Administrative structure in Switzerland

Switzerland has been a federal state since 1948, also known as 'Swiss Confederation'. Power is divided between the Confederation, cantons and communes, with cantons and communes having a great deal of leeway to fulfil their duties. In this way it is possible for Switzerland to exist as a unit despite its many languages and regional characteristics. In the administrative-hierarchical order, a distinction is generally made between 4 levels: Confederation, cantons, districts and communes. Administrative units are uniquely identified by the so-called BFS or code numbers (BFS = Federal Statistical Office).

Quelle: Bundesamt fĂŒr Landestopografie, 2018 (swissBoundaries3D)
Political and administrative structure in Switzerland (as at 1.1.2019)

The cantons are the federal members of the federal state with a high degree of autonomy. Among the 26 cantons with equal rights, 6 are also counted as semi-cantons (Basel-Stadt and Basel-Landschaft; Ob- and Nidwalden; Appenzell A. Rh. and I. Rh.). The Federal Constitution thus speaks of 23 cantons. In principle, the cantons exercise all rights that are not transferred to the Confederation under the Federal Constitution. This also means that new tasks are first the responsibility of the cantons and are only transferred to the Confederation if they require uniform regulation. (cf.,

Districts are not political bodies but, with a few exceptions, purely administrative and judicial units and constituencies without autonomy. In some cantons, terms such as administrative region or district, constituency, office or district are also used. As an intermediate level between the canton and the municipalities, the district also plays a role in statistics. The small cantons without district subdivisions are usually each represented as one district. In GraubĂŒnden, Thurgau, Ticino and Vaud, the districts are further subdivided into districts.

The districts in Appenzell Innerrhoden tend to correspond in their functions to political communities, while those in Schwyz are at the same time public corporations with their own legal personality. The districts in Uri and Nidwalden also had or have a corporative character. Some cantons have exclaves. (cf.

The municipalities are the lowest and smallest administrative units in Switzerland, with numerous political competences and tasks. As the political organisation at the local level is the responsibility of the cantons, the municipalities vary from canton to canton, both in terms of their size and their areas of responsibility, as well as their administrative and political structure. They often represent the lowest level of statistical coverage. According to the Federal Statistical Office (FSO), due to their heterogeneity and the annually fluctuating number caused by territorial reforms, they are only suitable for spatial and temporal analyses to a limited extent. (See

Counties in Switzerland designate administrative units that are mostly limited to certain functions and exist at different levels of government, i.e. at federal, cantonal and, in some cases, communal level. They allow administrative tasks to be performed beyond the traditional division into cantons, districts and municipalities. (cf.

Areas under the sovereignty of a canton.

Areas under the sovereignty of several political communes (so-called communes or communal areas)


Regiograph Switzerland: Administrative regions of Switzerland (online at: Federal Statistical Office: Switzerland's official municipal directory (online at: Federal Statistical Office: spatial planning of Switzerland (online at: Federal Statistical Office: Regional statistics (online at: Federal Statistical Office: Spatial analyses. Spatial structure (online at: Federal Chancellery BK (2019): The Confederation briefly explains (online at: Historical Dictionary of Switzerland (HLS)(online at

The FSO's Statistical Atlas of Switzerland enables you, among other things, to interactively display the administrative areas of Switzerland at various administrative and political levels, see: Cantons of Switzerland, Districts 2019, Communes 2019