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Which are the four most ‘Swiss’ regions of Switzerland?

This question may sound confusing as you could answer that all parts of the country are ‘Swiss’ — and you’d be right, of course. However, some areas have more innate ‘Swissness’ than others.

Which are the four most 'Swiss' regions of Switzerland?
Heidi and Peter lived happily in Maienfeld. Photo: Pixabay

Because of its linguistic and cultural diversity, which is unique in Europe (no other country has four official languages), it may be difficult to define what exactly is typically Swiss.

Is it the German speaking region, the French one, or the Italian part of the country? After all, they all have an equal claim to Swissness.

It is, indeed, somewhat of a conundrum, but let’s look at it this way: if you define what ‘Swissness’ means to general public, especially people living abroad, then identifying the most Swiss areas is a lot easier.

For instance:


Many countries produce cheese, but in Switzerland it has an almost mystical aura: Switzerland without its cheeses wouldn’t be Switzerland.

There are many regions in the country where distinctly different cheeses are made — including Emmental and Appenzeller, both named after the cantons of their origin — but the most famous one is arguably Gruyère.

While a US court recently decided that Gruyère is a “common” cheese and the Swiss can’t claim it as their own, the fact is that it has been produced in the Gruyère region of canton Fribourg since the 12th century — and continues to be manufactured there to this day.

For this reason, the area can be considered as typically Swiss — not only the region itself, but also the stunning, hilltop medieval village, which overlooks the artisanal dairies where the cheese is made, as well as pastures where cows which provide milk for it graze.

Gruyère can be considered as typically Swiss. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

La Chaux-de-Fonds

If you identify Switzerland with its watches, then for you this town and its immediate area will be the essence of Swissness

Located in the Jura hills, La Chaux-de-Fonds and surrounding towns are closely associated with watches.

According to UNESCO, which designated it a Heritage Site, the area has long owed its existence to watchmaking industry.  

Residential housing and workshops are intermingled, which reflects the needs of the local watchmaking culture that dates to the 17th century and is still alive today,” the organisation points out.

 La Chaux-de-Fonds. Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Appenzell and Glarus

There are few things (except the other ones mentioned in this article) that are more Swiss than direct democracy. 

It can be observed everywhere in the country four times a year, when national or local referendums are taking place.

But there are only two places where the old-fashioned, grass-roots system is still practiced just as it was 600 years ago: in Appenzell and Glarus.

In those two cantons, during once-yearly Landsgemeinde  (open-air assembly) the citizens still vote by show of hands.

The Appenzell Landesgemeinde will take place on April 30th this year, and the Glarus one on May 7th.

READ ALSO: ‘Pure democracy’: What is Switzerland’s Landsgemeinde (open-air assembly)?


If you are looking for the ultimate ‘Swiss experience’, then the village of Maienfeld in Graubünden, is just up your (v)alley

This is where Heidi, the fictional heroine of Johanna Spyri’s book, is supposed to have lived, with her grandfather, friend Peter, and many goats.

Even though the ‘quintessential Swiss girl’ might, in fact, have come to Maienfeld from Germany, this tidbit has not stopped the tourism board’s from promoting this village as Heidi’s homeland. 

Do you have suggestions of the most Swiss parts of the country? If so, let us know by emailing [email protected]

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For members


From condoms to vaccines: The most controversial rulings by Switzerland’s highest court

The Swiss Federal Court, the highest judicial authority in the country, has ruled on some highly contentious issues over the years.

From condoms to vaccines: The most controversial rulings by Switzerland’s highest court

Before we get to actual cases, it is important to understand how Switzerland’s justice system is set up.

There are different court levels.

When people file their cases with the legal system, their first contact are district courts, which group together judiciary authorities by local areas.

Many Swiss towns are too small to have their own courts, so a district court is just that — a court that covers several neighbouring communities.

