The 26 cantons of Switzerland (German: Kanton, French: canton, Italian: cantone, Romansh: chantun) are the member states of the Swiss Confederation. The nucleus of the Swiss Confederacy in the form of the first three confederate allies used to be referred to as the Waldstätte. Two further major steps in the development of the Swiss cantonal system are referred to by the terms Acht Orte ("Eight Cantons"; between 1353 and 1481) and Dreizehn Orte ("Thirteen Cantons", during 1513–1798); they were important intermediate periods of the Ancient Swiss Confederacy.
Each canton, formerly also Ort (from before 1450), or Stand ("estate", from c. 1550), was a fully sovereign state with its own border controls, army, and currency from at least the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) until the establishment of the Swiss federal state in 1848; with a brief period of centralized government during the Helvetic Republic (1798–1803). With the Napoleonic period of the Helvetic Republic the term Kanton was also fully established in German-speaking region.
|Also known as:|
|Number||26 cantons (as of 1979)|
|Populations||16,003 – 1,487,969|
|Areas||37 km2 (14 sq mi) – 7,105 km2 (2,743 sq mi)|
|Government||List of cantonal executives of Switzerland|
|Subdivisions||Districts and municipalities|
The term canton, now also used as English term for administrative subdivisions of other countries, originates in French usage in the late 15th century (recorded in Fribourg in 1467), from a word for "edge, corner", at the time the literal translation of Early Modern High German ort. After 1490, canton was increasingly used in French and Italian documents to refer to the members of the Swiss Confederacy. English use of canton in reference to the Swiss Confederacy (as opposed to the heraldic sense) dates to the early 17th century.
In the Old Swiss Confederacy, the term Ort (plural: Orte) was in use from the early 15th century as a generic term for the member cantons. The founding cantons specifically were also known as Waldstätte "forest settlements", "forest cantons" (singular: Waldstatt). The formulaic Stette und Waldstette for the members of the early confederacy is recorded in the mid-14th century, used interchangeably with Stett und Lender ("cities and lands", "city cantons and rural cantons") until the late 15th century. Ort was increasingly replaced by Stand (plural: Stände) "estate" about 1550, a term taken to imply liberty and sovereignty. Abolished in the Helvetic Republic, the term was revived in 1815 and remains in use today.
The French term canton adopted into German after 1648, and then only in occasional use until the early 19th century: prominent usage of Ort and Stand gradually disappeared in German-speaking Switzerland from the time of the Helvetic Republic. Only with the Act of Mediation of 1803 did German Kanton become an official designation, retained in the Swiss Constitution of 1848.
The term Stand (French: état, Italian: stato) remains in synonymous usage and is reflected in the name of the upper chamber of the Swiss Parliament, the Council of States (German: Ständerat, French: Conseil des États, Italian: Consiglio degli Stati, Romansh: Cussegl dals Stadis).
In the modern era, since Neuchâtel ceased to be a principality in 1848, all Swiss cantons can be considered to have a republican form of government. Some cantons formally describe themselves as republics in their constitutions. This applies to the Romance-speaking cantons in particular: Geneva (formally République et canton de Genève "Republic and canton of Geneva"), Jura, Neuchâtel, Valais, Vaud and Ticino.
In the 16th century, the Old Swiss Confederacy was composed of 13 sovereign confederate allies (the Thirteen Cantons; German: Die Dreizehn Alten Orte), and there were two different kinds: five rural states (German: Länder) – Uri, Schwyz (which became eponymous of the confederacy), Unterwalden, Glarus, Appenzell – and eight urban states (German: Städte) – Zürich, Bern, Luzern, Zug, Basel, Fribourg, Solothurn, Schaffhausen.
In the early modern period, the individual confederate allies came to be seen as republics; while the six traditional allies had a tradition of direct democracy in the form of the Landsgemeinde, the urban states operated via representation in city councils, de facto oligarchic systems dominated by families of the patriciate.[Note 1]
The old system was abandoned with the formation of the Helvetic Republic following the French invasion of Switzerland in 1798. The cantons of the Helvetic Republic had merely the status of an administrative subdivision with no sovereignty. The Helvetic Republic collapsed within five years, and cantonal sovereignty was restored with the Act of Mediation of 1803. The status of Switzerland as a federation of states was restored, at the time including 19 cantons (the six accessions to the early modern Thirteen Cantons being composed of former associates and subject territories: St. Gallen, Grisons, Aargau, Thurgau, Ticino, Vaud). Three additional western cantons, Valais, Neuchâtel and Geneva, acceded in 1815.
