Switzerland - festivals not to miss by Mark Sukhija

Switzerland has numerous festivals and events through the year. Here, I'll give you just the top 10 which I reckon are amongst the most noteworthy. This list is by no means definative so get in touch if theres something you think I've missed.

  1. Basler Fasnacht - Basler would have you believe that Fasnacht are "the three most wonderful days" in any calendar. And they'd not be far wrong. Kicking off with "Morgenstreich" at 4 am on Monday and continuing until 4 am Thursday, this is an intoxicating mix of piccolos and politics comes replete with huge lanterns and a Monster Concert on the Tuesday evening. Be sure to wander the streets discovering the wandering picollo players. Feb / March

  2. White Turf, St Moritz - The frozen lake of St Moritz is home to Switzerlands premier equestrian event. Gallops, trots and a fast and furious ski-joring event over varying distances against a mountainous backdrop is quite a remarkable setting. To my knowledge, White Turf is the only event in the world where Ski-Joring with horses is practised professionally. Feb / March

  3. Zürich Street Parade - A feast of techno and dance music. Several "Love Mobiles" pump out techno and dance music along the shore front of Lake Zürich in what has to be loudest festival in Zürich . Assorted dancers and other scantily-clad types adorn the "Love Mobiles" and the streets of Zürich . Not really my cup of tea - but there's some great pictures to be had. August

  4. Rapperswil Blues n Jazz - Rappi Blues n Jazz festival is one of my favorite Swiss festivals. Intimately set in the three squares of Rapperswil's Old Town, Rapperswil invariably attracts a convivial and knowledgable crowd and excellent artists, including Roger Chapman in 2008. June

  5. Montreux Jazz Festival - Probably Switzerlands most well-known festival attracting top-flight artists from around the world. Tickets sell out well in advance and hotels prices, already pricey in Montreux, tick up - so book well in advance. July

  6. Appenzell Landsgemeinde - Open-air parliament where the citizens of Appenzell Innerhoden gather in the main square of the picture-postcard old town to elect their council leaders and vote on matters of concern for the coming year. One of the most accessible aspects of genuine Swiss "Direct Democracy" in action. April.

  7. Combat des Reines - Each year the farmers of Canton Valais bring their Heren-breed of cows through several local rounds of combat to find the Queen of the Cows. All this culminates in the Cantonal Final which establishes the Queen of the Cows in the whole Canton who is then adorned with flowers and a giant cow bell. Of course, it's not all entertainment as the value of the ultimate winner is increased by some tens-of-thousands of Francs. This is no bull fight or running of the bulls as in Spain as the naturally agressive Herens fight each other to establish the social structure of their herd. Throughout spring.

  8. Fêtes de Vedanges, Neuchâtel - Neuchâtel Fêtes de Vedanges is a wine festival dressed as a street party. Or is that the other way round? We're talking three days of wall-to-wall recent Neuchâtelois wine from a plethora of food stalls. The fair ground also has the compulsary set of dodgems. Well we know where that leads. And it can't be encouraged. September

  9. Liestal Chienbaesen - Certainly the most firey festival I've ever been to - as bonfires of pinewood chips are paraded through the Old Town of Liestal. Often the fires will reach the height of the houses bringing bright light and warmth into the otherwise chilly winter evening. Perch yourself on bridge at Rathausstrasse for an intimate and close-up view of the goings on. Definate family event - but excerise due care and attention. Feb / March

  10. L'Escalade, Geneva - A prominent Genevois festivals, L'Escalade is a celebration of the 1602 defeat of the Savoyards who were trying to scale the walls (hence the name) of Geneva on the night of the 11th of December (the longest night of the year). Throughout the old town of Geneva , "troops" in traditional military garb march through to town bearing, and firing, armaments of the time. The Proclamation of the Defeat of the Savoyard troops is read at various points in the old town during a procession of troops including cavalry. December

  11. Zibelmärit, Berne - Bernes Onion Market is one the most famous food markets in Switzerland and runs for the full day from 5 am to 6 pm. Onions of a variety of shapes and sizes are skillfully arranged to a plethora of decorative styles for you to buy to take home for decorative purposes or, god-forbid, actually cook. November.

Related Posts

Lucerne - interior of the Jesuit Church Baroque interior of the Jesuit Church in Lucerne
Lucerne - 7 things not to miss What not to miss in Lucerne
Lucerne - Water tower and bridges Water tower and bridges across the River Ruess in the Luzerner Old Town
Lucerne - Chapel Bridge across the Ruess River View of Kappelbrüke in Lucerne with the Hofkirche in the background
Luzerner Fasnacht - black knight conducting his Guggemusik troupe Costumed knight conducting a troupe at the Luzerner Fasnacht
Luzerner Fasnacht - masks on baskets Fasnachtler masks on wicker baskest in Lucerne old town
Luzerner Fasnacht - sunshine masks Sunshine masks for the Luzerner Fasnacht in 2010
Luzerner Fasnacht 2010 - a bandleader processes through the old town Bandleader leading his troupe through the central Altstad of Lucerne


Further reading

Neuchâtel - where to stay - Personal recommendations on where to stay in Neuchâtel, Switzerland

Switzerland - recommended hotels - Recommended hotels in Berne, Fribourg, Lugano, Neuchâtel and Rapperswil

Rapperswil - What a visitor to Rapperswil needs to know

Zürich - recommended hotels - Recommended places to stay in and around Zürich city

Berne - recommended restaurants - Recommended places to eat and drink in the Swiss capital city Berne

Zürich - recommended pubs and bars - Personally selected and recommended pubs and bars from around Zürich

Zürich - bread basket at the train station market - Selection of breads on sale at the Wednesday market at Zürich main station

Zürich - cheese stall at the market - Selection of cheese on sale at the Wednesday market at Zürich main station

Zürich - market stall the Hauptbahnhof - Cheese on sale at the Wednesday market at Zürich main station

Zürich - sausage at the station market - Selection of sausages on sale at the Wednesday market at Zürich main station

Basel Tourismus - Official website of Basel City Tourism

Baselland Tourismus - Official website of Basel Land Tourism

Bern Tourism - Official website of Bern Tourism

Geneva Tourism - Official website of Geneva Tourist Board

Montreux Riviera - Official website of Montreux-Vevey Tourism

Neuchâtel Tourism - Official website of Neuchâtel Tourism

Rapperswil-Jona - Highlights of Rapperswil-Jona from the Verkersverein Rapperswil-Jona

St Moritz - Official website of St. Moritz Tourist Information

Switzerland Tourism - Official website of the Switzerland Tourism Office

Zurich Tourism - Official website of Zurich Tourism Board

About Mark Sukhija

Mark Sukhija is a travel and wine blogger, photographer, tourism researcher, hat-touting, white-shirt-wearing, New Zealand fantatic and eclipse chaser. Aside from at least annual visits to New Zealand, Mark has seen eclipses in South Australia (2002), Libya (2006), China (2009) and Queensland (2012). After twelve years in Switzerland, Mark moved back to London in 2012. You can follow Mark on Twitter or Facebook