Top 10 festivals in Switzerland
From the beautiful to the bizarre, here’s a round up of 10 of the best festivals that Switzerland has to offer.
Whether you're visiting or living in Switzerland, one of the best times to explore the small towns and big cities alike are when they celebrate Swiss history and folklore with spectacular festivals. There's no better time to learn the deeper idiosyncrasies of local Swiss culture than during the burst of a colourful festival. Switzerland's top festivals celebrate everything from street artists to opera to ice. Immerse yourself in Swiss culture with this pick of top 10 Swiss festivals.
How many of these top 10 Swiss festivals have you crossed off your list?
1. Grindelwald Snow Festival
Every January, international artists converge on the natural ice rink in the village of Grindelwald for six days. Watch as they create giant sculptures made from metre-high blocks of snow: mythical creatures, animals, people and abstracts. You can offer your opinions on the best, have a go at tobogganing and warm up afterwards with hot wine and cheese fondue.
2. International Balloon Festival, Château-d'Oex
The exceptional microclimate of the Swiss alpine resort of Château-d'Oex creates the idea flight conditions for hot air balloons, which is why over 80 from around the world come here for the annual week-long International Balloon Festival. The brilliant blue skies are filled with multi-coloured balloons every day and there’s a spectacular ‘night-glow’ display of balloons illuminated by their burners.
3. Basel Fasnacht
You’ll need to get up early to witness the start of this huge and popular carnival – it starts at 4am on the Monday after Ash Wednesday. Pipers, drummers and carnival cliques or cliquen march through the streets, carrying huge wooden and canvas lanterns with silhouettes symbolising events from the past year, while masked revellers, musicians, singers and actors wander through the alleyways. Festivities continue until 4am on the Thursday.
4. Interlaken Classic Music Festival
If you’re into classical music, you won’t want to miss the Interlaken Music Festival as it showcases the up and coming classical stars of tomorrow alongside leading international orchestras and soloists.
5. Zurich Festival
The month-long Zurich Festival’s culturally diverse programme of opera, concerts, dance, musical and dramatic theatre, exhibitions, debates and art are always united by a common theme. In 2015 it was ‘Money Power Love’ with the emphasis on Shakespeare and the Renaissance in both Italy and England.
www.zuerich.com | www.zuercher-festspiele.ch
6. Montreux Jazz Festival
This is the largest jazz festival in Europe (and second in the world after the Montreal Jazz Festival in Canada) and held on the banks of Lake Geneva. Expect some of the biggest international names in not only jazz but in other musical genres, among the performers on two main auditoriums, the Montreux Jazz Café and other smaller venues, as well as on open-air stages, and even on boats on the lake itself.
7. Paléo Festival, Nyon
What started as a small folk festival is now Switzerland’s biggest outdoor music event: the Paléo Festival (or just Paléo) is a massive, family friendly music festival with international names from all musical genres performing on six stages – there are around 250 individual concerts – over six days.
8. Interlaken International Street Artists Festival
Come and wander the streets of Interlaken during the weekend of the International Street Artists Festival and be entertained by acrobats, magicians, comedians, jugglers and musicians, while you sample the local brew and nibble on popcorn and traditional chäsbrätel (grilled cheese on toasted bread).
9. August 1: Swiss National Day
This is a day of fireworks and bonfires all over Switzerland, with speeches by the great and good, much singing of the national anthem and other traditional songs, a proliferation of Swiss flags (even on specially made bread rolls) and children carrying illuminated paper lanterns. If you’re in a city by a lake, try to get out on a boat to get the best view of what will be the most spectacular fireworks.
10. Fête de L’Escalade, Geneva
L’Escalade commemorates the defence of Geneva against invasion by the Duke of Savoy in 1602 in a festival which includes a five mile race through the medieval Old Town the week before the main celebration. The main celebration is a torchlight procession of more than 1,000 marchers in historical costume. During the 1602 defence, a cook poured her cauldron over the heads of attacking soldiers, so today you’ll see little chocolate pots (marmites) decorated with coats of arms and filled with marzipan vegetables in sweetshops everywhere.
Photo credits: Dake (Paléo Festival, Nyon).
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