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One nation, diverse voices and diverse cultures

One nation, diverse cultures.© Swiss Image

What do the famous typeface Helvetica, the laid-back riffs of Sophie Hunger, the award-winning novel “The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair”, the stunning architecture of the Peking National Stadium, the satirical sketches by cartoonist Mix & Remix, and the sinister sci-fi creature Alien have in common? They are all Swiss creations.

With its blend of Romance and Germanic traditions, and diverse cultures brought by those who have lived or travelled here, Switzerland is a fascinating melting pot in the heart of Europe where many different people, languages and religious beliefs co-exist. Its creative and cultural output reflects the diversity of this multilingual and cosmopolitan environment. There are a wealth of organisations dedicated to the arts, such as museums, foundations, galleries, festivals and independent bodies, who nurture homegrown and international creative talent.

Switzerland’s media (TV, radio, print and online) cover all facets of Swiss cultural life, and in the four national languages (German, French, Italian and Rhaetoromansch). There is also swissinfo, the 10-language news and information platform of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG/SSR, which helps raise the international profile of Swiss arts and culture.

The illustrated books of Rodolphe Töpffer, “Les Trois Cloches” performed famously by Edith Piaf and written by Jean Villard (aka Gilles), the graphic design of Adrian Frutiger and his fonts which are used around the world, the paintings of Ferdinand Hodler and the watercolours of Paul Klee are all examples of Switzerland’s rich cultural and artistic heritage.

Other leading contributors to Switzerland’s diverse creative output include Sophie Taeuber-Arp with the bohemian Cabaret Voltaire and its literary salon, the novelist Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz whose works chronicle an entire era of Swiss history, and Ella Maillart a renowned travel writer and photographer. Joining these ranks are Pascal Mercier, aka Peter Bieri, the author of the best-selling  “Night Train to Lisbon”, the Ticino poet and writer Fabio Pusterla, Johanna Spyri, the creator of “Heidi”, Annemarie Schwarzenbach and, of course, Max Frisch and Friedrich Dürrenmatt.

Switzerland is also the birthplace of sculptors Alberto Giacometti, famed for his thin, elongated figures, and Jean Tinguely, a leading proponent of kinetic art, as well as internationally acclaimed architects Le Corbusier and Mario Botta. Switzerland has also left its mark on the world of industrial design thanks to figures like Karl Elsener, the man behind the iconic Victorinox Swiss army knife. In the field of performing arts there is the Rudra-Béjart dance school founded by the acclaimed choreographer Maurice Béjart, plays by Daniele Finzi Pasca as well as the Dimitri theatre company and drama school in Verscio (canton of Ticino).

Switzerland also has a packed cultural events calendar, including international book fairs (Salon du livre in Geneva, Buch Basel), an international competition for young dancers (Grand Prix de Lausanne), as well as several science fiction museums (Maison d’Ailleurs, Museum HR Giger) and outsider art collections (Collection de l’Art Brut Lausanne). It also hosts countless film, theatre, comic book and music festivals, the largest of which attract in excess of 200,000 visitors.

Contemporary art also occupies a prominent position in Switzerland’s cultural landscape, with art lovers from around the world converging on the city of Basel every year for its eponymous international art festival. In 2013 4,000 artists from 39 countries exhibited at Art Basel. Over the last few decades Swiss design, which is widely hailed for its clean, elegant lines, has enjoyed growing international recognition. The advent of new materials has seen the emergence of innovative and unique products, such as the iconic FREITAG bags made from recycled lorry tarpaulins. To keep this creative momentum going, Switzerland has several art schools which nurture up-and-coming talent. The works produced in some of these schools already enjoy international acclaim.

If you would like to find out more about arts and culture in Switzerland, browse through the “Culture” section on