Swiss hotels.

List of Swiss Deluxe Hotels

The Alpina Gstaad
Gstaad's most luxurious hotel.

Badrutt's Palace Hotel
Historic luxury hotel in St. Moritz, Grisons.

Baur au Lac
Luxury hotel at Schanzengraben in Zürich.

Hotels have their anecdotes, grand hotels sometimes a history, but only certain palatial establishments can claim to embody a legend.

Bellevue Palace
The Bellevue Palace in Bern is the official guesthouse of the Swiss government and the only Grand Hotel in the heart of the Swiss capital.

The Chedi Andermatt Hotel
Alpine-chic with serene Asian accents for a Heidi-goes-Zen look (Forbes Travel Guide).

LeCrans Hotel & Spa
Chalet-style 5-star hotel with mountain view in the ski resort of Crans-Montana, Valais.

Grand Hotel des Bains
Cosy five-star hotel in St.Moritz.

Grand Hotel Kronenhof
Historical Grand Hotel from the time of the Belle Epoque in Pontresina in the Upper Engadine.

Grand Resort Bad Ragaz
A well-known five-star luxury resort in Bad Ragaz in the St. Gallen Rhine Valley. The town at the foot of the Pizol has a long tradition as a health resort.

Gstaad Palace Hotel
The privately-owned Swiss chalet-style luxury hotel in Gstaad opened in 1913.

Hotel Eden Roc
This five-star luxury hotel is located in Ascona (Ticino) on the shores of Lake Maggiore and offers gardens, a private beach and a marina.

Kulm Hotel St. Moritz
The Kulm Hotel St. Moritz in the Engadin valley is a big historic hotel close to Lake St. Moritz.

Mont Cervin Palace
The luxury hotel in Zermatt with a view of the Matterhorn.

Hotel Schweizerhof Luzern
Five-star hotel in Lucerne on the shore of Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstättersee).

Suvretta House
Another five-star hotel in St. Moritz.
Park Hotel Vitznau
The luxury hotel on Lake Lucerne in Vitznau offers rooms with mountain views and lake views.

Tarasp Castle, a Swiss heritage site of national significance, is located in the Lower Engadine. The Engadine Dolomites mountains in the background.
Image: Johnw

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

The Glarus thrust at Piz Sardona. The Glarus thrust is a geological phenomenon where a visible horizontal line divides older rock lying on younger rock, resulting from the underground workings of plate tectonics.
Image: Matthias Zepper

UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Switzerland
There are 12 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Switzerland, nine cultural and three natural heritage sites. Additionally, three properties are listed in UNESCO's Tentative List (see the List of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Switzerland).
The following links lead to a detailed description of the respective World Heritage Site at UNESCO.

Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona
The site features seven peaks that rise above 3,000 m. The area around Piz Sardona (Surenstock) is an exceptional example of mountain building by continental collision, where an older, uplifted rock layer pushed 40 km northward over a younger rock layer. The Glarus overthrust area in the Glarus Alps has been a key site for geological sciences since the 18th century.

Abbey of St Gall
The imposing Abbey of St. Gall is a dissolved monastery in a Catholic monastery complex in the city of St. Gall. The monastery from the Carolingian period has existed since 719 and was one of the most important Benedictine abbeys for many centuries.

La Chaux-de-Fonds / Le Locle, Watchmaking Town Planning
The two towns in the remote Swiss Jura in the canton of Neuchâtel are a center of Swiss watchmaking and an example of an artisanal production that evolved into a factory industry in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The watch industry was brought to Le Locle in the 17th century by Daniel JeanRichard, a self-taught watchmaker who encouraged local farmers to make watch parts for him during the long winters.

Old City of Berne
Bern was founded in the 12th century on a small hill site surrounded by the Aare River. The city architecture features buildings from different periods, many arcades from the 15th century and fountains from the 16th century. Most of the medieval town was restored in the 18th-century but has retained its original characteristics.

Monte San Giorgio
Monte San Giorgio is an almost unremarkable pyramid-shaped, wooded mountain on Lake Lugano. But the hill has it all it is considered the best fossil site of marine life from the Triassic period, 240 million years ago.

