Switzerland Facts
Switzerland Facts

74 Interesting Facts about Switzerland

Jill Bartholomew
By Jill Bartholomew, Junior Writer
Published February 7, 2017
  • Switzerland was originally called Helvetia by Julius Caesar when he conquered the Helvetii, a group of Celtic tribes, who lived in the area between the Alps and the Jura Mountains. Switzerland calls itself Eidgenossenschaft (Society of the Oath) after the word Eidgenossen (Oath Fellowship), which recalls the pact signed by three lords in 1291, marking the birth of the Swiss nation. The Swiss call themselves Eidgenossen.[27]
  • Milton Hershey, the chocolate manufacturer, was the descendant of Swiss Mennonites who probably migrated from the Appenzell region in the early 1700s.[18]
  • Switzerland is one of the world’s great exporters of chocolate. Eighteen Swiss chocolate companies made 172,376 tons of chocolate in 2012.[4]
  • The Swiss eat more chocolate than any other nation in the world, 11.3 kg per year.[27]
  • One Swiss jeweler made a ring entirely out of diamond that sold for US $68 million.[11]
  • Interesting Switzerland Flag Facts
    Switzerland is one of only two countries that have a square flag; the other is the Vatican
  • Switzerland has a square flag; the only other square country flag belongs to the Vatican.[15]
  • Swiss chemist Albert Hoffman took the first acid trip in 1943 while he was conducting tests for a migraine cure in Basel, when he accidentally absorbed the LSD compound through his fingertips.[28]
  • Switzerland has more than 1,500 lakes, and one is never more than 10 miles (16 km) from a lake within the country’s borders.[8]
  • Switzerland’s highest [Dufour Peak at 15,199 feet (4,633 m)] and lowest [Ascona at 643 feet (196 m)] points are only 43 miles (69 km) apart.[4]
  • Amongst industrialized nations, Switzerland has one of the highest rates of gun ownership, but has nearly half the gun-related deaths the United States has. Switzerland has one of the lowest crime rates of all industrialized countries. In 2010, there were only 0.5 gun murders per 100,000 compared to 5 per 100,000 in the U.S.[3]
  • Emmentaler, or Emmental, cheese is also known as Swiss cheese in the United States because it has large round holes running through it. It originated in the 13th century near Bern. A single Emmental cheese weighs about 120 kg and requires approximately 1500 L of fresh milk for its production.[8]
  • Switzerland is one of the few nations in the world where assisted suicide is legal. Belgium, the Netherlands, and three states of the United States (Oregon, Washington, and Montana) are the others.[31]
  • Nicknamed the King of the Alps, Ulrich Inderbinen climbed the Matterhorn a staggering 370 times, the last at age 90. The Zermatt-born mountaineer was the oldest active mountain guide in the world when he retired at age 94.[31]
  • Switzerland would me a mighty big place if it were ironed flat.

