swissworld.org - Switzerland's official information portal

swissworld.org - Switzerland's official information portal

Your Gateway to Switzerland

Where people live

High rise flats encroach into Bern's rural suburbs (in new window)

High rise flats encroach into Bern's rural suburbs© swissworld.org

Just over two thirds of the Swiss population now live in urban areas. About one third of the population live in the conurbations of the five biggest cities: Zurich, Geneva, Basel, Bern and Lausanne.

Of the rest, about half live in the other urban regions and half live in rural areas.

Only 16 towns have a population of over 30,000.

Recent trends

In recent years the trend has been for people to move out of the city centres into the communes of the outer suburbs.

People used to leave the mountain regions in search of work and a more comfortable way of life, but many of these regions are now becoming inhabited again. At weekends and during the vacation people come from the lowlands for recreation. Old houses are being renovated as second homes.

"Our village is modeled after how the mountain dwellers used to live, with houses packed together tightly: they chose their plots away from the avalanche slopes, using the forest for protection, and they built their houses there close together. In those days, up to 500 people were crammed into 40 houses. The houses were full of people and in days gone by, when people used to enjoy sitting out on the stone steps in front of the house after work, they must have seemed more neighborly and happier. Now there are only 40 people here (...) and so most of the houses are empty."

Giovanni Orelli (1928 - ) Novelist, poet and essayist from Ticino