View of the Swiss Lavaux Vineyards at Lake Geneva (Lac Léman). The mountains on the other side of the lake are in France. The vine terraces on the northern shores of Lake Geneva can be traced back to the 11th century when Benedictine and Cistercian monasteries controlled the area. The Lavaux Vineyard Terraces are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Image: kk

Panoramic view of public primary school in Villars-sur-Ollon. The town is home to some of the most expensive private international boarding schools in the world, such as Aiglon College, La Garenne International School, and Pre Fleuri.
Image: Axel Tschentscher

Swiss Elite Boarding Schools
Schools for kids of ultra-high-net-worth individuals.

The Lyceum Alpinum in Zuoz.
Image: Adrian Michael

Aiglon College
Aiglon College is a private international boarding school in an alpine village.

Collège Beau Soleil
Beau Soleil is a prestigious, bilingual French-English private boarding school in Villars-sur-Ollon.

College du Léman
Collège du Léman International School is a prestigious boarding school in Versoix, near Geneva.

Institut auf dem Rosenberg
"The Artisans of Education" is a private, international boarding school located in St. Gallen.

Institut Le Rosey
Le Rosey, stylized as the 'school of kings,' is a boarding school in Rolle, on the shore of Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) Rosey maintains another campus in Gstaad.

Lyceum Alpinum Zuoz
Lyceum Alpinum is an international boarding school near St.Moritz.

The American School in Switzerland is a private international boarding school in Montagnola (Lugano).

Federation of Swiss Private Schools
The Swiss association of private schools.

Swiss Universities
Swiss universities are among the top universities in Europe and the world. There are twelve publicly funded Swiss universities and a number of public and private Swiss Universities of Applied Sciences.

Uni Basel
The renowned University of Basel is the country's oldest institution of higher learning, founded in 1460.

Universität Bern
The university in the Swiss capital is the country's third-largest university.

University of Geneva
Université de Genéve is a public research university founded in 1559.

Université de Lausanne
The University of Lausanne was founded in 1537 as the Schola Lausannensis. Today, UNIL, together with the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), maintains a huge campus on the shores of Lake Geneva.

ETH Zürich
Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich is a prestigious public research university in the city of Zürich.

Universität Zürich
The University of Zürich is the largest in Switzerland it was founded in 1833.

List of universities in Switzerland
Wikipedia's list of universities in Switzerland.

European Laboratory for Particle Physics
"Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire" - Some of CERN's experiments led to the confirmation of the existence of the Higgs boson and a communication tool now known as the internet.

View on the old Academy of Lausanne (left), the Palais de Rumine, both former buildings of the University of Lausanne. Lausanne Cathedral in the background.
Image: Christian Mehlführer

Swiss National Park - View in autumn on Munt Buffalora (left), Piz dal Fuorn (center) and Piz Nair (right).
Image: Martingarten

The beauty of the country's landscape also has its downsides. Switzerland has to deal with various natural hazards such as floods, debris flows, landslides, falling processes (rockfall and rock avalanches), avalanches and storms.

Swiss National Park
The Swiss National Park in Engadin and Val Müstair has been the oldest and best-protected wilderness area in the Alps since 1914.

Federal Office for the Environment FOEN
FOEN is the federal government's center of environmental expertise.

EnviDat is the environmental data portal developed by the Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL.

Natural Hazards Portal
The website shows the current natural hazards situation in Switzerland.

Federal Office of Topography.

The Swiss Federal Institute for Forest Snow and Landscape Research (WSL).

Greenpeace Switzerland
The Swiss section of Greenpeace (in German, French, and Italian).
Pro Natura - Friends of the Earth Switzerland
Pro Natura is a private non-profit organization founded in 1909. It's the oldest conservation organization in Switzerland.
WWF Schweiz
The Swiss section of WWF (in German, French, and Italian.)

UNESCO Biosphäre Entlebuch. The Entlebuch Biosphere is a nature reserve at the foot of the Alps.

Environmental movement in Switzerland
Wikipedia page about the environmental movement in Switzerland.

Geneva Environment Network
GEN is a cooperative partnership of over 75 environmental and development organizations based in Geneva. The network is coordinated by the United Nations Environment Programme with support from the Swiss Government.

Marbachegg on the edge of the Biosphere Entlebuch, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve at the foot of the Alps.
Image: Gabrielle Merk

Entrance to the church ruins of San Gaudenzio. The church ruin is located on a slope above Casaccia (Bregaglia/Engadin).
Image: Muck

Switzerland evolved over many centuries from a loose alliance of small self-governing towns and states to a fully-fledged federal state of 26 cantons.

