Interesting Facts About Switzerland
How well do you know Switzerland? Here is a mix of informative and interesting facts to prepare you for visiting or living in Switzerland.
Switzerland is a country situated in Western and Central Europe with an area of 15,940 sq mi. It is geographically divided between the Alps, the Jura mountains, and the Swiss Plateau. The majority of the Swiss population lives in the plateau. With these facts about Switzerland, let’s learn more about its traditional culture, people, economy, history, tourism, mountain ranges, cities, and more.
1. Switzerland is slightly less than twice the size of New Jersey.
2. Zurich and Geneva are among the top ten most livable cities in the world. They rank second and eighth on the list, respectively.
3. The Swiss franc is the official currency of Switzerland.
4. Geneva, Switzerland is also home to the second-largest of the four major office sites of the United Nations.
5. Swiss consumption of chocolates per capital is the highest in the world. They have invented techniques like conching and tempering to help them produce world-class chocolates.
6. Mountaineering, snowboarding, and skiing are some of the popular sports in Switzerland.
7. Half of the luxury watches produced in the world come from Switzerland. Brands like Tissot, TAG Heuer, Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Longines are all Swiss.
8. The large Hadron Collider in the world’s largest particle physics laboratory– CERN – is in Switzerland. It has been established under the ground.
9. Bern is the capital of Switzerland. Zurich is its largest city.
10. Switzerland shares a land border with Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Italy and France.
11. Switzerland has enough underground bunker capacity that it can hide its entire population in case of a nuclear war.
12. Assisted suicide in Switzerland is legal. It is also legal in China, Belgium, Canada and other few countries. There is, however, different legislation regarding the circumstances under which this is legal.
13. Switzerland provides nearly all CO2-friendly electricity to its citizens. 39% of electricity comes from nuclear power plants, while 56% is generated by hydroelectric power plants.
14. A giant three-legged chair in Geneva, Switzerland is dedicated to the opposition of using land mines. It is known as “The Broken Chair.”
15. The “Anti PowerPoint Party” is a political party in Switzerland that works to decrease the use of PowerPoint in professional presentations. They claim that the PowerPoint software is economically harmful.
16. Animals are also represented by lawyers in Switzerland’s courts. Once, a fisherman was prosecuted for taking too long to catch a Pike.
17. 23% of Switzerland’s total population of almost 8 million consists of foreigners.
18. The divorce rate in Switzerland is about 43%, and people marry late: men at the age of 31.8 years and women at 29.5 years.
19. The average age for Swiss women to have their first child is 30.4 years, which makes them the oldest women in Europe to do so.
20. One hundred tons of hash and marijuana are used in Switzerland every year by 600,000 people.
Map of Switzerland
21. Highly skilled people form the basis for Switzerland’s economy. Sectors such as banking, insurance, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, microtechnology, etc. employ these skilled people.
22. Switzerland: the best place in the world to be born, according to a recent quality-of-life index.
23. It is funny to note that there are more banks in the Switzerland than dentists.
24. Fuel economy in Switzerland is measured in “quantity per distance” (liters per 100 km).
25. If you were a teacher in Switzerland, you would enjoy at least 12 weeks’ vacation, and you would be paid highly: on an average – $68,000 per year (est. 2014).
26. There are 5 hospital beds per 1000 people in Switzerland (est. 2011).
27. Bank tellers are protected by bulletproof glass in Switzerland.
28. Drivers of public busses can be ticketed for traffic violations.
29. Since 1815, Switzerland has not been involved in any military conflict. It has strong relations with its neighboring countries and is also a part of some international and UN organizations.
30. Almost half of its population possesses guns. In spite of this fact, there were just 0.5 murders per 100,000 compared to five per 100,000 in the U.S.
31. Heavy snowfall in Switzerland during the night time will often accumulate enough snow on the roads to make them unusable. However, the roads will always be cleaned by 8:00 in the morning.
32. Switzerland is one of the two countries in the world to have a square flag. The other is Vatican City.
Flag of Switzerland
33. A ring made entirely out of diamonds was sold by a Swiss jeweler for a whopping $68 million.
34. Swiss chocolatiers Peter and Henri Nestlé invented milk chocolate in 1875.
35. The very first Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Jean Henri Dunant, a Swiss, in 1901. He is the founder of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Sixteen people from Switzerland have won the Nobel Prize in various fields. To see the full list of the Nobel Prize winner by country, visit this link.
