Cantons of Switzerland

The twenty-six cantons of Switzerland are the states of the federal state of Switzerland. Historically and until the mid-19th century, each canton in the then-confederation was a sovereign state, with its own borders, army, and currency; the current federal structure was established in 1848.

During the sixteenth century, the Swiss Confederation was composed of thirteen self-governed states. These states were called cantons, and there were two different kinds of cantons: the six forest cantons and seven urban cantons. Though they were technically part of the Holy Roman Empire, they had become almost completely liberated when the Swiss defeated Emperor Maximillian in 1499.

The six forest cantons were democratic republics, while the seven urban cantons were governed by city councils. However, these city councils were controlled by small oligarchies of wealthy citizens. The urban cantons included Zürich, Bern, and Basel.

Each canton has its own constitution, legislature, government and courts. Most of the cantons' legislatures are unicameral parliaments, their size varying between fifty-eight and two hundred seats. A few legislatures are general assemblies (Landsgemeinden). The cantonal governments consist of either five or seven members, depending on the canton. For the names of the institutions, see List of legislative and executive councils of the Cantons of Switzerland.

All tasks that do not explicitly fall within the Confederation according to the Swiss Constitution are matters of the cantons. The cantons determine the degree of autonomy of the municipalities, thus this varies greatly. The sizes of the cantons are extremely different: from just 37 to 7,105 square km; the populations vary from 14,900 to 1,244,400.

In cantonal matters, direct democracy in the form of general assemblies (Landsgemeinde) is now confined to the cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden and Glarus. In all other cantons democratic rights are expressed using the ballot box.

Since the creation of the Canton of Jura in 1978 there have been no new cantons. Sometimes the number of cantons is given as twenty-three. In this case the cantons of Unterwalden, Appenzell, and Basel are counted as two half-cantons each. Unterwalden is divided into Obwalden and Nidwalden, Appenzell into Innerrhoden and Ausserrhoden, while Basel is divided into Basel-Stadt and Basel-Landschaft. These divisions exist for historical reasons and still only affect the number of seats in the Council of States and voting in federal initiatives. The new constitution of 1999 now enumerates each of the twenty-six cantons separately.


List and map

The table below lists the cantons in the order of the constitution.

Flag Abbr Canton Since Capital Population1 Area2 Density3 Nr. of mun.s1 Official languages
Flag of cantonZHZürich (Zurich)1351Zürich1,228,6001,729701171German
Missing image
Flag of canton

BEBern (Berne)1353Bern947,1005,959158399German, French
Flag of cantonLULucerne1332Lucerne350,6001,493233107German
Missing image
Flag of canton

Flag of cantonSZSchwyz1291Schwyz131,40090814330German
Flag of cantonOWObwalden (Obwald)1291Sarnen32,700491667German
Missing image
Flag of canton

NWNidwalden (Nidwald)1291Stans38,60027613811German
Flag of cantonGLGlarus1352Glarus38,3006855128German
Missing image
Flag of canton

Flag of cantonFRFribourg1481Fribourg239,1001,671141242French, German
Flag of cantonSOSolothurn1481Solothurn245,500791308126German
Missing image
Flag of canton

BSBasel-Stadt (Basle-City)1501Basel186,700375,0723German
Flag of cantonBLBasel-Landschaft (Basle-Country)1501Liestal261,40051850286German
Flag of cantonSHSchaffhausen1501Schaffhausen73,40029824634German
Missing image
Flag of canton

ARAppenzell Ausserrhoden (Outer Rhodes)1513Herisau453,20024322020German
Flag of cantonAIAppenzell Innerrhoden (Inner Rhodes)1513Appenzell15,000173876German
Flag of cantonSGSt. Gallen (St. Gall)1803St. Gallen452,6002,02622290German
Missing image
Flag of canton

GRGraubünden (Grisons)1803Chur185,7007,10526211German, Romansh, Italian
Missing image
Flag of canton

AGAargau (Argovia)1803Aarau550,9001,404388232German
Flag of cantonTGThurgau (Thurgovia)1803Frauenfeld228,20099122980German
Missing image
Flag of canton

Missing image
Flag of canton

Missing image
Flag of canton

VSValais1815Sion278,2005,22453160French, German
Flag of cantonNENeuchâtel1815Neuchâtel166,50080320662French
Flag of cantonGEGeneva1815Geneva414,3002821,44245French
Flag of cantonJUJura1979Delémont69,1008388283French
Missing image
Flag of Switzerland

CH Switzerland   Bern 7,261,20041,285 174 2,890 German, French, Italian, Romansh

Notes: 1 As of 31 December 2001, National Statistics (, 2 km², 3 per km², based on 2000 population 4 seat of government and parliament, the seat of the judicial authorities is Trogen.

The two letter abbreviations for Swiss cantons are widely used, e.g. on car license plates and in the ISO 3166-2 codes (with the prefix "CH-", i.e. CH-SZ for the canton of Schwyz).

Missing image
Map of the cantons of Switzerland

Names in other languages

Abbr English French Italian German Romansh Spanish Esperanto¹
AIAppenzell InnerrhodenAppenzell Rhodes-IntérieuresAppenzello InternoAppenzell InnerhodenAppenzell dadensAppenzell Rodas Interiores 
ARAppenzell AusserrhodenAppenzell Rhodes-ExtérieuresAppenzello EsternoAppenzell AusserrhodenAppenzell dadorAppenzell Rodas Exteriores 
BSBasel-StadtBâle-VilleBasilea CittàBasel-StadtBasilea-CitadBasilea-CiudadBazelo-Urbo
BLBasel-LandschaftBâle-CampagneBasilea CampagnaBasel-LandschaftBasilea-ChampagnaBasilea-CampañaBazelo-Kamparo
FRFribourgFribourgFriburgoFreiburg or FribourgFriburgFriburgoFriburgo
NWNidwaldenNidwaldNidvaldoNidwaldenSutsilvaniaUnterwalden Bajo 
OWObwaldenObwaldObvaldoObwaldenSursilvaniaUnterwalden Alto 
SZSchwyzSchwyz (or Schwytz)SvittoSchwyzSvizSchwyz 
SGSt. GallenSaint-GallSan GalloSt. GallenSon GaglSankt Gallen 

Notes: ¹where a version differing from German is available.

See also

External links

als:Kanton (Schweiz) es:Cantones de Suiza fr:Cantons suisses it:Cantoni svizzeri lb:Lëscht vun de Schwäizer Kantonen nl:Kanton (Zwitserland) pl:Kanton (Szwajcaria) pt:Cantões da Suíça ro:Cantoanele Elveţiei sv:Schweiz kantoner simple:Canton


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