Chronology and epochs of Switzerland by Presence Switzerland, an organization of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

History of Switzerland
Exhibition at the Swiss National Museum.

History of Switzerland
Part of the Wikipedia series on the History of Switzerland.

History of Switzerland
Outline of the history of Switzerland and links to additional information about Swiss history.

Selected country profiles of Switzerland published by international organizations.

Amnesty International: Switzerland
Amnesty International is a non-governmental organization focused on human rights.

BBC Country Profile: Switzerland
Country profiles by the British public service broadcaster.

Switzerland: Country Profile | Freedom House
The U.S. government-funded non-profit organization whose goal is to promote liberal democracies worldwide.

GlobalEDGE: Switzerland
Switzerland ranking by the Global business knowledge portal.

The Heritage Foundation: Switzerland
Index of Economic Freedom by The Heritage Foundation, an American conservative think tank.

Human Rights Watch: Switzerland
HRW conducts research and advocacy on human rights.

OEC: Switzerland
The Observatory of Economic Complexity provides the latest international trade data.

Reporters Without Borders: Switzerland
RSF (Reporters sans frontières) is an international NGO that defends and promotes media freedom.

Wikipedia: Switzerland
Wikipedia's Switzerland page in many languages.

Fear of life's unpredictability

Most of these tales "have their roots in a fear of the unpredictability we face in life," wrote Alexandre Daguet in 1872 in his Traditions et légendes de la Suisse romande ['Traditions and legends from French-speaking Switzerland']. For example, the mountain peak Les Diablerets ['the abodes of devils'] between the cantons of Vaud and Valais is named after the evil spirits said to have roamed there, playing skittles with the towering rocks – one of which is known as the 'Quille du Diable' ['devil's skittle']. Illustrator Denis Kormann, an avid lover of the mountains in Valais, was inspired by the "spectacular visual potential" of the Alpine landscape to create the recently published Mon grand livre de contes et légendes suisses ['My big book of Swiss legends and fairy tales'] (Helvetiq, 2017). In fact, he was so fascinated by this cultural heritage that he now plans to publish two more books.

Illustration from: Mein grosses Buch der Schweizer Sagen und Legenden

"I adapted the original stories to try and highlight the vulnerability of our natural heritage and the need to preserve it," says the artist, originally from Vaud. He notes how popular Nordic mythology and stories of superheroes have become. "But our own stories and legends have the same magic ingredients, not to mention the messages they convey about human greed." His first illustration was for the legend of the Devil's Bridge, made famous by William Turner in 1802 – although this one is not included in his first volume. To whet your appetite, here is the story behind the Devil's Bridge, as well as some other similar tales.

Music And Dances Of Switzerland

Swiss men playing the traditional trumpet. Image credit: Avatar_023/

Switzerland has produced world-renowned composers like Frank Martin, Arthur Honegger, and Othmar Schoeck. Another musician and composer from the nation, Andreas Vollenweider, has been recognized internationally with Grammy awards for his talent in harp music. The Lucerne and Verbier Festivals held in Switzerland celebrate international classical music. The Montreux Jazz Festival is also another famous music festival held in the country. Eluveitie is a Swiss folk metal band that has gained international recognition.

In the past, public dancing in Switzerland was only permitted on special occasions. However, following the World War II, rules changed drastically, and dancing became a popular leisure activity in Switzerland. Traditional dances like waltz, foxtrot, polka are popular among the Swiss and so are modern dance styles like breakdance, salsa, and rock and roll. The Trachtenvereine associations help preserve the folk dances of the country and perform such dances during folk festivals and other cultural events.

  • OFFICIAL NAME: The Swiss Confederation
  • POPULATION: 8,292,809
  • CAPITAL: Bern
  • AREA: 15,940 square miles (41,284 square kilometers)
  • OFFICIAL LANGUAGES: German, French, Italian, Romansch
  • MONEY: Swiss franc
  • MAJOR RIVERS: Rhône, Rhine


Switzerland is a small mountainous country located in central Europe. This landlocked country is about the size of New Jersey and is between France and Italy. It is also bordered by Austria, Germany, and Liechtenstein.

Most of the population lives in the plateau which is between the high Alps in the south and the Jura mountains in the north. The mountainous area in the south is sparsely populated.

Map created by National Geographic Maps


Switzerland is one of the world’s wealthiest countries. The Swiss are well known for their watches and clocks.

There is not a single official language in Switzerland. People speak one of several languages, including Swiss German, French, and Italian.


