It’s that time of year when the Swiss head to the hills to scoff sausages and cheese, politicians take to fields to give rousing speeches and apples in supermarket Manor get branded with a Swiss cross (yes really). Swiss national day, August 1st, is a great time to be in Switzerland, with special events and activities taking place across the country. While there may be fewer fireworks displays than usual this year since the recent heatwave prompted fire restrictions, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy the day. The Local takes a look at some of the best places to be.
Be the first to totter along the new Cliff Walk experience which opens on national day. Located near the Grindelwald-First summit station in the Bernese Oberland, this 260m-long suspended walkway protrudes out of the rockface at 2,000m, promising incredible views of the valley below and the Eiger mountain opposite.
(Grindelwald-First looking towards the Eiger. Photo: Jungfrau Region / Mattias Nutt)
2. On a farm
Heading into the countryside for brunch on a farm has been a national day tradition for more than 20 years. Farms around the country open their doors on the morning of August 1st to pre-registered visitors who come to enjoy a copious buffet brunch of locally sourced and farm-grown food including meats, cheeses, homebaked bread and cakes. Though hugely popular, some places still remain – find an available brunch and sign up here.
3. Swiss National Park
The inventively named Swiss National Park in the canton of Graubünden celebrated its 100th birthday last year – on August 1st. With its untouched landscape, wildlife and hiking trails, it’s a beautiful place to spend national day and a reminder of what Switzerland does best – the great outdoors. More information here.
(The Swiss National Park. Photo: Caroline Bishop)
4. Rütli meadow
For many Swiss, this field in central Switzerland is the place to be on national day. It’s here where, in 1291, the three founding cantons of Switzerland – Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden – came together to swear the oath of the Swiss Confederation. These days politicians and patriots return to the spot on national day to make speeches and mark the event. Current Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga will make the address this year.
5. The Schilthorn
Another new attraction opening on national day this year is this James Bond ‘walk of fame’ on the Schilthorn in the Bernese Oberland. The Piz Gloria 360 revolving restaurant on this spectacular mountain was featured in 1969 film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, and the local tourist office has been making the most of it ever since. Close to the restaurant, the walk of fame is a series of information panels relating messages from the cast about their experience of the film, including George Lazenby in his only appearance as Bond. Find out more here.
(The Schilthorn Piz Gloria. Photo: Schilthorn)
Zurich’s local mountain, the Uetliberg, is a prime spot to enjoy national day. Head up the mountain in the afternoon to join Hotel Uto Kulm for a barbecue from 5pm, before fireworks at 10.30pm and dancing into the early hours. Tickets must be bought in advance. More information here.
7. Mount Titlis
Especially for national day Mount Titlis in Engelberg is opening its cableway before sunrise and inviting visitors to ascend to the summit to watch the sun come up over breakfast at the top. If you can stomach a 4am start, sign up for the special package, which includes the cable car trip, a walking tour to the summit and a buffet breakfast in the Panorama restaurant. Find out more here.
(Mount Titlis cableway. Photo: Engelberg Tourism)
The capital’s national day celebrations are suitably all-encompassing. Weather permitting, start the day with brunch on the Münsterplatz (whilst being serenaded by alphorn players and yodellers), before taking a peek inside the parliament building, which opens its doors to the public for the day. Later, head up the Gurten to scoff a sausage in front of the bonfire and enjoy the fireworks. More information here.
9. The Matterhorn
The Valais village of Zermatt is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the first ascent of the Matterhorn this year. So it’s an appropriate year to spend national day on the mountain, tucking into dinner as the sun goes down. The (somewhat steep) price of its sunset dinner package includes a return trip to the Matterhorn glacier paradise, an aperitif and three-course meal. Places still available at the time of writing. More information here.
(The Matterhorn at sunset. Photo: Marc Weiler)
10. Lake Lugano
In the canton of Ticino, jump aboard a boat on Lake Lugano for an evening cruise with live music and food, with the chance to watch the fireworks from the water. On shore, Lugano’s celebrations include a concert by the Castagnola Philharmonic Orchestra and other live music in the Piazza della Riforma. Find out more here.