Switzerland is a federal parliamentary republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities, the so-called Bundesstadt ("federal city"). The country is situated in Western and Central Europe, where it is bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. Switzerland is a landlocked country geographically divided between the Alps, the Swiss Plateau and the Jura, spanning an area of 41,285 km2 (15,940 sq mi). While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of approximately 8 million people is concentrated mostly on the Plateau, where the largest cities are to be found; among them are the two global and economic centers of Zürich and Geneva.
The Swiss climate is generally temperate, but can vary greatly between the localities. from glacial conditions on the mountaintops to the often pleasant near Mediterranean climate at Switzerland's southern tip. There are some valley areas in the southern part of Switzerland where some cold-hardy palm trees are found. Summers tend to be warm and humid at times with periodic rainfall so they are ideal for pastures and grazing. The less humid winters in the mountains may see long intervals of stable conditions for weeks, while the lower lands tend to suffer from inversion, during these periods, thus seeing no sun for weeks.
Switzerland has four official languages: principally German (65.3% total population share, with foreign residents; 73.2% of residents with Swiss citizenship, in 2011); French (22.4%; 23.1%) in the west; Italian (8.4%; 6.1%) in the south. Romansh (0.6%; 0.7%), a Romance language spoken locally in the southeastern trilingual canton of Graubünden, is designated by the Federal Constitution as a national language along with German, French and Italian (Article 4 of the Constitution), and as official language if the authorities communicate with persons of Romansh language (Article 70), but federal laws and other official acts do not need to be decreed in this language. In 2011, the languages most spoken at home among permanent residents aged 15 and older were: Swiss German (4,027,917, or 61.1%); French (1,523,094, 23.1%); Standard German (637,439, 9.7%); Italian (545,274, 8.2%); Ticinese and Grisons (107,973, 1.6%); Romansh (37,490, 0.57%); and English (278,407, 4.2%). Speakers of other languages at home numbered 1,382,508, or 16.5% of the population.
Switzerland had a population of 8.02 million as of 2012. Its population quadrupled over the period 1800 to 1990 (average doubling time 95 years). Population growth was steepest in the period after World War II (1.4% per annum during 1950-1970, doubling time 50 years), it slowed down during the 1970s to 1980s and has since again picked up to 1% during the 2000s (doubling time 70 years). More than 75% of the population live in the central plain, which stretches between the Alps and the Jura Mountains and from Geneva in the southwest to the Rhine River and Lake Constance in the northeast. Foreigners with permanent residency (which does not include temporary foreign workers) make up about 23% of the population.
Switzerland has no official state religion, though most of the cantons (except Geneva and Neuchâtel) recognize official churches, which are either the Catholic Church or the (Protestant) Swiss Reformed Church. These churches, and in some cantons also theOld Catholic Church and Jewish congregations, are financed by official taxation of adherents.
As of 2012 Christianity is the predominant religion of Switzerland, divided between the Catholic Church (38.2% of the population), the Swiss Reformed Church (26.9%) and other Christian denominations (5.7%). Geneva converted to Protestantism in 1536, just before John Calvin arrived there. Immigration has brought Islam (4.9%) and Eastern Orthodoxy(around 2%) as sizeable minority religions. As of the 2000 census other Christian minority communities include Neo-Pietism (0.44%), Pentecostalism (0.28%, mostly incorporated in the Schweizer Pfingstmission), Methodism (0.13%), the New Apostolic Church (0.45%), Jehovah's Witnesses (0.28%), other Protestant denominations (0.20%), the Old Catholic Church (0.18%), other Christian denominations (0.20%). Non-Christian religions are Hinduism (0.38%), Buddhism (0.29%), Judaism (0.25%) and others (0.11%); 4.3% did not make a statement. 11.1% in 2000 and already 21.4% in 2012 declared themselves as unchurched i.e. not affiliated with any church or other religious body (Agnostic, Atheist, or just not related to any official religion).
The cuisine of Switzerland is multifaceted. While some dishes such as fondue, raclette or rösti are omnipresent through the country, each region developed its own gastronomy according to the differences of climate and languages. Traditional Swiss cuisine uses ingredients similar to those in other European countries, as well as unique dairy products and cheeses such as Gruyère or Emmental, produced in the valleys of Gruyères and Emmental. The number of fine-dining establishments is high, particularly in western Switzerland. Chocolate had been made in Switzerland since the 18th century but it gained its reputation at the end of the 19th century with the invention of modern techniques such as conching and tempering which enabled its production on a high quality level. Also a breakthrough was the invention of solid milk chocolate in 1875 by Daniel Peter. The Swiss are the world's largest consumers of chocolate. The most popular alcoholic drink in Switzerland is wine. Switzerland is notable for the variety of grapes grown because of the large variations in terroirs, with their specific mixes of soil, air, altitude and light. Swiss wine is produced mainly in Valais, Vaud (Lavaux), Geneva and Ticino, with a small majority of white wines. Vineyards have been cultivated in Switzerland since the Roman era, even though certain traces can be found of a more ancient origin. The most widespread varieties are the Chasselas (called Fendant in Valais) and Pinot noir. The Merlot is the main variety produced in Ticino.
Being in the centre of Europe, Switzerland has a dense network of roads and railways. The Swiss public transport network has a total length of 24,500 kilometers and comprises more than 26,000 stations and stops. The crossing of the Alps is an important route for European transportation, as the Alps separate Switzerland from some of its neighbors. Alpine railway routes began in 1882 with the Gotthard Rail Tunnel, followed in 1906 by the Simplon Tunnel. The Lötschberg Base Tunnel opened in 2007. The Gotthard Base Tunnel is scheduled to open in 2016. The Swiss road network is funded by road tolls and vehicle taxes. The Swiss motorway system requires the purchase of a road tax disc - which costs 40 Swiss francs - for one calendar year in order to use its roadways, for both passenger cars and trucks. The Swiss motorway network has a total length of 1,638 kilometers (as of 2000) and has also - with an area of 41,290 km2 - one of the highest motorway densities in the world.
The lakeshore’s star attraction is the water jet, dazzling visitors as it shoots 140 metres into the sky. It is best seen from the Bains des Pâquis, this incredible ‘beach’ in the city centre where Geneva’s smart set meets for a swim, a sauna or to eat a fondue! Another exceptional vantage point: a boat cruise on the lake, offering a unique view of the MontBlanc!
Switzerland’s biggest historical city is overlooked by St. Peter’s Cathedral, the centre of the Reformation movement. 157 steps lead to the top of its tower for a stunning view of the town. Stroll along the backstreets and discover the city’s many historical treasures.
A stone’s throw away from the elegant Place de Neuve in the exceptionally beautiful Parc des Bastions, the famous Reformation Wall portrays Europe’s major reformers. Four giant statues remind us of Geneva’s important role in the history of religions.
The European headquarters of the United Nations have become the centre of world diplomacy. Under the dome of the "Human Rights and Alliance for Civilisations' Room", many secrets are shared. And on the Place des Nations, standing in front of the monumental ‘Broken Chair’, you are reminded of Geneva’s contribution to peace and freedom.
This is where the Internet was born 20 years ago. And this is where 10,000 physicists try to unlock the secrets of the universe and the Big Bang: CERN, the world’s largest laboratory for particle physics, is based in Geneva. Enter a new dimension by admiring its impressive emblem, the Globe of Science and Innovation where you can visit, free of charge, the “Universe of Particles Exhibition”.
The hotel offers a snack bar/deli. A bar/lounge is on site where guests can unwind with a drink. Guests can enjoy a complimentary breakfast. An Internet point is located on site and high-speed wireless Internet access is complimentary.