The Swiss Alps are high, snow-covered mountains most of which are over 13,000 feet (4,000 meters). The most famous peak is the Matterhorn which is 14,692 feet (4,478 meters) tall, but the highest peak is Dufourspitze at 15,203 feet (4,634 meters).

Scientists are concerned that glaciers in the Swiss Alps have lost a lot of ice coverage in the past 40 years. This may be related to global climate change. Rapid melting of the glaciers could cause flooding to the villages below.

Most animals in Switzerland live in the mountains. The ibex, a species of mountain goat, was hunted to near extinction in the early 1800s. The species has since been reintroduced and more than 15,000 ibex now live in the Swiss Alps. Hikers may also encounter chamois, another goatlike animal, and marmots. The forests of Switzerland are also home to deer, rabbits, foxes, badgers, squirrels, and many bird species.

Switzerland guns: Living with firearms the Swiss way

Switzerland has one of the highest rates of gun ownership in the world, but little gun-related street crime - so some opponents of gun control hail it as a place where firearms play a positive role in society. However, Swiss gun culture is unique, and guns are more tightly regulated than many assume.

Throughout the attack, Anne Ithen kept her eyes shut.

"I didn't want to see it. I didn't want those images in my head for the rest of my life. but I remember everything, every detail," she tells me. "Ninety bullets were fired and of course there was the homemade bomb - there was a hell of a noise."

She drops her head slightly as she takes herself back to the Zug cantonal assembly chamber on the afternoon of 27 September 2001, where she was chairing the council meeting. She remembers hearing a loud bang and thinking briefly that someone had accidentally upturned the coffee table in the corridor.

Then the door burst open and she saw Freidrich Leibacher, a local man, dressed in a police vest and laden with guns.

"I knew immediately what was going to happen," she tells me simply.

Leibacher, who had a grudge against the officials of the Zug parliament, shot dead 14 people and injured 18 others before turning the gun on himself.

"All that noise. " says Anne hesitantly with her eyes closed. "And yet so much quiet too, as people hid or pretended to be dead. I remember a silence, and his swearing…and just the noise of his boots pacing around the room."

Anne Ithen was shot three times, in the spine, the thigh and the abdomen.

"I knew I was paralysed," she says factually. "You see I didn't feel the other two shots, but the shot that hit my spinal cord splintered and entered my lungs. I couldn't breathe and really feared I was going to die from suffocation." She gives me a wry, ironic smile. "And then someone shouted, 'It's over!'. whatever that meant."

Anne is now a paraplegic. She lost two-thirds of her stomach, one kidney and much of her large intestine. She has nothing but admiration for the surgical team who managed to save her life.

"They had to be pretty creative," she laughs. "It was hard to put together a functioning body from the bits and pieces that were left."

Anne admits that she has always hated guns and when, long before the Zug attack, her partner moved in with her, she told him firmly that his Swiss army gun - which all Swiss men of fighting age are issued with - would not be living with them.

In February 2011, she voted in favour of a referendum motion which called for all militia firearms to be stored in public arsenals and for a national gun registry to be established. But 56.3% of voters were opposed to the idea.

"I think we are too lax with gun laws in Switzerland," she tells me. "I was very disappointed the referendum didn't get a majority. especially as we have seen more shooting recently here."

Last month, in the French-speaking village of Daillon, 100km (62 miles) from Geneva, a psychologically disturbed man opened fire on locals, killing three people and wounding two others. Police had already confiscated weapons from the gunman in 2005, after he had been placed in psychiatric care.

Inevitably, his actions prompted a fresh wave of debate in Switzerland about its relatively liberal gun laws.

According to the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey, there are about 89 civilian-owned guns for every 100 people who live in the United States. Switzerland ranks third in terms of gun ownership, the Survey estimates, with 3.4 million guns among its population of nearly eight million.

Target shooting is a popular national sport but many of the firearms in Switzerland are military weapons.

All healthy Swiss men aged between 18 and 34 are obliged to do military service and all are issued with assault rifles or pistols which they are supposed to keep at home.

Twenty years ago the Swiss militia was a sizeable force of around 600,000 soldiers. Today it is only a third of that size but until recently most former soldiers used to keep their guns after they had completed their military duties, leading to lots of weapons being stored in the attics or cupboards of private Swiss households.

In 2006, the champion Swiss skier Corrinne Rey-Bellet and her brother were murdered by Corinne's estranged husband, who shot them with his old militia rifle before killing himself.

