If you like traveling and exploring, Switzerland will lure you in with its beautiful lakes that reflect perfect images of glorious mountains surrounding them. But there is more to Switzerland than this. Make your stay memorable by attending some of these festivals and experience Swiss culture first hand.
1. Grindelwald World Snow Festival
First held in 1983, when a Japanese artist carved a Heidisculpture form a huge block of snow, Grindelwald World Snow Festival nowadays attracts artists from all over the world. They usually work in teams to transform snow into beautiful figures for six days. In the end, both visitors and professional jury vote for the sculpture they think is the best.
2. Basel Fasnacht
This festival is held on the first Monday after Ash Wednesday. It lasts for three days. At exactly 4.00 AM on Monday, city lights in Basel shut down, marking the beginning of, as the locals say: “The three most beautiful days”. Three days are filled with different festivities and the participator and the spectators are expected to follow all the rules. Two parades (Cortege) are held in the old town of Basel on Monday and Wednesday. Participants wear masks and at the day of the parades, they parade clockwise (inner route) or counterclockwise (outer route), and I believe this looks amazing from an aerial view. Masked people will throw a large amount of confetti at participants and it is believed that the tradition of confetti throwing originated here.
Fun Fact: Basel Fasnacht lasts for precisely 72 hours but in 2005, the city lights were switched off prematurely (3.59 AM) which made this festival last 72 hours and 1 minute.
3. Luzerne Summer Festival
It is a music festival that is held three times a year. The first is the Easter part that lasts for 10 days and focuses on the sacred music. The largest one is in the summer, during which you can listen to classical and modern concerts. November part lasts for a week and focuses on pianism, mesmerizing visitors with magical sounds of piano, harpsichord, concertos, choirs and more. If you want to know the exact dates, you can get them on the official site.
Do not be startled if you see a big bonfire in Zurich. Every year, on the third Monday of April, people gather on Sechseläutenplatz, the largest city square in Zurich to celebrate the coming of Summer. This is done by burning the Böög- a ragdoll that sits on the top of the bonfire symbolizing the Winter. Traditionally this festival was held to let the workers know that the winter has passed and the days (and their work time) will get longer because their work time was limited by daylight. Even though that is not the case nowadays, this tradition persists. The time it takes for the Boogs’ head to explode is measured and it is believed that the faster it explodes the better the summer will be. In 1974, its head exploded in 5.07 minutes, and in 2010, it took a while – 43.34 minutes to be precise!
5. Estival Jazz Lugano
A Jazz festival held in Lugano that offers unique music experience to its visitors. Every year this festival gathers world known names in the world of jazz. Not only does it promotes jazz, but it also promotes love, tolerance, and understanding different cultures, during the two days it lasts
If you happen to be in Zurich make sure to visit this festival, otherwise, you will have to wait for three more years before this festival takes place again. Millions of people gather in the streets beside the Zurich lake and Limmat river to taste the culinary delight, listen to music, or just take a walk in the streets that are closed to traffic during the three days this festival lasts. The most spectacular part of this festival is the musical firework displays on Friday and Saturday night. to check when the next ZüriFäscht will take place click on their official website.
7. Montreux Jazz Festival
“We all came out to Montreux on the Lake Geneva Shore.” Every year the city of Montreux hosts the world’s second largest jazz festival. It first held in Montreux Casino in 1967. This casino burned down in 1971. (Do these lyrics ring any bells for you: “Smoke on the water, the fire in the sky”?) but the spirit of music persisted, and the festival is now held all over Montreux, featuring different music genres. Some of the musicians that had the honor of performing here were: Simply Red, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, Deep Purple, Johnny Cash and more.
8. Alpenhorn Festival
International festival held in Nendaz, a municipality in the canton Valais. It features official alpenhorn blowing competition, folklore, folk costume parade… Alpenhorn is one of the national Swiss instrument, and it is no wonder they have a whole festival dedicated to it.
When this open-air festival started it had only two stages, and it was called Nyon Folk Festival. It grew over the years, and now it lasts for 6 days and is one of the largest rock festivals in Switzerland. The tickets get sold very quickly (in 2009. All tickets were gone in one and a half hours) so try to get them on time.
10. Swiss National Day
Every 1st of August, the entire Switzerland celebrates its national day. It is celebrated separately in every canton and municipality and all the stores are closed on this day. On this day, you can expect to see fireworks, folk performances, people in folk clothes, and Rheinfall even illuminates its glorious waterfall for this occasion.
TIP: The day after Swiss national day is the best for buying discounted festive items decorated with Swiss regalia.