Carnivals and festivals

Despite the dour image some people have of the Swiss people, festivals and celebrations are a big part of Swiss life. Apart from the universal celebration of 1st August to celebrate the Swiss National day, there are many individual town-based carnivals and events some of which celebrate traditions of costume and cooking going back to the middle ages.

The Carnival held each year in Basle dates back to before the reformation and marks the beginning of Lent. There are three days of processions and masquerades finishing on the Wednesday.

There are also spring festivals with street parties in Zurich and Lucerne – these are well worth incorporating into a trip.

Music has large festivals, both classical and jazz and the Montreux Jazz festival is in early July, whereas the Lucerne Music festival has events in March, August and November.

Locarno is host to an International Film Festival which is one of the top such events in the world.

In wine there are many festivals during September in Vaud, Valais, Neuchatel, Bern, Shaffhausen and Ticino.

Yodelling events are mainly in the alpine cantons and take place in the spring. The annual Swiss Alpine Yodelling championship is in early July and rotates through different towns.

Many small local festivals are not widely advertised, or in fact advertised at all, so you may well stumble on one when visiting a town. It is worth making your plans flexible enough to join in with these colourful events – many are to celebrate food or wine and so can be particularly convivial. You may by chance stumble across a celebration on the day when the local patron saint is being honoured, obviously most likely in Catholic cantons

A particularly through listing of events can be found on

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