Interesting Facts About Switzerland

SWITZERLAND FACTS THAT MIGHT SURPRISE YOU

Here are some facts about Switzerland that might surprise you! Switzerland is a country unlike any other, where majestic mountains and serene lakes converge with bustling cities and sophisticated innovations. From its rich cultural heritage to its natural beauty and famous culinary delights, there is much to learn about this charming country. 

Beyond its well-known chocolate, cheese, and luxury watches lies a wealth of fascinating attributes and figures. Get ready for surprises and enchantment by these interesting facts about Switzerland.

As a Switzerland addict, who has spent more than 18 months in the country, I have written extensively about the top things to do, places to visit, itineraries for Switzerland, and more. For some – unknown – reasons, it has taken me a while to compile a list of fun facts about Switzerland. 

So, without further ado, here is information you might not need for your Switzerland trip, but it is still interesting to know.

Switzerland facts and map
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1. Switzerland Has Four Official Languages

Okay, this is important info: Despite its small size and less than nine million inhabitants, there are several official languages in the county.

With four official languages – German, Italian, French, and Romansh – each Swiss region has its own unique linguistic identity. Approximately 64% of the Swiss population speaks more than one language fluently, making it one of the most multilingual countries in the world. 

Some cities – like Biel or Fribourg – are actually multilingual!

More than 60% of the population speak German as their main language. However, it is not the standard German but rather various Alemmanic dialects collectively called Swiss German.  As someone who comes from Northern Germany (Bremen to be more precise), where we talk “High German” I can say, that I hardly understand Swiss German. Most Swiss see me struggling to understand them – while they do understand me with my High German – so they try to speak more slowly and with a less strong dialect. If you want to learn/Improve your German, I actually would not recommend learning it in Switzerland as it is really different from the German most people speak and understand in Germany.

French is the main language in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, known as the Romandie – about 23% speak French as their main language.  Italian is the main language for about 8% of the population – mainly in Ticino and in parts of the canton of Graubünden. Then we have Romansh, which is a Rhaeto-Romanic language derived from Latin. Less than 1% of the Swiss speak it – and that is mostly in the canton of Graubünden.

So what about English? If you do not speak any of these four official languages, you do not have to worry. English – at least basic English, is also spoken by many.

2. The Swiss Eat the Most Chocolate Annually

Switzerland holds the title of having the highest per capita consumption of chocolate in the world. Each resident consumes an average of between 10 and 11 kilograms (22-25 pounds) annually. The Swiss chocolate industry is an important part of the country’s economy, culture, and tradition. And if you ever had Swiss chocolate, you will agree it is the best in the world – so, I do not blame the Swiss for their chocolate consumption.

There are even courses where you can make your own Swiss chocolate.

nterlaken what to do, Chocolate Workshop
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3. Authorities Regulate Baby Names

The Swiss authorities have the final say in approving what names parents can give to their children. This policy aims to protect the child’s best interest and ensure the name is appropriate, not harmful to the child, and culturally acceptable.

4. Switzerland Shuts Down on Sundays

In Switzerland, Sunday is a day of rest and relaxation. Across the country, many shops, businesses, and public services shut down on Sundays. There are also regulations in place prohibiting excessive noise, such as mowing the lawn or vacuuming.

Restaurants and most attractions – like gondolas etc. – are normally open on Sundays.

5. Buildings Must Have Nuclear Shelters

The Swiss Civil Defense Law, established in 1977, requires all new buildings to have a nuclear shelter. This law is part of the country’s comprehensive defense strategy, designed to protect the population in case of a biological, nuclear, or chemical attack.

6. Pet Owners Pay Tax for Their Dogs

Swiss dog owners must pay an annual dog tax, also known as a “dog duty”. The purpose of the tax is to cover the costs of maintenance of many parks and public spaces, waste disposal, and management of stray dogs. 

