There are many events and traditions that are celebrated in Switzerland every year. A festival can include anything from colorful spectacles in which the whole community participates, to music, art, and film festivals. Among the biggest is Swiss National Day, celebrated annually on August 1.
If you’re looking for Switzerland’s most noteworthy events each year, then this article is for you. Here is a list of the 24 biggest and best events in Switzerland:
- Lilu Light Festival (January) – A variety of lights illuminate the streets, squares, and landmarks of Lucerne during the Lilu Light Festival. For those who want to watch a symphony between lights and music, they can come and watch the Lilu Light Festival Show.
- International Balloon Festival in Château-d’Œx (January) – The colourful festival featuring hot-air balloons lasts nine days. The event includes night shows, balloon flights, sports, and activities for children.
- White Turf St. Moritz (February) – Guests from around the world attend the races at the White Turf in St. Moritz every year to see fine thoroughbreds from all over Europe and international jockeys. Races are held every Sunday in February on Lake St. Moritz.
- Carnivals (February to March) – It is said that the two most famous carnivals in Switzerland are the ones in Lucerne and Basel. In 2017, UNESCO inscribed the Basel Carnival (Basler Fasnacht) on the International Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
- Chalandamarz (March 1) – Chalandamarz is a traditional event in the Engadine villages, celebrated on March 1. During this festival, children carry bells, wear costumes, and sing.
- Engadin Skimarathon (Second Sunday in March) – The Engadin Skimarathon is an annual cross-country skiing race that draws in 14,000 skiers per year. It is one of the major cross-country skiing events in the Alps and runs from Maloja until S-chanf.
- Xtreme Verbier (Mid-March) – The best freeriders take on Bec des Rosses at Verbier and try new line variations as well as death defying stunts.
- Sechseläuten (Third Monday in April) – Zurich’s Spring Festival is usually celebrated on the third Monday of April. It consists of a parade of the guilds before they burn a winter effigy called a Böögg. The bogey predicts if summer is going to be good. We’ll have a nice summer if it burns quickly.
- Fête de la Tulipe (Mid-April to Mid-May) – Every spring, Morges is transformed into a colorful world of tulips. There are approximately 140,000 tulip bulbs planted throughout the city. The tulip festival attracts more than 300,000 visitors each year.
- Combat de Reines (Mid-April) – Traditionally, battles between cows of the Hérens breed are called Combat de Reines. A large number of villages in Valais participate in the festival. This festival is celebrated in October in Martigny as well.
- Tour de Suisse (June) – Tour de Suisse is the most important cycling race in Switzerland. The race runs for nine days in the latter half of June. This race is also on the UCI World Tour, the top level of pro cycling.
- Art Basel (Mid-June) – Art Basel is a world-recognized, for-profit, privately owned, and managed art fair held every year in Basel, Switzerland.
- Montreux Jazz Festival (July) – In early July, Montreux hosts the Montreux Jazz Festival, one of the biggest music festivals in the world. It’s the world’s second-biggest jazz fest, after Canada’s Montreal Jazz Festival.
- Swiss Open (July) – This international tennis tournament is held in Gstaad, Switzerland.
- Swiss National Holiday (August 1) – As you can imagine, Swiss National Day is the biggest holiday. It’s on the 1st of August. The legend goes that Wilhelm Tell, a Swiss folk hero, planted the idea of the Swiss Confederation. This event is called the Rütlischwur. It was the night of November 7th, 1307. Schwyz, Uri, and Unterwalden are the three founding cantons. Every August 1, the Swiss National Holiday, citizens gather on this meadow sitting right above Lake Uri to remember this sworn oath.
- Locarno Film Festival (August) – The Locarno Film Festival takes place every August for eleven days. Red carpets will be ready for movie stars during this time. Along with Cannes and Venice, it’s one of the oldest film festivals in the world.
- Zurich Street Parade (First or Second Weekend in August) – This techno-party draws in up to half a million fans for a weekend of partying and dancing in the heart of Zurich.
- Knabenschiessen (Second Weekend in September) – One of the biggest traditions in Zurich, Knabenschiessen is where young boys and girls have the opportunity to test and prove their shooting skills. This shooting festival runs from Saturday until Monday and offers a wide range of culinary offerings. Although initially limited to boys, girls have been allowed to take part in this competition in 1991.
- Weltklasse Zurich – An international athletics event that takes place in Zurich in early September.
- Alpine Descent (September to October) – Also known as Alpabfahrt in German, Désalpe in French, and Scargada in Romansh, it is the time of the year when cattle slowly come down from the alps after spending the summer up there. There are some places where sheep come down. During a procession, farmers and shepherds dress up in traditional costumes and bring down cattle adorned with flowers and cowbells. The whole village gathers and welcomes them. After that, there’s food, music, and drinks for the farmers and spectators.
- Autumn Markets (October) – Various villages and towns may hold their local autumn market to sell their produce (wood, textiles, ceramics, handmade products, fresh produce, and more). In Lucerne, there’s an autumn market called Lozärner Määs. Another big one called Basler Herbstmesse takes place in Basel.
- Onion Market (November) – In November, Bern hosts a traditional farmer’s market called Zibelemärit. Around 200 market stands sell onion delicacies like onion cake, onion soup, onion pizza, sausage with onion, etc.
- St. Nicholas Day (December 6) – On December 6th, St. Nicholas visits most children to see how they behaved during the year. Across the nation, this day is celebrated.
- Christmas Markets (December) – The Christmas market is an opportunity for various business owners to sell their produce (such as wood, textiles, ceramics, handmade products, fresh produce, and more). Particularly worthwhile to visit are the Christmas Markets in Montreux, Einsiedeln, and Rapperswil.
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Darla Uhl is the owner of TouringSwitzerland.com. Her home is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Having lived almost 20 years in Switzerland, she's traveled extensively all over the country.
Darla's favorite regions to visit in Switzerland include Engadin, Lake Geneva, Bernese Oberland, Ticino, and Valais. She loves spending time with her family, hiking, visiting museums, and reading books.