How many cantons in switzerland

Switzerland is made up of cantons, yes. But just how many are there? Again, what is a canton? How are cantons formed? Who is in charge of a canton? What are the biggest and smallest cantons in Switzerland? All of your canton-related questions have been answered here.. 

A Canton is what you would call a state in other countries like the US. The Swiss country is made up of 26 cantons. 

Switzerland cantons

Switzerland is one country that has great respect for its roots. Some of the historical cultures are still in place today. Most of Switzerland's cantons have their history dating back to 100 years ago. Earlier, each canton had its own money and army. This continued until 1848 when Switzerland took on the federal operation structure that it has now. 

Switzerland is made up of 20 full cantons and 6 half cantons. This makes a total of 26 cantons in the country. 

Full cantons have 2 seats in the senate, while half cantons have 1 seat. Also, in cases where the majority of cantons are casting a vote to approve a constitutional change, a half canton has half vote. Besides this, the internal autonomy of cantons is the same. 

There is a constitution governing each Canton which is approved by the federal parliament. The Cantonal government is in charge of the constitution for each canton. The government consists of 5 to 6 persons elected by the people. The government is exposed to a broad range of power levels including setting their tax rates, having their education system, running their social services and other sectors the way they deem fit, as long as it is in line with the federal legislation. 

Each canton varies in size. Currently, the most populated canton is Zurich with about 1.3 million inhabitants. Appenzell Inner Rhodes has the least population with just 15,000 people. The largest canton is Graubunden with over 7000 sq km out of Switzerland’s 41,000. The smallest canton is Basel city with 37 sq km.  

History of cantons

The first three cantons; Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden were formed by local notables in Swiss central in 1291 as a symbol of an alliance. Every canton has a unique official language. Originally, the cantons were formed when independent groups having a similar goal came together to reduce the conflicts between them. Eventually, the group grew and became home to a lot of people. 

Roles of cantons

Each canton contains several cities. Cities are known as communes in Switzerland. So while the cantons are in charge of funding and supervising most of the systems, the communes are in charge of running the systems. Citizens have a closer relationship and are more likely to interact with their commune and canton leaders than the federal government. 

The canton list

Here is a table containing the canton, its capital, and the official languages in it. 

S/N Cantons Capital Language
1 Aargau Aarau German
2 Appenzell Ausserrhoden Herisau German
3 Appenzell Innerrhoden Appenzell German
4 Basel-Landschaft Liestal German
5 Basel-Stadt Basel German
6 Bern/Berne Bern German/French
7 Fribourg/ Freiburg Fribourg French/ German
8 Geneve Geneva French
9 Glarus Glarus German
10 Graubunden/Grischun/Grigioni Chur German, Romansh, Italian.
11 Jura Delemont French
12 Luzern Lucerne German
13 Neuchatel Neuchatel French
14 Nidwalden Stans German
15 Obwalden Sarnen German
16 St. Gallen St. Gallen German
17 Schaffhausen Schaffhausen German
18 Schwyz Schwyz German
19 Solothurn Solothurn German
20 Thurgau Frauenfeld German
21 Ticino Bellinzona Italian
22 Uri Altdorf German
23 Valais/Wallis Sion French, German
24 Vaud Lausanne French
25 Zug Zug German
26 Zurich Zurich German


Most Swiss cantons have just a single language. A few others are bilingual and trilingual. 


Official language No of cantons
French 4
German 17
Italian 1



Official language No of cantons
French and German 3



Official language No of cantons
German, Romansh and Italian 1


There are some considerations that must be made before choosing which canton you should belong to. If you are moving to Swiss with the hope of becoming a Swiss citizen, then some cantons are easier to gain citizenship in. Cantons like; Vaud, Zurich, Geneva, and Schaffhausen have very easy requirements for citizenship. 

Other cantons like; Graubunden, Aargau and Bern are quite difficult to gain citizenship. 

All of the cantons have unique features that make them attractive to visitors from around the world. Switzerland is a destination country with lots of benefits to offer both visitors and citizens.