    - Mark Twain

  • Swiss chocolate makers Daniel Peter and Henri Nestlé invented milk chocolate in 1875.[27]
  • In 2007, Switzerland accidentally invaded its neighbor Liechtenstein.[22]
  • There is a lawyer, Antoine Goetschel, in Switzerland who represents animals in court. He even once prosecuted a fisherman for taking too long to catch a Pike.[13]
  • Foreigners account for around 23% of the Swiss population.[15]
  • A Swiss Yodelling Festival is held every three years and attracts around 10,000 yodellers, flag-throwers, and alphorn players.[18]
  • Swiss women are among the oldest in Europe when they have their first child, an average of 29.5 years old.[18]
  • For about 450 years, Switzerland’s best known exported skill was soldiering. It has been estimated that between 1400 and 1848, more than 2 million Swiss mercenaries were employed by foreign powers.[18]
  • Teaching in Switzerland is one of the highest paid occupations. As of 2014, the average salary for a Swiss teacher was US $68,000 per year.[16]
  • Interesting Switzerland Facts
    It is illegal to keep just one guinea pig in Switzerland; they must be kept in pairs
  • In Switzerland, it is illegal to keep just one guinea pig; they must be kept in pairs.[17]
  • The Swiss government has mandated a program to provide every Swiss citizen a bomb shelter. Today, Switzerland boasts close to a readily available shelter for every resident.[15]
  • Ikea billionaire Ingvar Kamprad, Europe’s wealthiest man, lived in Switzerland for nearly four decades until he moved back to Sweden in 2013. His family is still considered the richest in Switzerland.[7]
  • The Swiss have the second longest life expectancy in the world after Japan.[21]
  • Swiss chocolatier DeLafée has actually developed gold chocolate. They blended 24-karat gold dust into cocoa butter to create edible chocolate gold.[10]
  • In all, some 400,000 Swiss immigrated to North America between 1850 and 1914. In some places in North America, they founded Swiss colonies, often naming them after their place of origin. Bern had 26 towns and villages named after it in the U.S., and Lucerne has 16.[18]
  • Swiss businessman Jean-Henri Dunant, the founder of the International Committee of the Red Cross, received the very first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.[15]
  • Switzerland does not have a president as chief of state. Instead, it is governed by a seven-member council, and council members rotate in one-year terms as federal president.[15]
  • Switzerland has four official languages, French, German, Italian, and Romansch.[15]
  • In 1891, Karl Elsener invented the Swiss Army Knife after finding out the army’s knives were actually made in Germany. He wanted to create a knife that could have multiple uses and was made in Switzerland. There are over 400 different models of the Swiss Army Knife, and designs today can include an altimeter, barometer, and a computer USB memory card. It has been nicknamed “The World’s Smallest Toolbox.”[26]
  • Interesting Swiss Army Knife Fact
    Today, the "Officers' Knife" is available in over 100 different models

  • Switzerland’s railway system extends for about 3,100 miles (4,989 km). The Swiss rank second behind the Japanese in traveling by train.[15]
  • In Switzerland, there are more banks than dentists, one per 1,400 residents.[30]
  • Albert Einstein came up with his special theory of relativity and the famous formula E=MC2 in Bern, Switzerland, in 1905.[28]
  • The world’s first portable cassette player called the Stereobelt was tested for the first time in St. Moritz, Switzerland.[19]
  • Legendary comedian Charlie Chaplin spent the last 25 years of his life in Switzerland. He is also buried there, and his corpse was stolen by a small group of Swiss mechanics in an attempt to extort money from his family. After retrieving his body, he was reburied under 6 feet (1.8 m) of concrete to prevent any other attempts.[31]
  • Switzerland’s Anti-PowerPoint Party, or APPP, actually works to decrease the number of PowerPoints used in professional presentation, claiming that Microsoft PowerPoint and its other software products are actually economically harmful. The goal of the APPP is to be the fourth largest political party in Switzerland, and their motto is “Finally do something!”[2]
  • The first ready-made “cup of soup” in the world was invented by Julius Maggi and Carl Knorr in 1886. It was based on bouillon cubes made of out Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP) and is one of the world’s first convenience foods.[32]
  • Switzerland has more high mountain peaks than any other country in Europe with 48 about 13,120 feet (4,000 m).[15]
  • Interesting Switzerland Facts
    Switzerland has more high mountain peaks than any other country in Europe

