Wondering which festivals in Switzerland are worth checking out? Then you’re certainly in the right place because this guide will tell you everything about the best festivals in Switzerland!
Music festivals, carnivals, and traditional parades are all covered in this guide to Switzerland’s best festivals. We’ve also included festivals that take place in various cities throughout the country, so you should find something of interest regardless of which Swiss city you’re planning to visit.
From the iconic hot air balloons of Château-d’Oex to Geneva’s famous festival of chocolate, here are all the best festivals in Switzerland you should consider attending!
The Montreux Jazz Festival is a popular music festival held on the shoreline of Lake Geneva. It takes place in July every year, and it’s actually the second biggest jazz festival in the world, so it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re into the genre!
The popular festival was first held in 1967 and it has welcomed a lot of international artists since. Performers previously featured at this festival include Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles David, Charles Lloyd, and many others.
In the 70s, the festival started to expand its scope to include other musical genres such as rock, blues, and soul artists, and that tradition has remained to this day. Some of the most famous names in the non-jazz genres to have performed at the festival include Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Chuck Berry, Prince, and many more.
The festival has both paid and free stages, but the paid stages get by far the best performers.
The International Balloon Festival is held annually in Château-d’Oex, the Swiss hot air balloon capital. Every year, dozens of hot air balloons take to the skies, marking the beginning of this colorful, nine-day festival.
The popular Swiss festival attracts pilots from about twenty different countries, as well as crowds of people who just want to observe all the balloons in the skies. It’s possible to go on hot air balloon rides, but it’s a pricey adventure.
This festival was first held in 1979, and since then it’s been held at the end of January every year. It usually takes place on two weekends during the span of nine days, while the festival’s most famous event takes place on the evening of the 7th day.
That’s the night-glow show when the balloons are towering over the tall mountain peaks, and their lit burners illuminate the night sky.
Swiss National Day is the national holiday of Switzerland, and it is celebrated on the 1st of August of every year. The holiday was first celebrated when the Swiss Confederacy was originally founded back in 1891, but it only became an official holiday in 1994.
This is unlike any of the other popular festivals in Switzerland. It’s technically not even a festival, but it is celebrated in different ways throughout the country.
Every municipality does something different, but at the very least you can expect to see some fireworks, parades, a village market, and maybe a concert, depending on where exactly you are in Switzerland on August 1st.
The Zurich City Festival (Züri Fäscht) is traditionally held during the first weekend of July. The festival takes place on the streets along Limmat River, as well as around the basin of the lake.
The huge festival grounds feature live music performers, countless food stands, and spectacular light shows. Zurich’s largest festival attracts people of all ages, but also attendees from all over the world who wish the experience one of Switzerland’s best festivals.
During the evenings of the festival’s Friday and Saturday, visitors can also observe musical firework shows in the sky. This is a highlight of the largest Swiss folk festival, which manages to attract more than 2.5 million visitors from all over the world.
Saturday evening sees two firework shows in the skies above the festival grounds, and they’re observed not just by the festival attendees, but also by millions of people who can watch the shows on the televisions in their homes.
Paléo Festival is an annual rock music festival that is held in Nyon in Vaud canton, Switzerland. The city is about 25 kilometers northeast of Geneva, and it’s one of the most popular music festivals in the country – at least among lovers of rock music!
It started off as a small festival held in the village hall of Nyon back in 1976, and it has since grown to become one of the largest Switzerland festivals out of the bunch. It’s usually held in late July and lasts for six days, during which time millions of visitors can listen to thousands of artists perform.
The festival usually features six stages, with the main stage being reserved for the festival headliners. Some of the most famous artists who performed at this festival in the previous years are Gorillaz, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lenny Kravitz, Robbie Williams, Santana, Arctic Monkeys, and hundreds of others.
Basel Fasnacht is more commonly known as the Basel Carnival, and it’s the most popular festival in Basel. It takes place on the first Monday after Ash Wednesday, so in early March. The festival starts at 4 AM when thousands of costumed drummers and pipers hit the streets with their hand-painted lanterns.
The lanterns illuminate the dark streets while folk music rings through the streets of Basel, bringing new life into the city. The Basel Carnival is a UNESCO Cultural Heritage for a reason, and it’s definitely something you should experience to get a better sense of the Swiss culture.
Costumes are a big part of the carnival, and they can be split into three distinct categories – parade costumes, classical costumes, and individual fantasy costumes. Some of the classical costumes have a rather long tradition, and the carnival is simply not complete without them! These include Harlequin, Ueli, Alti Dante, Waggis, and a few more.
Festichoc is Switzerland’s largest festival dedicated to chocolate, and it’s an event everyone should experience at least once in their lives. This is one of the most popular foods and drink festivals in the country and pretty much heaven on earth for all lovers of chocolate!
More than 25 chocolatiers from the country gather in Geneva to create all sorts of chocolate delicacies, and countless chocolate lovers arrive from all over Switzerland and other countries to taste the delicious treats.
This unique festival usually takes place in early April, and festival activities include a variety of things, from tastings and didactic courses on chocolate to competitions and exhibitions of awesome chocolate sculptures.
Fête de L’Escalade is a traditional festival that’s held annually in Geneva. It takes place on December 12th, when numerous people in period costumes flood the streets of Geneva, making the city truly come to life.
Even kids and teenagers hit the streets in various costumes for the parade, and in the evening they all start knocking on doors and singing traditional songs – kind of like trick or treaters, but instead of getting treats, they get a symbolic amount of coins.
The parade and costume festivities are accompanied by traditional snacks and beverages. Fête de L’Escalade is the perfect time to try the iconic chocolate pot, which is full of various sweets and marzipan vegetables. Traditionally, the youngest and the oldest attendees are supposed to break the chocolate cauldron and expose all the goodies inside.
Another part of this festival is the Escalade Run – a road running event that’s held the weekend before December 11th. Attendees usually run through Geneva Old City, and there are usually several events that are held for specific age groups.
Geneva International Motor Show is an auto show held annually in Geneva. It usually takes place in March, and it is hosted at Palexpo arena, the huge convention center near the Geneva International Airport.
This festival was first held in 1905, and since then it had been held every year up until 2019. It’s an absolute must for all car enthusiasts who find themselves in Geneva when the auto show is held, and you can enjoy yourself here even if you’re not that into cars.
Visitors can see all sorts of rare and unique cars, including supercars, prototypes, and concept cars. For anyone who enjoys vehicles and technology, this is going to be by far the most interesting festival in Switzerland!
Interlaken International Street Artists Festival is one of the best art festivals in Switzerland. Street performers from all over the world travel to Interlaken to showcase their talents on the city streets. The festival is usually held at the end of July and it lasts for three days.
Gauklerfest Interlaken is also one of the top family-friendly festivals in the country. Kids revel in seeing jugglers, mimes, and all other street performers doing their shows. Most artists are pioneers of physical comedy, so observing them in action is incredibly entertaining for everyone watching.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.