The process of "Restoration", completed by 1830, returned most of the former feudal rights to the cantonal patriciates, leading to rebellions among the rural population. The Liberal Radical Party embodied these democratic forces calling for a new federal constitution. This tension, paired with religious issues ("Jesuit question") escalated into armed conflict in the 1840s, with the brief Sonderbund War. The victory of the radical party resulted in the formation of Switzerland as a federal state in 1848. The cantons retained far-reaching sovereignty, but were no longer allowed to maintain individual standing armies or international relations. As the revolutions of 1848 in Western Europe had failed elsewhere, Switzerland during the later 19th century (and with the exception of the French Third Republic, until the end of World War I) found itself as an isolated democratic republic, surrounded by the restored monarchies of France, Italy, Austria-Hungary and Germany.
The Swiss Federal Constitution declares the cantons to be sovereign to the extent that their sovereignty is not limited by federal law. Areas specifically reserved to the Confederation are the armed forces, currency, the postal service, telecommunications, immigration into and emigration from the country, granting asylum, conducting foreign relations with sovereign states, civil and criminal law, weights and measures, and customs duties.
Most of the cantons' legislatures are unicameral parliaments, their size varying between 58 and 200 seats. A few legislatures also involve or did involve general popular assemblies known as Landsgemeinden; the use of this form of legislature has declined: at present it exists only in the cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden and Glarus. The cantonal executives consist of either five or seven members, depending on the canton. For the names of the institutions, see the list of cantonal executives and list of cantonal legislatures.
The cantons retain all powers and competencies not delegated to the Confederation by the federal constitution or law: most significantly the cantons are responsible for healthcare, welfare, law enforcement, public education, and also the power of taxation. Each canton defines its official language(s). Cantons may conclude treaties not only with other cantons but also with foreign states (respectively Articles 48 and 56 of the Federal Constitution).
The cantonal constitutions determine the internal organisation of the canton, including the degree of autonomy accorded to the municipalities, which varies but almost always includes the power to levy taxes and pass municipal laws; some municipalities have their own police forces.
As at the federal level, all cantons provide for some form of direct democracy. Citizens may demand a popular vote to amend the cantonal constitution or laws, or to veto laws or spending bills passed by the parliament. Other than in the instances of general popular assemblies in Appenzell Innerrhoden and Glarus, democratic rights are exercised by secret ballot. The right of foreigners to vote varies by canton, as does whether Swiss citizens living abroad (and registered to vote in a canton) can take part in cantonal voting.
Swiss citizens are citizens of a particular municipality (the place of origin) and the canton in which that municipality is part. Cantons therefore have a role in and set requirements for the granting of citizenship (naturalisation), though the process is typically undertaken at a municipal level and is subject to federal law.
Switzerland has only one federal public holiday (1 August); public holidays otherwise vary from canton to canton.
The cantons are listed in their order of precedence given in the federal constitution.[Note 2] This reflects the historical order of precedence of the Eight Cantons in the 15th century, followed by the remaining cantons in the order of their historical accession to the confederacy.
(per km2)[Note 4]
|No. munic. (2018)||Official languages|
|OW||Obwalden||1291[Note 5] or 1315 (as part of Unterwalden)||Sarnen||37,575||64,253||491||66||7||German|
|NW||Nidwalden||1291[Note 5] (as Unterwalden)||Stans||42,969||69,559||276||138||11||German|
|BS||Basel-Stadt||1501 (as Basel until 1833/1999)||Basel||199,950||163,632||37||5,072||3||German|
|BL||Basel-Landschaft||1501 (as Basel until 1833/1999)||Liestal||288,660||68,537||518||502||86||German|
|AR||Appenzell Ausserrhoden||1513 (as Appenzell until 1597/1999)||Herisau[Note 6]||55,178||56,663||243||220||20||German|
|AI||Appenzell Innerrhoden||1513 (as Appenzell until 1597/1999)||Appenzell||16,105||61,067||172||87||6||German|
|SG||St. Gallen||1803[Note 7]||St. Gallen||504,686||72,624||2,031||222||77||German|
|GR||Grisons||1803[Note 8]||Chur||197,888||70,968||7,105||26||108||German, Romansh, Italian|
|TG||Thurgau||1803[Note 10]||Frauenfeld[Note 11]||273,801||60,533||992||229||80||German|
|VS||Valais||1815[Note 14]||Sion||341,463||52,532||5,224||53||126||French, German|
|CH||Switzerland||Bern||8,484,130||78,619||41,291||174||2,222||German, French, Italian, Romansh|
The two-letter abbreviations for Swiss cantons are widely used, e.g. on car license plates. They are also used in the ISO 3166-2 codes of Switzerland with the prefix "CH-" (Confœderatio Helvetica—Helvetian Confederation—Helvetia having been the ancient Roman name of the region). CH-SZ, for example, is used for the canton of Schwyz.
