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Altdorf, Uri
Altdorf, Uri

Altdorf (sometimes written as Altdorf UR in order to distinguish it from the other "Altdorfs"; German for "old village") is a historic and statistical town and a municipality in the Swiss canton of Uri. It is also the capital of Uri.

The municipality covers an area of 10.21 square kilometres (3.94 sq mi) and is located just about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) south of the mouth of the Reuss, which flows into the Lake Lucerne, here called the Urnersee. The town Altdorf[1] lies at an altitude of 458 metres (1,503 ft) above sea level on the right, eastern bank of the Reuss, a flat, alluvial land of up to 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) diameter between otherwise steep and high Alpine mountains of around 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) elevation, but the municipality also covers the Alpine pasture landscape of Eggbergen about 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) above Altdorf.

It is also the junction towards to the two passes Saint Gotthard to the south, a major north-south axis through the Alps, and the Klausen Pass to the east. Altdorf sits on the Gotthard line and is the last railway station before the entrance into the new Gotthard Base Tunnel, the world's longest railway tunnel.

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


Altdorf consists of the town proper on the flat alluvial plain by the Reuss, between the right bank of the Reuss and the steep hillside of the Rossstock (2,461 m (8,074 ft)) to the east. Halfway up (about 1,000 metres (3,300 ft)) the scattered hamlets of Eggberge on a high terrace above the town also belongs to the municipality. Altdorf adjoins the municipalities of Attinghausen and Seedorf across the Reuss to the west, Flüelen, the port village at the Urnersee to the north, Bürglen in the Schächental to the east and south, and Schattdorf to the south.

The municipality has an area, as of 2006, of 10.2 km2 (3.9 sq mi). Of this area, 35.9% is used for agricultural purposes, while 39.3% is forested. Of the rest of the land, 23% is settled (buildings or roads) and the remainder (1.9%) is non-productive (rivers, glaciers or mountains).[4] In the 1993/97 land survey, 37.2% of the total land area was forested. Of the agricultural land, 0.7% is used for farming or pastures, while 35.2% is used for orchards or vine crops. Of the settled areas, 11.3% is covered with buildings, 2.6% is industrial, 0.8% is classed as special developments, 1.5% is listed as parks and greenbelts and 6.7% is transportation infrastructure. Of the unproductive areas, 1.1% is unproductive flowing water (rivers), there is 0.6% that is too rocky for vegetation, and 0.2% is other unproductive land.[5]


The earliest evidence of a settlement in Altdorf are several La Tène era bronze ax-heads and iron tools from the 3rd century BC. The people that settled in this region initially settled in the forest, and expanded toward the banks of the Reuss. When the Reuss periodically flooded, the low lying settlements were destroyed and the inhabitants were driven back to the "old town", a possible source of the name Altdorf.[6]

Following the collapse of the Roman Empire the local Gallo-Roman population of Altdorf began to mix with the Germanic Alamanni during the 7th century. The earliest evidence of this is the grave (dated to 670–680) of an armed horseman located in the local St Martin's Church.[7]

The current town was first mentioned in 1223 as Alttorf. During the 16 to 19th centuries it was known simply as Uri.[8]

Altdorf is best known as the place where, according to the legend, William Tell shot the apple from his son's head. This act by tradition happened on the market-place, where in 1895, at the foot of an old tower (with rude frescoes commemorating the feat), there was set up a fine bronze statue (by Richard Kissling of Zürich) of Tell and his son. In 1899 a theatre was opened close to the town's center for the purpose of performing Schiller's play of Wilhelm Tell. The same year a new carriage-road was opened from Altdorf through the Schächental and over the Klausen Pass (1,948 metres (6,391 ft)) to the village of Linthal (46 kilometres (29 mi)) and so to Glarus.[9]

In 1906, the Altdorf–Flüelen tramway was constructed to connect the centre of Altdorf with Fluelen railway station. The electric tramway operated until 1951, when it was replaced by a bus service.[10]


Altdorf has a population (as of 31 December 2018) of 9,401.[11] As of 2017, 1,347 people or 14.8% of the population was made up of foreign nationals.[12] From 2008 through 2017 the population has increased at an annual rate of 0,8%. [13] Most of the population (as of 2000) speaks German (88.3%), with Serbo-Croatian being second most common (4.2%) and Italian being third ( 2.5%).[4] As of 2007 the gender distribution of the population was 48.4% male and 51.6% female.[14]

In Altdorf about 65.2% of the population (between age 25–64) have completed either non-mandatory upper secondary education or additional higher education (either university or a Fachhochschule).[4]

Altdorf has an unemployment rate of 1.45%. As of 2005, there were 137 people employed in the primary economic sector and about 49 businesses involved in this sector. 1,748 people are employed in the secondary sector and there are 77 businesses in this sector. 3,585 people are employed in the tertiary sector, with 403 businesses in this sector.[4]


Historisches Museum and the Haus für Kunst Uri

In 1905 a Museum was opened on Gottardstrasse just south of the centre of the town that houses a collection of local antiquities, weapons and regional furniture, as well as a collection of portraits of important Uri citizens, including fine ones by the Andermatt-born Felix Maria Diogg (1762–1834). There are several paintings here by the Swiss-born American artist Adolfo Müller-Ury (1862–1947) whose family came from Hospental, including portraits of Pope Pius X, Pope Pius XI, Cardinal Merry del Val, the artist's father Alois Muller, his uncle Domherr Josef Muller, and a large allegorical work Alpenrose und Edelweiss. The museum was extended in the 1990s.

Recently the town has established the Haus für Kunst Uri at Herrengasse 2 in a partly converted historic house with a large contemporary extension creating an attractive exhibition space. The work of Swiss and international contemporary artists from Uri is exhibited here, and they sometimes have exhibitions of earlier historical art.


Between 1961 and 1990 Altdorf had an average of 133.7 days of rain per year and on average received 1,099 mm (43.3 in) of precipitation. The wettest month was August during which time Altdorf received an average of 135 mm (5.3 in) of precipitation. During this month there was precipitation for an average of 13.2 days. The month with the most days of precipitation was June, with an average of 14.4, but with only 127 mm (5.0 in) of precipitation. The driest month of the year was February with an average of 66 mm (2.6 in) of precipitation over 13.2 days.[15] According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Altdorf is classified as Cfb, or Marine West Coast Climate.[16]

International relations

Altdorf is twinned with:

  • [[INLINE_IMAGE|//|// 1.5x, // 2x|Germany|h14|w23|thumbborder flagicon-img flagicon-img]] Altdorf bei Nürnberg, Germany (since 1971)


Altdorf is served by the Altdorf station, situated within the municipality and on the Gotthard railway.

Notable people

  • Sebastian Peregrin Zwyer (1597 – 1661) was a Swiss military commander, mercenary entrepreneur, and one of the foremost politicians of the Old Swiss Confederacy; died in Altdorf
  • Beat Streuli (born 1957 in Altdorf, Uri) a Swiss visual artist who works with photo and video based media
  • Luzia Zberg (born 1970 in Altdorf, Uri) a retired racing cyclist
  • Beat Zberg (born 1971 in Altdorf, Uri) a Swiss former professional road bicycle racer
  • Matthias Simmen (born 1972 in Altdorf, Uri) a retired Swiss biathlete, he competed in the 2002, 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics
  • Markus Zberg (born 1974 in Altdorf, Uri) a retired Swiss professional road bicycle racer

See also

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