Swiss Cantons

The cantonal system is central to every aspect of Swiss life – so much so that every citizen is intensely aware of which canton they come from and most government functions are organised at a cantonal level. For example, uniformed policing is done by cantonal forces, and until quite recently there were customs points between cantons. The cantons have very different characteristics and in most cantons there is a dominant religion and language. In general the French speaking cantons are on the West of the country the Italian areas to the South East and Romansch is spoken in large parts of the large Eastern canton of Graubunden/Grisons.

Here are listed the 26 cantons with each administrative capital and the two letter abbreviation for the canton. These are listed in the order they joined the Federation - the most ancient four cantons got together to formed the Swiss federation in 1291 (Uri, Schwyz, Obwalden and Nidwalden) while the most recent canton, Jura, was only officially established as an independent canton in 1979.

  • Uri (UR) – Altdorf
  • Schwyz (SZ) – Schwyz
  • Obwalden (OW) – Sarnen
  • Nidwalden (NW) – Stans
  • Luzern (LU) – Luzern
  • Zurich (ZH) – Zurich
  • Glarus (GL) – Glarus
  • Zug (ZG) – Zug
  • Bern (BE) – Bern
  • Fribourg (FR) – Fribourg
  • Solothurn (SO) – Solothurn
  • Basel-Stadt (BS) – Basel
  • Basel-Land (BL) – Liestal
  • Schaffhausen (SH) – Schaffhausen
  • Appenzell Ausserrhoden (AR) – Herisau
  • Appenzell Innerhoden (AI) – Appenzell
  • St Gallen – (SG) – St Gallen
  • Graubunden (GR) – Chur
  • Aargau (AG) – Aarau
  • Thurgau (TG) – Frauenfeld
  • Ticino (TI) – Bellinzona
  • Vaud (VD) – Lausanne
  • Valais (VS) – Sion
  • Neuchatel (NE) – Neuchatel
  • Geneva (GE) – Geneva
  • Jura (JU) – Delemont

Six of these cantons are only counted as “half cantons” meaning that they have a smaller representation in the Federal government at the Swiss capital in Berne. The “half cantons” are the two Basel cantons, the Appenzell cantons and Obwaden and Nidwalden cantons.

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