Where to stay in Switzerland
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My dog Puppygak and me in Iseltwald near Interlaken

7. 475 Different Types of Cheese

Switzerland is a paradise for cheese lovers, with over 475 mouth-watering varieties to choose from. It is a proud part of the country’s culinary heritage, with many cheesemakers still using traditional methods passed down from generation to generation. Some of the most famous cheese is from places like Emmental or Gruyères

8. Switzerland Has Its Own Grand Canyon

The Rhine Gorge, located in the Canton of Schaffhausen, is a stunning canyon formed over thousands of years by the Rhine River. Also called the “Swiss Grand Canyon”, the gorge runs close to 1,312 feet (400 meters) deep.

Rhine Gorge in Switzerland
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9. Most Innovative Country in the World

Over the past decade, Switzerland consistently ranked first as the most innovative country in the world. With its long history of scientific research and development, inventors and entrepreneurs are responsible for many groundbreaking innovations. From cutting edge pharmaceuticals to high-tech machinery, Swiss companies are at the forefront of their respective industries.

Eiger Run Velo Gemel with Arzo Travels
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Velo Gemel with Arzo Travels

One very unique invention – which is not very well-known outside of Switzerland is the velogemel – a wooden bike meant for the mountainous areas in the winter months. It was invented by a local in Grindelwald and riding one in the snow is now also a popular activity in the Jungfrau Region. 

10. No Church Bells After 10 pm

In the charming town of Küblis, the local council held a historic vote to silence the church bells between the hours of 10 pm and 6 am. The decision resulted from numerous complaints about the loud and persistent ringing of the bells every 15 minutes.

11. One of Two Countries With a Square Flag

Did you know that Switzerland is one of only two countries in the world with a square flag? During the late 1300s, Swiss forces adopted the red flag with a white cross in the center. The only other country with a square flag is the Vatican City in Europe.

Swiss Flag in Lausanne
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12. Home to the World’s Longest Railway Tunnel

The Gotthard Tunnel is the world’s longest railway tunnel, stretching for a staggering 35 miles (56 kilometers) through the heart of the Swiss Alps. It opened in 2016 and took over 17 years to build and involved over 2,000 workers who carved their way through solid rock.

13. Switzerland Has Over 1,500 Lakes

Switzerland has an abundance of freshwater sources, with lakes and rivers covering around 4% of its surface area. Boasting over 1,500 lakes, you are never further than 16 kilometers (10 miles) from a lake within Swiss borders. Other estimates say there are even 7,000 lakes but let´s go with the 1,500 named Swiss lakes.

DIAVOLEZZA view from gondola with 3 lakes
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3 lakes in this picture up Diavolezza mountain

14. Einstein Made Important Discoveries in Bern

Switzerland is the birthplace of one of the most significant scientific discoveries of all time: Einstein’s famous equation, E=mc². Albert Einstein developed this groundbreaking equation while working as a patent clerk in Bern in 1905. This equation describes the relationship between energy and mass and forms the basis of modern physics.

Albert Einstein in Bern
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Albert Einstein statue in Bern

15. Europe’s Highest Railway Station

Switzerland is home to Europe’s highest railway station, the Jungfraujoch, known as the “Top of Europe”. Located in the heart of the Bernese Alps, the Jungfraujoch railway station sits at an awe-inspiring 11,371 feet (3,466 meters) above sea level.

Jungfraujoch station view of Aletsch Glacier in April
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Jungfraujoch – view of the Aletsch Glacier

16. Swiss Luxury Watches

Renowned for their quality, precision, and innovation, the Swiss are leaders in the field of watchmaking. Approximately 50% of all luxury watches produced in the world come from Switzerland. This includes iconic brands such as Tissot, TAG Heuer, and Rolex.

17. Switzerland Has Seven Heads of State

Seven heads of state govern Switzerland, known as the Federal Council. This group of seven individuals, representing the country’s major political parties, serves as the executive branch of the Swiss government. The Federal Council is responsible for making decisions on behalf of the Swiss people.

18. Longest Glacier in Europe

The longest glacier in Europe is the magnificent Aletsch Glacier in Switzerland. The glacier spans an impressive 66 miles² (171 kilometers²) and lies east of the picturesque Gemmi Pass in the Canton of Valais. Its vast size and natural beauty attract thousands of visitors annually.

