|Municipalities of Switzerland|
|Found in||Canton or District|
|Number||2,142 (as of 2022)|
|This article is part of a series on the|
Municipalities (German : Gemeinden, Einwohnergemeinden or politische Gemeinden; French : communes ; Italian : comuni; Romansh : vischnancas) are the lowest level of administrative division in Switzerland. Each municipality is part of one of the Swiss cantons, which form the Swiss Confederation. In most cantons, municipalities are also part of districts or other sub-cantonal administrative divisions.
There are 2,142 municipalities as of January 2022 [update] . Their populations range between several hundred thousand (Zürich), and a few dozen people (Kammersrohr, Bister), and their territory between 0.32 km² (Rivaz) and 439 km² (Scuol).
The beginnings of the modern municipality system date back to the Helvetic Republic. Under the Old Swiss Confederacy, citizenship was granted by each town and village to only residents. These citizens enjoyed access to community property and in some cases additional protection under the law. Additionally, the urban towns and the rural villages had differing rights and laws. The creation of a uniform Swiss citizenship, which applied equally for citizens of the old towns and their tenants and servants, led to conflict. The wealthier villagers and urban citizens held rights to forests, common land and other municipal property which they did not want to share with the "new citizens", who were generally poor. The compromise solution, which was written into the municipal laws of the Helvetic Republic, is still valid today. Two politically separate but often geographically similar organizations were created. The first, the so-called municipality, was a political community formed by election and its voting body consists of all resident citizens. However, the community land and property remained with the former local citizens who were gathered together into the Bürgergemeinde /bourgeoisie. During the Mediation era (1803–1814), and especially during the Restoration era (1814–1830), many of the gains toward uniform citizenship were lost. Many political municipalities were abolished and limits were placed on the exercise of political rights for everyone except the members of the Bürgergemeinde. In the Regeneration era (1830–1848), the liberal revolutions of the common people helped to restore some rights again in a few cantons. In other cantons, the Bürgergemeinden were able to maintain power as political communities. In the city of Zurich it was not until the Municipal Act of 1866 that the political municipality came back into existence.
The relationship between the political municipality and the Bürgergemeinde was often dominated by the latter's ownership of community property. Often the administration and profit from the property were totally held by the Bürgergemeinden, leaving the political municipality dependent on the Bürgergemeinde for money and use of the property. It was not until the political municipality acquired rights over property that served the public (such as schools, fire stations, etc.) and taxes, that they obtained full independence. For example, in the city of Bern, it was not until after the property division of 1852 that the political municipality had the right to levy taxes.
It was not until the Federal Constitution of 1874 that all Swiss citizens were granted equal political rights on local and Federal levels. This revised constitution finally removed all the political voting and electoral body rights from the Bürgergemeinde. In the cities, the percentage of members in the Bürgergemeinde in the population was reduced as a result of increasing emigration to the cities. This led to the Bürgergemeinde losing its former importance to a large extent. However, the Bürgergemeinde has remained, and it includes all individuals who are citizens of the Bürgergemeinde, usually by having inherited the Bürgerrecht (citizenship), regardless of where they were born or where they may currently live. Instead of the place of birth, Swiss legal documents, e.g. passports, contain the Bürgerort (place of citizenship, or place of origin). The Bürgergemeinde also often holds and administers the common property in the village for the members of the community.
Each canton determines the powers and responsibilities of its municipalities. These may include providing local government services such as education, medical and social services, public transportation, and tax collection. The degree of centralization varies from one canton to another. The federal constitution protects the autonomy of municipalities within the framework set out by cantonal law.
Municipalities are generally governed by an executive council headed by a president or mayor. Legislative authority is exercised by a town meeting of all citizens, or by a municipal parliament, depending on the size of the municipality, and on cantonal and municipal law. In some cantons, foreigners who have lived for a certain time in Switzerland are also allowed to participate in municipal politics. As at the cantonal and federal level, citizens enjoy political rights, including direct democratic ones, in their municipality.
Municipalities are financed through direct taxes (such as income tax), with rates varying more or less within a framework set by the canton (see Taxation in Switzerland). As among the cantons, there is a tax transfer among the municipalities to balance various levels of tax income.
Switzerland has a relatively high number of small municipalities, with a population of 1,000 or less, especially in rural areas. Because of the increasing difficulty in providing professional government services and in finding volunteers for political offices in small municipalities, the cantons tend to encourage voluntary mergers of municipalities. This led to the number of municipalities dropping by 384 between the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2019.
Some municipalities designate themselves as "city" (ville or Stadt) or as "village" (Dorf). These designations result from tradition or local preference – for example, several small municipalities designated as cities held city rights in medieval times – and normally do not impact the legal or political rights or obligations of the municipalities under cantonal or federal law.
Municipalities are numbered by the Swiss Federal Office for Statistics (see Community Identification Number#Switzerland ). One or more postal codes (PLZ/NPA) can by assigned to a municipality or shared with other municipalities.
|Population||No. of municipalities|
in 2004 (%)
Between 2011 and 2021 nine of the smallest municipalities merged into others as part of the effort to eliminate the smallest communities. Only Bister has not merged into a new municipality although the smallest municipality is now Kammersrohr with a population of just 32.
In addition to the municipalities as basic territorial political subdivisions, a number of other local subdivisions exist in several cantons. These include:
Solothurn is a town, a municipality, and the capital of the canton of Solothurn in Switzerland. It is located in the north-west of Switzerland on the banks of the Aare and on the foot of the Weissenstein Jura mountains.