Since that incident, gun laws concerning army weapons have tightened. Although it is still possible for a former soldier to buy his firearm after he finishes military service, he must provide a justification for keeping the weapon and apply for a permit.

When I meet Mathias, a PhD student and serving officer, at his apartment in a snowy suburb of Zurich, I realise the rules have got stricter than I imagined. Mathias keeps his army pistol in the guest room of his home, in a desk drawer hidden under the printer paper. It is a condition of the interview that I don't give his surname or hint at his address.

"I do as the army advises and I keep the barrel separately from my pistol," he explains seriously. "I keep the barrel in the basement so if anyone breaks into my apartment and finds the gun, it's useless to them."

He shakes out the gun holster. "And we don't get bullets any more," he adds. "The Army doesn't give ammunition now - it's all kept in a central arsenal." This measure was introduced by Switzerland's Federal Council in 2007.

Mathias carefully puts away his pistol and shakes his head firmly when I ask him if he feels safer having a gun at home, explaining that even if he had ammunition, he would not be allowed to use it against an intruder.

"The gun is not given to me to protect me or my family," he says. "I have been given this gun by my country to serve my country - and for me it is an honour to take care of it. I think it is a good thing for the state to give this responsibility to people."

In America then, gun ownership is about self-defence whereas in Switzerland it is seen more in terms of national security. To many traditionalists, a gun in the home has become a metaphor for an independent, well-fortified Switzerland which has helped to keep the country out of two world wars.

Hermann Suter, vice-president of the Swiss lobbying group Pro Tell, is infuriated by calls that the Swiss military should give up their guns and store them in a central arsenal.

"It is a question of trust between the state and the citizen. The citizen is not just a citizen, he is also a soldier, " he reminds me. "The gun at home is the best way to avoid dictatorships - only dictators take arms away from the citizens."

We discuss the recent shootings in Daillon, and I ask him whether he is concerned that each of Switzerland's 26 cantons have gun registers but do not share their data nationally. Under such a system isn't it feasible, I ask, that I could be refused a licence to buy a gun in the canton of Vaud and yet could hop on the train to nearby Valais and buy one there without anyone knowing I had been refused a permit a few miles down the road?

"There is a lack there," admits Mr Suter. "The systems are not connected. But today they are really on their way to fitting all the information together, and there is not a single legal gun here which is unregistered. But a national register does not necessarily avoid tragedy - 100% control you cannot organise. It's impossible."

Yet despite the prevalence of firearms, violent gun-related street crime is extremely rare in Switzerland.

In an average year here, there is one gun murder for every 200,000 of the population - in the US that figure is several times higher. But there are more domestic homicides and suicides with a firearm in Switzerland than pretty much anywhere else in Europe except Finland.

In his office at Zurich University, Professor Martin Killias, director of criminology at Zurich University is flicking through research papers about gun-related homicides.

"It's like smoking. Less is more. I don't support outlawing guns, I recognise people have their hobbies, just as I have mine," he tells me.

"But the fewer guns there are in cellars, attics and armoires, then that would be helpful, because there is a strong correlation between guns kept in private homes and incidences occurring at home - like private disputes involving the husband shooting the wife and maybe the children, and then committing suicide."

Prof Killias was a supporter of the 2011 referendum initiative to keep all militia firearms in a central arsenal - because, he says, of the evidence provided by recent statistics.

"Forty-three per cent of homicides are domestic related and 90% of those homicides are carried out with guns," he says.

"But over the last 20 years, now that the majority of soldiers don't have ammunition at home, we have seen a decrease in gun violence and a dramatic decrease in gun-related suicides. Today we see maybe 200 gun suicides per year and it used to be 400, 20 years ago. "

The army is not the only entity to have a tradition with guns however. About 600,000 Swiss - many of them children - belong to shooting clubs.

On the second weekend in September each year, about 4,000 Zurich girls and boys, aged 12 to 16, take part in Knabenschiessen, a rifle marksmanship contest. The winner is honoured with the title King of the Marksmen.

"Never point your gun anywhere but the target or the ceiling," instructor Michael Merki warns me as he gives me my first air rifle lesson at a Zurich shooting range. "Safety must come first." He steadies my hand.

It has taken a good five minutes to unpack Michael's guns. I count four padlocks on his carrying case.