Six of the 26 cantons are traditionally, but no longer officially, called "half-cantons" (German: Halbkanton, French: demi-canton, Italian: semicantone, Romansh: mez-chantun). In two instances (Basel and Appenzell) this was a consequence of a historic division, whilst in the case of Unterwalden a historic mutual association, resulting in three pairs of half-cantons. The other 20 cantons were — and in some instances still are — though only in a context where it is needed to distinguish them from any half-cantons, typically termed "full" cantons in English.
The historic half-cantons, and their pairings, are still recognizable in the first article of the Swiss Federal Constitution of 1999 by being joined to their other "half" with the conjunction "and":
The People and the cantons of Zürich, Bern, Lucerne, Uri, Schwyz, Obwalden and Nidwalden, Glarus, Zug, Fribourg, Solothurn, Basel-Stadt and Basel-Landschaft, Schaffhausen, Appenzell Ausserrhoden and Appenzell Innerrhoden, St. Gallen, Graubünden, Aargau, Thurgau, Ticino, Vaud, Valais, Neuchâtel, Geneva, and Jura form the Swiss Confederation.— Article 1 of the Federal Constitution of the Swiss Confederation
In contrast, the first article of the 1848 and 1874 constitutions constituted the Confederation as the union of "twenty-two sovereign cantons",[Note 17] referring to the half-cantons as "Unterwalden (ob und nid dem Wald [‘above and beneath the woods’])", "Basel (Stadt und Landschaft [‘city and country’])" and "Appenzell (beider Rhoden [‘both Rhoden’])". The 1999 constitutional revision retained this distinction, on the request of the six cantonal governments, as a way to mark the historic association of the half-cantons to each other. While the older constitutions referred to these states as "half-cantons", a term that remains in popular use, the 1999 revision and official terminology since then use the appellation "cantons with half of a cantonal vote".
The reasons for the existence of the three pairs of half-cantons are varied:
With their original circumstances of partition now a historical matter, the half-cantons are since 1848 equal to the other cantons in all but two respects:
Between 1831 and 1833 the canton of Schwyz divided into half-cantons: (Inner) Schwyz and the break-away Outer Schwyz; in this instance the half-cantons were forced by the Confederation to settle their disputes and re-unite.
In the 20th century, some Jurassic separatists suggested a new canton of Jura to be divided into half-cantons of North Jura and South Jura. Instead, North Jura became the (full) canton of Jura while South Jura remains in the canton of Bern as the region of Bernese Jura.
The name of each canton in its own official language is shown in bold.
|AG||Aargau; Argovia||Aargau (help·info)||Argovie||Argovia||Argovia|
|AI||Appenzell Innerrhoden; Appenzell Inner-Rhodes||Appenzell Innerrhoden (help·info)||Appenzell Rhodes-Intérieures||Appenzello Interno||Appenzell dadens|
|AR||Appenzell Ausserrhoden; Appenzell Outer-Rhodes||Appenzell Ausserrhoden (help·info)||Appenzell Rhodes-Extérieures||Appenzello Esterno||Appenzell dador|
|BS||Basel-Stadt; Basle-City||Basel-Stadt (help·info)||Bâle-Ville||Basilea Città||Basilea-Citad|
|BL||Basel-Landschaft; Basle-Country||Basel-Landschaft (help·info)||Bâle-Campagne||Basilea Campagna||Basilea-Champagna|
|BE||Bern; Berne||Bern (help·info)||Berne||Berna||Berna|
|FR||Fribourg; Friburg||Freiburg (help·info)||Fribourg||Friburgo||Friburg|
|GL||Glarus; Glaris||Glarus (help·info)||Glaris||Glarona||Glaruna|
|GR||Graubünden; Grisons||Graubünden (help·info)||Grisons||Grigioni||Grischun|
|NW||Nidwalden; Nidwald||Nidwalden (help·info)||Nidwald||Nidvaldo||Sutsilvania|
|OW||Obwalden; Obwald||Obwalden (help·info)||Obwald||Obvaldo||Sursilvania|
|SH||Schaffhausen; Schaffhouse||Schaffhausen (help·info)||Schaffhouse||Sciaffusa||Schaffusa|
|SZ||Schwyz||Schwyz (help·info)||Schwyz (or Schwytz)||Svitto||Sviz|
|SO||Solothurn; Soleure||Solothurn (help·info)||Soleure||Soletta||Soloturn|
|SG||St. Gallen; St Gall||St. Gallen (help·info)||Saint-Gall||San Gallo||Son Gagl|
|TG||Thurgau; Thurgovia||Thurgau (help·info)||Thurgovie||Turgovia||Turgovia|
|TI||Ticino; Tessin||Tessin (help·info)||Tessin||Ticino||Tessin|
|VS||Valais; Wallis||Wallis (help·info)||Valais||Vallese||Vallais|
|ZG||Zug; Zoug||Zug (help·info)||Zoug||Zugo||Zug|
|ZH||Zürich; Zurich||Zürich (help·info)||Zurich||Zurigo||Turitg|
The enlargement of Switzerland by way of the admission of new cantons ended in 1815. The latest formal attempt considered by Switzerland was of Vorarlberg in 1919 but subsequently rejected. A few representatives submitted in 2010 a parliamentary motion to consider enlargement although it was widely seen as anti-EU rhetoric rather than a serious proposal. The motion was eventually dropped and not even examined by the parliament.