The 26 cantons of Switzerland are the member states of the Swiss Confederation. The nucleus of the Swiss Confederacy in the form of the first three confederate allies used to be referred to as the Waldstätte. Two important periods in the development of the Old Swiss Confederacy are summarized by the terms Acht Orte and Dreizehn Orte.
The Council of States is the upper house of the Federal Assembly of Switzerland, with the National Council being the lower house. It comprises 46 members.
Appenzell Innerrhoden is one of the 26 cantons forming the Swiss Confederation. It is composed of six districts. The seat of the government and parliament is Appenzell. It is traditionally considered a "half-canton", the other half being Appenzell Ausserrhoden.
The Landsgemeinde or "cantonal assembly" is a public, non-secret ballot voting system operating by majority rule, which constitutes one of the oldest forms of direct democracy. Still at use – in a few places – at the subnational political level in Switzerland, it was formerly practiced in eight cantons. For practical reasons, the Landsgemeinde has been abolished at the cantonal level in all but two cantons where it still holds the highest political authority: Appenzell Innerrhoden and Glarus. The Landsgemeinde is also convened in some districts of Appenzell Innerrhoden, Grisons and Schwyz to vote on local questions.
The Helvetic Republic was a sister republic of France that existed between 1798 and 1803, during the French Revolutionary Wars. It was created following the French invasion and the consequent dissolution of the Old Swiss Confederacy, marking the end of the ancien régime in Switzerland. Throughout its existence, the republic incorporated most of the territory of modern Switzerland, excluding the cantons of Geneva and Neuchâtel and the old Prince-Bishopric of Basel.
Trub is one of the largest municipalities of Switzerland (62 km²) in size, but not in population. It is located in the Emmental region of the canton of Bern in the administrative district of Emmental.
During the French Revolutionary Wars, the revolutionary armies marched eastward, enveloping Switzerland in their battles against Austria. In 1798, Switzerland was completely overrun by the French and was renamed the Helvetic Republic. The Helvetic Republic encountered severe economic and political problems. In 1798 the country became a battlefield of the Revolutionary Wars, culminating in the Battles of Zürich in 1799.
The rise of Switzerland as a federal state began on 12 September 1848, with the creation of a federal constitution in response to a 27-day civil war, the Sonderbundskrieg. The constitution, which was heavily influenced by the United States Constitution and the ideas of the French Revolution, was modified several times during the following decades and wholly replaced in 1999. The 1848 constitution represented the first time, other than when the short-lived Helvetic Republic had been imposed, that the Swiss had a central government instead of being simply a collection of autonomous cantons bound by treaties.
The Swiss Confederation comprises the 26 cantons of Switzerland.
Voting in Switzerland is the process by which Swiss citizens make decisions about governance and elect officials. The history of voting rights in Switzerland mirrors the complexity of the nation itself. The polling stations are opened on Saturdays and Sunday mornings but most people vote by post in advance. At noon on Sunday, voting ends and the results are usually known during the afternoon.
Trubschachen is a municipality in the administrative district of Emmental in the canton of Bern in Switzerland.
Hilterfingen is a municipality in the administrative district of Thun in the canton of Bern in Switzerland.
Sigriswil is a municipality in the administrative district of Thun in the canton of Bern in Switzerland.
Willisau is a municipality in the district of Willisau in the Lucerne canton of Switzerland. It was formed on 1 January 2006 from the municipalities of Willisau Land and Willisau Stadt. On 1 January 2021 the former municipality of Gettnau merged into Willisau.
The Old Swiss Confederacy or Swiss Confederacy was a loose confederation of independent small states, initially within the Holy Roman Empire. It is the precursor of the modern state of Switzerland.
Bister is a municipality in the district of Raron in the canton of Valais in Switzerland.
Religion in Switzerland is predominantly Christianity, which, according to the national survey of the Swiss Federal Statistical Office, in 2020 was adhered to by 61.2% of resident population, of whom 33.8% were Catholics, 21.8% were Swiss Protestants, and 5.6% were followers of other Christian denominations. The proportion of Christians has declined significantly since 1980, when they constituted about 94% of the population; during the same timespan, unaffiliated Swiss residents have grown from about 4% to 31% of the population, and people professing non-Christian religions have grown from about 1% to 7% of the population. In 2020, according to church registers, 35.2% of the resident population were registered members of the country's Catholic Church, while 23.3% were registered members of the Protestant Church of Switzerland.
The Bürgergemeinde is a statutory corporation in public law in Switzerland. It includes all individuals who are citizens of the Bürgergemeinde, usually by having inherited the Bourgeoisie (citizenship), regardless of where they were born or where they may currently live. Membership of the Bürgergemeinde of a municipality is not to be confused with holding the municipality's citizenship, which, in certain cantons such as Valais, are two distinct legal concepts. Instead of the place of birth, Swiss legal documents, e.g. passports, contain the Heimatort. It is, however, possible for a person to not possess bourgeoisie of the municipality from which they originate; laws relating to these matters vary depending on the canton in which the Bürgergemeinde is located. The Bürgergemeinde also often holds and administers the common property which had been bequeathed or otherwise given to the members of the bourgeoisie. The political communes or municipalities, the parish and the Bürgergemeinde often include the same area but may be separate depending on the relevant cantonal law. With the increase in mobility since the first half of the 19th century, the Bürgergemeinde and the rights associated with citizenship in the municipality have lost most of their meaning. Today, in Switzerland there are nearly 2000 Bürgergemeinden and corporations.