36. Switzerland does not have a president as chief of state.
37. “The World’s Smallest Toolbox”– the Swiss Army knife – was invented by Karl Elsener. There are four different models available, and they can have a barometer, altimeter and even a USB memory card.
38. The famous equation E=MC2 was devised by Albert Einstein in 1905, while he was in Switzerland.
39. Charlie Chaplin spent the last 25 years of his life in Switzerland.
40. The world’s largest nuclear shelter, the Sonnenberg Tunnel, is in Switzerland. It can house up to 20,000 individuals for an extended period of time during a nuclear emergency.
41. Switzerland’s defense is well prepared for the event of an attack. It has already deployed technology to block access via roads, bridges, and railways across 3000 locations.
42. The smallest vineyard under the ownership of Dalai Lama is located in Switzerland.
43. The World Wide Web was invented by Tim Berners Lee in Switzerland in 1989.
44. More films produced by India are shot in Switzerland than in any other country.
45. The first waterproof watch was invented by Rolex in 1927 in Switzerland.
46. Nescafe, the world’s first instant coffee, was invented in 1938 in Switzerland, too.
47. In Latin, Confoederatio Helvetica is Switzerland’s official name, which is why Switzerland’s abbreviation is CH.
About solar-powered flight made in Switzerland
48. Switzerland is also the only country in the world to have built an airplane that is powered by solar energy.
49. The plane named “Solar Impulse 2”, is the first plane in the world to have completed 40,000 kilometers without a single drop of fuel.
50. The aircraft—Solar Impulse 2–was in flight for consecutive 5 days and night, and by doing so, it became the first solar-powered aircraft to accomplish an oceanic crossing.
51. Abu Dhabi, UAE’s capital city, was chosen as the start and finish city for the first solar powered flight completed by Solar Impulse 2. The city was chosen for its climate and infrastructural benefits that were required to complete the flight. Learn more at their official website here.
Facts about people and society in Switzerland
52. Switzerland’s resident population has grown from 3.3 million in 1900 to 8.3 million in 2017.
53. Today, there are almost 2 million resident foreigners in Switzerland.
54. In 2017, almost 18% of the Swiss population is above the age of 64 years.
55. Did you know that the Italians are the largest foreign community in Switzerland, followed by German, Portuguese and French communities?
56. To apply for Swiss citizenship, one must have lived in Switzerland for at least 12 years.
57. Three-quarters of Swiss population lives in towns and cities, making the country mainly urban.
58. Swiss people are process oriented.
59. People also like to go outdoors more often than not. Swiss people trek, ski, jog, walk, run, and engage in many other outdoor activities.
60. Switzerland is a small but a famous country in the heart of Europe.
61. Switzerland has the highest nominal wealth per adult and it is one of the most developed countries in the world.
62. Switzerland was not involved in any of the two world wars; World War I (Jul 28, 1914 – Nov 11, 1918) and World War II (Sep 1, 1939 – Sep 2, 1945.)
63. Air and water pollution, loss of biodiversity, and acid rain are some environmental issues in Switzerland.
64. Switzerland’s crime and unemployment rates are amongst the lowest in the world. The country is also famous for its technological innovation and strong banking system.
Facts about prominent mountain peaks, Alps and Swiss Alps
65. Most important peaks: Monte Rosa (most elevated), the Finsteraarhorn (most prominent) and Piz Bernina (most isolated) are the three most prominent peaks of Switzerland.
66. Switzerland has a whopping 4400 summits (peaks) that are over 2000 m in height.
67. The total area of the Alps is 192,753 square kilometers, of which only 14% is in Switzerland.
68. The Alps is credited with being the youngest, largest, highest, and most densely populated mountain range in Europe. It is estimated to have formed some 45 million years ago.
69. The region of the Alps which falls in Switzerland is referred to as Swiss Alps.
70. Switzerland is one of the most mountainous countries in Europe as 65% of its total land mass is covered under the Alps.
71. The majority of the highest peaks, 48 out of the 82, that are higher than 4000 m are in Switzerland, and the remaining are also within 20 kilometers of the Swiss border.
72. The first international group of travelers visited Switzerland in 1863. The group was organized by Thomas Cook.
Facts about railways, famous Swiss tunnels
73. Jungfraujoch railway station, the highest railway station in Europe, is in Switzerland. It is built at an altitude of 11,332 ft above sea level. It began its operation in 1912.