Aletsch Glacier from Eggishorn
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19. World’s Oldest Operating Nuclear Power Plant 

The Beznau Nuclear Power Plant in Northern Switzerland, in operation since 1969, is the world’s oldest operating power plant, and a model of efficiency and durability. It has provided safe, clean, and reliable energy to the Swiss population for over 50 years.

20. The Dalai Lama Owns a Small Swiss Vineyard

The Dalai Lama is the owner of a small vineyard in Saillon in the Canton of Valais. He received the vineyard as a gift in 1999 and produces a limited number of wines. The proceeds go towards supporting underprivileged children.

21. World’s Longest Stairway

Switzerland is home to the world’s longest stairway. The Niesen Treppe, located near the beautiful Lake Thun, boasts 11,674 steps and an altitude gain of 8,530 feet (2,600 meters). The stairway is part of the Niesen mountain railway, built in the early 1900s to transport goods and people to the top of the mountain.

22. The Aare River Holds a World Record

In 2012, the Aare River in Bern set a world record for boating when 1,268 people simultaneously floated down the river on rubber boats. The town accomplished this feat through the coordinated effort of participants who braved the currents and floated from Kiesen to Eichholz.

Views from bridge of Bern Cathedral
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23. Highest Cable Car Station in Europe

The Klein Matterhorn Aerial Tramway, located in Zermatt, is Europe’s highest cable car station. It takes passengers to a height of 12,740 feet (3,883 meters) above sea level, providing stunning views of the iconic Matterhorn.

24. Social Pets Must Have Friends

The Swiss Animal Welfare Act of 2005 ensures that all pets receive the care they deserve. The law dictates that social animals, like goldfish, budgerigars, and guinea pigs, must have companions of their own species for socialization.

25. Cleanest Air in the World

Over the past decade, Zurich has consistently ranked as the city with the cleanest air worldwide. With its innovative transportation systems, pedestrian-friendly streets, and commitment to reducing pollution, Zurich is continuously setting a high standard for urban sustainability.

Polyterassen in Zurich, during autumn time
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Polyterassen in Zurich

26. Switzerland Has Not Been at War Since 1847

The last armed conflict in Switzerland was the Sonderbund War of 1847. This conflict, which lasted only a few weeks, was a civil war that resulted in the establishment of the Swiss federal state. Since then, the country has maintained a neutral stance in international conflicts.

27. The Swiss Celebrate Their Cows

Every September, the Alpabfahrt cattle drive festival takes place across Switzerland. This traditional event marks the journey of cow herds from mountain pastures to lower-laying valleys for the winter. The cows, adorned with flowers and bells, make a majestic procession through the streets. The festival includes music, food, and traditional Swiss folk dances.

Cows at Oeschinensee with Arzo Travels
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But even if you cannot attend that festival – you will see Swiss cows along your way. I would go as far as saying, you have not been to Switzerland, if you have not met any cows!

28. Second-Highest Life Expectancy

Switzerland boasts one of the longest life expectancies in the world, second only to Japan. is the country with the second-longest life expectancy in the world, after Japan. With an average age of 83 years for men and 85 years for women, it has the oldest population in Europe.

Pizolhike wildseeluggen
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I have not done proper research on why – but I am pretty sure that their love for hiking does play an important role. Whenever I go on hikes, I meet older Swiss people. And not only do I see them, they actually always overtake me. While I am out of breath it seems they just pass me effortlessly. So, let´s give credit to these stunning mountains in Switzerland! 

29. Swiss Mountains Feature in Star Wars

Grindelwald in the Bernese Oberland inspired the iconic mountain scenery of Alderaan, Princess Leia’s home planet, in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. The magnificent peaks served as the perfect backdrop to capture on film. Videographers blended these images with other elements to bring the stunning vista of Alderaan to life.

FINAL THOUGHTS ON SWISS FACTS

While facts about Switzerland can fill volumes of books, one thing is certain: this small but mighty nation has so much to offer and these are just some of the most interesting facts!

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