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Architecture of Switzerland

Swiss Architecture - Notre Dame in Lausanne
Notre Dame in Lausanne

Switzerland has a couple of the world's best preserved examples of Carolingian architecture, which was a pre-Romanesque style that thrived from about 780-900 AD in the Frankish Empire. The Convent of St. John (c. 780) in Mustair and the Convent of St. Gall (c. 700s) in St. Gallen are both excellent examples of this style.

After this, the Gothic style flourished in parts of Switzerland. Notre Dame Cathedral in Lausanne (1170-1240) is a great example in Gothic as are a few cities in whole or in part. Berne's old town was greatly developed in the 1100s, but has buildings in various styles since; the city of Bellinzona, most notably their three castles (primarily built in the 1300s-1400s) are also from the Gothic time period; finally, Zurich has a number of structures in the Gothic style, including Munsterhof area and the bordering Fraumunster Church.

There is little Renaissance or Baroque architecture in Switzerland and, not surprisingly, most of it is located in the Italian-speaking part of the country. The Madonna del Sasso Sanctuary (begun in 1480) near Locarno is a good example from this time period. In the German-speaking part of the country is the already mentioned Convent of St. Gall, which received an addition in the late 1700s in the Baroque style.

Swiss Architecture - Chateau in the Alps
Chateau in the Alps

In many Swiss villages the predominant architectural style is constructed of wood and the most recognizable of these styles are the Swiss Chalets, which is actually a style from southern Germany, but became popular in German-speaking Swiss villages and towns. While nearly every Swiss mountain village has a few buildings in this style, Zermatt is one of the best known as much of the town is in the style and it remains in good condition as nearly the entire town has been built since the late 1800s.

Other modern architecture can be found in any major city, most notably in Zurich and Geneva. These cities, along with many others, have adopted modern architecture rather quickly and each has a skyline of concrete and glass structures, although some cities regulate where new constructions can be built.

This page was last updated: May, 2014