8.6 million

Official language

The three national languages of Switzerland are German, French and Italian.

Languages spoken

The Swiss speak German, French, Italian and Romansh.


As of 2020, 62.3% of the population were native German speakers (either Swiss or Standard), 22.8% consider themselves French-speaking Swiss, 8% are Italian-speaking Swiss and 0.5% are Romansh.


Christianity is the official religion.

National Holiday

Swiss National Day, on the 1st August.

Holiday Schedule

January 1: New Year’s Day

April 18: Easter Monday

May 26: Ascension Day

August 1: Swiss National Day

December 25: Christmas Day


Originally inhabited by the Helvetians, Switzerland soon came under Roman rule during the Gallic wars in the first century BC. During its three centuries of Roman rule, populations grew and important cities such as Geneva and Zurich became linked by roads. After the fall of the Roman Empire, various Germanic tribes, like the Burgundians, settled in the country. But it wasn’t until after the Holy Roman Emperor’s death in 1291, when the country feared uprising, that the ruling families from Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden signed a charter to keep public peace and pledged to uphold autonomous administrative and judicial rule. The day this was signed, 1st August, is now celebrated as Switzerland’s National Day.

By 1515, the Swiss Confederation had become a union of 13 localities, yet many mercenaries continued to serve in other armies like the Swiss Guard of the Pope. This led to divisions between Protestants in favour of Zwingli, Calvin in the German and French areas and Catholics. Yet, it was their mutual aim for neutrality that kept the Swiss Confederation together and a neutral party during the War of the First Coalition against France… until Napoleon invaded and annexed much of the country in 1797-98.

In 1815, the Congress of Vienna was re-established and consecrated the country with permanent neutral status in international law. In 1874, federal responsibility for defence, trade, and legal matters was amended in their Constitution, many of which still remain trademarks of Swiss policy together. During both World War I and II, the country fell under scrutiny to act. Yet, despite pressure from fascist powers, Switzerland managed to survive both unscathed.

In keeping with the country’s neutral status, Switzerland chose not to join the United Nations for five decades, even though Geneva had become the base for its European headquarters. However, following the end of the Cold War, Switzerland decided to join the Bretton Woods institutions in 1992 and finally became a member of the United Nations in 2002.


Switzerland is governed under a federal system at three levels: the Confederation, the cantons and the communes. The 26 cantons have considerable decision-making power, and the public often weighs in on policy matters through referendums.


When dining, make sure you’re not late. Never flag down restaurant staff with a wave of the hand and brush up on your fondue skills, you’ll need them. Allow hosts to introduce you at parties and greet people by their last names (first names are usually reserved for close friends and family). The Swiss are hot on littering so make sure not to do so or you may be in for a public scolding. That being said, it is precisely why the country remains the third cleanest in the world.


The Swiss aren’t big on giving extravagant and expensive gifts but that doesn’t mean they don’t have their fair share of shops selling them. In Zurich it’s all about upscale boutiques and international brands, except from in the Niederdorf area, which offers old world charm, antique stores and trendy shops. In Geneva, you’ll find the majority of brands along Rue du Mont Blanc, Rue du Rhone and Rue de Marche, as well as myriad chocolate and cheese shops.


Switzerland is a melting pot of culture and nationalities and the same can be said for its food. From cheese fondue and raclette (melted cheese served with jacket potatoes, gherkins and onions) to Alplermagronen (macroni, potatoes and roasted onions) and taillaule neuchâteloise (sweet bread with raisins and candied lemon peel) - the latter of which is particularly popular in Romandy - Switzerland is well known for its hearty dishes. Yet, it’s not afraid to explore more complex and intricate flavours, especially where chocolate and cheese are concerned. Stop by Sprungli in Zurich and Maison Cailler in Broc – the oldest chocolate brand in the country – for bites of creamy melt-in-your-mouth truffles and fondant. And, if you’re in the market for cheese, there is nowhere quite like Appenzeller cheese, especially if you agree that the stronger the cheese the better.


If it’s soft drinks you’re after, look no further than Vivi Kola. The Swiss’s spin on Coca-Cola, it is native to the country and has been a staple since 1938. Rivella is also a popular soft drink and is often considered the country’s national drink with a market share of 15%. For alcohol, look no further than one of the country’s myriad beer festivals, where you’ll be able to raise a schooner (or two) and say santé or prost (depending on where you are in the country). It is important to note also that the legal drinking age in Switzerland depends on the canton but ranges between 16 and 18 years old for beer and wine, while the legal age for spirits is 18 across the country.

Useful information

Contact one of our Switzerland specialists