"Shooting instructors at rifle clubs always control who is shooting," he says. And all ammunition bought at the club has to be used there.

"When the shooting is finished and the person wants to leave the club, the instructor will look to see how many bullets have been shot and will demand the rest are given back."

He loads my rifle and, reluctantly, I shoot twice at the target - the first shots I've ever fired in my life.

When I see I've scored highly with a very accurate shot, I feel an electric frisson of excitement go through my body. I wonder how children manage that sense of thrill, and suggest that perhaps gun clubs glorify weapons and encourage an unhealthy fascination with guns?

A murmur of protest is heard around the rifle club.

"It teaches people to respect guns," Michael tells me. "A lot of hyperactive children come to rifle club. They learn to stand still, to concentrate for much longer, and it helps them get better results in school, and in life."

Swiss citizens - for example hunters, or those who shoot as a sport - can get a permit to buy guns and ammunition, unless they have a criminal record, or police deem them unsuitable on psychiatric or security grounds. But hunters and sportsmen are greatly outnumbered by those keeping army guns - which again illustrates the difference between Switzerland and the US.

Prof Killias cannot hide his anger with those in America who use Switzerland to illustrate their argument that more gun ownership would deter or stop violence.

"We don't have a gun culture!" he snaps, waving his hand dismissively.

"I'm always amazed how the National Rifle Association in America points to Switzerland - they make it sound as if it was part of southern Texas!" he says.

"We have guns at home, but they are kept for peaceful purposes. There is no point taking the gun out of your home in Switzerland because it is illegal to carry a gun in the street. To shoot someone who just looks at you in a funny way - this is not Swiss culture!"

Street violence has gone up in recent years in Switzerland but there hasn't been an increase in gun-related incidents.

That's little comfort, though, to Anne Ithen. She has given up her political career since she was gunned down in the Zug parliament 12 years ago, but she retains strong political opinions.

"I'm not happy about the situation now in Switzerland," she tells me firmly. "The laws have not changed very much, only a tiny, wee bit. It takes just a short moment if a weapon is used to destroy a lot, as you can see with my story, and it takes a very long time to recover and build a new life… and that's a very hard fact to swallow."

She smiles at me kindly. "You ask if I often think about the shooting?" She points down to her wheelchair. "It's always present."

Listen to Emma Jane Kirby's report from Switzerland on BBC Radio 4's Broadcasting House.

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Switzerland's History

Switzerland is a small country situated in the heart of Central Europe and shares a lot of it's history and of it's culture (four national languages spoken in different regions) with it's neighbours Germany, France, Italy and Austria.

  • Archeology shows that Stone Age hunters have been living in Switzerland already before the last Ice Age (approximately 350'000 B.C.).
  • Switzerland's official latin name "Confoederatio Helvetica" goes back to a Celtic tribe called the Helvetians.
  • The majority of Switzerland's "native" population settled during the Germanic Migration of Nations that set an end to the Roman Empire in Western Europe at about 400 A.D. was founded in the first days of August, 1291 (hence Switzerland's national holiday is celebrated on August, 1 st ).
  • Switzerland was officially accepted as an independent nation by its neighbours in the 1648 European peace treaty. have set an end to the rule of a small number of privileged cities, valleys and families over the majority of the country.
  • Today's borders and Switzerland's Neutrality were defined at the Vienna Congress of 1815 ending the wars of Napoleon. dates back to 1848 (with total revisions in 1874 and 1999).

There might be good reasons for any of these choices because Switzerland has been changing a lot during the centuries of its history and there is not really too much common ground between the Helvetians or the medieval Old Swiss Confederacy and the modern Swiss Civil Society.

Nevertheless this website starts with the first inhabitants we have any accounts of, but it does focus on Switzerland's change into a modern democratic society and on Switzerland's Role in World War II.

Cantons of Switzerland Map

Switzerland (officially, the Swiss Confederation) is divided into 26 cantons. In alphabetical order, these cantons are: Aargau (AG), Appenzell Ausserrhoden (AR), Appenzell Innerrhoden (AI), Basel-Landschaft (BL), Basel-Stadt (BS), Berne/Bern (BE), Fribourg/Freiburg (FR), Geneve [Geneva](GE), Glarus (GL), Graubuenden /Grigioni/Grischun (GR), Jura (JU), Luzern (LU), Neuchatel (NE), Nidwalden (NW), Obwalden (OW), Sankt Gallen (SG), Schaffhausen (SH), Schwyz (SZ), Solothurn (SO), Thurgall (TG), Ticino (TI), Uri (UR), Valais/Wallis (VS), Vaud (VD), Zug (ZG) and Zuerich (ZH).

