Switzerland: All About Cantons!

This week on Adventures at Franklin, we're going to be talking about cantons - the geographic regions that make up Switzerland.

If you're planning to live in Switzerland, it's important to know about the different cantons because each one has varying laws, holidays and even languages.

What even is a canton? You might ask. Well, a canton is similar to a state, like those found in countries like the United States and Mexico. However, each Swiss canton has its own constitution that has been federally approved. There are 26 cantons in total, among them several half cantons. Half cantons are cantons that split at some point. They mainly differ from other cantons in that they only send one member to the upper house of parliament, rather than two.

Franklin University Switzerland is located in Ticino, the only canton in Switzerland where Italian is the only official language. Although Italian is spoken in neighboring Graubünden as well, it has four official languages - Swiss German, Italian, and Romansh.

An overview:

  • German is an official language in 21 cantons 
  • French is an official language in 7 cantons
  • Italian is an official language in 2 cantons
  • Romansh is an official language in 1 canton
  • There are 4 cantons with multiple official languages

To read more about languages in Switzerland, check out my blog post on the subject. 

And now, on to learning more about each individual canton. I've included the coat of arms, capital, date the canton joined the Swiss Confederacy as it existed at the time, official language(s) of the canton, and a fun fact for each. Enjoy! 

Facts About Each Canton

Capital: Aarau
Joined: 1803
Official Language(s): German
Fun Fact: The first female Swiss physician, Marie Heim-Vögtlin, was born in Bözen, Aargau in 1845.

Appenzell Ausserhoden
Capital: Herisau
Joined: 1513
Official Language(s): German
Fun Fact: Cattle farming is extremely important in Appenzell. To celebrate the coming of autumn, a yearly festival takes place in which the most beautiful cows are judged in each village. Winners receive flower garlands fastened to their horns.

Appenzell Innerrhoden
Capital: Appenzell
Joined: 1513
Official Language(s): German
Fun Fact: The Äscher mountain restaurant and guesthouse, located in Weissbad, Appenzell Innerrhoden, was made famous after it was featured on the cover of a National Geographic book titled "Destinations of a Lifetime" in 2015.

Capital: Liestal
Joined: 1501
Official Language(s): German
Fun Fact: This canton is home to a Roman archaeological site called Augusta Raurica. The site includes an amphitheater, aqueduct and basilica, and is said to be the best-preserved Roman city north of the Alps. 

Capital: Basel
Joined: 1501
Official Language(s): German
Fun Fact: There are so many playgrounds in Basel that 55% of children living in the city itself are no further than 200 meters from the next playground.

Capital: Bern
Joined: 1353
Official Language(s): German, French
Fun Fact: Every year on the fourth Monday in November, Bern (city) hosts the Zibelemärit, or onion market, from 6am to 6pm. See my previous post about Bern for more fun facts. 
Capital: Fribourg
Joined: 1481
Official Language(s): French, German
Fun Fact: Fribourg was the first French-speaking canton to join the Swiss Confederation.

Capital: Geneva
Joined: 1815
Official Language(s): French
Fun Fact: There are approximately 250 NGOs located in Geneva, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, the World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, and many more.

Capital: Glarus
Joined: 1352
Official Language(s): German
Fun Fact: Läderach, one of the top Swiss chocolatiers, has been headquartered in Glarus since 1962. There are not one, but two Läderach shops in Lugano!

Capital: Chur
Joined: 1803
Official Language(s): German, Italian, Romansh
Fun Fact: 1/6 of Switzerland's total land mass can be found in Graubünden, which is home to 937 mountain peaks, 615 lakes and 150 valleys.
Capital: Delémont
Joined: 1979
Official Language(s): French
Fun Fact: Besides railway crossings, there are no traffic lights to be found anywhere in the canton.

Capital: Luzern
Joined: 1332
Official Language(s): German
Fun Fact: Author Leo Tolstoy was enamored with the city of Luzern. After staying at the famous Hotel Schweizerhof, he wrote a short story in its name.

Capital: Neuchâtel
Joined: 1815
Official Language(s): French
Fun Fact: In La Chaux-de-Fonds, Neuchâtel, there is a watchmaking festival each October. There, experts meet to discuss timepieces and sell and buy wares. 

Capital: Stans
Joined: 1291
Official Language(s): German
Fun Fact: Nidwalden's economy is primarily based on the aviation, mechanical engineering, medical technology and international trade industries. 
Capital: Sarnen
Joined: 1291
Official Language(s): German
Fun Fact: Mount Titlis, located between Obwalden and Bern, is home to the highest elevation suspension bridge in Europe, called the Titlis Cliff Walk. Built to withstand rough weather, it can survive many tons of snowfall as well as 190km/h winds.

Capital: Schaffhausen
Joined: 1501
Official Language(s): German
Fun Fact: Did you know there are two enclaves located within Switzerland? One of them is Campione d'Italia, which sits alongside Lake Lugano. The other is called Büsingen-am-Hochrhein, and is surrounded by Canton Schaffhausen. 

Capital: Schwyz
Joined: 1291
Official Language(s): German
Fun Fact: The oldest wooden building in Europe, called "Bethlehem," is located in Schwyz. It's been standing for over 700 years.

Capital: Solothurn
Joined: 1481
Official Language(s): German
Fun Fact: Kraków, Poland, is Solothurn's official twin city (since 1990).

St. Gallen
Capital: St. Gallen
Joined: 1803
Official Language(s): German
Fun Fact: In 2005, the city of St. Gallen hosted a competition to design and give character to the outdoor spaces of a new district. The result was the "Stadtlounge," or City Lounge, an outdoor area covered in red rubber, featuring chairs, tables and sofas.    
Capital: Frauenfeld
Joined: 1803
Official Language(s): German
Fun Fact: One in every three apples consumed in Switzerland comes from Canton Thurgau.

Capital: Bellinzona
Joined: 1803
Official Language(s): Italian
Fun Fact: Walking all of Ticino's footpaths uninterrupted would take about thirty days in total.

Capital: Altdorf
Joined: 1291
Official Language(s): German
Fun Fact: Uri is one of the three founding cantons of Switzerland. According to legend, it was also home to William Tell. 

Capital: Sion
Joined: 1815
Official Language(s): French, German
Fun Fact: Valais is the number one wine-producing canton in Switzerland, as it is home to approximately 35% of Swiss vineyards. 

Capital: Lausanne
Joined: 1803
Official Language(s): French
Fun Fact: Vaud is home to Switzerland's most-visited historical monument, Castle Chillon, located on the beautiful Lake Geneva.

Capital: Zug
Joined: 1352
Official Language(s): German
Fun Fact: Zug is home to around 29,000 companies from all over the world, which plays a role in the canton's extreme diversity. Its population of around 120,000 people is made up of over 130 different nationalities.

Capital: Zürich
Joined: 1351
Official Language(s): German
Fun Fact: The average age that women get married in Zürich is 32.5, while the average man is married at 35.1.

. . .

Whew! That felt like a lot. I hope you found this post informative and interesting! Please let me know if there's something else you'd like to see me write a post about - I can be contacted via the box below.

Arrivederci and till next time,



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