Looking for some facts about Switzerland? Switzerland is a country that is busting at the seams with alpine lakes, dramatic cliff faces mountains, modern cities, flower-filled meadows, charming villages, fresh air, alphorns, and free-roaming dairy cows it’s easy to see the allure.
It’s one of the safest countries in the world, with no bad seasons, and plenty of villages to explore. Needless to say, there are a lot of very interesting Switzerland facts to know. Let’s dig in!
Facts About Switzerland
1. Switzerland hasn’t fought in an international war since 1815
We all knew that Switzerland was neutral, but did you know for how long? Having not fought anyone outside their borders in a war for over 200 years, they’re a pretty peaceful nation, we’d say.
2. Switzerland is home to the oldest humanitarian organization
That’s right. The very, very famous Red Cross Organization – based in Geneva – was established here in 1863. The Swiss flag is an inversion of the red cross insignia (or vice-versa). Over its 150-year history, it’s won three Nobel Peace Prizes.
3. Many Swiss people are well off
Not only does Switzerland have the highest wealth per adult in the entire world, it’s also home to the global economic and banking hubs of Zurich and Geneva. Coincidentally (or maybe not), both cities are up there as two of the top ten cities in the world for quality of life.
4. The top-level domain code for Switzerland is .ch
But why? Shouldn’t it be .sw or .sz or something? Nope. In fact, the “ch” stands for Confoederatio Helvetica. Yes, just like the font. And it’s not just the domain name either; it’s shorthand for the nation’s name in a load of different things.
5. The tribe that Switzerland derived from was called the Helvetii
To be honest, they had a hard time. First, they were harassed off the Swiss Plateau, where they were probably happy enough. Then after they escape, they were chased by Julius Caesar’s armies and had to return to the Plateau. And then the Romans ended up conquering the Alps anyway. Talk about bad luck.
6. Switzerland has four national languages
German has the most native speakers (62.6%). Then there are the 22.9% of the population that speak French. After that, there’s the 8.2% making up Italian speakers, mainly in the south. The fourth and final language? Romansch, with just 0.5% of the population claiming it as their native language.
7. Romansch is a descendant of spoken Latin
Though a lot of languages have Latin as a common, but distant, ancestral influence, Romansch is directly descended from the spoken form of Latin. This is what Romans would have spoken on the daily, and it’s simply called Vulgar Latin.
8. There are two foreign countries within Switzerland’s borders
Well, not entire countries, but there are some real tiny parts of other countries (known as enclaves) located inside Switzerland. One is Busingen, and it’s German; it’s just under three square miles. Then there’s Campioni d’Italia, less than a kilometer from Italy – it’s just over a square mile in area.
9. Switzerland isn’t in the European Union and doesn’t want to be
Yup, this is an interesting fact about Switzerland. Switzerland is in what’s called the Schengen Area, but they’re not in the EU. Like someone who just won’t accept your Facebook friend request, they keep refusing invitations to join the EU. They get the best of it though, keeping their own currency and still being in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).
10. Barely anyone owns a home in Switzerland
Nope. Not a studio, not an apartment, nor a condo, not a house or even a mansion. Some people do own their own property in the mountainous country, however, but that’s only some 37% of the population. Everybody else rents. That’s just the way things are here.
11. Helvetica was developed in Switzerland
Yeah, fun fact about Switzerland: the hipster-friendly font Helvetica was developed in Münchenstein, Switzerland by Haas Type Foundry in 1957. It’s probably one of the most famous fonts in the world, other than Times New Roman or maybe Arial – probably because Apple use it.
12. There is no Swiss capital
This fact about Switzerland may blow your mind, but honestly, there is no capital city in Switzerland. No city has the authority to call itself the capital. The federal government is in Bern, but the city doesn’t have federal status. Zurich is super important, but it’s not the capital. “What about Geneva?” we hear you cry. It’s not the capital either. There isn’t one, so stop dreaming.
13. Swiss people really know how to recycle
They might not be famous for partying or being spontaneous, but the Swiss are great at recycling. We say that with admiration. There’s a huge system involved, and with everyone following rules very nicely (no throwing trash, for example), around 96% of all recyclable waste is recycled. Volunteers help with the recycling and, well, it’s all pretty cycling. It’s previously been voted as one of the top green economies in the world.