Le canton du Tessin est une république démocratique [… qui] est membre de la Confédération suisse et sa souveraineté n'est limitée que par la constitution fédérale."
L'intervention est classée, l'auteur ayant quitté le conseil
The Canton of Baden (German: Kanton Baden) was a canton of the Helvetic Republic (a Napoleonic-era precursor of modern-day Switzerland). Its capital was the town of Baden.Canton of Basel-Landschaft
The canton of Basel-Landschaft (German: Kanton Basel-Landschaft , English: canton of Basel-Country, French: canton de Bâle-Campagne, Italian: Cantone di Basilea Campagna; informally: Baselland, Baselbiet), is one of the 26 cantons of Switzerland. The capital is Liestal. It shares borders with the Swiss cantons of Basel-Stadt, Solothurn, Jura and Aargau, and with the French région of Grand Est and the German state of Baden-Württemberg.Canton of Basel-Stadt
The canton of Basel-Stadt (German: Kanton Basel-Stadt , English: canton of Basel-City, French: canton de Bâle-Ville, Italian: Cantone di Basilea Città) is one of the 26 cantons of Switzerland, and the smallest of the cantons by area. The city of Basel and the municipalities of Bettingen and Riehen form its territory.Canton of Fribourg
The canton of Fribourg, also canton of Friburg (French: canton de Fribourg, German: Kanton Freiburg ) is located in western Switzerland. The canton is bilingual, with French spoken by two thirds of the citizens and German by about one third. Both are official languages in the canton, but it is generally considered part of the French-speaking region of Romandy. The canton takes its name from its capital city of Fribourg.Canton of Glarus
The canton of Glarus, also canton of Glaris (German: Kanton Glarus ˈɡlarʊs ) is a canton in east central Switzerland. The capital is Glarus.
The population speaks a variety of Alemannic German.
The majority of the population (81%) identifies as Christian, about evenly split between the Protestant and Catholic denominations.Canton of Jura
The Republic and Canton of the Jura (French: République et canton du Jura), also known as the canton of Jura or canton Jura, is the newest (founded in 1979) of the 26 Swiss cantons, located in the northwestern part of Switzerland. The capital is Delémont. It shares borders with the canton of Basel-Landschaft, the canton of Bern, the canton of Neuchatel, the canton of Solothurn, and the French régions of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté and Grand Est.Canton of Linth
Linth was a canton of the Helvetic Republic from 1798 to 1803, consisting of Glarus and its subject County of Werdenberg, the Höfe and March districts of Schwyz and the Züricher subject Lordship of Sax, along with a handful of shared territories.Canton of Oberland
Oberland (German for Highlands) was the name of a canton of the Helvetic Republic (1798–1803), corresponding to the area of the Bernese Oberland, with its capital at Thun.Canton of Solothurn
The canton of Solothurn, also canton of Soleure (German: Kanton Solothurn ) is a canton of Switzerland. It is located in the northwest of Switzerland. The capital is Solothurn.Canton of Thurgau
The canton of Thurgau (German: Thurgau , anglicized as Thurgovia) is a northeast canton of Switzerland.
It is named for the river Thur, and the name Thurgovia was historically used for a larger area, including part of this river's basin upstream of the modern canton. The area of what is now Thurgau was acquired as subject territories by the cantons of the Old Swiss Confederacy from the mid 15th century. Thurgau was first declared a canton in its own right at the formation of the Helvetic Republic in 1798.
