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Why does Switzerland not have a capital city? Logo

Switzerland does not have an official capital city, as Bern has been a federal city since 1848. Although this is de facto the capital of Switzerland, from a purely legal point of view, however, it is not.

Historical reasons for Switzerland’s lack of a capital

Since 1803, there has been a rotation principle in Switzerland between the cities of Zurich, Bern, Lucerne, Solothurn, Basel and Freiburg with regard to the seat of the Swiss Diet and the Chancellery. This means that the so-called “suburb of Switzerland”, de facto the capital, changed every year or two.

With the Federal Constitution in 1848 and the abolition of the principle of rotation, the question of a fixed capital arose, which, however, could not be resolved by general agreement. Finally, in an election on November 28, 1848, Bern was chosen to be the federal city of Switzerland, but not its capital. The votes of the relevant national and state councils were decisive for this. However, there is still no current law in which Bern is anchored as a federal city.

Basic information about the city of Bern

Bern has almost 400,000 inhabitants, making it one of the largest municipalities in Switzerland alongside Zurich, Basel, Geneva and Lausanne. It is the capital of the canton of the same name and is located at around 550 meters above sea level. As a federal city, Bern is the largest administrative center in the country, which is also home to the Swiss Federal Assembly.