14. Switzerland has crazy low taxes
When we say crazy low, honestly, we mean crazy low. It actually has one of the lowest tax rates for any developed country in the world. This makes it an especially great place if you’re rich.
15. Switzerland is one of the only truly democratic countries
Yes, politics fans, it’s a political fact about Switzerland. Rather than in most “democratic” countries, where you have a representative democracy, Switzerland’s citizens have more power in that there aren’t representatives as such. How does that work? Citizens can propose changes to any level of Swiss law. They vote four times a year on proposals at Landsgemeinde, with mass gatherings in place of ballot box elections. Kinda cool.
16. You can’t pee standing up at night in Switzerland
A little known weird fact about Switzerland is that, no, you can’t pee while standing up after 10 pm. You’ll have to sit down. Why? Noise. It’s actually down to that “kinda cool” direct democracy we just told you about. Someone proposes a rule, and if most people agree, it becomes a law. There’s more where that came from…
17. There’s a place in Switzerland where women weren’t allowed to vote until 1991
It wasn’t until after a vote in 1990 in the Swiss canton (like a county) of Appenzell Innerrhoden – the country’s smallest – that the Swiss government finally allowed women to vote on local issues in the canton, that is. But still. It was also the last Western European republic to allow women the right to vote, period. That was in 1959.
18. There are cities with a higher population than Switzerland
Relatively, Switzerland has a pretty small population. The magic number is 8.6 million. Do you know the population of New York City? It’s over 8.6 million. London, Baghdad, and Cairo each have larger populations than Switzerland. But that might be because…
19. 60% of Switzerland is Alps
It may have a small population, but that’s possibly down to the fact that most of Switzerland is mountainous. It also features some of the highest peaks that make up the famous European mountain range of the Alps, too. So if you like skiing or ice climbing, it’s great, but you can’t exactly live on a mountain, can you?
20. Switzerland has 48 mountains over 13,000 feet
This Switzerland fact is massive (pun intended). But for comparison, let’s look at Colorado; this state boasts 637 “thirteeners” – as they’re known in the mountain-climbing trade. Then again, we definitely think that the Alps are a little more iconic.
21. Matterhorn isn’t the tallest mountain in Switzerland
The Matterhorn, with its crazy pyramid peak, is definitely an icon of the country, and it’s definitely famous. But it’s not the tallest: Monte Rosa, at over 15,000 feet above sea level, beats Matterhorn’s height of just over 14,000.
22. The Toblerone is based on the Matterhorn
Apparently, the sons of Theodor Tobler – who created the tasty triangular Toblerone in 1908 = say he came up with the pyramid shape after seeing some show. But we think differently. It’s gotta be based on the Matterhorn. There’s even a mountain on the box, for crying out loud!
23. Swiss people love chocolate
They’re not just famous for making tasty chocolate, they’re notorious for eating the stuff, too. They’ve been making it (very well) since 1870, and it must be in the blood or something, because Switzerland is the world’s top chocolate consumer. According to Forbes, every single Swiss person – on average – eats 20lbs of chocolate yearly. YEARLY.
24. Apple paid millions to use the Swiss railway clock design
Switzerland might be famous for the quintessential Swiss clock – you know, the one with the cuckoo, and all that – but there’s one clock that a lot more people have seen in their lives. We mean the Swiss railway clock. This baby was designed in 1944 for use on the Swiss railways, and because of its ultra-slick design, it’s been recognized by everyone from the MoMa to London’s Design Museum. And then Apple paid $21 million to use it. Amazing.
25. Switzerland has a festival based around throwing a stone
Not stones – just one stone that’s super heavy. It’s called Unspunnenfest, and it dates all the way back to the 13th century. Not only does it involve Steinstossen (stone-throwing), but it also involves yodeling and Shwingen – a specialized type of Swiss wrestling. That stone, just in case you were wondering, weighs in at 183 pounds. Good luck with that.