The population, as of December 2017, is 273,801. In 2007, there were a total of 47,390 (or 19.9% of the population) who were resident foreigners. The capital is Frauenfeld.Canton of Valais
The canton of Valais (French pronunciation: [valɛ]; Italian: Canton Vallese; German: Kanton Wallis, German pronunciation: [ˈvalɪs] (listen)) is one of the 26 cantons of Switzerland, situated in the southwestern part of the country, around the valley of the Rhône from its headwaters to Lake Geneva, separating the Pennine Alps from the Bernese Alps. The canton is simultaneously one of the driest regions of Switzerland in its central Rhône valley and among the wettest, having large amounts of snow and rain up on the highest peaks found in Switzerland. The canton of Valais is widely known for the Matterhorn and resort towns such as Crans-Montana, Saas Fee, Verbier and Zermatt. It is composed of 13 districts (hence the 13 stars on the flag) and its capital is Sion.Canton of Waldstätten
Waldstätten was a canton of the Helvetic Republic from 1798 to 1803, combining the territories of the founding cantons of the Old Swiss Confederacy, Uri (without the Leventina but with the Urseren), Schwyz (without March and Höfe) and both cantons of Unterwalden, which were collectively known as Waldstätten (German for forested settlements) since the 14th century, along with Zug, the Republic of Gersau, and Engelberg Abbey.
The rearrangement of the cantonal borders of the Helvetic Republic was not well received by the population of the inner forest cantons of Switzerland. The political influence of these cantons was also significantly reduced; instead of 16 seats in the Tagsatzung — for the cantons of Zug (with the Freie Ämter and Baden), Schwyz (without March but with Gersau), Unterwalden (Obwalden, Nidwalden and Engelberg) and Uri (without the Leventina but with the Urseren) — Waldstätten benefited from only four representatives.
Both the Malmaison Constitution and the Second Helvetic Constitution of 1802 proposed the repartition of Waldstätten, though this did not take effect until Napoleon's Act of Mediation in 1803.Canton of Zug
The canton of Zug (also English: canton of Zoug; German: Kanton German pronunciation: [tsuːɡ] (listen)) is one of the 26 cantons of Switzerland. It is located in central Switzerland and its capital is Zug. At 239 km2 the canton is one of the smallest of the Swiss cantons in terms of area. It is not subdivided into districts, but eleven municipalities.Flags and arms of cantons of Switzerland
Each of the 26 modern cantons of Switzerland has an official flag and a coat of arms.
The history of development of these designs spans the 13th to the 20th centuries.List of Swiss cantons by elevation
The following list is a comparison of elevation absolutes in Switzerland. Data includes interval measures of highest and lowest elevation for all 26 cantons, with coordinates of the highest. Location names, mean elevation, and the numeric differences between high and low elevations are also provided.
Most of the 25 canton high points are located in the Swiss Alps. Other (with lower altitude), are located in the Jura Mountains. The 14 lower summits (up to the Säntis) are within the hiking trail network. The ascent of the 11 higher summits involves rock climbing or glacier touring.List of cantonal executives of Switzerland
This article lists the cantonal executives of Switzerland. Each canton of Switzerland has its own executive body, as well as legislative body. The Federal Council is the executive of the Swiss federal government, and is included for purposes of comparison.
The cantonal executives are collegial bodies, each with 5 or 7 members. They are generally called Regierungsrat (Executive Council) in German-speaking cantons and Conseil d'État (State Council) in French-speaking cantons.
The below list is up to date as of 29 May 2010.Lists of highest points
A list of highest points typically contains the name, elevation, and location of the highest point in each of a set of geographical regions. Such a list is important in the sport of highpointing. A partial list of highpoint lists is below:
List of 100 highest peaks above mean sea level
List of highest points on each continent
Summits farthest from the Earth's center
List of countries by highest point
List of highest points of European countries
Table of elevation extremes by country
List of highest towns by country
List of highest railway stations in the world
List of highest cities in the worldIntra-country listsList of Brazilian states by highest point
List of highest points of Canadian provinces and territories
List of Indian states and territories by highest point
List of Irish counties by highest point
List of highest points of the cantons of Switzerland
List of highest points in the United Kingdom
List of English counties by highest point
List of counties of England and Wales in 1964 by highest point
List of Scottish counties by highest point
List of U.S. states by elevation (highest point in each U.S. state)
List of highest points in California by county
List of Colorado county high points
List of Florida's highest points
List of highest points in Oregon by county
List of highest points in Nevada by county
List of highest points in Washington by county
List of U.S. National Parks by elevation
List of highest United States cities by stateSubdivisions of Switzerland
The Swiss Confederation comprises the 26 cantons of Switzerland.
Each canton has its individual structure for further subdivisions.