Switzerland is a vibrant country, full of charming traditions and customs, culinary delicacies, musical festivals, mountain pastures, and famous sporting events. There are as many cherished festivities, events, and holidays as there are Swiss cantons. In autumn, Switzerland’s small towns and big cities have the ability to bring exciting events that are famous beyond the country’s borders. Here’s our picks of the best Swiss festivals that will allow one to enjoy the spectacular scenery, the wonderful attractions, fine food and drink, and plenty of live entertainment.
Grape Harvest Festival
Neuchâtel (Canton of Neuchâtel)
28 – 30 September, 2018
Neuchâtel hosts the largest grape harvest festival in Switzerland. The tradition of the Grape Harvest Festival originated more than a century ago in Neuchâtel, as wine here is venerated. Every year, the old town turns into a festival venue to mark the end of the wine harvest for the year. Traffic is blocked off from the city center, allowing adults and children dressed in traditional costumes with flowers and confetti to flock to the streets. Every year, this festival is traditionally accompanied by dancing, singing, and the procession of the grape-harvest carts, decorated with flowers and loaded with the wine makers’ tools. The Grape Harvest Festival provides individuals with an excellent opportunity to attend prestigious wine auctions and try famous Swiss wines. This traditional and colorful vintage festival is the highlight of the season for both wine lovers and winemakers.
Zurich (Canton of Zurich)
27 September – 13 October, 2018
Have you always wanted to attend Oktoberfest in Munich, but don’t have the time or the budget for such a trip? If you’ve been to Munich, do you want to continue your beer festivities after Oktoberfest? If that’s the case, check out Zurich’s Oktoberfest. This festival is almost identical to Munich’s Oktoberfest, with a large variety of beers, Bavarian dishes, music, and dances. All the fun takes place at Zurich Hauptbahnhof, the city’s main train station. For about two weeks, the city transforms into a little Bavaria, filled with freshly tapped barrels of beer and live music, giving it an authentic atmosphere. Enjoy the beer as long as you can still stand up, and have fun at the Zurich’s Oktoberfest!
Lugano (Canton of Ticino)
5 – 7 October, 2018
During the first weekend of October, locals of the small beautiful city of Lugano celebrate the beginning of autumn with the annual Autumn Festival. The festival includes an outdoor fair, delicious local food, wine tasting, dancing, cheerful music, artists, and entertainers. For three days, visitors can taste typical Ticinese specialties such as polenta with stew or beans, mortadella or roast pork, risotto, minestrone, and gnocchi. Visitors can also try excellent wines at various restaurants in the city (grotti), listen to alpine music performed by local groups in Swiss national clothes, and buy local food products and handicrafts. Take part in a free guided excursion by boat along Lake Lugano, or by foot around the city, and discover the beautiful architecture and landscapes of Lugano. There’s also many fun activities for children, including a parade, face painting, and games.
Ascona (Canton of Ticino)
6 and 13 October, 2018
If you are a lover of nuts, then check out the Chestnut Festival in Ascona. Chestnuts are an integral part of Swiss cuisine in the Italian-speaking Canton of Ticino. These sweet nuts are called “marroni” by the locals, and the people roasting them over an open fire refer to them as “maronatts” in the Ticino dialect. In Ascona, more than 2,000 kilograms of chestnuts are roasted for this event, and sold as wonderful autumn treats up and down the streets of the town center. Visitors are invited to taste various chestnut-based delicacies such as jams, honies, cakes, and ice cream. At the Chestnut Festival, you can taste local dishes such as polenta, mortadella cheese, and of course, the famous Merlot wine. There is also folk music and traditional dances in the streets, allowing visitors to relive the atmosphere of an authentic rural village.
Bern Onion Market
Bern (Canton of Bern)
26 November, 2018
The Zibelemärit, also known as the Bern Onion Market, is a traditional Bernese folk festival held every year in November in the old town of the Swiss capital. The fair starts at 5 AM in the central square just outside the front of the Parliament building. Every year, thousands of tourists from around the world visit the famous onion market in Bern,and farmers from the surrounding areas carry over 50 tons of onions and garlic to the festival. At the Zibelemärit, you’ll find onions in all forms and colors, including onion wreaths, yellow-red-purple garlands, funny handicrafts, and small toys made from onions. Food stalls at the market offer a variety of onion-based dishes such as German onion pie (Zwiebelkuchen), onion soup, onion tart (Zibelechueche), onion pizza, and even onion sausages. You can also buy here products of the new harvest such as ceramics, toys, textiles, and handmade jewelry. The fair ends with the traditional confetti battle (Konfettischlacht) between children and young people.