Switzerland is the only country that is without an official capital city. Located on the Swiss plateau, in the west-central part of the country, the city of Bern – is the de-facto seat of the government of Switzerland. With a population of over 144,000 people, Bern is the 5 th largest city and the 2 nd largest canton in Switzerland. Located in the northern part of the country, Zurich (Zuerich) is the largest city of Switzerland. It is the country’s main cultural and commercial center and the most cosmopolitan city. Zurich is also a major International financial hub. Along with Geneva, it serves as a chief gateway to the Swiss country. Switzerland is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world.

Welcome to Switzerland County, Indiana History and Genealogy

Switzerland County Courthouse

This Site is Available for Adoption


Switzerland County was organized formally October 1, 1814. Vevay is the County Seat.

Switzerland County Historical and Descriptive
The first settlement within the limits of Switzerland, of which any definite account can be obtained, was made by Heathcoat Picket, who settle above Plum Creek, about three miles above Vevay, in 1795, where he built a cabin and remained for several years. There being an abundance of game, his family were always supplied with meat. The bread was made from corn ground in a hand mill. The family consisted of the father, mother, two sons and one daughter. They all endured severe privations, and often narrowly escaped the dreaded tomahawk of the treacherous savages. In 1798 the Cotton and Deckason families settled on Indian Creek, about three miles from the Ohio River, some distance from Vevay. In 1799 Robert Gullion settled in the Ohio River bottom above the mouth of Loglick Creek.

In 1796 John James Dufour, a native of Switzerland, Eroupe, explored the country along the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Louisville, seeking a suitable location for the future homes of himself, his son, four brothers, three sisters, and a few of their associates who were desirous of coming to America to introduce the cultivation of the vine. He finally located between Indiana and Plum Creeks, and entered, under a special act of congress, about three thousand acres of land, at two dollars per acre, with interest, on a credit of twelve years - the extended credit being given for the purpose of encouraging the cultivation of the vine and making domestic wine. The colonists, numbering seventeen souls, embarked for the United Sates in January 1801, and land at Norfolk, Virginia, in May of the same year. They began arriving at their destination, New Switzerland - the name give to their new settlement - in 1803, and by 1809 they had built comfortable log houses, cleared considerable land, planted orchards and vineyards, and commenced making considerable quantities of wine, which in the market was always known as "Vevay Wine."

In November 1813, John Francis Dufour and Daniel Dufour laid out the town of Vevay - the lots being sold at public sale. This sale was quite successful, many persons from neighboring settlements being present and purchasing liberally. In the spring of 1814 persons from Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York commenced settling in the new town. The site of the town, for the most part, was lying in a very heavy timbered tract of land, and it required much hard work to clear off the timber and build houses. The county was organized in 1814, and the county seat was located at Vevay.

The hardships of the early settlers of Switzerland County may be imagined, from the fact that from 1803 to 1813 the settlers within the limits of the county were in continual dread of being attacked and massacred by bands of hostile Indians. As a means for better protection against surprise by the Indians, several families would meet at night at the house of one of the number, and while the women and children and part of the men retired to rest, part of the men kept watch with loaded guns. Through these precautions, but few, if any, persons ever met their death at the hands of hostile Indians in that county.

Immediately after the organization of the county it began to increase in population, and from 1816 to 1822 towns were laid out in different parts of the county, and the general scene was that of activity, industry and thrift. In 1815 James McIntire laid out the town of Erin, opposite Carrrollton, Ky., but was unsuccessful in his attempts to attract population at that point. In 1816 Peter Demaree laid out the town of Allensville, which for some time promised to become an important point. It is now a pleasant village. Thus we might name several towns that were laid out in the county in 1816-1817-1818, etc. In short, its progress was fully up to the best counties in the State. The farmers of the county are a very industrious, moral, hard-working people most of them have gained an independence, and are now enjoying the fruits of their labors, having excellent residences, while their children enjoy the best of schools. Hay is the great staple of the county, and has been exported with great profit. The county is well timbered with the very best quality of wood,and the farmer has all the opportunities and advantages for success. Switzerland County has not increased in population as rapidly as in wealth. Its villages are all established on a firm footing, and its commerce and agriculture are exceedingly prosperous.


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