74. Switzerland has built plenty of rail tunnels to ease transportation, which was most affected because of its geographical features.
75. They built the Gotthard Rail Tunnel (connecting Switzerland – Italy, Switzerland – Germany, and Switzerland – Austria.)
76. The Simplon Tunnel connected Rhone valley with Italy in 1906.
77. The Gotthard Base Tunnel–the world’s longest rail tunnel–opened in 2016 goes through the Alps. It is 57 kilometers long. It can effectively reduce the travel time between Zurich and Milan by at least 30 minutes. The Gotthard Road Tunnel in Switzerland which is 16.9 kilometers long is the second longest road tunnel in the world after the Lærdal Road Tunnel in Norway which runs for 24.51 km.
78. Switzerland contains 3,100 miles of the railway network.
About Swiss government
79. The Federal Council is the highest executive authority in the country. It has seven members elected by the Federal Assembly.
80. The Federal Assembly elects both the president and the vice-president. They serve a one-year term.
81. The Swiss constitution was adopted in 1848. Prior to 1848, Switzerland was a loose alliance of independent cantons.
82. A lot of ice from glaciers in Switzerland has melted in the past 40 years and this could be a reason for concern for the villages below. Between 1985 and 2009, Swiss glaciers receded by more than 390 square kilometers.
83. The ibex, a species of mountain goat, became nearly extinct in the early 1800s because of excessive hunting. However, the species was reintroduced and now more than 1500 ibex live in the Swiss Alps.
84. The average age in Switzerland is on the rise because people are living longer and are having fewer children.
About major languages used in Switzerland
85. German is spoken by 63.5% of the country’s population. 19 out of the 26 cantons in the country are (Swiss) German-speaking.
86. French by numbers is the second most popular language in the country spoken by 22.5% of its population.
87. Italian is the third most popular language in the country. It is the language of choice for 8.1% of the country’s population.
88. The rest of the population speaks other languages including native languages of the people from various nationalities.
Facts about religion, democracy, watchmaking
89. Religious groups: The majority of the people living in Switzerland are Christians and Muslims. However, a large chunk of the country’s population (21.4%) has no religious affiliation.
90. People’s power: Swiss people have a lot of power at their disposal. They are directly able to decide the fate of their country by participating in the polls held every quarter. In short, they have the direct ability to influence the government. The country has a direct democracy.
91. Diversity: Variety is the spice of life in Switzerland. It is a small country yet it has cultural as well as geographical diversity. They have four languages and cultural differences between the people living in the mountains, mountain valley, big cities, and on the central plateau.
92. Today, 95% of the watches made in Switzerland are exported to other countries.
93. Mechanical timekeeping started back in the 14th century and Switzerland wasn’t involved in it until the second half of the 16th century.
94. The skill of watchmaking originated in the country as an aftereffect on the ban of wearing of jewelry (rejection for display of wealth.) Soon, watchmaking was born and the export of watches to other colonies started.
Switzerland facts for kids
95. Switzerland has 26 cantons or states, which constitute the Confederation (Names of Cantons: Aargau, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Appenzell Innerrhoden, Basel-Landschaft, Basel-Stadt, Berne/Bern, Fribourg/Freiburg, Geneve, Glarus, Graubuenden/Grigioni/Grischun, Jura, Luzern, Neuchatel, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Sankt Gallen, Schaffhausen, Schwyz, Solothurn, Thurgau, Ticino, Uri, Valais/Wallis, Vaud, Zug, Zuerich.)
96. Switzerland became a UN member in 2002.
97. Switzerland has four official languages.
98. Switzerland is a landlocked country in central Europe.
99. Highest: Dufourspitze of Monte Rosa at 4,634 m is the highest point in Switzerland.
100. Lowest: Lake Maggiore at less than 195 m (640 ft) is the lowest point in Switzerland.
101. There are more than 1500 lakes in Switzerland. Lake Geneva is the largest freshwater lake in Switzerland.
102. Switzerland has more than 1000 glaciers. The Aletsch Glacier is the largest glacier in Switzerland with an area of 117 km square.
103. Switzerland is famous for chocolates (Lindt & Sprüngli, Toblerone), watches, insurance and banking, civil engineering, and spectacular scenery.
