Switzerlandis a landlocked country in Central Europe. It has borders with France to the west, Italy to the south, Austria and Liechtenstein to the east and Germany to the north.
The geography of Switzerland is notable for its great diversity. Switzerland’s three main geographical regions are the Jura, Plateau and the Alps.
The geography of Switzerland means that the climate varies greatly from one region to another. Depending on the area and the time of year, Switzerland experiences conditions reminiscent both of Siberia and of the Mediterranean.
Switzerland has 6 per cent of Europe's stock of fresh water. The Rhine, Rhone and Inn all take their source here, although their waters flow into three seas: the North Sea, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
The diversity of Switzerland is reflected in its climate, despite its small size. The Alps are an important factor here. They act as a barrier, so the weather in the north is often quite different from that in the south. It is noticeably milder in winter in the south than in the north.
Bern is the capital of Switzerland, and also the capital of the canton of the same name.
As the seat of government, the city houses the federal ministries and a number of other federal institutions, including the National Bank.
Zurich is the capital of the canton of the same name. It lies on the river Limmat where it flows out of Lake Zurich, and is the largest town in Switzerland. The city is a cultural mecca, and in international polls frequently figures among the most desirable cities in the world to live in. In the 19th and 20th centuries in particular it attracted many notable writers, artists and composers. Zurich is a leading global city and among the world's largest financial centres.
Culture and Heritage
The culture of Switzerland is characterised by diversity. The Swiss sometimes wonder what keeps Switzerland together. The wide range of traditional customs is one reflection of this diversity.
Switzerland boasts a thriving arts scene, with its architects in particular achieving world-wide acclaim.
Well-known artists of the 19th and the start of 20th centuries include Albert Anker, Arnold Boecklin and Ferdinand Hodler. Some of the important figures in 20th century art were Swiss/Swiss-born, respectively: Alberto Giacometti (1901-66), famous for his sculptures of elongated figures, and Paul Klee (1879-1940).
Many Swiss artists have made their names with absurd and playful works of art. Surrealist Meret Oppenheim's most famous work, "Fur Breakfast", is on display at MoMA.
Switzerland has some 1000 museums, one of the densest museum networks in the world, with one for about every 7,400 people.
Switzerland is the venue for one of the major international film festivals, held every August in the southern Italian-speaking town Locarno. The main prize is the Golden Leopard.