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Switzerland's 26 Cantons (Federal States)

Switzerland's 26 cantons are the federal states of the Swiss confederation. For historical and geographical reasons they differ widely: The largest canton (Graubünden/Grisons) has 192 times the area of the smallest (Basel-Stadt) but even less inhabitants while canton Zurich has about 80 times more inhabitants than canton Appenzell Innerrhoden.

Political Map of Switzerland's Cantons

Political Map of Switzerland's Cantons
For abbreviations of cantons see table below



Basic Statistical Data on Switzerland's Cantons

Swiss car number plate

Number plates on Swiss cars show both the coat of arms of the Swiss confederation and of the canton as well as the abbreviation of the canton in between. The following table shows the cantons with their abbreviations and basic statistical data. The abbreviations are often used in Switzerland, also as domain names for all official websites of cantonal administrations (see links in fourth column).

Coat of Arms Entry
into
Con-
fed.
Name of Canton Abbr Area
km²
sq mi
Inhabitants Popu-
lation
Density
/km²
/sq mi
Lan-
guage
Capital Inhabi-
tants
AG<1415>
1803
AargauAG 1,404
542
556,000 396
1026
d Aarau 15,000
AR1411
1513
[1597]
Appenzell AusserrhodenAR 243
94
53,000 218
564
d Herisau 15,000
AI1411
1513
[1597]
Appenzell InnerrhodenAI 173
67
15,000 87
224
d Appenzell 5,000
BL1400
1501
[1833]
Basel-LandBL 518
200
263,000 508
1315
d Liestal 12,000
1400
1501
[1833]
Basel-StadtBS 37
14
186,000 5027
13286
d Basel
city guide
165,000
BE1323
1353
BernBE 5,959
2301
950,000 159
413
d,f Bern
city guide
122,000
FR1481 Fribourg
Freiburg
FR 1,671
645
243,000 145
377
f,d Fribourg
Freiburg
33,000
GE1815 Genève
[Geneva]
GE 282
109
419,000 1486
3848
f Genève
[Geneva]

city guide
178,000
GL1352 GlarusGL 685
264
38,000 55
144
d Glarus 6,000
GR1498
1803
Graubünden
Grischuns
Grigioni
GR 7,105
2743
186,000 26
68
d,r,i Chur 32,000
JU[1979] JuraJU 839
324
69,000 82
213
f Delémont 11,000
LU1332 Luzern
[Lucerne]
LU 1,494
576
352,000 236
610
d Luzern
city guide
73,000
NE1406
1815
NeuchâtelNE 803
310
167,000 208
539
f Neuchâtel 32,000
NW1291 NidwaldenNW 276
107
39,000 141
366
d Stans 7,000
OW1291 ObwaldenOW 491
190
33,000 67
174
d Sarnen 9,000
SG1412
1803
St.GallenSG 2,026
782
455,000 225
582
d St. Gallen 70,000
SH1501 SchaffhausenSH 299
115
74,000 248
641
d Schaffhausen 33,000
SZ1291 SchwyzSZ 908
351
133,000 146
379
d Schwyz 14,000
SO1400
1481
SolothurnSO 791
305
247,000 312
809
d Solothurn 15,000
TG<1460>
1803
ThurgauTG 991
383
230,000 232
601
d Frauenfeld 22,000
TI<1403>
1803
TicinoTI 2,813
1086
315,000 112
290
i Bellinzona 16,000
UR1291 UriUR 1,077
416
35,000 33
84
d Altdorf 8,000
VD<1536>
1803
VaudVD 3,212
1240
632,000 197
509
f Lausanne
city guide
116,000
VS1403
1815
Valais
Wallis
VS 5,225
2017
281,000 54
139
f,d Sion
Sitten
28,000
ZG1352 ZugZG 239
92
102,000 427
1105
d Zug 23,000
ZH1351 ZürichZH 1,729
668
1,242,000 718
1860
d Zürich
city guide
342,000
1291 Switzerland
[total]
CH 41,293
15,943
7,451,000 180
467
d,f,i,r Bern
city guide
122,000

For detailed statistics on Switzerland see: Federal Office for Statistics


Some Notes on Statistical Information

  • Entry into the Confederation

    The relatively late dates of entry into the confederation for ten out of 26 cantons might give the completely false impression that these cantons were not part of the confederation until the 19th century.
    In fact these cantons were part of the old confederation from the 15th and 16th centuries on, though not as free and equal confederates but rather as conquered and subdued territories (don't believe all myths about the oldest democracy, read the brute historical facts about political power in Switzerland before the 1798 revolution).
    Therefore this table gives, unlike the usual compilations, the dates of conquest <in italics and brackets> for Aargau, Thurgau, Ticino and Vaud.
    Other cantons first had a status of associated members, dates of first association treaty are given in italics.
    GraubŁnden was originally itself a small confederation of three valleys (1367, extended 1395, 1424, 1436) and became associated to the Swiss confederation in 1498.
    Dates in [brackets] show the splitting of cantons Appenzell, Basel and Unterwalden into half-cantons, and the separation of canton Jura from Bern.

  • Official Languages spoken in public life are abbreviated as
    d = Deutsch (German), f = French, i = Italian, r = Rumantsch.

  • Population density:

    The overall population density of 180 inhabitants per km² is almost as high as in the UK or India, and significantly higher than in France or the U.S.A. A closer look shows that the highly industrialized Mittelland [midlands, plateau] region stretching from Lake Geneva to Bodensee [Lake of Constance] includes all major cities and is overcrowded with a population density of about 600 inhabitants per km² - though this region is the only in Switzerland where agriculture is possible on a fairly intense level. In the prealpine and Jura regions the population density is about 80 to 250 inhabitants per km² while it reaches 25 to 70 in the alpine cantons.


> See also: www.gov.ch
Register of the internet sites of Switzerland's Administration and Public Services on federal, cantonal and communal level. Most of the websites listed there are only available in the (German, French, Italian, Rumantsch), however.




Switzerland from A to Z
Short quotations allowed but with precise declaration of origin (Link).
Reproduction of substantial parts and pictures in printed or electronic form only with explicit written consent by the editor.