  • The Sonnenberg tunnel in Lucerne is able to house up to 20,000 people for an extended period of time as a fallout shelter. It serves as the world’s largest nuclear bomb shelter.[9]
  • One of Switzerland’s main defense strategies is to demolish every main access into the country via road, bridges, and railway. There are at least 3,000 locations currently prepared to blow at a moment’s notice in the event of an attack.[12]
  • In Switzerland, it is permissible to lease a cow, and during the duration of the lease, you get to keep all the cheese that is made from that cow’s milk.[6]
  • A very direct form of Democracy is still practiced in two cantons in Switzerland. This open-air Landsgemeinde (Citizens’ Assembly) is held on the public square, and all the people decide by a show of hands which laws are to be enacted.[29]
  • Not all women in Switzerland could vote until 1990. Appenzell Innerrhoden, the smallest populated canton (county), was the last to allow women to vote on November 27, 1990.[15]
  • Interesting Swiss Guard Facts
    The Pope's personal guard are called the Swiss Guard, and they all come from Switzerland
  • The personal bodyguards of the Pope are called the Swiss Guard, and they really come from Switzerland. They are recruited from the Catholic cantons of Switzerland. They wear the same particular uniforms that they did the day it was started in the 16th century.[29]
  • The German town of Büsingen am Hochrhein is entirely surrounded by Switzerland.[5]
  • There is a sculpture of a giant three-legged chair in Geneva, Switzerland, called “The Broken Chair.” It is dedicated to the opposition of use of landmines.[20]
  • In 1802 the Swiss fought a war called Stecklikrieg with wooden clubs against France because Napoleon had taken away their weapons.[27]
  • The Swiss version of Santa Claus is usually accompanied by a strange-looking individual with a blacked-out face whose job it is to beat naughty children with sticks. The guy’s name is Schmutzli, which roughly translates to “Dirty.”[23]
  • The Dalai Lama owns the smallest vineyard in the world, which is located in Switzerland. It consists of only three vines and has an area of 6.4 square miles (1.67 square meters).[26]
  • In Switzerland, naked hiking is alarmingly popular, even in winter, and many Swiss bathing areas have FKK (Freikorperkultur, or “Free Body Culture”), or nudist, sections.[4]
  • The BBC once pulled an April fool’s Day prank, fooling hundreds of thousands of British citizens into thinking spaghetti was harvested from “spaghetti trees” in Switzerland.[1]
  • One of the contests in the herdsmen’s (Schwingen) festival in Switzerland is the throwing of a 185-lb, egg-shaped granite boulder called the Unspunnen stone. The dates upon the rock commemorate the first Unspunnen Festival and its 100th anniversary.[26]
  • Heidi, one of the most famous children’s books ever written, by Swiss author Johanna Spyri, has been translated into over 50 languages and been adapted for film or television about 20 times.[18]
  • Interesting Heidi Fact
    Heidi is one of the best-known works of Swiss literature (Adrian Michael / Creative Commons)