26. Switzerland has the largest proportion of foreign residents in the developed world
That’s right. With almost a quarter (23%) of the population being foreign residents, there are a lot of different people from all over the place living in Switzerland. We’re talking Germans, Italians, Portuguese, Serbians, French, Turkish, Spanish, Austrian, and Sri Lankan. A big melting-pot, which reminds us…
27. Fondue is a Swiss national dish
Dipping things into cheese and enjoying the melty, cheesy goodness is something we all enjoy (well, most of us) – and you can thank the Swiss for that. It enjoyed worldwide fame from the 1960s onwards. The earliest known form of fondue is “Käss mit Wein zu kochen” – literally “cheese cooked with wine.” This dates back to 1699 in Zurich, and the recipe is simple – melt cheese, add wine, dip bread. Delicious.
28. Switzerland’s flag is square
You read that flag-based Switzerland fact right, people. Its flag is square. Most countries in the world go for the old rectangle design, but Switzerland is one of only two countries in the world to rock a square-shaped flag; the other is Vatican City. Nepal’s double-triangular flag is pretty gnarly, too.
29. There is a political party in Switzerland called the Anti-PowerPoint Party
This is 100% honestly true. And to be honest, we kind of agree. What’s their angle? As you might be imagining, the guys at the APPP (really) are against Microsoft PowerPoint. Formed in 2011, their beef is that PowerPoint presentations – and other electronic presentation software – cause more damage than benefit, an estimated 2.1 billion Swiss francs. They advocate the good ol’ fashioned flip chart. Their slogan is, “Finally do something!” Easily our favorite fact about Switzerland.
30. The largest particle physics lab in the world is located in Switzerland
That’s pretty cool. You might know it; it’s called CERN. If you’re still wondering, then how about if we told you this is where the Large Hadron Collider is located? Situated 100 meters underground, the LHC is also a record-breaker: it’s not just the largest (and most powerful) particle collider in the world, but the largest machine in the world. Period.
31. There are animal lawyers in Switzerland
We imagine this is the result of that direct democracy thing, but honestly, yes: animals are entitled to lawyers (and legal advice?) in Switzerland. Not the whole country, but in the canton of Zurich, there’s an animal lawyer with a roster of furry clients. A referendum to bring animal lawyers to the federal level in 2010 was rejected.
32. Switzerland has the world’s largest nuclear shelter
You know, just in case. It’s hidden in the Sonnenberg Tunnel, a humble 1,550-meter-long tunnel on a highway. There was enough space here for up to 20,000 people to protect during a nuclear event, but it was super tricky to set up 20,000 beds in the space. So they converted the seven-story cavern into a much more sensible shelter for 2,000 people. It’s still a vast space, though.
Plan and Pack for Switzerland
Plan and Pack for Switzerland
You’re going to need something to carry your belongings in while you’re traveling around the world. Even if you’re not doing extensive hikes you need at least something small for day trips. My favorite daypacks are from Camelbak. You can see all our other backpack recommendations below:
I ALWAYS have a down jacket with me when I’m traveling in the winter, fall, or even spring. They aren’t just good for hikes, but doing anything outside.
Down jackets pack up light and small so there is no reason NOT to have one in your bag. Seriously it could save your life in a bad situation. We wrote a whole post on our favorites (hint –Feathered Friends, Arc’Teryx Cerium LT Hooded Jacket, Patagonia Down Sweater, REI Coop Down Jacket)
Goretex Rain Jacket
We’re building up a collection of shell jackets. We always carry one in our pack and they’ve come in handy many times. Weather around the world can be iffy in October, so it’s best to be prepared. They are lightweight, durable, packable, waterproof, and windproof and really a great travel rain jacket. We have a bunch of different shell jackets after several years, but my favorite right now is from Arc’teryx.
Any jacket can do the job, but the top dollar ones will hold up and really help in inclement weather.
I love real books, but for traveling it can be easier to carry a lighter and more compact item like a Kindle. Plus, then you can download new books on the go!
Please consider purchasing a travel water bottle before your trip! We hate to see one time use plastic bottles ending up in the ocean. The tap water is so good here – seriously please don’t be one of those tourists that buys plastic water bottles. It’s a waste of money and plastic!
Remember that Switzerland uses the Type J outlets, unlike the rest of Europe. Many adapters around Europe are interchangeable, so make sure you find a good one like the one I have to keep you charged. (This one works well in Switzerland).
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