Coat of arms
Coordinates: 46°53′N 8°14′E / 46.883°N 8.233°E / 46.883; 8.233Coordinates: 46°53′N 8°14′E / 46.883°N 8.233°E / 46.883; 8.233
Country Switzerland
Canton Obwalden
District n.a.
  Mayor Werner Stauffer
  Total 73.11 km2 (28.23 sq mi)
Elevation 473 m (1,552 ft)
Population (Dec 2015[2])
  Total 10,229
  Density 140/km2 (360/sq mi)
Postal code 6060-6061
SFOS number 1407
Localities Sarnen-Dorfschaft, Kägiswil, Schwendi/Wilen and Ramersberg
Surrounded by Alpnach, Entlebuch (LU), Flühli (LU), Giswil, Hasle (LU), Kerns, Sachseln
SFSO statistics

Sarnen is the capital of the canton of Obwalden situated on the shores of Lake Sarnen (Sarner See), Switzerland. It has a population of just over 10,000 and is surrounded by countryside and mountains. Sarnen is located 20 km south of Lucerne.

The official language of Sarnen is (the Swiss variety of Standard) German, but the main spoken language is the local variant of the Alemannic Swiss German dialect.


Stone Age and Bronze Age finds show that the Sarnen valley was inhabited from the earliest times. Over the years Sarnen developed into an important trading center.


Sarnen is situated at an altitude of 473 m (1,552 ft) on the shore of the Lake Sarner (Sarner See). Lake Sarner covers approximately an area of 7.5 km2 (2.9 sq mi). The town is surrounded by mountain chains and a protected bog can be found nearby. The most well-known mountain close to Sarnen is Mount Pilatus with an elevation of 2,132 m (6,995 ft).

Sarnen has an area, as of 2006, of 73.1 square kilometers (28.2 sq mi). Of this area, 40% is used for agricultural purposes, while 50.9% is forested. Of the rest of the land, 5.2% is settled (buildings or roads) and the remainder (4%) is non-productive (rivers, glaciers or mountains).[3]

The municipality is made up of 5 sections; Sarnen (population 5,984), Stalden (pop. 1,072), Wilen (pop. 1,234), Kägiswil (pop. 1,214) and Ramersberg (pop. 294).[4]


Sarnen has a population (as of 31 December 2015) of 10,229.[5] As of 2007, 12.8% of the population was made up of foreign nationals.[6] Over the last 10 years the population has grown at a rate of 6.7%. Most of the population (as of 2000) speaks German (91.0%), with Italian being second most common ( 1.6%) and Albanian being third ( 1.6%).[3] As of 2000 the gender distribution of the population was 49.9% male and 50.1% female. As of 2000 there are 3,452 households in Sarnen.[6]

In the 2007 federal election the most popular party was the CVP which received 34.8% of the vote. The next three most popular parties were the SVP (30%), the Other (22.7%) and the SPS (12.6%).[3]

In Sarnen about 68.6% of the population (between age 25-64) have completed either non-mandatory upper secondary education or additional higher education (either university or a Fachhochschule).[3]

Sarnen has an unemployment rate of 1.16%. As of 2005, there were 465 people employed in the primary economic sector and about 182 businesses involved in this sector. 1,854 people are employed in the secondary sector and there are 119 businesses in this sector. 3,649 people are employed in the tertiary sector, with 451 businesses in this sector.[3]

As of 2008, the religious membership of the municipality was; 7,403 or 74.7% are Roman Catholic, while 779 or 7.9% belonged to the Swiss Reformed Church. Of the rest of the population, there are 39 individuals (or about 0.39% of the population) who belong to the Christian Catholic faith. There are 1,687 individuals (or about 17.03% of the population) who belong to another church (not listed on the census) or no church.[6]

The historical population is given in the following table:[4]

year population
1945 5,723
1955 6,336
1965 6,686
1975 7,015
1985 7,956
1995 8,858
2000 9,218
2005 9,472
2006 9,512
2007 9,617
2008 9,798

Sarnen today


The town of Sarnen has been experiencing steady growth over the past years. It has become more attractive due to its proximity to Lucerne. Many commuters work in Lucerne and use the motorway or railway service to get to work.

Among companies active in Sarnen include SIKA AG (Specialty Chemicals), Leister Technologies (heated-air tools) and Nahrin AG (healthy nutrition).



The highwayA8 passes by Sarnen.


Giswil is served by Sarnen station on the Brünig line, an inter-regional narrow-gauge railway from Interlaken to Lucerne. The hourly InterRegio train between Interlaken and Lucerne stops at the station, as does the half-hourly Lucerne S-Bahn S5 service between Giswil and Lucerne.


Switzerland has three major international airports: Geneva, Zurich and Basel. Both Basel (at 125 km) and Zurich (90 km) airports are closer to Sarnen than Geneva airport (260 km). The journey from either airport by road takes from about 1 h to 1 hour 20 minutes.

Geneva and Zurich airports have built-in railway stations. The journey from Zurich takes between 1 h 30 min and 1 h 55 min depending on train connections.


Sarnen has an average of 139.3 days of rain per year and on average receives 1,200 mm (47 in) of precipitation. The wettest month is August during which time Sarnen receives an average of 162 mm (6.4 in) of precipitation. During this month there is precipitation for an average of 13.6 days. The month with the most days of precipitation is June, with an average of 14.6, but with only 147 mm (5.8 in) of precipitation. The driest month of the year is January with an average of 66 mm (2.6 in) of precipitation over 13.6 days.[7]


Nicholas of Flüe


  1. Arealstatistik Standard - Gemeindedaten nach 4 Hauptbereichen
  2. Swiss Federal Statistical Office - STAT-TAB, online database – Ständige und nichtständige Wohnbevölkerung nach institutionellen Gliederungen, Geburtsort und Staatsangehörigkeit (German) accessed 30 August 2016
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Swiss Federal Statistical Office accessed 3 September 2009
  4. 1 2 Sarnen in Numbers (German) accessed 3 September 2009
  5. Swiss Federal Statistical Office - STAT-TAB, online database – Ständige und nichtständige Wohnbevölkerung nach institutionellen Gliederungen, Geburtsort und Staatsangehörigkeit (German) accessed 30 August 2016
  6. 1 2 3 Canton Obwalden Statistics accessed 2 September 2009 (German)
  7. "Temperature and Precipitation Average Values-Table, 1961-1990" (in German, French, and Italian). Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology - MeteoSwiss. Retrieved 8 May 2009., the weather station elevation is 475 meters above sea level.
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