Switzerland: Facts and Figures

Switzerland Today

Switzerland, officially known as the Swiss Confederation (Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft in German), is not like most other nations. It is one of the few places where direct democracy is still practiced (at the local level), meaning that the people directly make certain decisions, not a representative body. Switzerland also has its own Swiss franc currency, refusing to join the Euro Zone. This nation of 8 million people has also decided not to join the European Union that surrounds it. Learn more about Switzerland below and on our History of Switzerland page.

Flag of Switzerland

The Swiss national flag.

  • Official Name: Swiss Confederation (Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft in German)
  • International Abbreviation: CH (from the Latin Confoederatio Helvetica)
  • Government: Federal republic; parliamentary democracy (Bundesversammlung, Federal Assembly) with two legislative bodies: the Ständerat (Council of States, 46 members) and the Nationalrat (National Council, 200 members)
  • President: One-year term rotating through the seven members of the Federal Council. The president has no political power.
  • Chancellor: Walter Thurnherr (since Jan. 2015); he succeeded Corina Casanova (2008-2014). Both are members of the Christian Democratic People’s Party.
  • Size: 15,940 sq mi (41,284 sq km), slightly smaller than the US states of New Hampshire and Vermont combined.
  • Population: 8.2 million (2014 est.)
  • Languages (2013): German (63.5%), French (22.5%), Italian (8.1%), Romansch (0.5%)
  • Capital City: Bern (also spelled Berne in English)
  • National Holiday: August 1 – More: Other holidays in German-speaking Europe
  • Largest Cities: Zurich (Zürich) 379,915 (2012, 1.8 million in metro area; Canton Zurich: 1,406,083), Geneva (Genf) 194,245 (2013), Basel 172,091 (2013), Lausanne 125,885, Bern 123,466, Winterthur 101,203
  • Ethnicity: German 65%, French 18%, Italian 10%, Romansch 1%, other 6%
  • Religions: Protestant 35%, Roman Catholic 42%, Muslim 4%, Eastern Orthodox 2%, unaffiliated or other 17%
  • Monetary Unit: Swiss franc (Schweizer Franken, CHF) since 1850. One CHF has 100 Rappen (centimes).
  • Economy/Industries: Switzerland is noted for its strong capitalistic economy, especially in the banking and insurance sectors. Key industries include: agricultural products, banking, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, machinery, textiles, watchmaking, and tourism. Swiss multinational corporations include: ABB, Adecco, Glencore, Nestlé, Novartis, Hoffmann-La Roche, UBS, Zurich Financial Services, Credit Suisse, Swiss Re, and the Swatch Group.
  • Climate: Temperate; cool, cloudy, wet winters (snow in mountainous areas); mild summers with occasional heat waves. However, the climate varies greatly — from Alpine glaciers to almost Mediterranean warmth in southern Ticino.
  • Highest Point: Although the Matterhorn (14,692 ft) is more famous, it is the Dufourspitze at 15,203 ft (4,634 m) in the Monte Rosa massif (near Italy) that is Switzerland’s highest peak.
  • Largest Lakes: Lake Geneva (Genfer See, Lac Léman), Lake Constance (Bodensee), Lago Maggiore, Lake Zurich (Zürichsee)
  • Waterways: The Rhine (der Rhein) flows out of the Swiss Alps and is navigable from Basel northward. The Swiss Alps also contain the headwaters of these European rivers: Aare, Inn, Rhone, and Ticino.
  • Neighboring Countries (5): Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein
  • Notable Swiss: Ursula Andress (film actress), Felix Bloch (Nobel Prize in Physics, 1952), Ruth Dreifuss (first female Swiss president, 1999), Friedrich Dürrenmatt (author), Albert Einstein (also claimed by Germany and the US), Roger Federer (tennis pro), Max Frisch (author, architect), Marc Forster (film director), Bruno Ganz (film actor), H.R. Giger (film art designer), Hermann Hesse (poet), Carl Jung (psychiatrist), Conrad Ferdinand Meyer (author), Claude Nicollier (NASA astronaut), Jacques Piccard (marine explorer), Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (educator), Liselotte Pulver (film actress), Hermann Rorschach (psychiatrist, inkblot test), Johanna Spyri (author of Heidi), Andreas Vollenweider (musician), Renée Zellweger (film actress, Swiss father), Huldrych Zwingli (religious reformer), and more…

Next | History of Switzerland

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