If, say, you become involved in a civil lawsuit, a divorce case, or any kind of litigation or dispute, the case will be first be heard at the district court.

Most often, its rulings are final.

However, if you are not happy with the verdict of your district court, you can appeal it within 30 days, at which point your case will go to the higher judicial level, that is, the cantonal court.

Each canton has its own high court — Switzerland’s second most important judicial entity hierarchically.

Besides criminal cases, cantonal high courts hear civil claims, and there are also courts on cantonal level for administrative cases.

The next is the Federal court, the highest judicial authority in Switzerland.

Headquartered in Lausanne, it is the final instance on all appeals against decisions of the highest cantonal courts, as well as the three other federal courts, which deal with criminal, administrative and patent cases, respectively.

This chart shows how the judicial system is organised in Switzerland. 

READ ALSO: What you should know about Switzerland’s courts

This means that by the time a case (that is to say, the appeal) comes before federal judges, it has already been ruled on by lower courts.

This is what happened in these three recent controversial cases as well.

The condom

You might think that taxpayer-funded federal court should not spend its valuable time (and public money) on a case involving a condom, but it has done so nevertheless.

As Swiss media reported, on September 14th, the highest court ruled on a case that has been heard in the lower courts in Zurich since 2017.

It involved a young man (19 at the time), who took off his condom during sex with an 18-year-old woman, without, however, informing her or asking for her consent to do so.

This practice is called ‘“stealthing’ in English.

The woman filed a complaint in a district court of Bülach (Zurich) and, after a series of rulings and appeals through higher courts (see above), ended up before the federal tribunal.

The case took so long because it had many twists and turns.

Stealthing is not punishable by Swiss law, which is why both the district and cantonal court acquitted the young man

The Federal Court  also acquitted him, but reassessed the case from the perspective of sexual harassment. That ruling had stuck, and the young man must now pay a 2,500-franc fine, in addition to 7,200 francs in court costs.

Forced vaccine

In the most recent case, which The Local reported last week, the Federal Court sided with the man who wanted his ex-wife to be forced to vaccinate their two children against measles.

The mother, an anti-vaxxer, had refused to do so, and the long-winded battle between the parents, which made its way through the lower courts, eventually landed in the federal tribunal.

As it had done in several previous similar cases when parents didn’t see eye to eye about vaccinating their children, the court followed the  public health guidelines, which are clearly in favour of childhood immunisations.

Therefore, judges sided with the father, giving the mother an order to immunise her children against measles.

Parents can be made to vaccinate their children court ruled. Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash

Assisted suicide

In another recent case, from June, the court acquitted a Swiss doctor, Erika Preisig, who was charged with homicide for helping a mentally ill patient die in a Basel assisted suicide clinic. 

Previously, predominantly people suffering from physical ailments could benefit from voluntary suicide, which is legal but well-regulated in Switzerland.
However, Preisig was charged because she had violated the previous Federal Court ruling, from 2006, which required a psychiatric evaluation on the patient before helping them die.

In June, the court overturned its old decision, finding that although Preisig had not obtained a psychiatric report, she had studied the medical records, had intensive discussions with the patient, questioned relatives, and obtained a second opinion. The mentally ill person was understood to have made a well-considered decision and was capable of judgement. 

The Federal Court had therefore confirmed that Preisig could assume, even without a psychiatric expert opinion, that the patient had a permanent wish to die, as she suffered from an incurable, permanent, severe mental impairment.

READ ALSO: What to know about Switzerland’s latest court judgement on assisted suicide


While obtaining Swiss citizenship is a long and complicated process, and rejections at communal level are often made arbitrarily, the Federal Court had sided with applicants on several occasions.
For instance, in 2018, the court ordered the commune of Trimmis in canton Graubünden to grant Swiss citizenship to an Iranian refugee who had lived in the community for 30 years. 

It reversed a ruling made previously by the lower court, which sided with local authorities who denied the man the right to become Swiss.