104. Sports: Football and ice hockey are the most popular sports in Switzerland.
105. The national flag of Switzerland was adopted in 1848.
106. Switzerland had one song which served as its national anthem for a century. However, the countrymen did not like the song for its warlike words and also because its melody was similar to that of the British national anthem.
107. ‘Swiss Psalm’ became the official national anthem of Switzerland in 1981.
108. Switzerland the country we know today became a united nation because many regions joined the Confederation in return for their guaranteed independence.
109. Switzerland places significant importance on preserving and maintaining its architectural heritage.
110. Switzerland’s economy also relies heavily on tourism.
111. Almost 10% of the Swiss nationals are living abroad.
112. In 1971, Swiss women were granted the right to vote at the federal level.
113. Switzerland is also home to the highest permanently inhabited village in Europe (Juf, canton of Graubünden, 2,126m/7,000ft).
114. The longest glacier in Europe (the Aletsch, canton of Valais, approx. 23 km/14 miles) can also be found in Switzerland.
115. The country has laid strict regulations for construction of new buildings. This is the reason why so many traditional-style buildings can still be seen in the country.
116. Due to the lack of natural resources and raw material in the country, the economy of the country is highly dependent on the transformation of imported raw materials into high-value finished products that are mainly exported.
Facts about the famous Alp cheese
117. Made from: Swiss people make cheese from the milk of the cows, goats or sheep that graze on the Alpine pastures. And this variety of cheese (Alp cheese) is only produced in the summer.
118. Long life: Alp cheese can be preserved for a longer duration than the regular cheese, which is why the cheese could be used in the winter season as well.
119. The difference: Alp cheese is different from the mountain cheese (which can be made year-round in the valleys in the mountainous region.)
120. Beneficial for: Alp cheese is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which is good for human cardiovascular health.
Switzerland culture facts
121. The Swiss are reserved and they do not get along quickly with the newcomers. However, as the time progresses, one gets to know the Swiss and their culture better and there is always a great potential for lifelong friendship.
122. A handshake (with firm eye contact) is a formal way of greeting people. Handshakes are also expected when leaving.
123. The Swiss like to use family names rather than the first name when greeting someone.
124. First names are usually used with close friends and family.
125. Neighbors are greeted by name and a polite ‘bonjour’ or ‘bonsoir’ depending on the time of the day.
126. A small gift such as a chocolate or flowers should be brought for the host when invited at their house for meals.
127. People are expected to arrive on time or maybe 5 minutes early for social gatherings and business appointments.
128. The Swiss cultural values include honesty, cleanliness, hard work, tolerance, punctuality, responsibility, and sobriety.
129. Swiss are also proud of their neutrality and efforts to promote world peace.
130. Swiss people show great respect for elderly people and they are really affectionate towards the kids as well.
131. Cleaning fingernails or chewing gum in public is considered rude in Switzerland.
132. It is also considered impolite to keep your hands in the pocket while talking to someone as is putting your feet on a desk or table during a conversation with someone.
133. Banking and financial industry in Switzerland is dominated by men, however, more women are becoming engaged in the industry in the recent years.
134. Sundays are a public holiday and are considered as a family day.
135. Rosti is one of Switzerland’s popular dishes. It mainly contains potatoes and was originally a breakfast dish.
136. Switzerland has mandatory military service. However, Switzerland also has a law in place which allows one to pay the ‘military service exemption tax’ in case they are not willing or are not able to perform the service. Learn more…
137. Rivella is the Swiss famous and favorite drink that is made from milk serum, water, sugar, and some secret herbs. The drink was first prepared by Dr Robert Barth in 1952. In Switzerland, it is as popular as Coke or Pepsi.
138. Globi, (often referred to as Switzerland’s Mickey Mouse.) a Swiss cartoon character, is one of the most popular characters in Switzerland. He was created by the Swiss cartoonist Robert Lips, as an advertising character for the Swiss department store Globus in 1932.
139. Circus Knie is the largest circus of Switzerland, based in Rapperswil. It was founded in 1803.
Famous Swiss People
1 – Roger Federer
2 – Martina Hingis
3 – Yul Brynner
4 – Carl Jung
5 – Hermann Hesse
6 – Paracelsus
7 – Leonhard Euler
8 – Henri Nestlé
9 – Maximilian Schell
10 – Le Corbusier
11 – Jorge Paulo Lemann