8 interesting buildings in Switzerland
With the amount of historical events that have occurred in Switzerland over the years, it’s perhaps little surprise that the country is full of interesting things to do and places to explore. Nowhere is the country's connection to history more apparent than in Swiss architecture, with buildings in Switzerland offering an interesting insight into the country and its people.
Famous buildings in Switzerland
With such a rich and vibrant history, there are many famous buildings in Switzerland, both ancient and modern, that are well worth a visit. Here are eight of our favourites, chosen not necessarily for their beauty, but for their story and significance:
1. Neuchâtel Castle
Traditionally, when we mention castles in Switzerland, Chillon, Lenzburg or Bellinzona tend to come to mind. However, equally as beautiful and interesting is the large fortress that dominates the hill above Lake Neuchâtel.
Originally a residence for the kings and queens of Burgundy, the stunning 10th-century castle was upgraded with a new Romanesque-style south wing in the 19th century, featuring an incredibly detailed and beautiful facade.
After passing through various noble families, the castle became the headquarters for the Principality and Princes of Neuchâtel. From 1707, the princes were (almost) always the kings of the German state of Prussia. The area was allowed to join Switzerland in 1815, becoming the first and only canton to ever be technically controlled by a monarchy.
When a peaceful revolution came to the region in 1848, the principality was overthrown and the area was declared a full Swiss canton - the second youngest in the country after Jura. This was finally recognised by Prussian King Frederick William in 1857. The castle remains the home of the Neuchâtel’s now republican government.
2. Cathedral of Saint Gall
As the name suggests, the Abbey and Cathedral of Saint Gall were named after the Irish monk Gallus, who established a hermitage and lived in the surrounding area until 646. The hermitage soon grew into an imposing abbey, with the city that emerged around it named after the monk too, hence St. Gallen.
Granted World Heritage Status by UNESCO in 1983, the Cathedral of Saint Gall is a stunning example of baroque design. The Abbey Library of Saint Gall is also considered to be one of the richest medieval libraries that still survives today, with 160.000 books stored within its hallowed halls.
3. Federal Palace in Bern
Dominating the skyline of Bern, the Federal Palace is one of the most imposing and impressive buildings in the country. While Bern is technically not the capital of Switzerland, the Federal Palace serves as the seat of the Swiss government, including the President, Federal Council, National Assembly and the various federal departments.
Designed by a collection of Swiss architects and first built by Jakob Friedrich Studer, the complex was continuously expanded between 1857 and 1902. The building itself is a mixture of classicist and neo-renaissance style with excellent views of the River Aare and nearby mountains. If you can, try and book a tour so that you can see inside the halls of power!
4. Roche Tower 2 - The tallest building in Switzerland
Standing at 205 metres, Roche Tower 2 is the tallest building in Switzerland. Completed in 2022 and coming in at 50 floors, Roche Tower 2 dominates the skyline of Basel alongside Roche Tower 1 - now the second tallest building at just 178 metres.
The two serve, as the name suggests, as the headquarters of the pharmaceutical and international company, Roche. Together, the two skyscrapers house more than 2.000 workers and are the closest thing Switzerland has to a “skyscraper skyline”. For those interested, the third tallest building in the country is Prime Tower in Zurich, coming in at 126 metres.
Image credit: Michael Derrer Fuchs / Shutterstock.com
5. Pavillon Le Corbusier
While unremarkable on its face, the Pavillon Le Corbusier gives visitors a great insight into the mind of one of Switzerland's most famous figures: Le Corbusier. Built right next to China Garden in Zurich in 1960, the building was created to showcase what a museum designed by Le Corbusier would actually look like.
Built in steel frame and glass, the Pavillon was one of the precursors to the modern steel and glass designs seen around the world today. Within its walls, visitors can see the artworks and designs that made Le Corbusier famous the world over.
6. Einsiedeln Abbey
Dominating the local landscape, Einsiedeln Abbey is a monastery dedicated to the Order of Saint Benedict. Like its counterpart in St. Gallen, during its heyday, the abbey controlled and administered a lot of the surrounding region, which in this case came to be known as Canton Schwyz.
Established in 934, and rebuilt in 1704 and 1719, the abbey is one of the largest of its kind in Switzerland, boasting stunning frescos and other religious artefacts. Today, the complex is also home to a Swiss school.
7. Zentrum Paul Klee
Famous (and infamous for some) as a prime field trip destination for Swiss and international schools, the Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern was created to house the works of the Swiss-German artist. Alongside containing around 40 percent of the artist's work, the building itself is a sight to behold, resembling an undulating wave.
Built by Italian architect Renzo Piano, the building was completed in 2005. The architect explained that the design of the building was an attempt to get the complex to “blend” into the landscape.
8. Bourbaki Panorama Lucerne
While the Bourbaki Panorama building in Lucerne may not be very interesting in its own right, the most fascinating thing about the complex has to be what is housed inside. After just a few flights of stairs, visitors to the exhibition are greeted with a 112-metre-long circular painting full to the brim with beauty and detail.
The painting itself commemorates the moment that 87.000 French soldiers fled across the border to Switzerland in the winter of 1871, during the Franco-Prussian War. As part of the conflict, the French Army of the East, led by General Charles-Denis Bourbaki, was defeated and forced to flee and disarm in Switzerland, as the Swiss Army and Red Cross provided aid to the beleaguered soldiers.
The moment the army crosses the border is captured in the massive panoramic painting. The work, created by Swiss artist Édouard Castres, was originally displayed in Geneva before moving to Lucerne in 1889.
Tick these buildings in Switzerland off your to-see list!
We hope that we’ve convinced you that these buildings in Switzerland are well worth a visit. Of course, this is only a small selection, so if you have an interesting building that you’d like to shout out, let us know in the comments below!