  • The French, under Napoleon Bonaparte, are the only nation to conquer Switzerland.[4]
  • In 1864, hotel pioneer Johannes Badrutt opened the first winter resort in St. Moritz. It is considered the oldest ski resort in the world. He offered his guest free accommodations if the winter weather was bad. The town has hosted the Winter Olympics twice in 1928 and 1948.[23]
  • Luge was invented in the 1870s by a Swiss entrepreneur named Caspar Badrutt, who was looking for activities to entice travelers to his hotel in the winter. Luge has been an Olympic sport since 1964.[24]
  • Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in Switzerland in 1989.[28]
  • It is believed that the Swiss musical form of yodeling began during the early Stone Age and has a long tradition outside of Switzerland as well. In Switzerland, it is said to have developed from a form of long-distance communication and cow-calls.[18]
  • Gruyère cheese comes from a village in Switzerland called Gruyères. There are allegedly 75 different Alpine scents in the cheese, including vanilla, orchid, violet, chestnut, mint, wood shavings, hazelnuts, and fresh grass among them. Two-thirds of Gruyère production is consumed in Switzerland; the European Union and North America eat the rest.[31]
  • At an altitude of 2,126 m, the Swiss village of Juf is the highest permanently inhabited village in Europe.[31]
  • Interesting Switzerland Celebrity Fact
    Swiss actress Ursula Andress is most famous for her role in the very first James Bond film “Dr. No.” (Galería Elmyr.tif / Creative Commons)
  • Swiss actress Ursula Andress is most famous for her role in the very first James Bond film “Dr. No.” The famous bikini she wore became the most expensive in the world when it was auctioned in London in 2001 and sold for 98,700 francs.[18]
  • Of the 800 or so films produced each year by India’s movie-making industry, or Bollywood, more of them are shot in Switzerland than in any other country.[28]
  • Biel is Switzerland’s only official bilingual town because its citizens are more or less evenly distributed between French speakers and German speakers.[15]
  • Some interesting variations on skiing have developed in Switzerland, including ski-joring, where the skier is pulled along on skis behind a horse, jeep, or even airplane, and ski gliding, where a hang glider takes off with skis attached to his or her feet and uses skis to assist in landing.[15]
  • Tobogganing was a sport invented in Switzerland in the late 19th century. The first toboggan run was created in 1885 by a group of vacationers from England. In 1928, the Winter Olympics were held in St. Moritz, and the toboggan run was one of the events.[15]
  • The Nestlé Company, started by Swiss businessman Henri Nestlé in 1867, buys up almost ten percent of the world’s coffee and cacao bean crops by itself annually. It also created Nescafe, the world’s first instant coffee in 1938.[27]
  • According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the world’s largest meringue was baked in 1985 in Frutal, Switzerland. It consisted of 2500 eggs and 265 lbs (120 kg) of sugar, and it had to be baked in specially adapted sauna and was then served with 21 gallons (80 L) of cream. It was polished off by locals in less than 3 hours.[31]
  • Switzerland has one of the highest doctors to patients’ ratios in the world, with well over 23,000 general practitioners and specialists for the country’s 7.3 million inhabitants. There is one doctor for every 654 Swiss in urban areas and one doctor for every 1,000 people in the rural areas.[8]
  • The Rolex Company invented the first waterproof watch in Switzerland in 1927.[15]
  • Interesting Swiss Alpenhorn Fact
    The huge Swiss alpenhorn can apparently be heard from 8 miles away
  • The Swiss alpenhorn was originally used as a call to battle or warning of fire in the high mountain districts of Switzerland. When the wind is right, it can apparently be heard for up to eight miles away. It originated in northern Asia and was brought to Europe by nomadic tribes. It was first used to play tunes at the end of the 18th century.[29]
  • Lantal Textiles in Switzerland make the fabrics and window coverings for Air Force One and the carpets in the official plane flown by Queen Elizabeth II. Two out of every three airline seats are covered by Lantal fabric, and the company supplies more than 300 of the world’s airlines.[14]
  • In Switzerland, it is legal to use and grow marijuana, but it is against the law to sell it. The country also has one of the highest rates of cannabis use in the world. It’s estimated that about 600,000 users smoke through 100 tons of hash and marijuana each year.[23]
  • In Zurich, there are big, yellow vending machines that sell safe, government-subsidized syringes to heroin junkies.[23]
  • Important Dates[15][25][31]
    5th-1st Century B.C.Celts establish the La Tène civilization in the region between the Alps and Jura.
    58 B.C.Julius Caesar defeats the Helvetii and establishes a long era of Roman rule over much of present-day Switzerland.
    A.D. 400Roman Empire collapses, and Germanic people move into Switzerland.
    1st-5th centuriesThe Burgundians settle in the western part of Helvetia, and the German Alemanni settle in the south and east.
    6th-9th centuriesFranks invade the country.
    1032With the death of Rudolf III, the country passes to German rule.
    1291Three cantons sign a common defense treaty and found the Swiss Confederation, birth of the Swiss nation.
    1307William Tell “legend” takes place in Switzerland.
    1519Huldrych Zwingli promotes Protestantism in Switzerland.
    1797-1798Under Napoleon Bonaparte, France invades Switzerland and replaces the Confederation with the Helvetic Republic.
    1815Swiss borders and the country’s neutrality are established at the Congress of Vienna.
    1850Switzerland enters the Industrial Revolution and becomes the second most industrialized country in Europe after Great Britain.
    1863Jean Henri Dunant founds the International Red Cross in Geneva.
    1914-1918Switzerland remains neutral during World War I.
    1939-1945Switzerland remains neutral during World War II but also strikes deals with both Allied and Nazi powers.
    1959A coalition government of four political parties takes power, which arrangements exists to this day.
    1971Swiss women get the right to vote. The World Economic Forum is held for the first time in Davos, Switzerland.
    1989The internet is “born” at Geneva’s CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research).
    1999Ruth Dreifuss becomes the first female president of Switzerland. Swiss scientist Bertrand Piccard and British co-pilot Brian Jones become the first balloonists to circumnavigate the globe. It takes 19 days and 21 hours.
    2002Switzerland joins the United Nations.
    2006Ticino becomes the first Swiss canton to prohibit smoking in public places.
    2007Switzerland accidentally invades Liechtenstein and then apologizes.
    2008CERN inaugurates the LHC (Large Hadron Collider), the world’s largest particle collider. Due to malfunctions, the first experiments do not take place until a year later.

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